(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #123, 1/28/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Gore Drug Use Question Leads to More Questions
In the week since DRCNet's special report on allegations of extensive drug use contained in an upcoming Al Gore biography by Newsweek reporter Bill Turque, further information has surfaced in the media, and non-denial denials have been issued by the Gore campaign. Most significant of all, at least in the eyes of drug policy reformers, were the statements of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) who, inadvertently perhaps, pointed out the "dangerous hypocrisy" that is the essence of the ongoing saga.
On Saturday (1/22), Salon magazine followed DRCNet's special report and interview with long-time Gore friend John Warnecke with an interview of its own (available online at http://www.salon.com/politics2000/feature/2000/01/22/gore/). In it, Warnecke expanded on his explanation of the pressure he was under to hide the truth of his relationship with Gore, and Gore's drug use, when the issue surfaced during the '88 campaign.
The New York Times, while downplaying to story (a short article by Alex Kuczynski appeared on page c11 in the January 24 edition), did confirm that the excerpt had indeed been scheduled to run but was pulled at the last minute by chairman and editor-in-chief Richard M. Smith. A spokesperson for Newsweek told The Times that the decision had nothing to do with the political schedule, but declined to discuss the magazine's editorial process.
The Vice President, for his part, refused to answer questions about his relationship with Warnecke. When asked about the allegations of long-term, regular drug use, Gore would only answer that he had used marijuana, but "not to that extent," while refusing to discuss specifics.
But despite significant media attention this week, the only government official to touch upon the disconnect between the drug use of political leaders and the punitive drug policies that they often espouse was Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).
On Monday, Kerry was asked by reporters to explain why he thought that questions surrounding George Bush regarding whether or not he had used cocaine were more substantively relevant than Gore's use of marijuana. Kerry, noting that Al Gore had already admitted his use of marijuana, said:
"(H)e (Gore) said 'I used it.' So that's not an issue... And I don't think Al Gore intends, you know, to make prior use an issue of other people, except to the degree that it affects public policy."
Pressed later on the question of the Bush cocaine rumors, Kerry laid out his thinking on why Bush's drug use, if substantiated, is indeed an important issue for voters to consider:
"The issue about George Bush is not the fact that he may have used it, said Kerry. "The issue about George Bush is, how can you, if you have (used cocaine), have a position that is so at odds in terms of being a governor where you send a lot of other people who may have done the same thing you do to jail. That's the issue. It's not a question of whether he used it or when he used it, it's a question of what his policy is today and whether that's hypocritical and dangerous."
The Week Online spoke with Kerry Spokesman David Wade, who reiterated the Senator's position.
"The Vice President has long admitted that he has used marijuana," said Wade. "Governor Bush, on the other hand, will say only that when he was young and irresponsible, he was young and irresponsible. But when Bush has had the opportunity to score political points in Texas by promulgating tough, extremely punitive new laws against drug users, he has been happy to do so."
Such analysis, however, is far from exculpatory of the Vice President. Under the Clinton-Gore administration, marijuana arrests increased from fewer than 350,000 in 1992 to more than 650,000 in 1998, 88% of which were for simple possession, according to the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report.
On December 30, 1996, in the wake of California's passage of a medical marijuana initiative, the Clinton administration held a press conference to announce that they would aggressively prosecute doctors who so much as discussed medicinal marijuana with patients -- despite the fact that Vice President Gore recently admitted that his sister tried marijuana for relief of the pain and nausea associated with cancer.
Further, in October of 1998, the Clinton administration signed the Higher Education Act of 1998. That act contained a provision that will automatically delay or deny all eligibility for federal student aid for any student for any drug conviction. (Visit http://www.u-net.org for further information.) The provision will go into effect on July 1, 2000 and is likely to adversely impact educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of poor and working-class students. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has since introduced H.R. 1053, which would overturn the provision and return discretion on financial aid eligibility to the hands of sentencing judges.
And on February 7, 1999, the Vice President himself presented the administration's newest "National Drug Strategy" at a Washington press conference. At the event, Gore spoke about opportunities for young people as being key to the prevention of drug abuse. Nevertheless, the strategy, in line with its previous incarnations, earmarked approximately two-thirds of the $18 billion federal anti-drug budget for enforcement and interdiction.
Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) told The Week Online that the issue of hypocrisy on drug policy is an important one.
"Given that many of our elected leaders have admitted to their own past drug use, it behooves us to examine this issue. It is certainly hypocritical, if not morally reprehensible, when our elected officials actively support the wholesale arrest and incarceration of others who engage in the same behavior for which they themselves ask absolution."
DRCNet's Gore report is available online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/gore.html.
2. San Francisco Approves Plan to Issue ID Cards to Medical Cannabis Users -- Buyer's Club Seeks Business License
Medical marijuana users in San Francisco may soon be carrying identification cards that could provide a measure of legal protection and greater peace of mind.
On Jan. 24, the city's Board of Supervisors approved a program under which patients who have a doctor's approval to use marijuana, and their caregivers, would receive an ID card issued by the city. San Francisco's Department of Public Health is likely to contract with an outside agency to administer the program, according to Wayne Justmann, a director of the San Francisco Patients Resource Center (SFPRC), a medical marijuana dispensary.
"We're thrilled by passage of the ordinance," said Justmann. "Many people have worked very hard to reach this point. A lot of activists want the city to use a designated outside group to run the program. That way, people who are skeptical won't be able to complain that tax dollars are supporting the use of marijuana."
Justmann, who is HIV positive and uses marijuana in combination with other medicines, has been a major player in the ID card ordinance and an imaginative battler in the cause. He is one of four directors of SFPRC, all of whom he modestly described as "patients with an idea." He told the San Francisco Chronicle that SFPRC is "the first group I know of in the United States to ask a city for the various permits that any legitimate business must have. We want official recognition."
To achieve that, Justmann and his colleagues have met with city planning officials, the fire department, sheriff's deputies, the local merchant's association and many of their neighbors. The center is applying for a nonprofit business license, and on Jan. 27, SFPRC finalized a lease for its space in the Hayes Valley neighborhood.
"A key issue for dispensaries is how to qualify patients," said Justmann. "It's very time-, money- and labor-intensive for every dispensary to do its own intake or registration. We're working to establish some uniformity in this process."
The ID card program would enable patients from any of San Francisco's medical marijuana dispensaries to avail themselves of the closest or most convenient club.
Justmann told the Chronicle that SFPRC's efforts to set up shop as a licensed nonprofit business have been "tough sledding. The hoops we've had to jump through to make this legal, I don't know if I'd advise the next people to do it."
Despite the hardships, Justmann was eager to sit down with the designated point person from the Department of Public Health. "We can't wait," he said. "We have patients who can't wait for medical cannabis." One of his co-directors, Gary Farnsworth, said the team at SFPRC was "very proud of what we've done so far. And we've been getting some great, encouraging phone calls from other cities. They want to learn about what we're doing."
Some medical marijuana and AIDS activists have expressed concerns about ID card programs, fearing the data could be misused by authorities.
3. Britain: Shelter Workers Sentenced to Prison for Refusing to Inform on Clients
Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt for DRCNet
Sentencing of Charity Workers Sparks Debate, Protest in UK
Just days before Christmas, the director and manager of a homeless shelter in Cambridge, England were found guilty of what prosecutors called "allowing their premises to be used for 'procurement & trading' of illicit substances." Kings Lynn Crown Court Judge Jonathan Haworth sentenced Ruth Wyner and John Brock of the Wintercomfort homelessness project to five and four years in prison, respectively.
The two were arrested after a buy-and-bust operation by local police netted several individuals who were using the site to sell drugs. Wyner and Brock, who were not accused of dealing or using drugs themselves, were arrested because they had not turned over to police the names and addresses of suspected drug dealers -- persons whom they had previously banned from the site. Wyner and Brock maintain that informing on their clients would have violated their confidence and broken the fragile link the shelter created between addicts and drug treatment services.
Wyner and Brock's sentencing, the length of which exceeds that of the dealers who were arrested at Wintercomfort, has caused an uproar in England from official public health circles to drug user's unions, from Cambridge drawing rooms to the floor of Parliament.
It has also spurred the formation of an action committee under the slogan "Free the Cambridge Two." At a recent meeting, Professor David Brandon of East Anglia University exhorted his comrades to drastic measures. "If it comes to it, we should offer ourselves up for arrest," he said. "These sentences have made a mockery of the law, and by offering ourselves up, we would be dignifying it. Thousands of us are 'aware' of drug dealers in our agencies."
Critics of Wyner and Brock's sentences say the case is representative of an increasingly repressive and punitive British drug policy that has developed under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair. Along with a burgeoning urine testing industry and a growing criminal justice involvement within drug service provision, they perceive a disturbing tendency of the Blair administration to emulate the United States' so-called War on Drugs.
The media, too, has weighed in on the matter. In a January 2nd editorial, the Guardian newspaper said the sentence had "put Ruth Wyner and John Brock on the casualty list of the unwinnable war on drugs," and noted that "The undercover police operation at Wintercomfort has not only brought misfortune to the Wyner and Brock families but shown that the national fad for zero tolerance not only encourages the hounding of the destitute but also the persecution of those who help them."
This week, Wyner and Brock went to court asking leave for appeal, and for bail, but the Judge refused to give his response publicly, saying he would write it to them. Outside, some 50 supporters from around the country gathered in a show of solidarity for the Cambridge Two.
4. UK Police Report: Legalizing Drugs is Obvious Choice
The Daily Mail is reporting that a report released by the Cleveland (UK) Police, one of Britain's most active police forces, states that the War on Drugs is a failure and that a legalized, regulated market is the obvious choice to replace it. The report was written by the force's former assistant Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom and endorsed by Chief Constable Barry Shaw. It says in part:
"If there is indeed a war on drugs, it is not being won -- drugs are cheaper and more readily available than ever before.... Attempts to restrict availability of illegal drugs have failed so far everywhere... There is little or no evidence that they (drug laws) can ever work within acceptable means in a democracy... There is little evidence that conventional conviction and punishment has any effect on offending levels."
This in advance of an inquiry by a British think-tank, the Police Foundation, that is expected to call for a reassessment of laws against cannabis and ecstasy (MDMA), along with broader drug policy reforms.
Finally, the report calls for a Royal Commission to study the issue of drug prohibition, adding its weight to a growing number of individuals and organizations urging the Blair government to take this step. The Blair government, however, has thus far refused to convene such a study.
5. Michigan Initiative Effort to Rely on Volunteers, Enthusiasm
Michigan defense attorney Greg Schmid has neither polling data nor money, but he has loads of enthusiasm and volunteers which he hopes will propel his marijuana legalization initiative, dubbed the Personal Responsibility Amendment (PRA), to a place on Michigan's ballot in November.
Instead of paying people to gather the 300,000 signatures he needs to put his initiative on the ballot, Schmid is relying on volunteers. If the volunteers can collect enough signatures, he said he may be able to raise enough money from supporters to fund a paid signature gathering effort to collect the rest.
The PRA calls for a constitutional amendment that would allow people to possess up to three marijuana plants or three ounces of marijuana within their homes, in a manner not readily accessible to minors. Schmid told The Week Online he got involved in drafting the initiative because of his concern over the increased numbers of arrests of marijuana users in the last few years. "We've seen a serious pattern since 1996 of a hard line against marijuana users," he said. "Prosecutors all over Michigan have turned to a policy of pressing felony charges for second offense simple possession of marijuana. By the fifth offense for simple possession, a person could face a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years!"
But Schmid's initiative takes the concept of personal responsibility beyond the "right to use drugs" argument. It both "eliminates lawsuits based on any [medical] condition that is the direct and obvious results of a person's long term abuse of marijuana, tobacco or alcohol" and changes asset forfeiture laws so assets seized by police during drug busts will only be available for "personal responsibility education." Schmid's tack differs here from asset forfeiture reform initiatives in other states this year, where seized money would be directed to drug treatment and crime prevention programs.
If the PRA makes the ballot, Schmid predicts strong opposition from the state's attorney general's office, but hopes Michigan Governor John Engler to be sympathetic to the issue, because Engler drafted medical marijuana legislation years ago. More realistically, however, allies for Schmid's campaign could include the state's Libertarian Party and State Senator Mike Goschka.
If the initiative does pass, Schmid promises it will be "bulletproof" from state or federal interference. Because it is a constitutional amendment, he said, state legislators can't touch it, and because it specifies personal non- commercial use, the federal government will have no legal right to arrest marijuana smokers using the interstate commerce clause.
NORML National Director Keith Stroup agreed that the government would not be likely to interfere if the initiative passes, but for a different reason -- because it does not legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana. Unlike marijuana legalization efforts underway in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, the Michigan measure does not allow the sale of marijuana. "This is a model that should be able to withstand federal challenge, but not because of the interstate commerce clause," Stroup said.
Schmid said that so far, at least 1,500 people have volunteered to collect signatures for the PRA. "People are calling all day. I've never seen this kind of enthusiasm before," he said. The deadline for signature gathering is July 10.
To learn more about the Michigan Personal Responsibility Amendment, visit http://www.ballot2000.net.
6. Court Strikes Down Cincinnati Ban
Jane Tseng, [email protected]
Last Thursday (1/20/00), US District Court Judge Susan Dlott struck down a Cincinnati law that banned people accused or convicted of drug-related offenses from a downtown neighborhood. In her decision, Dlott said the law violates constitutional rights to freedom of association, freedom of movement, and freedom from double jeopardy. Cincinnati Municipal Code Chapter 755, passed by the Cincinnati City Council in June 1996, banned those arrested for drug-related offenses from traveling through public streets and sidewalks in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood for 90 days following the arrest. Upon conviction, the ban extended to a full year. People caught violating the ban were subject to immediate arrest for criminal trespass, an offense that carried a maximum fine of $250 and 90 days in jail.
The case stemmed from a federal lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation lawyers on behalf of two Cincinnati residents subjected to the ban in June, 1998.
7. Regaining the Vote: Sentencing Project Report Details State and Federal Activities
In 1998, a study by Human Rights Watch and the Sentencing Project found that 13 percent of African American men and nearly four million Americans have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions. Felony disenfranchisement, together with mandatory minimum sentencing and the year 2000 census, were named by Congressional Black Caucus chairman James Clyburn as the most serious current civil rights issues, speaking to a democratic awards dinner last May (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/090.html#clyburn).
A new report by the Sentencing Project outlines legislative and legal activity in thirteen states and in Congress to address the issue of whether convicted felons and ex-felons should have the right to vote. "Regaining the Vote: An Assessment of Activity Relating to Felon Disenfranchisement Laws" reports the following state and federal activity:
Marc Mauer, Assistant Director of the Sentencing Project, said that "The expansion of the criminal justice system over the past 25 years has created an ever-larger pool of ineligible voters. Current efforts to restore the right to vote to offenders who have 'paid their debt' to society may help to bring the US more in line with other democratic nations."
Regaining the Vote, written by Mauer and Patricia Allard, is available from the Sentencing Project, 1516 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 628-0871, or online at http://www.sentencingproject.org.
8. ALERTS: Legislative Action in Maryland and Virginia
DRCNet issued legislative alerts during the past week for the states of Virginia and Maryland. In Virginia, activists are battling Gov. Gilmore's "Operation SABRE," a draconian set of proposals that would increase drug policing and mandatory minimum sentences. If you are from Virginia, please visit our collaborative web site with the group Virginians Against Drug Violence, at http://www.drcnet.org/states/virginia/, to send a free e-mail or fax to your state Senator and Delegate and to find our more information about Operation SABRE and how to get involved.
In Maryland, Del. Don Murphy (R-Catonsville) is introducing a bill to protect patients who use marijuana medically and their doctors who recommend it. We are collaborating with the Marijuana Policy Project on a web site to demonstrate public support for the bill. If you are from Maryland, please visit http://www.mpp.org/Maryland/, to send a free e-mail or fax to your state Senator and your Delegates (you may have a few of them).
We also sent a note to our subscribers in the District of Columbia about a forum and protest that took place at American University last Monday night. If you live in Virginia, Maryland or DC, but didn't receive one of these alerts, then we probably don't have your state information in our database. Please e-mail [email protected] to update your info, or to sign up for info from additional states.
Most of all, if you live in Maryland or Virginia but haven't acted on these alerts, please take a moment now to do so. It is crucial that medical marijuana pass in Maryland and SABRE be defeated in Virginia. Time is of the essence!
9. Anderson and Boje Cases Seeking Support
AARON ANDERSON: Last June, the Week Online reported that Aaron Anderson, a hemp advocate in Hawaii, had won the right to sue prosecutors and the County of Hawaii (the "Big Island") for violations of Constitutional rights in a case dating back to 1992. Former prosecutor Kay Iopa had brought charges against Anderson and Roger Christie for commerce in legal hemp seed products, acknowledging she would only bring such charges against advocates of marijuana legalization (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/094.html#andersoncase).
Two weeks ago, a federal judge rejected the County's claim that all hemp products are illegal, and Anderson's civil rights case is scheduled for trial in federal court in Honolulu on June 5, 2000. Attorney Steven Strauss says that the case is making good law for marijuana and civil rights advocates, but that contributions and other resources have run out. Anderson and Strauss are seeking financial help to pay for expert witness fees to establish lost profits for Anderson's hemp business that was shut down, for depositions of the prosecutor, three deputies, police officers and a DEA agent, photocopying costs, and travel expenses. They are willing to return any contributions out of an award of damages or attorney's fees.
If you would like to support the Anderson civil rights lawsuit against prosecutors and the County of Hawaii, send contributions to: Steven D. Strauss Client Trust Account, P.O. Box 11517s, Hilo, HI 96721.
RENEE BOJE: The US government is seeking to extradite Renee Boje from Canada, to try her for alleged involvement in a medical marijuana growing operation in Bel Air, California. The judge in her extradition case is expected to hand down a ruling on Feb. 9, and it is expected that the judge will order her surrendered to US authorities. Boje's attorney, John Conroy, has prepared an appeal.
The case has attracted substantial media attention, including an article in Glamour magazine, but financial support for the defense and media effort has been sparse. Visit http://www.thecompassionclub.org/renee/ or e-mail [email protected] to learn more about Renee Boje and her case. To contribute, send check or money to: Renee Boje Legal Defense Team, P.O. Box 1557, Gibsons, BC V0N 1V0, or visit http://www.safesafe.com/reneeboje/ to donate online.
10. EDITORIAL: A Not So Nutty Professor
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
One of the greatest rewards of a career in activism is the opportunity one is afforded to share ideas with learned men and women. I had such an opportunity this week in the form of an hour-long phone conversation with a professor of sociology at a University in New York. The professor, who will remain nameless for the simple reason that I haven't been able to reach him to ask permission to use his name, is a regular subscriber to The Week Online, and an avid and enthusiastic analyst of both the human and the social condition. On the night we spoke this week, he was in rare form.
"I think," he began, "that in trying to reform drug policy, you don't know what you're up against." Yes, I replied, I had a pretty good idea what I was up against. A global illicit market producing hundreds of billions per year in cash, much of which ends up in the pockets of corrupt government officials, militaries and seemingly legitimate corporations. A law enforcement/prison industrial complex grown enormous with the arrest and incarceration of literally millions of poor and powerless folks. An intelligence and military community ever more dependent upon drug war funding. A...
He cut me off.
"No, no, no. That's not what I'm talking about," he said. I'm talking about the reason why the issue of drug policy reform is still a hard sell in liberal circles. I mean, you've got the libertarian right, you've got the old-style liberals, you have a small but growing group in the middle. But despite the fact that the social justice aspects of the drug war should appeal to most of the people in this country who consider themselves liberal or progressive, there hasn't been a real move by the establishment on that side to back what you're doing."
Knowing that the man on the other end of the phone considers himself a strong liberal, I was naturally curious as to where he was going with this. OK, I said. Tell me why.
"It's ominous" he said. "And it's bigger than I initially thought."
"They're really Communitarians. They believe in social justice, just like liberals, but they don't believe in individual rights. That's why the drug war doesn't really register with them as an overriding evil. That whole 'it takes a village' thing? That's what it means. They're green, they recycle, they care about the poor in their own way, but they're willing to sacrifice freedom itself to achieve their vision of progress."
Libertarians call that socialist, I told him. He laughed.
"Right! They've taken over much of the Democratic party and part of the Republican party as well. They have no regard for privacy, for the right to be left alone by the government, for the whole concept of civil liberties. Feds watching your bank account, mandatory drug testing, national ID's. They cannot fathom, they do not agree, that maybe, just maybe, people have the right, the God-given right, to put what they want into their own bodies, even if their motivation is nothing more than to feel good."
So, I asked, you feel betrayed by your liberal compatriots?
"I'm horrified," he said, "but Ira Glasser (National Director of the ACLU) told me twenty-five years ago what we have to do."
"Yup. Brilliant guy, Ira. Y'know, I've always said that Ira Glasser had everything figured out back in 1972. He's just been waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to him."
OK, so what does Ira Glasser say?
"There needs to be a renewed, vigorous discussion of civil liberties in this country. We need to begin the process of reintroducing the issue of individual liberties into the public and political discourse. It's not okay to trade freedom for order. It's not okay to trade freedom for efficiency. It's not even okay to trade freedom for social justice, whatever one's conception of that is, because you wind up with neither."
That's it? I asked.
"That's it. But remember what I said. The enemy has become mainstream. And it won't be easy."
I hung up with a smile. A very excitable guy, my professor friend.
This morning I came into the office and opened my email. Buried amidst the flood of important and not-so-important notes was one from another friend of mine. This one, a fellow activist. It was about the Hatch-Feinstein Methamphetamine bill. Cosponsored by one Republican and one Democratic senator, the bill would make it illegal to transmit over the Internet any information that is likely to be used to break any state or federal drug law.
My activist friend, along with many of our colleagues, believes that the bill will prohibit life-saving information on syringe-exchange, on safe injecting practices and on growing marijuana for medicinal use, at the very least. The bill would outlaw speech itself, in the name of protecting society from the horrors of finding drug recipes online. I thought about what the professor had said. I was no longer smiling.
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