(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #113, 10/22/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
WRITE CONGRESS NOW TO SAVE DC'S NEW
MEDICAL MARIJUANA INITIATIVE!
"THIS AMERICAN LIFE" PUBLIC RADIO PROGRAM COVERS MANDATORY MINIMUMS THIS WEEKEND -- TUNE IN!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
(courtesy Dale Gieringer, Drug Policy Forum of California)
SACRAMENTO: The number of drug prisoners has mounted to new all-time highs in California, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Corrections. As of June 1999, the state prison system held 45,874 drug offenders, a record 28.3% of the prison population. At the same time, a record 12.2% of prisoners -- 19,743 in all -- were being held for simple possession (not sales) of illegal drugs.
Included are 1,903 marijuana prisoners (principally for sales and cultivation, since possession is a misdemeanor) -- up 12% since the passage of California's medical marijuana initiative, Prop. 215, and nearly twenty times the level of twenty years ago.
Not included in these figures are drug prisoners held in county jails and federal prisons.
Altogether, the number of drug prisoners in California has exploded over fivefold since 1986 while their proportion in the prison population has doubled; yet illegal drug usage has remained more or less constant over the same period.
Data for DPFCA's analysis comes from the California Department of Corrections annual publication, "Characteristics of Population in California State Prisons by Institution."
WASHINGTON, DC: The total number of marijuana arrests in the United States in 1998 nearly equaled the 1997 record high of 695,200, according to an FBI report to be released on October 17. There were 682,885 marijuana arrests last year, 88% of them for possession (not sale or manufacture).
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports division's annual report, Crime in the United States, provides the number of arrests made by state and local law-enforcement agencies. "This is a tremendous waste of criminal justice resources," said Chuck Thomas, director of communications for the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project.
"Marijuana prohibition creates dangerous criminal markets and takes police resources away from violent crime." The number of marijuana arrests in 1998 was larger than the number of arrests for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault combined (676,020).
"It is time to stop arresting adults who grow and consume their own marijuana at home -- and instead put these public resources into violent-crime enforcement and effective drug education," said Chuck Thomas. "Public safety and children's health are at stake."
Earlier this year, the Federation of American Scientists published the Marijuana Policy Project's report, "Marijuana Arrests and Incarceration in the United States," which used government-supplied data to estimate that there are 59,300 marijuana offenders incarcerated in federal and state prisons and local jails in the US at any given time. (Go to http://www.fas.org/drugs/issue7.htm and search for "incarceration" to read MPP's report.)
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
October 21, 1999, Washington, DC: The NORML Foundation released a comprehensive report today describing and detailing the current marijuana laws in Europe. For the most part Europe is moving in an opposite direction from the United States on drug policy. Whereas the U.S. relies heavily on interdiction, domestic suppression, anti-marijuana propaganda and severe criminal and civil penalties, Europe is moving toward a "harm reduction" model, which recognizes responsible marijuana use by adults as beyond the purview of government concern.
"In effect, most, though not all, European countries view America's 'war on drugs,' criminal justice-oriented approach as being both ineffective and counterproductive," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director. "America is becoming an island unto itself regarding its wasteful and excessive drug war."
The report covers 16 European countries, with special focus on marijuana policies in the Netherlands, Denmark's Christiana "Experiment" and Switzerland. Also, there are helpful charts and a country-by-country description of marijuana penalties.
A chart of western European marijuana laws can be found at http://www.norml.org/laws/european_policy.shtml#table. The report can be viewed at http://www.norml.org/laws/european_policy.shtml. For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML, Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.
Cumberland County, Maine Sheriff Mark Dion held a press conference in Portland yesterday morning (10/21) to pledge his support for the state's medical marijuana initiative, Question 2. In his statement, Dion said he had not turned his back on the war on drugs, but he asked his fellow citizens to "declare a cease fire so that we can treat the wounded in our society."
Dion served on the Portland police department for more than 20 years before he was elected Sheriff of Cumberland County in 1998. Among other things, he is credited with implementing community policing in Portland and taking the lead in combating hate crimes.
"The reduction of chronic pain and suffering is a serious public health question. One which we in criminal justice should act to help, and answer, not hinder," Dion said. "I have taken an oath to uphold the law, yet I am bound to an equally important duty to seek justice," he added.
Many drug warriors have bemoaned the "bad message" medical marijuana sends to children, but Dion said he hoped his endorsement of Question 2 would send a different message to his own children.
"My hope is that my children will learn today that sometimes the right decision is not immediately popular with your peers," he said. "But if that decision seeks to advance human compassion and dignity, then one can take comfort there."
Dion was joined at the press conference by three medical marijuana patients, including former Portland city council member Barb Wood, who used marijuana to alleviate nausea during chemotherapy she received for ovarian cancer.
The full text of Question 2, along with further information about the initiative, is online at http://www.mainers.org.
Friday, October 29, 1999, 8:30am - 5:00pm, at the Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco, California, presented by The San Francisco Medical Society and The Lindesmith Center West.
Since the 1960s, school-based drug prevention programs for adolescents have relied on scare tactics, zero tolerance, and "Just Say No." Last year the federal government spent $2.4 billion on prevention, and a new billion dollar campaign has recently been launched. Still, by the time they graduate from high school, half of American teenagers will have used illegal drugs. Students often fail to take drug prevention programs seriously, doubting the validity of the information presented.
Many educators, health professionals, and parents are seeking alternatives that strongly promote abstinence while providing a fallback strategy of honest, science-based education for teenagers. This "Just Say Know" approach provides sound information as the basis for responsible decision-making, a reduction in drug abuse, and ultimately the promotion of safety.
Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs and Drug Education, a booklet written by Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum and published by The Lindesmith Center, will be released at the October 29 conference, "Just Say Know: New Directions in Drug Education," in San Francisco.
Rosenbaum, director of The Lindesmith Center-West, is a widely published expert on drug abuse. She is also the mother of a teen-aged son, and wrote Safety First for other parents as well as teachers and administrators. The 20-page pamphlet analyzes the current status of drug education and includes recommendations about how it could be improved. Also included is an open letter Rosenbaum wrote to her son about drugs, published last year in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The pamphlet can be found on the Lindesmith Center website at http://www.lindesmith.org/library/safetyfirst.pdf. Included on the site is a list of reality-based drug education programs from around the world. Program providers may forward their information to [email protected].
Jane Tseng, [email protected]
Bush "Just Says Yes" to State's Rights on Medical Marijuana
Governor George Bush announced this week that although he does not support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, he supports a state's right to decide to allow the medical use of marijuana. President Clinton later told reporters he agrees with Bush's statement, commenting that the Republicans have gone too far in trying to block the medical marijuana initiative in Washington, DC. Although Bush did not directly comment on the situation in the District, his statement comes days after Clinton vetoed the District's $4.7 million budget, in part because of a provision to overturn the medical marijuana law.
Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Chuck Thomas praised Bush's remarks. "I would hope he would be an example for Republicans in Congress. His position of opposing marijuana, but saying states should decide, is unique among presidential contenders," Thomas said.
Kentucky Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Harrelson Hemp Case
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of placing hemp in the same category as marijuana this week at the University of Louisville's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Actor Woody Harrelson, whose attorney presented the case, was not present during the hearings. Harrelson was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession three years ago after planting four hemp seeds in Lee County, Kentucky. Harrelson won the case in the district court and then again in the circuit court under the argument that the state's statue that bans hemp along with marijuana is too broad and arbitrary. The case was passed to the Supreme Court after the appeals court refused to decide the statute's constitutionality.
Among those who spoke at the hearing was a Kentucky State Police officer who argued that it would be impossible to distinguish hemp plants from marijuana plants, making the enforcement of the state's marijuana laws too difficult. But Justice William Copper responded by asking, "Should we criminalize powdered sugar because it looks like cocaine?" Those arguing in favor of Harrelson cited the potential advantages of legalizing hemp to Kentucky Farmers. One justice questioned the relevancy of hemp's commercial uses to the argument. The justices have no timetable to issue an opinion.
Incoming Victoria (Australia) Premier to Open Safe-Injecting Rooms
Steve Bracks, Victoria's new Premier, says that he will open safe-injecting rooms in the state "as soon as possible." The rooms, where IV drug users can inject under medical supervision, will function for an eighteen-month trial period. The state, says Brack, "won't do anything else until these trials are over." Brack also said that the Labor Party's new policy to deal with the rising number of overdose deaths would include more police and more treatment.
NOTE After this story went to print, under the title "New Books Claims
George W. Bush Arrested for Cocaine in '72," St. Martin's Press suspended
publication of "Favorite Son" after the Dallas Morning News reported that
author J.H. Hatfield is an ex-con who served time for the
attempted murder of a former co-worker. Hatfield denied that he was the
same man, but it is now being reported that in fact, he is. DRCNet's
original story (below) reports on the Salon.com story regarding the
existence of the book, and notes twice that the Bush campaign has strongly
denied the allegations contained in the manuscript. DRCNet has been unable
to reach any of the principals involved (other than a Bush campaign
spokesperson) for further comment or clarification. -- Ed.
In an exclusive report, salon.com
reported this week that a new book by Texas author J.H. Hatfield claims
that George Bush, Jr. was arrested for cocaine possession in Houston in
1972. The book claims that Bush's father, former President George
Herbert Walker Bush, pulled strings with the judge to have the arrest expunged
from his son's record, and that George W., sentenced in chambers, served
one year of community service.
In an exclusive report, salon.com reported this week that a new book by Texas author J.H. Hatfield claims that George Bush, Jr. was arrested for cocaine possession in Houston in 1972. The book claims that Bush's father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush, pulled strings with the judge to have the arrest expunged from his son's record, and that George W., sentenced in chambers, served one year of community service.
When asked about the charge at an appearance this week, Bush the candidate called the report "ridiculous."
The allegation appears in the afterward of the book "Favorite Son: The Making of an American President" (St. Martin's). Hatfield claims that the story has been confirmed by three sources: "a high ranking advisor to Bush [Sr.]," "a long-time Bush family friend" and a "classmate [of Bush's] at Yale."
Bush Jr. did, in fact, spend a year doing volunteer work at Project P.U.L.L., a non-profit organization working with minority youth at around that time. But the book "First Son: George W. Bush and the Family Dynasty," by Dallas Morning News reporter Bill Minutaglio, says George Bush Sr. referred his son to Project P.U.L.L. after an incident in which George W. drove drunk with his younger brother Marvin in the car.
A spokesperson for the Bush campaign told The Week Online that Bush unequivocally denies the allegation.
Hatfield, however, claims that when he spoke with Scott McClellan of the Bush Campaign to ask about the story, McClellan replied "oh, shit" and then "no comment."
McClellan has since denied ever speaking with Hatfield.
Salon reports that Thomas Dunne, Hatfield's publisher at St. Martin's, told them that Hatfield has shown himself to be a meticulous researcher.
"Our lawyers looked at the manuscript with great care, it was thoroughly fact-checked," Dunne told Salon. "This author is a pretty good digger. He used a lot more sources than Bob Woodward has in a while."
"Do I know for a fact these allegations are true? No, of course not. But I know that the author believes them to be true. He researched the book exhaustively and put it together with a variety of independent sources, including many who have never met each other."
The original salon.com story can be found online at http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/10/18/cocaine/index.html.
Just one week after announcing her plan to lead a "crusade" against illicit drugs if elected, Elizabeth Dole dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday (10/18). Dole cited her trouble raising money and George W. Bush's commanding advantage in fundraising as the primary reason for the decision.
The drug war was also a major platform for her husband, Kansas Senator Bob Dole, in his failed 1996 run for the presidency. Sen. Dole, who promised that if elected "America will see a real drug war," never gained traction with the issue despite President Clinton's "never inhaled" snafu early in his first term.
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
This week, Governor George Bush indicated that he, like other conservatives, believes in the concept of states' rights. Unlike many of his philosophical brethren, however, Bush, when asked, was unwilling to make an exception when the issue of medical marijuana was brought up.
Saying that he was opposed to the medicinal use of marijuana, Bush went on to say that the decision should nevertheless be left in the hands of the states. This is a significant policy position, in that under President Clinton and the Republican congress, the federal government has done everything in its power -- and some things that the federal courts have deemed to be beyond its power -- to stop six states and the District of Colombia from implementing the will of their voters on the issue. And there are more statewide medical marijuana initiatives in the pipeline.
How refreshing then to find a major party candidate for President who does not believe that the federal government has the right, the duty even, to lay down the law on anything that he or she personally opposes, regardless of the will of the people. Bill Bradley is on record as saying that he doesn't think that current laws should be changed, and Vice President Gore has spent the past two terms as part of the very administration that threatened to prosecute doctors for even mentioning marijuana to their patients. (A federal court has since blocked any such action on First Amendment grounds.)
But Bush's statement regarding the states' right to determine their own policies in this area are likely to bring him the greatest amount of grief in his own party and at home. Congressional Republicans have been the most ardent proponents of federal action in opposition to the medical use of marijuana. Last week, in fact, they passed a DC appropriations bill which struck down a medical marijuana initiative that passed in the District by a whopping 69-21%. And that followed a period of nearly ten months during which the results of that vote were kept from the public under a rider attached to last year's appropriations bill by Georgia Republican Bob Barr.
The most difficult person for Bush to explain himself to, however, is likely to be his mother, Barbara Bush. The former first lady not only opposes the medicinal use of marijuana, she went so far as to lend her voice to an anti-medical marijuana advertisement which ran in a number of the initiative states, and that is likely to be run again in the final weeks of the medical marijuana campaign going on now in Maine. Apparently, mom doesn't share her son's enthusiasm for local control.
George Bush Jr., with his record of advocacy for punitive drug laws in Texas and his fudging on the question of his own past drug use, isn't likely to be anyone's idea of a reform-minded President when it comes to drug policy. But on this issue, he has found the balance and the sanity that has somehow eluded the national elected officials of both major parties as they have struggled to stem the tide of public opinion.
Sick and suffering people and their doctors should be allowed to take whatever reasonably safe measures they deem necessary to make life bearable for the patient. Marijuana hasn't killed a single patient in more than 4,000 years of medicinal use. If a relative handful of cancer, AIDS and other patients truly believe that it will help... why make a federal issue out of it?
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