Urgent Action: Ashcroft, Clemencies, Hemp 12/29/00

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As the year winds to an end, with Congress in recess and many of you on vacation, drug reformers are faced with not one, or even two, but three urgent action items -- as well as a little bit of good news. Please take a few moments to call Congress and the President this week -- it could make all the difference in the coming year!

URGENT ACTION ITEM #1: John Ashcroft

As you may have read in mainstream news accounts, Sen. John Ashcroft, who was defeated for reelection in Missouri by the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, has been nominated by George W. Bush to be the next US Attorney General. It is vital that his nomination be opposed. John Ashcroft is one of the most ideologically extreme drug warriors, and his appointment would spell trouble for sentencing/prison policies, medical marijuana, needle exchange, racial profiling, you name it. See our article, above for more info (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/166.html#ashcroft). We will be issuing detailed action alerts by January 4th when the new Senate is sworn in, for opposing him on a state-by-state basis.

In the meantime, please call your two US Senators and ask them to oppose the controversial John Ashcroft nomination. You can reach your Senators (or find out who they are) by calling the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also visit http://www.senate.gov to look up their web sites and find out their direct numbers in Washington and their local phone numbers and locations in your state. Make an in-person visit if you can!

URGENT ACTION ITEM #2: Save Industrial Hemp

Drug warriors at the DEA and ONDCP are trying to ban a whole range of products made with industrial, non-drug hemp. Their motivation, ostensibly, is that hemp interferes with drug testing and creates false positives, causing problems with federal drug testing programs more complicated. Really, they are simply committed to a bizarre ideology that considers hemp a drug, even though you can't get high with it. But in doing so, they are attempting to administratively rewrite 63 years of US law that clearly makes an exception for low-THC hemp in the marijuana laws. Their actions threaten to make a perfectly legal, fledgling industry and its patrons all victims of the drug war.

What is happening is that DEA is planning to publish three "interim rules," which would immediately become effective while they go through the longer process. First, the DEA proposes to change its interpretation of existing law to bring hemp products within the purview of the Controlled Substances Act; second, to change DEA regulations to agree with the new interpretation; and third, to exempt traditional hemp products not designed for human consumption, such as paper and clothing, from being subject to the Controlled Substances Act. (See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/165.html#hempembargo for further information on the looming Hemp Embargo.)

For the rules to become effective, several federal agencies have to sign off on them. The so-called Dept. of Justice has already done so, but they still have to go through Customs, Treasury, Commerce, and the Office of Management and Budget. Please call your US Representative and your two US Senators; ask them to oppose the DEA's illegal hemp regulations and to put pressure on these agencies to reject the regulations. Again, you can reach all three of them via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or look up their DC and local contact information and locations via http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov on the web.

URGENT ACTION ITEM #3: Appeal to Clinton for More Clemencies

Less than an hour after the last issue of The Week Online with DRCNet was published, the news came out that President Bill Clinton had granted clemencies to two prisoners whose names are well known to drug reformers: Dorothy Gaines and Kemba Smith, now home with their families. That's the good news; read more about it atclemency anddorothygaines in this issue.

The action item is to urge Clinton to release more such prisoners. There are hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in the nation's penal institutions, tens of thousands of them in the federal system over which Clinton has jurisdiction. It is wonderful that Dorothy and Kemba have gotten to go home, but two is not enough!

In particular, the 400+ "safety-valve" prisoners should be released. These are people who would likely be free today if they had been sentenced after the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill, which allowed judges to reduce the sentences of certain drug offenders who would otherwise get five or ten year mandatory minimums. The law was almost passed with retroactivity, but that fell victim to a frenzied election-year intersection of drug and gun politics. Many similar people's sentences have begun and ended since then. There is no reason not to release them.

A few other prisoners who deserve our support:

  • Derrick Curry, serving 19 1/2 years on federal crack charges even though the FBI admitted he was a minor player, has been in for 7 years after being arrested at age 19.
  • Gerard Greenfield, pulled over for going six miles per hour over the speed limit in Utah and sentenced to 16 years in prison for PCP residues. He has already served nearly half that sentence.
  • Todd McCormick, a medical marijuana patient and activist, whose health is ill-equipped to handle incarceration, has been incarcerated since earlier this year.
Clinton has until the end of his term, January 20th, to issue more pardons or clemencies. Please call the White House Comment Line at (202) 456-1111, get through to a live operator, thank the President for releasing Dorothy Gaines and Kemba Smith but ask him to release more prisoners, such as the safety-valve prisoners and Curry, Greenfield and McCormick, before his term expires.

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Issue #166, 12/29/00 Clinton Frees Kemba Smith and Dorothy Gaines, More Pardons Possible as 450,000 Non-Violent Drug Offenders Remain Behind Bars | Interview with Dorothy Gaines | Ashcroft Nomination for Attorney General Bodes Ill for Drug Policy Reform | Uruguayan President Becomes First Head of State to Call for Legalization of Drugs, Story Ignored by US Press | FCC Chastises Networks for Drug Czar's Media Campaign, NORML Complaint Brings Victory | Kubby Trial Ends in Mistrial, Eleven Jurors Accept Prop. 215 Defense | Which State Has More People -- Your State or the Prison State? | Urgent Action: Ashcroft, Clemencies, Hemp | NYC and Budapest Job Opportunities | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: Awakening from Kemba's Nightmare
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