(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #141, 6/16/00
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Chronicle of Higher Education released its eighth annual survey of campus crime on June 9. Heading its findings were a 24.3% increase in alcohol arrests and an 11% increase in drug arrests on college campuses. The drug arrest figures grew at their fastest rate in three years, the Chronicle reported.
As is the case each year, the numbers sparked a flurry of defensive press releases and news stories from campuses spotlighted by the study as having high drug and alcohol arrest figures. The report's release also predictably provoked an orgy of interpretation about just what it is the numbers mean.
Campus police officials and safety experts insist, as they have in past years, that higher arrest figures are the result of tougher liquor and drug law enforcement. They also cite changes in federally mandated reporting guidelines, passed by the Congress in 1998, which require colleges to report crimes that occur adjacent to as well as within campus boundaries.
Health researchers agree with campus cops that enforcement activity and changes in the reporting requirements could skew results in certain instances. But, they say, college officials should not ignore the likelihood that the increasing numbers reflect a real increase in alcohol and drug use.
Lloyd D. Johnston is a senior research scientist at the University of Michigan, which conducts an annual survey of drug use among high school seniors. Johnston told the Chronicle his studies suggest that drug use may be on the rise. He contrasted figures from 1992, when 27% of 12th graders reported using an illegal drug in the past year, to 1997, when that figure increased to 42%.
"The high school students from the '90s are going to college and bringing their drug habits with them," said Johnston.
While cops and number crunchers argue about the Chronicle's statistics, student opposition to some newly applicable provisions of federal financial aid law is mounting. The students are not alone. College and university administrators and some legislators have joined the students in opposing some provisions of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1998. The new provisions take effect on July 1, and require the federal government to deny or delay financial aid to students who admit on application forms to having a drug conviction within the last year.
"It's indicative of this obsession with being overly punitive with regard to the use of drugs," Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) told Mother Jones magazine. "You single out drug offenders, so apparently armed robbery is not as serious an offense." Frank introduced legislation to overturn the aid ban, but it lost narrowly in the House last month.
Critics of the provision call the aid ban unfair and racist in its impact, as well. Poorer students and minorities are likely to be disproportionately effected, they say.
Student activists are doing more than complaining. Students at at least 25 campuses across the country organized to support Frank's failed attempt to overturn the aid ban. Campus activism around the HEA provisions now appears to be centered in the northeast, but opposition has also surfaced at the University of Texas at Austin and at campuses in the Pacific Northwest.
Some campuses have moved beyond complaining about the bill and have taken measures to obviate its impact, and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, is leading the way. Hamsphire's Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) spearheaded a successful referendum to provide assistance for all students denied aid under the HEA provision.
At Hampshire, DRCNet's Jessica Tartell reports, the HEA Financial Aid Replacement Fund has grown to over $20,000. Students were able to tap into available funds in the Student Endowment fund, which was established in the early 1990s.
"The money was there and it wasn't being used," said Hampshire SSDP organizer Alex Kreit. "Right now, there are four or five students who will not be eligible for aid because of the HEA," said Kreit. "They will get the financial assistance they would have received had they not been convicted."
At the nearby University of Massachusetts, students concerned about HEA and led by the Cannabis Reform Coalition went door to door to gather some 3,000 signatures in support of removing criminal penalties from marijuana.
Neighboring Mount Holyoke College has also seen HEA energize students, who have formed a campus chapter of the SSDP.
Across the continent, students in Washington state are also moving against the act. At Western Washington University in Bellingham, the recently organized Drug Policy Reform Organization presented the Associated Students board with a resolution criticizing the HEA provisions. That resolution passed, as did a similar one at nearby Whatcom Community College.
Student activism will presumably lessen during the summer break, but activists want to continue their efforts and prepare for a running start in the fall (see next article).
The HEA campaign received major coverage and editorial support in the Tuesday, 6/13 issue of USA Today. The "Today's Debate" feature dealt with the HEA drug provision, with USA Today calling for repeal of the provision, with the opposing viewpoint represented by the provision's author Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). USA Today noted that students at 25 campuses "ranging from the University of Texas at Austin to the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology are calling on Congress to overturn it," adding, "So is the NAACP." USA Today also noted that Hampshire College students are working with administrators to set up a scholarship fund for students affected by the new law.
If you didn't catch USA Today in print, you can read their editorial online, as well as Mark Souder's (lame) response, at http://www.u-net.org/press/usatoday.html. Other recent media coverage follows, as well as a What You Can Do guide on how to help this effort.
Fox News Online:
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1) We urgently need to hear from students who have been affected by this law, especially students who are willing to go public.
2) Educators are needed to endorse our sign-on letter to Congress. If you teach or are otherwise involved in education, or are in a position to talk to educators, please write to us at [email protected] to request a copy of our educators letter and accompanying activist packet -- available by US mail or by e-mail.
3) We need students at more campuses to take the reform resolution to their student governments. Campuses recently endorsing it include University of Michigan, Yale University, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, the Association of Big Ten Schools, Douglass College at Rutgers University and many more. Visit http://www.u-net.org for information on the student campaign and how to get involved.
4) All US voters are asked to visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to send a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 1053, a bill to repeal the HEA drug provision. Tell your friends and other like-minded people to visit this web site. Follow up your e-mail and faxes with phone calls; our system will provide you with the phone numbers to reach your US Representative and your two US Senators.
5) Please contact us if you are involved with organizations that have mainstream credibility that might endorse a similar organizational sign-on letter -- organizations endorsing already include the NAACP, American Public Health Association, ACLU, United States Student Association, NOW, and a range of social, religious and other groups.
We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Peter McWilliams, best-selling author, medical marijuana patient and passionate advocate of freedom. Peter repeatedly challenged laws that prohibited his use of marijuana to control nausea and manage his struggle with AIDS and cancer. In the end, federal prosecutors proved too powerful and uncompassionate. Confined to his home and denied access to the medicine that had helped him, Peter was unable to control the vomiting caused by his AIDS drugs, and too weak to withstand it, lost his life.
Two years ago, as a keynote speaker at the Libertarian National Convention, Peter entertained attendees with his brilliant wit, but also brought a serious message. In a speech broadcast on C-Span, he called medical marijuana prohibition "an outrage within an outrage within an outrage." The first outrage, he said, to cheers, is the war on drugs. The second outrage is the prohibition of what may be the least dangerous recreationally-used, drug, marijuana. And the third is that patients who need marijuana should be denied it, even arrested and sent to prison.
It was less than three weeks later that federal prosecutors had Peter arrested and thrown in jail. A $250,000 bail amount kept him sitting in jail for some time, and only a visit to court, during which Peter was vomiting constantly, got Peter access to his legal AIDS medications.
Peter was able to live at home for most of past two years as his trial, and the trial of his compatriot, Todd McCormick, slowly progress through the court. He distributed extensive information about his case, his causes and many other interesting topics to an extensive following on the Internet. But in the end, Peter was not allowed to even mention medical marijuana at this trial, plea bargaining last November to an unappealable five-year sentence, which he hoped he would be able to spend under house arrest.
Peter's untimely death comes less than a week after he was featured by John Stossel on the ABC news program 20/20. It is very likely by all reports that Peter would be living today if he had been allowed to continue to use marijuana.
You can read what John Stossel,
Barbara Walters and Peter himself had to say on the following two 20/20
Please visit Peter's very extensive web sites and see the legacy he left in books and much more:
http://www.petertrial.comThe Compassionate Moms mailing list is organizing a memorial. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to [email protected] or visit http://www.egroups.com/group/compassionatemoms/ on the web.
Numerous Colombian Non-Governmental Organizations, including human rights, social and peace groups, have issued a statement asking the US Congress to reject the drug war plan it is currently considering (vote scheduled Monday). We reprint their letter and list of signatories, followed by a legislative alert:
Plan Colombia: A Plan for Peace, or a Plan for War? A Declaration from Social and Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations and the Peace Movement in Colombia,
Bogota, May 31, 2000
We would like to express our support for those offers of international assistance that contribute to resolving the armed conflict through a process of political negotiation, and that strengthen and unite Colombian society and the economy. We support proposals that include viable and integral solutions to the problem of drug trafficking, the design of a new development model agreed to by the people, and the strengthening of a new kind of democratic institutionality.
However, Plan Colombia, presented by the Government of President Pastrana, has been developed with the same logic of political and social exclusion that has been one of the structural causes of the conflict Colombians have experienced since the time of our formation as a Republic.
In this same vein, because we feel it is a mistake, we are obliged to reject the fact that Plan Colombia includes, as one of its strategies, a military component that not only fails to resolve the narco-trafficking problem, but also endangers the efforts to build peace, increases illicit crop production, violates the Amazonic ecosystem, aggravates the humanitarian and human rights crisis, multiplies the problem of forced displacement, and worsens the social crisis with fiscal adjustment policies. In its social component, the Plan is limited to attending to some of the tangential causes and effects of the conflict.
What we are proposing is the need for a concerted agreement between different actors in Colombian society and the international community, one where civil society is the principal interlocutor, where solutions to the varied conflicts are found, and where stable and sustainable peace is constructed. We are ready and willing to design strategies, to define forms of implementation and to monitor a plan that reflects these intentions.
TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE ARGUMENTS PUT FORTH ABOVE, WE THE UNDERSIGNED ARE GIVEN NO CHOICE BUT TO REJECT THE US ASSISTANCE FOR COLOMBIA THAT YOU ARE CONSIDERING AT THIS TIME.
Asamblea Permanente de la Sociedad Civil por la Paz * Asamblea Nacional de Jóvenes por la Paz * Red de Iniciativas contra la Guerra y por la Paz - REDEPAZ * Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia * Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo * Red Nacional de Mujeres Regional Bogotá * Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres * Mandato Ciudadano por la Paz, la Vida y la Libertad * Partido Comunista Colombiano * Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos - ANUC-UR * Central Unitaria de Trabajadores CUT * Federación Sindical Agraria FENSUAGRO * Frente Social y Político Amplio * Red de Universidades por la Paz y la Convivencia * Instituto de Estudios para la Paz INDEPAZ * Asociación Nacional de Estudiantes Universitarios ACEU * Asociación Nacional de Estudiantes de Secundaria ANDES * Unión Sindical Obrera * Asamblea por la Paz de la USO * Asociación de Trabajo Interdisciplinario - ATI * Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo * Corporación para el desarrollo social Alternativo - MINGA * Comité de Solidaridad con los Presos Políticos * Corporación Región * Benposta, Nación de muchachos * Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular CINEP * Comisión Colombiana de Juristas * Fundación Cultura Democrática * Juventud comunista JUCO * Casa de La Mujer * Consultoría de Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento * ASMEDAS * Grupo de Apoyo a Organizaciones de Desplazados (GAD) * Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativas, ILSA * Proceso de Comunidades Negras * Vamos Mujer * Viva La Ciudadanía * Asociación Nacional de Ayuda Solidaria ANDAS * Corporación de Promoción Popular * Corporación de Luchadores de la Paz y la Democracia * FUNCOP * CENSAT AGUA VIVA * Coordinación Nacional de Desplazados * Corriente de Renovación Socialista * Comisión Intergregacional JUSTICIA Y PAZ * Unión de Ciudadanas de Colombia * FAUSALUD * Comité Local de Derechos Humanos * Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris * Corporación Centro de Promoción y Cultura * Red Nacional de Salud * Unión Patriótica * Fundación para la Educación y el Desarrollo FEDES * FIDHAP * Movimiento Cimarrón * Confederación General de Trabajadores Democráticas CGTD * ULTRADEC * Colectivo de Abogados Guillermo Marín * Corporación Madre Tierra * Fundación Parcomún * Fundación Mencoldes * Centro Cleber * Asociación de Familiares de Detenidos y Desaparecidos - ASFADDES * Corporación Centro Cleber * Corporación Utopías * Humanidad Vigente Coporación Jurídica * Funprocep * Corporación Jurídica Libertad * Fundecima - CIMA * Pastoral Social Villavicencio * Comité Permanente para los derechos Humanos Regional Caldas * Confederación Nacional de Pensionados * Corporación Región * Presbiterio de la Costa Norte * Instituto Popular de Capacitación - IPC * Confederacion de Pensionados de Colombia - C.P.C. * Fundación Sol y Tierra - Popayan * Corporación AVRE
The Foreign Operations Bill, S. 1234, is now scheduled for a vote in the Senate this coming Monday, 6/19, and the current version still includes the Colombia military and other drug war aid that DRCNet and a range of organizations have been opposing.
Sources in the Latin America field tell us that at least one and perhaps two amendments will be offered on the Senate floor that would reduce the negative impact of the bill in its current form. Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) is offering an amendment that would transfer the military funding into domestic treatment programs. It is anticipated that Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) will offer an amendment to simply cut the funding.
Please call your two Senators and ask them to oppose the counternarcotics funding that is included in the Foreign Operations Bill. You can reach them by visiting our Colombia web site at http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ and writing down the phone numbers that our system will provide as you use it to send your Senators e-mail or faxes -- or, you can call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be transferred. (You'll need to make two calls to the switchboard, one for each.) Or, you can find your Senator's web site at http://www.senate.gov and look up their local phone numbers in your state and call them there. PLEASE ALSO USE THE TELL-A-FRIEND FORM AT http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ TO LET AS MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THIS IMMINENT VOTE AS YOU CAN.
Stay tuned for further updates on this issue.
Cannabis conflicts are bedeviling the Bluegrass State on two fronts. On one, illicit marijuana cultivators are locked in a war of attrition with today's version of the "revenuers," primarily the DEA and their local law enforcement allies in the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). On the second front, a grassroots movement of farmers, legislators, and industrial hemp advocates continues to mobilize despite a losing effort to pass legislation allowing hemp production this spring. If the hemp activists have their way, never the strains shall meet.
Film and television performer Woody Harrelson's role has crystallized the tensions that arise when the two varieties of cannabis collide. The actor is well known for his advocacy of both hemp and marijuana, and awaits a new round of court appearances stemming from his challenge to Kentucky laws that fail to distinguish between the two. His upcoming trial, set for August 24, is certain to re-ignite debate on all aspects of the cannabis conflicts.
In a press release last week from his Kentucky attorneys, Harrelson declared that, "I have made the decision to go to trial because I believe Kentucky farmers should have the same freedom to grow hemp as farmers in Canada, England and even China. I feel comfortable putting my fate in the hands of the people of Kentucky, believing six of my peers will see the absurdity of this law and refuse to send me to jail."
Harrelson planted four hemp seeds in Lee County in 1996 in a deliberate effort to challenge the state's definition of marijuana, which does not differentiate between low-THC hemp, valued for its fibers, and high-THC marijuana, desired for its mind-altering effects. He won in Circuit Court and again when the state appealed, but the verdict was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court in March.
Harrelson was explicit in drawing distinctions between the two at the time, but has also spoken out for marijuana law reform. As recently as this month, he was quoted in the Newark (New Jersey) Star-Ledger as saying, "I do smoke marijuana, but I don't go through all this trouble just because I want to make my drug of choice legal," he said. "It's about personal freedom. We should have the right in this country to do what we want, if we don't hurt anybody."
Harrelson's comments blur the distinction between hemp and marijuana activism. For this reason, his media-attracting presence has had an ambiguous impact, according to local hemp supporters.
For Ivey Henton, owner of Hemp Universe, a retail outlet in Lexington, "Harrelson is both a plus and a minus. He brought an enormous amount of attention," she told DRCNet. "His involvement is keeping the issue constantly before the public and providing the opportunity to elaborate on the benefits of hemp."
Joe Hickey, Executive Director of the Kentucky Hemp Growers' Cooperative, concurred. "Woody's case has and will make a difference," he said, adding "even if it doesn't change the law, it raises awareness levels."
"But there are some negatives," added Henton, "particularly with law enforcement. They feel that by talking hemp at one moment and legalized marijuana the next, he's throwing mud in their faces. It confuses the issue," she continued, "because people ask me about legalization. I'm no drug expert; I sell hemp products, I'm in retail. Legalizing drugs is not my issue. In fact, I think the benefits of growing hemp outweigh any benefits from legalization."
Gatewood Galbraith (http://www.gatewood.com) disagrees. The Lexington-based criminal defense attorney, long-time marijuana and hemp activist and Reform Party candidate for the US House of Representatives positively bristles at such talk. "It's total and utter insanity" to try to separate the two issues, he told DRCNet. "I worked with Jack Herer on hemp and marijuana way back in the 1970s, when these people were in diapers. We knew that by explaining the economic benefits of hemp we would unleash the dogs of commerce, and they would drag the sled a ways on down the pike, although not necessarily in our direction."
As for those who want to divide hemp from marijuana activism, "People have their differing motivations for trying to divide the movement," argued Galbraith. "Some are straight farmers who want nothing to do with pot, and some have less pure motives, including wanting to see continued high black market prices."
Galbraith brooks no argument about linking marijuana and hemp and holds "respectable" hemp activists responsible for the failure of the hemp bill. "Their inability and unwillingness to take on the whole issue is their undoing. Our own myopia and shortcomings are holding us back."
To the frustration but not the surprise of hemp advocates, law enforcement agencies were a bastion of opposition to the failed hemp bill. They, too, worked to confuse the issue, or at least appeared confused by it. The Kentucky State Police in particular raised red flags -- and red herrings -- in opposing the bill. In the Lexington Herald-Leader, for example, a police spokesman waxed rhetorical: "What would stop someone from planting two or three rows of marijuana in the middle of a field of hemp?"
The answer is basic botany and economics. Hemp and marijuana, both members of the cannabis family, aggressively cross-pollinate with undesirable results for both. Interbreeding marijuana valued for high THC content with low-THC hemp dramatically lowers THC content and thus economic value of smoked marijuana. Likewise, lanky hemp plants grown for the fiber in their stems would lose those desired characteristics if interbred with bushy pot plants.
Even Fenton, "no drug expert," grasps the implications of hemp for marijuana cultivation. In Canada, where the government allows hemp production, "the growers hate industrial hemp. It drives them off the soil and into greenhouses or basements," she explained. "Then they can actually be detected more easily, by using infrared scanners to detect heat from their lights."
Galbraith adds that, "Cannabis is to hemp as Dennis Rodman is to Danny Devito. They're both adult males, but if you can't distinguish between the two you don't belong in law enforcement."
Hickey is bitterly amused by the hemp is marijuana argument. "It's laughable, unbelievable," he moans. "What's really laughable," he takes pains to point out with some idiosyncratic language, "is that the only people who make this argument are on the far right (i.e., law enforcement) and the far left (i.e., pot-smoking hemp hippies). The growers know hemp is not marijuana."
Galbraith, however, begs to differ. "This kind of talk divides the movement and paints the hempsters into a corner. It hurts me because it hurts the movement."
The hemp bill had powerful supporters in the legislature, including House Majority Whip Joe Barrows (D-Versailles) and House Agriculture and Small Business Committee Chair Roger Thomas (D-Smith's Grove) and enjoyed the enthusiastic endorsement of former Republican Governor Louie Nunn, an attorney who went so far as to volunteer his services to Harrelson's defense. Even so, it was first watered down in the House and then bottled up in the state Senate, where it died in committee. The Kentucky legislature does not meet again until 2002.
But because of the impending Harrelson case, the hemp issue will remain in the public eye at least through trial. And Kentucky's booming marijuana industry is not going away either, despite the wishes of some hemp advocates and the combined efforts of state and federal drug warriors.
Kentucky marijuana growers have no industry council or spokespeople to articulate their interests, for obvious reasons. But they are still a force to be reckoned with in the state's economy and thus, indirectly at least, in its politics and culture. In fact, according to the DEA's own figures, pot is the state's largest cash crop. Its estimated $3.9 billion cash value exceeds that of tobacco by a ratio of nearly four to one.
The region's growing reputation for high-grade marijuana led to its HIDTA designation in 1996, which the drug czar's office proudly reports brought $6 million in federal funds into the region's drug war. But despite the infusion of drug-fighting dollars from HIDTA and despite the Governor's Marijuana Task Force, which started this year's operations last month, even the feds have come to realize that they are confronting a popular activity in an overwhelmingly poor and isolated area.
The drug czar's office admits that, "Marijuana's cultural acceptance allows trafficking and consumption to flourish, to the point that marijuana has become a substantial component of the local economy... Marijuana trafficking organizations are often kin-based and family oriented which produces an extended family partnership that stretches to and from the three states of the Appalachia HIDTA and beyond" (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/enforce/hidta/appl-fs.html).
Galbraith, for one, plans to again use his congressional race to hammer against the war on cannabis in all its forms. And he hopes to capitalize on anti-government currents beyond those provoked by the drug war. "I ran for governor on the Reform ticket in 1999 and got 15% of the vote and beat the Republican in 32 counties. Marijuana reform was a big part of it, but so was gun ownership. Hell, I'm a conservative," he blusters, "Newt Gingrich wasn't a conservative, he was a freakin' alien. I tell the farmers about the potential in hemp. I tell these gun people, look, the same people trying to disarm you are the same ones trying to jail you over a green plant. And I tell the potheads, 'let's get these guy with guns smoking some good herb.' By the time I finish explaining the connections, light bulbs are coming on all over the place."
Fan violence at European soccer matches, with its toll of hundreds dead and thousands injured or arrested in the past decade, has for years worried European authorities. Governments across the continent have resorted to increasingly repressive measures to prevent soccer "hooliganism," as the European press refers to it, including maintaining and sharing hooligan databases, imposing travel bans on known troublemakers, deploying riot police in massive numbers, and employing ubiquitous video surveillance of stadiums and their surroundings.
The Dutch hosts for last weekend's Euro 2000 soccer tournament tried a new tack. In contrast to their tight restrictions on alcohol sales, Dutch authorities placed no limitations on the country's famous coffee shops, where high-potency marijuana is openly sold and consumed. In fact, authorities in Amsterdam granted special permits to some coffee shops, allowing them to stay open past their usual 1:00am closing times, the Guardian (England) reported last week.
The unusual move came at the initiative of Amsterdam coffee shop owners, who feared that, like hundreds of bars in the city, they would be forced to close their doors because of the threat of fan violence. Representatives of the coffee shops opened a dialogue with local and national officials. In negotiations with the Dutch government, marijuana sellers and growers argued that keeping the shops open and encouraging fans to visit them would increase the prospects for a peaceful tournament.
Dutch authorities eventually agreed. "Fortunately, we have made them see sense," Roland Dam, founder of the Cannabis College, an Amsterdam marijuana information center, told the Guardian. "There is always less trouble when cannabis is involved. Have you ever heard of anyone smoking a joint and then starting a riot? Keeping the coffee shops open is good news for the city and the tournament as a whole," he added.
The relaxed attitude was not limited to cosmopolitan Amsterdam. In Eindhoven, where England played Portugal on June 12, the mayor gave the go-ahead for the town's 10 coffee shops to stay open. A city spokesman told the London Daily Telegraph, "We are not worried about the use of cannabis. We hope people who come to the city and are curious about its effects will take it in an informed way."
That attitude stands in marked contrast to the town's restriction's on alcohol during the tournament. Eindhoven authorities insisted on serving only watered-down beer in plastic cups to the dreaded English.
Post-match reports from Eindhoven, where the worrisome British fans saw their team lose to Portugal 3-2, paint the strategy as a success. Ticketless fans in Eindhoven's coffeeshops reacted with "mild disappointment and gentle applause," according to the Eindhoven police. "The cannabis may have helped relax them," a police spokesman told the BBC. Arrest figures in Eindhoven tend to support that claim. Only five arrests were made, all prior to the match, and three of them for ticket scalping.
With the cannabis-friendly approach to Euro 2000 now deemed a success by the Dutch, marijuana supporters elsewhere are bound to use it as ammunition in their struggles. The BBC has already reported that British pro-cannabis activists are seizing upon Dutch experience to suggest that British authorities should take a similar approach to the drug.
In a national first, a state Democratic party will include broad and far-reaching drug reform proposals in its platform. It remains to be seen, however, whether candidates on the Democratic ticket in Washington will support the platform planks or whether other state Democratic parties will follow the Washington party's lead.
Among the drug reform planks are proposals for marijuana decriminalization, elimination of mandatory minimum sentences, alternatives to incarceration for drug offenders, and a ban on drug testing except for jobs involving the public safety. The platform also provides for protecting medical marijuana use and, in a page right out of the Netherlands, legalizes the possession of marijuana and allows for its sale in cafes, licensed drinking establishments and state-run liquor stores.
The successful insertion of the reform proposals into the state party platform was the result of diligent grassroots work by activists. One of the drug reform campaigners, Dr. David Edwards of the Drug Policy Forum of Washington, told DRCNet how they did it. "We got the planks and resolutions adopted by having activists submit resolutions at their precinct caucuses and following through the successive levels of caucuses and conventions until they reached the State Platform Committee," said Edwards. "There they rang true to enough Platform Committee members to win inclusion."
Edwards recognizes, however, that this creeping coup inside the party will not necessarily be willingly embraced by party nominees for elective office. In fact, he acknowledged, "I'm sure that many Democratic candidates will try to distance themselves from these planks. So far, they have not had to defend them, and for expediency's sake may try to distance themselves if confronted."
Neither is Edwards especially optimistic about other state parties following the Washington Democrats' example. For one thing, he pointed out, Washington has a relatively open process for adopting platform planks compared to some other states. He also doubted that activists in other states were sufficiently organized to force drug reform planks onto platforms this year. "It takes time to run the resolutions through the system," he said.
Also, Washington state voters are no strangers to the politics of drug reform. In 1998, they backed a state-wide initiative that authorized medical marijuana use for conditions including AIDS and cancer. That effort remains tied in knots by a recalcitrant federal government.
In passing the initiative in 1998, Washington voters reflected attitudes common across the Pacific West, explained Edwards. "Folks in Western states tend to be more favorable, judging from the fact that all West Coast States have approved medicinal marijuana," he argued. "I believe that we now have sufficient verifiable information to make discussion of drug issues and marijuana, in particular, a bit more respectable in political circles, especially on the local grassroots level." And, he noted, "We also may have softened up our Washington State Democrats a bit by having persuaded them to support the Medicinal Marijuana Initiative in '98."
Although the platforms contains various drug reform planks, reform advocates may make a tactical choice to emphasis on or more at the expense of others, at least for the time being. One breakthrough issue may be skyrocketing costs for imprisoning drug offenders. Edwards, at least, believes that, "Prison issues may be the next arena of reform, simply because of costs and overcrowding."
(Also in Washington state, support the Reasonable People ballot initiative to divert nonviolent drug offenders from prison. Visit http://www.reasonablepeople.org to download a petition and join the volunteer campaign!)
Last week's edition of the Week Online reported on the brouhaha in Syracuse when members of the drug reform group ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy ran into highly-placed opposition to their nominations to serve on a local drug advisory panel (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/140.html#mccarthyism).
In recent developments, ReconsiDer has continued to win the publicity war. In a June 13 meeting of the Onondaga County legislature's Health Committee provoked by the controversy, both ReconsiDer Executive Director Nicholas Eyle and prominent member Dr. Gene Tinelli, the two candidates blackballed earlier in the month, addressed the legislators.
"The response this time was generally pretty good," Eyle told DRCNet. "Rep. Smith (R-Clay) came right out and admitted that the War on Drugs has failed." Smith was the legislator quoted in the local press last week as saying that Eyle's and Tinelli's views "absolutely" disqualified them.
Health Committee Chairman Sanford, who had yanked the nominations at the behest of the local US Attorney, "came over and shook my hand," added Eyle. He also noticed a distinctly different attitude among other legislators. "Because of the heated reaction in the press and because they've started to realize we have several hundred members in their districts, they became much, much friendlier."
U.S. Attorney Duncan, meanwhile, responded with a defensive op-ed in the Syracuse Herald-American. Unfortunately for Duncan, opposite his piece was an editorial titled, "Inequitable Treatment of Offenders By Race is One More Drug War Failure."
Eyle is uncertain about his and Tinelli's prospects for actually gaining seats on the board, even now, but he says it is a win-win situation for the reformers. "Either they don't elect us and they lose their credibility, or they do elect us and they lose their mission. If one of us gets in there, Duncan will be the first US Attorney in the country to lose control of his commission," Eyle argued. "The minute people start hearing, for example, how DARE doesn't work, it's all over for them."
In its story on Texas last week, DRCNet reported that District Attorneys in counties on the Texas-Mexico border planned to quit processing drug cases dumped on them by federal prosecutors. (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/140.html#texasglimmers). Apparently, we weren't the only ones paying attention.
A June 7 press release from Texas Governor George W. Bush's presidential campaign attempted to make political hay of the issue. The press release announced a "New Initiative to Help Border Communities Prosecute Drug Crimes," and proposed spending $50 million to reimburse border counties for their efforts. In addition to the funding, the governor's proposal would:
Hawaii has become the first state in the nation to decriminalize medical marijuana through the legislative process. Under a bill signed June 14 by Gov. Ben Cayetano, a Democrat, sick Hawaiians with their doctors' approval may grow, possess and use marijuana without facing state criminal penalties.
Seven states and the District of Colombia have passed medical marijuana measures, but all of them came as a result of citizen-inspired initiatives. But because only half of the states have an initiative process, Hawaii's legislation is seen as extremely significant. As Chuck Thomas of the Marijuana Policy Project elaborated to the Associated Press, "The second wave of the campaign to protect medical marijuana users is underway. The first wave was the passage of ballot initiatives, the second is state legislation and the third will be federal legislation."
Donald Topping of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, who spearheaded the grassroots campaign, told the AP, "This may give other states the courage to proceed," adding, "I think the fear of being soft of drugs is beginning to fade now with this kind of legislation being passed."
Despite broad popular support as indicated by polls, elected officials have shied away from supporting medical marijuana. But, NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup told CNN, "We think this will be the start of a series of states over the next two or three years."
Through this vote, Hawaii has now joined other states that have approved medical marijuana in that twilight zone where state and federal law conflict. Federal government intransigence on the issue has thwarted efforts in other states.
And there are other problems. The bill signed into law leaves the buying and selling of marijuana as criminal offenses. Approved medical marijuana patients thus operate in a gray area, where they can grow or possess the weed, but be prosecuted for obtaining it from others.
Coincidentally, the Western Governor's Association was in town while Hawaii made marijuana history, and drug reform talk infected their convention as well. At the session's opening press conference on June 12, New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson's outspoken criticism of the drug war turned a review of issues into a lively, if not always illuminating debate.
Disturbed by Johnson's advocacy of an approach similar to the Netherlands, Idaho Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was moved to explain how his state had passed legislation allowing toilet-bowl residue to be used to send methamphetamine producers to prison. Meth manufacturers mix their drugs in toilet bowls for easy disposal in the event of a raid, he explained.
But Johnson wasn't completely isolated. The association accepted a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to study drug prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. In discussing the grant, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer told the Associated Press that states need to revisit the emphasis on law enforcement. "This isn't a contest to see who can be toughest on crime," he said. "This is a reevaluation and redirection of resources."
In early 1999, Star reporter Karen Dillon's investigative reports on asset forfeiture abuses helped propel Congressional reforms of federal asset forfeiture laws. In a follow-up series published last month after a yearlong investigation, Dillon and the Star have once again exposed egregious misconduct by state and local police agencies across the country. (The entire series may be viewed at http://www.kcstar.com/projects/drugforfeit/.)
The Star's investigation found that in every one of the more than two dozen states it examined, law enforcement agencies are deliberately circumventing state laws designed to restrict asset forfeiture or to mandate that such seized funds be used for designated programs, such as education or drug treatment funding.
They typically do so, writes Dillon, by using federal law enforcement to evade state forfeiture laws. Instead of taking seizures to state courts, whose laws are usually more restrictive than federal asset forfeiture law, police instead call in a federal agency, most often the DEA. The feds accept the seizure, the DEA takes a cut of the money, and the rest is returned to the local police agency, not to programs mandated by state laws.
In addition, the series clearly indicts the US Dept. of Justice and the DEA for aiding and abetting police evasion of state laws. In particular, Dillon, points to Justice Department guidelines for "adoption" of state and local cases. These guidelines allow state and local police agencies to turn seized funds over to the federal government, even if no federal agency has been involved. But, the Star reports, even these minimal rules proved too onerous for the DEA, which "in many cases" accepted seizures when defendants were being prosecuted in state courts, a clear violation of Justice guidelines.
The Star series also addresses efforts by the states to rein in the police-federal forfeiture juggernaut, both in statehouses and at the federal level. It finds that reform will be difficult, especially in the face of solid opposition from police organizations.
In a conversation with DRCNet on June 16, the Star's Dillon said her series has generated a high level of interest, both in the press and among politicians. As a result of the series, she said, the National Conference of State Legislatures will hold a special forum on the issue at its annual meeting in Chicago on July 15.
Dillon told DRCNet that she first started looking into the issue while reporting a police slush fund scandal in Kansas City in 1995. Part of the slush fund came from assets seized locally, handed over to the feds, and then bounced back to local police.
When asked about some of the more outlandish police justifications for their actions quoted in the series, Dillon laughed and said, "Well, it's sort of a police mindset that it's their money. They've been doing it for fourteen years, but no one has ever called them on their actions before."
(Further information about forfeiture is available from Forfeiture Endanders American Rights, http://www.fear.org.)
On Wednesday, June 14, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman was quoted in the Bergen Record calling for increased penalties for offenses involving the drug ecstasy. The article can be found online at http://www.bergen.com/news/drugow200006143.htm on the paper's web site.
Letters to the editor can be submitted via e-mail to [email protected]. Lengthy sentences have been tried for every other drug, and have never worked before. Why would they work now? Any graduate of Economics 101 knows that supply will fill demand, so targeting dealers for prison time, short or long, won't make any difference. Intensifying the criminalization approach will only hamper the efforts of outreach organizations to educate ecstasy users on how to avoid the health risks that ecstasy use can present.
If you live in New Jersey, please point your browser to http://www.drcnet.org/states/newjersey/ to write your legislators and make your voice heard!
The online magazine salon.com has published stories on recently introduced but already much criticized anti-ecstasy legislation in Congress. The story can be read on the Salon site at http://www.salon.com/health/feature/2000/06/15/ecstasy_bill/.
DRCNet's recent article on the Ecstasy panic noted that the phrase "agony of ecstasy" has been used over and over in headlines since first appearing in 1985 ("Ecstasy Panic Looms: 1985 All Over Again?", http://www.drcnet.org/wol/139.html#panic). A similar phrase graces a related Salon article this week: "The agony after ecstasy: I took the drug for nearly a year to lift myself to euphoria. Then I crashed hard," by Liz O'Brien.
Headline issues aside, it is important for anti-prohibitionists to always remember that while prohibition is bad, drugs can be too. O'Brien's story can be found at http://www.salon.com/health/feature/2000/06/14/ecstasy/. (Note that DRCNet neither endorses nor disputes the author's account of her ecstasy experience, but provides the link for the purpose of free flow of information.)
Visit the following links for further information:
Florida Officials Seriously
Overcount "Club Drug" Deaths
DanceSafe, Ecstasy Harm Reduction
Critique of Time Magazine
Ecstasy Article, by MAPS
As noted above, S. 2612, the "Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act" has incorporated the same anti-free-speech provisions present in H.R. 2987, the "Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act," as well as other harmful drug war provisions. Some of the provisions are also present in the Senate version of H.R. 833, the "Bankruptcy Reform Act," currently in a conference committee that is reconciling the House and Senate versions, though at last report the ban on provision of information relating to use of illegal drugs has been dropped.
Please oppose these destructive drug war bills -- visit http://www.drcnet.org/freespeech/ to send a message to your US Representative and your two Senators, and follow up your e-mail or fax with some phone calls. Please don't delay -- the bankruptcy bill could be reported out of committee at any time!
On the heels of this week's breakthrough victory in Hawaii, Minnesota State Representative Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) has authored a letter on behalf of state legislators to state Public Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, asking her to:
If you live in Minnesota or otherwise have legal residency there, please visit http://www.mpp.org/Minnesota/ to ask your legislators to sign on to Rep. Hausman's letter and join the coalition of legislators recognizing the need to protect medical marijuana users from arrest. If you're not from Minnesota but know people there, please visit the site and use the tell-a-friend form to let them know about this important effort -- or just forward this article to them directly.
Fetal Abuse: A growing number of women are being criminally prosecuted or having their children taken from them for doing drugs while pregnant. After years of hibernation, the legal concept of 'fetal rights' is apparently making a comeback, to the alarm of women's rights advocates and health-care professionals. Visit http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/fetal.html to read this new story from Mother Jones.
In addition to the ecstasy articles noted above, salon.com has published two pieces on the recently released documentary Grass, narrated by Woody Harrelson -- a review, online at http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2000/06/15/grass/, and an interview with comic book artist Paul Mavrides, who provided graphics for the movie, online at http://www.salon.com/ent/col/2000/06/15/mavrides/.
Famed movie critic reviewed Grass this week, taking the opportunity to roundly criticize prohibition of drugs. Visit http://www.suntimes.com/output/ebert1/grass16f.html to read it in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Shaved Head anti-drug war comedy routine by Chris Arcudi has been reviewed in the magazine Back Stage, online at http://www.backstage.com/ShowGuide/la/sla2000061460607.asp. Arcudi has three performances left in Los Angeles, June 15-17; call (323) 850-8956 for information.
Users Unite!, a community action to fight viral Hepatitis in injection drug users, announces the availability of user specific educational materials about Hepatitis prevention, treatment and outcomes. Users Unite! is a group of volunteer medical, nursing and public health students and faculty who work at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center in New York, providing Hepatitis education, screening and vaccination to active injection drug users. Materials are concise, informative, and ideal for outreach workers who seek materials that are easily distributed to users on the street or in syringe exchanges.
All of the materials are intended for injection drug users. In formulating content and artwork, Users Unite! conducted a formal needs assessment, including a survey of 100 active users as well as two focus groups. The materials have been distributed on the Lower East Side for a year with very positive feedback from users, volunteers and syringe exchange staff.
Materials available include:
June 17, 6:30-9:30pm, Cambridge, MA, "Imprisoned Art," opening reception/benefit for prison reform activists, at the Zeitgeist Gallery, 312 Broadway (near Central Square), featuring Lawyer Johnson, wrongfully convicted, in Massachusetts prisons and on death row for 10 years, showing slides of his art work, including depictions of prison life. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, Cambridge Center for Adult Education, Out of the Blue and Zeitgeist Galleries, art on display 6/7 - 7/5, call (617) 876-2182 for further information.
June 17, 8:30am-5:30pm, Washington, DC, "No Lost Causes: An Action Meeting on HIV and Hepatitis in Prison," at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, 1875 Connecticut Ave., NW. Contact Jackie Walker at (202) 234-4830, fax (202) 234-4890 or e-mail [email protected].
June 21, 6:30pm, Oakland, CA, "The War on Drugs: Who is Winning? Who is Losing?" Forum with Alexander Cockburn, columnist with The Nation, coauthor of Whiteout, Jeffrey St. Clair, coauthor of Whiteout and Peter Dale Scott, coauthor of Cocaine Politics." Sponsored by the Independent Policy Forum, at 100 Swan Way (off Hegenberger Rd. near Oakland Airport). RSVP to (510) 632-1366, seating limited, $25 includes admission and a copy of either Whiteout or Cocaine Politics, $10 admission only.
June 23-25, Lodi OH, NORML Festival 2000, at the Crazy River Ranch, sponsored by Northcoast NORML. Tickets available at Cannabis Connections, 16019 Madison Ave, Lakewood, (216) 521-9333 or The NORML Shop, 113 N Chestnut, Ravenna, 330-296-4377. Visit http://www.timesoft.com/ncnorml/ for further information.
June 24-25, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraiser for the Tennessee Cannabis Action Network. For information, call (662) 578-0518 or visit http://www.webnow.com/nfnmusic/.
June 25, San Francisco, CA, 7:30 PM, Musicians for Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert, Great American Music Hall. Tickets are $25. For more information please call 510-869-5391. Proceeds will help medical marijuana clubs.
June 26, Houston, TX, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson addresses the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Marriott Medical Center, Noon-1:30 PM. $35 per plate for DPFT members, $50 for non-members. Call (713) 784-3196 (or 1-888-511-DPFT outside Houston) or fax (713) 784-0283 for reservations.
June 29-July 3, Anaheim, CA, Libertarian Party National Convention, at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel. For information or to register, call the Balcom Group at (202) 234-3880, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.lp.org.
July 4, Washington, DC, Fourth of July Hemp Coalition presents the Fourth of July rally, march and concert, noon-8:45pm, Lafayette Square (across from White House). E-mail to [email protected] or [email protected].
July 10-16, Nashville, TN, "33rd Race Relations Institute" at Fisk University, one-week seminar devoted to discussing how racism affects the life cycle. For further information, call Theeda Murphy, Information Specialist, (615) 329-8812, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.fiskrri.org.
July 15, Prison Reform Unity Project vigils outside every prison in America, demonstration times are 1:00 Pacific Time, 2:00 Mountain Time, 3:00 Central Time and 4:00 Eastern Time. Contact [email protected] or visit http://www.prup.net.
August 10-13, San Francisco, CA, "Fourth Annual Hepatitis C Conference," sponsored by the HCV Global Foundation. For information or to register, visit http://www.hcvglobal.org or contact Krebs Convention Management Services, 657 Carolina St., San Francisco, CA 94107-2725, (415) 920-7000, fax (415) 920-7001, [email protected].
September 9-13, St. Louis, MO, "2000 National Conference on Correctional Health Care," sponsored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, at the Cervantes Convention Center. For information,contact NCCHC, (773) 880-1460 or visit http://www.ncchc.org.
September 13-15, Durham, NC, "North American Conference on Fathers Behind Bars and on the Streets," sponsored by the Family & Corrections Network and the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families, at the Regal University Hotel. For information, contact NPNFF, (202) 737-6680 or visit http://www.npnff.org.
September 16, Denver, CO, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
October 11-14, Hamburg, Germany, "Encouraging Health Promotion for Drug Users Within the Criminal Justice System," at the University of Hamburg. For further information and brochure, contact: The Conference Secretariat, c/o Hit Conference, +44 (0) 151 227 4423, fax +44 (0) 151 236 4829, [email protected].
October 21-25, Miami, FL, "Third National Harm Reduction Conference," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the Wyndham Hotel Miami Biscayne Bay. For information, call (212) 213-6376 ext. 31 or e-mail [email protected].
November 11, Charlotte, NC, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
January 13, St. Petersburg, FL, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Regional Workshop, location to be determined. Call (202) 822-6700 for information or to register.
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