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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #179, 3/30/01

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Medical Marijuana Patients Shouldn't Have to Go to the Supreme Court
  2. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Oakland Cannabis Buyers Co-op Case, State Medical Marijuana Laws Will Stand Regardless
  3. Interview: Alan Bock on Medical Marijuana in California
  4. Eyes on the Prize: European Drug Reformers Call for Legalization, Target Global Prohibition Regime -- Brussels Confab Focuses on UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
  5. Mexico: Chihuahua Governor Adds Voice to Legalization Chorus, Extends Rhetorical Hand Across Border to Gov. Johnson
  6. In California, the Medical Marijuana Struggle Grinds On
  7. DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition -- Petitioners Promise Appeal, Question Timing
  8. Kampia vs. the Inquisition: House Republicans Rake Reformer Over the Coals
  9. High School Drug Tests Barred Again, This Time in Oklahoma -- Divided US Circuit Court Decisions Herald Eventual Supreme Court Resolution
  10. November Coalition Label Campaign
  11. Kentucky Governor Signs Industrial Hemp Bill
  12. Hemp and Medical Marijuana Initiatives Gear-Up in South Dakota, State Legislature is "Hopeless"
  13. Calling All Spanish Speakers: Volunteers Needed to Proof "DRCNet en Español"
  14. Harm Reduction Coalition's Latest "Communication" Now Available, Newsletter Provides Insights, Questions
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
  16. Errata
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: Medical Marijuana Patients Shouldn't Have to Go to the Supreme Court

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

This week's Supreme Court case probably won't settle the medical marijuana issue, legally, politically or otherwise. The co-ops claiming the right to distribute marijuana to doctor-certified medical patients probably won't get everything they want and deserve. The feds probably won't get everything they want either; nor, unfortunately, are they likely to get what some of us think they deserve.

Thousands of patients will continue to use medical marijuana -- some of them at greater cost and less safety than the clubs have provided -- some clubs will continue to operate, and the issue will continue to wind its tortured way through the vagaries of America's insane drug war politics.

Under a sane drug policy, patients wouldn't have to go to the Supreme Court to protest for the right to use medical marijuana. The right to use whatever substance a patient and doctor believe provides relief would simply go without saying.

In a sane country, a government that dared to incarcerate patients for their choice of medicine would be very strongly condemned by the vast majority of its populace. Those who advocated such a law would be ridiculed as brain-diseased extremists; those who enacted such a law would be recognized as cruel authoritarians. Those police officers who actually dared to arrest such patients, those who dared to lock them behind bars, those judges who would actually impose criminal sanctions on them, would be ostracized and booed out of their jobs.

Those would-be tyrants like Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who blocked the District of Columbia from counting the results of the medical marijuana vote, and who uses his podium to vilify reformers who stand up for the rights of patients, would be widely recognized as the loathsome McCarthyites that they are.

If any law calls for contempt, even civil disobedience, it is this one. The medical prohibition of marijuana is wholly without merit or legitimacy. So is drug prohibition as a whole. But the criminalization of medical marijuana patients is, as the late Peter McWilliams orated to the Libertarian National Convention, an outrage within an outrage within an outrage: Marijuana Prohibition is even more extreme than prohibition of many other drugs, and Medical Marijuana Prohibition is even more extreme than that: the criminalization and incarceration of severely ill people for medical use of the least dangerous drug. Those patients and caregivers who brave the consequences of the drug laws in order to help those patients in need are the true patriots in this saga.

In a larger sense, they have the truer respect for law, for a policy of arresting and incarcerating patients for their choice of medicine violates natural laws of greater strength and importance than any law of any legislative body. Rather, it is the Congress itself that has forsaken lawful behavior and created systems of tyranny and oppression, under the thin guise of protecting public health and safety.

The Supreme Court probably won't stand up for these basic truths, at least not this year. But they are truths, and they are inevitable. History -- the ultimate judge -- will indeed be unkind to the drug warriors.

2. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments on Oakland Cannabis Buyers Co-op Case, State Medical Marijuana Laws Will Stand Regardless

The controversy over medical marijuana made its first -- but undoubtedly not its last -- appearance before the nation's highest court on Wednesday, as justices heard lawyers for the government square off against attorneys representing California medical marijuana distributors. Some ill-informed media coverage notwithstanding, the Supreme Court will decide only whether federal law allows a "medical necessity" defense in federal civil actions against medical marijuana distributors. The case does not present the court with the opportunity to rule on the legality of medical marijuana laws on the books in eight states.

As medical marijuana supporters and opponents argued outside the marble edifice, inside the Supreme Court, lawyers for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative attempted to persuade skeptical justices both that marijuana is medicine and that medical marijuana distributors have a medical necessity defense against federal prosecution.

Justices Ginsburg, Rehnquist and Scalia evinced some interest in marijuana as medicine, with Ginsburg asking about sick patients and inquiring, "Am I wrong in thinking there has been quite a bit of this going on?"

Scalia said the choice to use medical marijuana was an "easy gamble" for patients. "A jury versus the grim reaper, I'll take the jury any day," he commented.

But while court-watchers cautioned against drawing conclusions on the justices' thinking from the oral arguments, it seemed apparent that co-op lawyers Robert Raich and Gerald Uelmen were facing an unsympathetic audience.

Justice Kennedy challenged Uelman on the extent of the exception for medical marijuana use, arguing that to allow it would amount to a "huge rewrite of the statute." Justice O'Connor weighed in with her opinion that the US appeals court ruling granting the exception "appeared to create a blanket exception to the Controlled Substances Act."

The federal government, bolstered by last week's ruling in the Gettman-High Times marijuana rescheduling petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration (see related story below), argued that there are no legitimate medical uses for marijuana and warned that a favorable ruling would lead to the creation of "marijuana pharmacies."

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its verdict by June.

While advocates are loath to predict the outcome, some are preparing for a negative ruling.

Jeff Jones, founder of the Oakland Co-op, was upbeat. "I think we got our day in court and we're eagerly awaiting the wisdom of the high court in their ruling," he told DRCNet. "While we didn't really get the discussion of the 9th and 10th amendment issues of a limited and enumerated federal power, the federal government is still up against the wall. If they don't get a complete victory, they will have a hard time bottling this up. And even in the worst case, we are prepared to take proactive action to ensure the rights of California medical marijuana patients."

Jones also pointed out that the state's medical marijuana law was not at risk. "Given the Solicitor General's statement that they are not seeking to preempt our state law, we've already one," said the clean-cut, conservatively suited Oaklander. "Patients will simply grow it themselves. Last time I checked it's still against federal law, but if they're unwilling to come into California and kick down doors to arrest patients, then they have an effectively unenforceable law. And even if they do, good luck finding a jury to convict."

Jones' seemed to be the consensus opinion among activists.

"We'll be no worse off than we were before in the event of a negative ruling," the Marijuana Policy Project's Rob Kampia told DRCNet. "We never worked in state legislatures under the assumption that it was somehow legal under federal law, or that medical necessity defenses could be used in federal court, or that pot could be distributed," said Kampia.

"If the court rules against us, we'll simply continue our strategy of changing state laws," he added. "It won't change our strategy or behavior."

Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy perhaps best summed up the collective wisdom of the reform movement when, at a panel on medical marijuana at the libertarian Cato Institute earlier in the week, he told the audience, "No matter what the Supreme Court does, the medical marijuana movement has won. There is no way the federal government can put this genie back in the bottle."

3. Interview: Alan Bock on Medical Marijuana in California

Alan Bock, author of Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana, came to Washington this week to cover the oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the Oakland Cannabis Co-op case. Bock, who is also an editorial page writer for the Orange County Register, spoke with us in the DRCNet offices. Excerpts from that discussion follow:

Week Online: How long have you been covering medical marijuana issues in California, and what prompted you to write a book about it?

Alan Bock: Well, at least since 1988. I heard about Jack Herer and checked him out and wrote a column about Herer and hemp. That was one of the earliest mainstream media discussions of hemp. Then, in 1992, I was on a NORML panel in San Francisco that was oriented toward medical marijuana; they asked me to come because I was a media person sympathetic to the movement. I told them about strategies for coping with the media. I made covering medical marijuana a sort of crusade, but as an editorial writer, I can't concentrate on one topic for too long. Still, it was something I kept coming back to throughout the 1990s. I did about 33 Sunday commentary stories on the implementation of Prop. 215 in 1997 through 1999. In many of those, I was basically lamenting the fact that outside of a few places in Northern California, most officials were doing the passive-aggressive thing -- trying to prove it couldn't work instead of making it work.

Naturally, I ended up with a whole lot more information than I could put in the columns, so I just kept compiling more material. I approached the publisher of Seven Locks Press at a conference in 1999, and he thought a medical marijuana book might have a market and that it had a marginal chance of breaking big.

WOL: Working with a small publisher means you don't necessarily get the promotional support or access to mass media attention. Has that been the case for you? Did you approach the major publishing houses?

Bock: Not with this book. I've sent countless proposals to the big publishers, but never got a contract. But in this case, I liked the publishers, I liked working with the guy, so I signed with him. As for promotion, Seven Locks has made a good effort to get me on network TV, but with little success so far. I've been on the radio in the Bay Area and expect to do more radio interviews as the word gets out. I go out and do book signings; I had a particularly well-attended one at Midnight Special in Santa Monica. I find that I sell more books if the audience gets to hear me read instead of just having a signing. And the trip to DC was designed in part to elicit some publicity for the book.

WOL: You're here in DC to cover the Supreme Court arguments on the Oakland Co-op case. What was covering the Supreme Court like?

Bock: It's like some sort of religious ritual in there. I can see why Rehnquist doesn't want to televise hearings; it would reduce the mystique. You'd think in a democratic country it would be the other way around, but here mysterious institutions seem to have more credibility than open institutions. It's as if we were listening to the Delphic oracles.

WOL: Any prediction on the ruling?

Bock: My only prediction is that it will be a very narrow ruling, concerned more with procedural issues than the grand constitutional issues that the Oakland brief invited them to consider. The Oakland brief talked about the 9th and 10th Amendments, a federal government of enumerated and thus limited powers, and it talked about the interstate commerce clause, which allows the federal government to insert itself in numerous issues. But with medical marijuana in California, they grow it in California, they smoke it in California, there is no interstate nexus. The Oakland briefs provided the court with the opportunity to either cut back or invalidate all together the drug war at the federal, but I saw no evidence that the court is ready to do so. The court has created a handful of precedents that restrain federal power, and I think perhaps Chief Justice Rehnquist wants to leave a legacy of slightly scaling back federal power vis a vis the states, but the justices didn't really talk about those issues. What the justices wanted to talk about was really narrow procedural things such as what is the precise wording of the Controlled Substances Act and does it establish a basis for medical necessity defense? And if there is a medical necessity defense, does it apply to an organization that distributes medical marijuana to patients or just to patients themselves? The justices were concerned that this could establish a broad blanket exception to the CSA. Rehnquist in particular seemed to be on the opinion that Congress wrote this law and hasn't amended, pot is still Schedule 1, end of discussion.

WOL: It seems that no matter how the court rules, what's really important is what is going on within California.

Bock: You're right. I think the key thing is that while this case has gotten all the attention, the fact that the state law is not under challenge has been lost. On the ground in California, patients are fairly well protected. Even in the event that the court ruled against the Oakland co-op, it would be up to the federal government, not California authorities, to enforce the federal law. It's not their burden. Patients could theoretically be at some risk of federal prosecution, but the chances of that are pretty low. The feds have never gone after individual patients and they didn't even use the criminal law to go after the clubs, they used civil injunctions. They are not eager to arrest that 90-year-old grandma in a wheel chair who uses medical marijuana for MS. And the informal DEA rule in Northern California, anyway, is that they won't bother with less than a thousand plants. Meanwhile, state and local officials in California are increasingly reluctant to harass medical marijuana patients. Increasingly, state and local officials don't even mess with them.

WOL: What lessons can medical marijuana supporters draw from California's experience?

Bock: First, that it shouldn't be that difficult for police to figure out if someone is a legitimate medical marijuana user. If the person has a card and a signed recommendation from a doctor, you leave him alone, unless he's got 3,000 plants. If there is no documentation, then you treat him as a recreational user. It's not that tough a burden for police to exercise that discretion. In California, the cops are increasingly coming around, even in places like Orange County, where they had previously cracked down on medical marijuana. Even prosecutors are recognizing that medical marijuana patients have the right to smoke, grow and possess their medicine. In five years, the controversy will have faded away.

Second, it takes a certain amount of serious money to mount a political campaign.

And third, it requires follow-up. I think Americans for Medical Rights [sponsors of both Prop. 215 and last year's Prop. 36 sentencing reforms] has learned that lesson. We're seeing that in the way they are really working hard with officials to make sure Prop. 36 gets properly implemented. And don't be surprised if you're successful and the authorities drag their feet. But compared to the atmosphere after Prop. 215, I'm really pretty optimistic for the long term.

WOL: What's the biggest problem now?

Bock: Right now, the biggest impediment patients face is getting legitimate access to marijuana because of the reluctance of doctors to issue recommendations. The California Medical Association has always erred on the side of caution, reminding its members that prescribing marijuana is still against federal law, for instance. And doctors didn't learn about pot in medical school, so there is a learning curve going on here. Patients have to educate the doctors. One resulting danger is the growth of what are essentially medical marijuana prescription mills, where doctors see a profit and churn out the recommendations for a steep fee. There are maybe a half-dozen doctors behaving like that; there's one in Orange County who started off writing recommendations and charging a $75 consultation fee. Now he's up to $250. The way to undercut that is to have more doctors doing it legitimately and properly.

4. Eyes on the Prize: European Drug Reformers Call for Legalization, Target Global Prohibition Regime -- Brussels Confab Focuses on UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs

Drug reform groups from all over the continent gathered in Brussels, Belgium, from March 23rd through 26th to mark the 40th anniversary of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and to wish it an untimely demise. Organized under the auspices of the European NGO Council on Drugs ( and the International Coalition for a Just and Effective Drugs Policy, a grouping of 127 drug reform and harm reduction organizations from 27 countries, the European reformers homed in on the Single Convention and its associated treaties ( as "the basic principle for drugs policy of almost all countries in the world."

The UN Single Convention and its associated treaties forms the international legal backbone of the global prohibition regime. Just as in the United States, where individual states which desire to change their drug laws must do so in a manner that does not conflict with federal law, so in the global system, individual countries which might wish to legalize marijuana, for instance, are constrained by the regime's ban on such strategies.

The UN bodies that constitute the global prohibition bureaucracy, including the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the Center for International Crime Prevention (CICP), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, have long acted as virtual rubber-stamps for drug policy hard-liners, particularly those representing the US government.

In a post-conference statement, the groups found the Single Convention wanting and called for an end to prohibition. "Current policy is extremely harmful to public health and a violation of human rights at a huge financial cost," read the joint statement. "Today's knowledge calls for radical change. Governments should take on the responsibility of regulating the drugs situation. To avoid further unnecessary human suffering and economic loss, decriminalization of both production and consumption of drugs is needed."

The conferees reached three general conclusions: First, that policies aimed at a drug-free world cause more damage to society in general than drugs themselves. Second, that Europe with its heritage of humanitarian values, should begin to develop a different policy, but that the Single Convention stands in the way. "There is no willingness to debate whether this strategy actually works," said the conferees. "Neither has there been a serious evaluation of its effectiveness."

Finally, the conference agreed that drug policy should be premised on two basic principles: public health and the respect for human and civil rights.

"In our view, drug consumption should be accepted as a part of life," they wrote. "In order to reduce eventual harm related to it, drug production, trade, and consumption should be regulated."

The International Coalition is acting on the conference's conclusions. According to its statement, the umbrella organization is preparing an international conference at the European Parliament to educate delegates, members of the European Commission, and the Council of Ministers and pressure them to undertake "a serious, independent, and thorough evaluation" of the Single Convention and the global prohibition regime.

Participants at the conference understand that altering the global regime is a long-term strategy, but argue that it is critical to unraveling the war on drugs.

Job Joris Arnold, coordinator of the Drug Users Advocacy Group of Amsterdam, told DRCNet that the global regime thwarts forward movement in his country, notorious in the US as a soft-drug haven. "Dutch officials always tell me they would be happy to take decriminalization of drugs much further if it wasn't for foreign pressure, mainly US pressure," he wrote. "All they are aware of here is that we have a bad reputation in the world when it comes to drugs and that Holland should best lay low."

For Andria Ethimiou-Mordaunt, editor of the Users' Voice in London, the Single Convention creates a global environment of demonization of drugs and drug users. "One of the most pernicious things about it is that it is enforced over so many countries, many of whom don't really know what they are doing or saying -- world leaders who have not the slightest bit of expertise in drug policy arenas," she told DRCNet.

Joep Oomen is coordinator for ENCOD. According to Oomen, the International Coalition's strategy is carefully modulated and continental in scope.

"Achievements in individual countries can lead to recognition of the effectiveness of alternative drug policies in other countries as well," he told DRCNet. "However, major political changes in Europe are not expected to happen until a serious debate takes place on a European level."

"Our long-term strategy is to obtain policies that are no longer based on the drug-free society model," wrote Oomen. "That is the most important goal. If Europe decides to implement these policies, the UN conventions will have to be rewritten. But that will only happen if sufficient pressure from civil society changes the attitudes of other decisive actors, such as the governments of the United States and Australia."

Oomen also sketched out a European path. "The first step is to engage the European Parliament in an effort to measure current policies' effectiveness. If that study is done well enough, we might have the evidence to propose revisions in drug policies, supported by a majority of the European Parliament," he wrote. From there, the next step will be to convince the European Union and the European Commission, which can go to the UN.

"The European Parliament has no status with the UN, but the European Commission does," Oomen told DRCNet.

Gerard Leblond Blanche of White Line, a French organization defending the rights of drug users, also emphasized the necessity of a pan-European approach. Because there is a strong prohibitionist impulse in Europe, which makes it difficult for individual politicians or countries to confront this "hellish and complex" problem, Blanche told DRCNet, White Line is committed to a strategy of engagement between civil society and the political class in a joint drug reform effort on a continental level.

"In Brussels, White Line resolutely defended a strategy of engagement, not only for the organization of a European summit on the theme, but more so for a true parliamentary inquiry charged with establishing the exponentially growing damage resulting from global prohibition."

The conference participants contacted by DRCNet almost universally expressed great interest in events in the US and urged that activists on both sides of the water forge stronger links.

But not everyone. Some seem a bit irritated with neanderthal policies emanating from Washington and the wars they bring to producer countries. Colombia was mentioned several times. Astrid Forschner of JES Rhein-Main (Junkies, Ex-Junkies, and Solidarity People) in Frankfort told DRCNet that US citizens can very loudly say "no" to injustice and inhumanity, but that when it comes to US drug policy, "as a nation they are just apes trying to tell others to be apes, too."

In one last other indication that things are different on the other side of the Atlantic, Job Joris Arnold of the Amsterdam drug users advocacy group could not resist reporting on one recent event in his town. "Junkies threw a farewell party for their departing favorite police officer last week. He had taken up their cause in the media, despite orders from his superiors."

5. Mexico: Chihuahua Governor Adds Voice to Legalization Chorus, Extends Rhetorical Hand Across Border to Gov. Johnson

Less than two weeks ago, Mexican President Vicente Fox told reporters in Mexico City that legalization of drug consumption and the drug trade may be the best solution to the problems of violence and corruption engulfing his country. Now, Gov. Patricio Martinez Garcia of the Mexican border state of Chihuahua has joined the chorus.

Flaring violence and social decay on the border -- much but by no means all of it generated by Mexican trafficking organizations grown rich off the illegal trade -- hit home for the governor when he recently survived a mysterious assassination attempt. Recently, an ex-policewoman shot Martinez Garcia in the head in Ciudad Juarez, where hundreds have been killed as warring cartels carry on their perpetual "adjuste de cuentas" (settling of accounts) with each other and law enforcement.

In a reflective interview in the Mexico City daily El Universal, Martinez Garcia told the newspaper the national government had failed in its fight against drugs and that drug trafficking and consumption should be addressed by the application of harm reduction measures.

And he pointed directly across the border for an example.

"There have been voices like that of the governor of New Mexico in the United States, Gary Johnson, who establish that the war on drugs is lost and that ask for it to be legalized," Martinez Garcia told El Universal. "And this voice has not been listened to, nor has his proposal been seriously considered. I believe this proposal must be studied seriously, because if the war is going to continue to be lost... with the deterioration of the quality of life for the citizens of the country, well, then, where are we heading?"

The governor, a member of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico uninterrupted for seven decades, and under which drug corruption became institutionalized, did not mention President Fox's recent remarks, although he did use some rhetoric that sounds as if it could have come from Fox's pro-business, socially conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Bemoaning the pernicious effects of modern society, Martinez Garcia called for the promotion of social, religious, and family values to escape "this political and social degradation."

"The reality is that the disintegration of society and of the family is moving rapidly," he said. "It cannot be that the 21st Century will bring us to the bottom of the sewer and bring the garbage with it."

Rhetorical concerns aside, the drug war consensus crumbles further in Mexico.

6. In California, the Medical Marijuana Struggle Grinds On

More than four years after Californians gave a resounding yes to medical marijuana, the struggle to implement the state's Compassionate Use Act, as Proposition 215 is now known, remains contentious, undecided and painful for patients and their supporters. But the news is far from all bad.

While the nation's mass media have focused on the Oakland Cannabis Co-op case argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, often mistakenly portraying the narrow question before the justices as a judicial referendum on state medical marijuana laws, the meaningful action is taking place in trench warfare across the state.

There have been some encouraging trial outcomes in recent months, and a jury in Petaluma, north of San Francisco, is hearing evidence in what is believed to be the state's first jury trial involving suppliers to a medical marijuana dispensary. Meanwhile, several cities, including Berkeley and San Jose, have passed ordinances that set guidelines for distribution as well as for police supervision designed to prevent abuses.

The resolve of patients and their backers is firm and in some areas stronger than ever, with activists mounting recall efforts aimed at ousting district attorneys whom they believe are not upholding the law. But a noncommittal state government and ongoing law-enforcement intransigence ensure that an end to the struggle is not yet near.

The California branch of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) estimates that the state's 58 counties are home to between 10,000 and 20,000 medical marijuana users. Its web site ( lists 40 patients' cooperatives and support groups, although the level of activity among these groups varies widely.

California's medical marijuana battle is not one fight but many skirmishes, mostly at the county level, that almost always raise one of two key questions that Prop. 215 left unanswered: how to distribute marijuana to patients, and how much marijuana patients and their caregivers can grow or have. Since the Compassionate Use Act became law, defendants in 23 criminal cases have used it as a defense, with 16 of these cases resulting in acquittal on possession charges.

"This is a waning war between patients and recalcitrant law enforcement people who are unwilling to accept the law," said J. David Nick, an attorney who defends medical marijuana patients. "Over the last 18 months in the state, it's become clear that the government is going to lose. Law enforcement has yet to win a single victory in the courts," he told DRCNet.

Nick cited a recent decision in federal district court on the legal principle of qualified immunity, which gives police wider latitude in their behavior if a law is unclear. "A very conservative judge ruled that a policeman's judgment or belief that a crime is being committed is not enough," said Nick. "This means the police will have to be more reasonable in their conduct than they frequently have been."

Ryan Landers of Sacramento knows something about unreasonable police conduct. He's been HIV positive for almost six years and suffers from weak appetite and chronic pain, but his illness hasn't kept him from being an activist.

"They raided my house, complete with the helicopter and bright lights," Landers told DRCNet. Landers said one officer also opined that Prop. 215 shouldn't have passed. "One problem is that each county sheriff or DA makes the call on how 215 will be implemented," Landers said. By contrast, Landers told DRCNet, when several of his neighbors vandalized his property in a separate incident, the police told him that "we don't enforce vandalism laws."

That lack of consistency has been apparent since the Compassionate Use Act became law -- and may have been a factor in a March 14th announcement from the California State Supreme Court. According to The Recorder, the court agreed to decide whether the Compassionate Use Act provides immunity from prosecution or only an affirmative defense once a person faces charges.

That case involves Myron Mower, a seriously ill, blind diabetic resident of Tuolumne County, who has used marijuana to control nausea and stimulate his appetite for more than 20 years. Mower had been convicted for marijuana cultivation in 1993 and placed on probation. After Prop. 215 passed, law enforcement officials went to his home at least twice and found 31 plants, which is well beyond the county's three-plant rule.

Mower's attorney, Richard Runcie of Fresno, told DRCNet, "Each of the 58 counties has its own standards as to a threshold number of plants which a qualified patient may cultivate or possess before he or she becomes subject to prosecution, usually initiated by an arrest and/or confiscation of the 'excess' plants."

But some experts consider the entire notion of counting plants to be flawed, including Chris Conrad, longtime activist, author of Hemp for Health and court-designated expert witness on marijuana cultivation. "I work with patients across the state and with growers in Europe and elsewhere," Conrad told DRCNet. "Each grower, each garden, every seed is different."

"The best rule of thumb is that indoor cultivation will yield about a quarter to a half an ounce per square foot. Outdoors, an average grower might get half an ounce per square foot. As in everything else, some people are just better at it, and outdoors they might get three-quarters of an ounce per square foot," said the cannabis expert.

Conrad pointed out that these yields are in line with the National Institute on Drug Abuse's results from cultivation at its marijuana garden in Oxford, Mississippi. They're also consistent with the Drug Enforcement Administration's published results from a 1993 study, said Conrad.

However, solid research and experience don't keep overzealous prosecutors and narcotics officials from making extraordinary claims in court. Conrad recalled the first case in which he testified, when a member of California's Marijuana Eradication Project claimed that each plant would produce a kilo (2.2 pounds) of marijuana. "The jury didn't buy that at all," Conrad said. "Now they sometimes say one pound per plant. The police have a tendency to look at 'High Times' magazine-type photos and assume that that's how it is."

In this context, Conrad sounded a cautionary note regarding the March 2nd reduction of activist Steve Kubby's felony drug convictions to misdemeanors and the dismissal of all remaining marijuana counts against Kubby. "A news report said that the district attorney said he'd welcome guidance from the state legislature on plant counts," said Conrad. "This misses the point entirely." It is not just the number of plants, according to Conrad, but other factors, such as growing conditions and the skill of the gardener, that determine the amount of usable marijuana.

Mollie Fry, a physician and cancer survivor, isn't surprised when prosecutors miss the point. She and her colleagues see 20 to 30 patients every day at her clinic in Cool, California, and Fry is outspoken in her support for medical marijuana. "There's no medical reason at all why marijuana is illegal," she told DRCNet. "The DAs in rural California don't know the first thing about this. Doctors should be able to provide the least toxic substances they can. I'm operating in a completely legal way -- the Probation Department sends people to us."

Dr. Fry's spunk may have caught the police off guard when they came to her house in August 1999 and threatened to arrest her for growing a few marijuana plants. "I ripped my shirt off and said to them, "Do you think any woman would have these cut off for fun?" Dr. Fry currently writes recommendations for patients and testifies in court when asked. "We're in a war," she said. "But I think we're about to emerge into a whole new situation on medical marijuana in the state."

Mary Pat Beck, a caregiver at the Sonoma (County) Alliance for Medical Marijuana (SAMM), shares some of Fry's optimism. There is probably no county in the state that demonstrates the medical marijuana conflict more vividly than Sonoma, home of lush vineyards, cozy bed and breakfast inns and seven medical marijuana dispensaries.

"We do advocacy and education," Beck told DRCNet. "We don't distribute." For that reason, perhaps, "the sheriff's department and district attorney show us a lot of respect." Beck and her partners work closely with the county's medical association to verify approvals and recommendations for medical marijuana, as well as with attorneys and physicians who support the cause.

Beck was ecstatic over the late-January acquittal of Alan MacFarlane of Santa Rosa on felony cultivation charges. MacFarlane is a disabled Vietnam vet who, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, smokes and eats about 2.5 ounces of pot per week to alleviate chronic pain from the removal of his cancerous thyroid about 25 years ago. A county drug task force had seized 73 plants in May 1999. Thirty-six plants were confiscated three months later.

MacFarlane was the first medical marijuana patient in Sonoma County to have a jury trial, and defense attorney Sandy Feinland called his acquittal "a huge victory for the compassionate use of marijuana in this county."

It's unlikely that attorney William Panzer is as sanguine about Sonoma County as the folks at SAMM. In nearby Petaluma, Panzer, who helped draft Prop. 215, is defending Ken Hayes in his current trial. Hayes was the executive director of CHAMP (Cannabis Helping Alleviate Medical Problems), a San Francisco dispensary that served more than 1,200 people. The prosecution contends that Hayes and his partner, Michael S. Foley, were running a marijuana-selling operation for profit.

"I can't go into the details, but this trial is a damned circus," said Panzer. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that "(District Attorney) Mike Mullins is like Captain Ahab, going after the great white whale of medical marijuana. He honestly believes there is no medical benefit. He doesn't want reasonable regulation and is giving business to drug dealers." For his part, Mullins told the Chronicle that he knows of no research that supports the medical benefits of marijuana.

Mullins is far from the only district attorney to have sparked anger among medical marijuana backers. The American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA), founded and directed by the recently acquitted Kubby, is leading an effort that could result in recall elections in as many as six counties.

"We see recall actions as a means of convincing local prosecutors to comply with Proposition 215," Kubby told the Washington (DC) Times.

One recall is already underway. In Marin County, across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco, DA Paula Kamena faces a May 22nd recall election, ordered by the county Board of Supervisors, after nearly 20,000 people signed a petition for a recall. The petition drive actually started almost a year ago after a series of court decisions in cases involving child custody disputes.

The Rev. Lynnette Shaw heads up the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and is active in the recall effort. "Paula Kamena gave the green light to the cops," Shaw told the Los Angeles Times. "They're harassing these poor patients to death."

Shaw claimed that District Attorney Kamena "misrepresented her views" to get elected and has been "completely two-faced" in her campaign against medical marijuana. "We have a lot of public support and a great issue," Shaw said. "We also have a great candidate who is running against Kamena in Tom Van Zandt," whom Shaw described as "a brilliant attorney."

Kamena's backers say she has been fair, pointing to her work to adopt guidelines to help police in Marin distinguish medical users from others. "If you possess an amount consistent with personal use, we don't prosecute. If you are a woman with breast cancer or an AIDS patient, we don't prosecute," Kamena told the LA Times. But the recall effort continues.

The court trials, police actions and efforts to implement the Compassionate Use Act will almost certainly continue. The US Supreme Court's decision may clarify some narrow questions about a federal medical necessity defense, but attorney Bill Panzer is skeptical, calling the case "much ado about nothing." His great fear, he told DRCNet, is that the Court will rule against the Oakland club and that the press will then report that the Court "has ruled against Prop. 215."

No matter what happens in that case or any other, the fight to help very sick patients attain relief through marijuana will continue. For more than four years, the outrages that patients and activists have endured have strengthened their resolve to fight on. The federal government, with the tacit complicity of California public officials, is equally determined not to yield, with President Bush this week announcing he opposes medical marijuana.

As author Dan Baum pointed out in Smoke and Mirrors, marijuana is the linchpin of the drug war, and retreat on this front is not an option for drug warriors. But as Orange County Register columnist Alan Bock, author of "Waiting to Inhale," told a Washington audience awaiting the Supreme Court oral arguments this week, "It's already too late; medical marijuana is here to stay." While thousands suffer needlessly, the federal government and recalcitrant local officials wage their hopeless symbolic war.

7. DEA Denies Marijuana Rescheduling Petition -- Petitioners Promise Appeal, Question Timing

For six years, the Drug Enforcement Administration had tried to smother a formal petition to remove marijuana from its status as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) -- one with high toxicity, high abuse potential, and no approved medical use. But in a sudden burst of administrative activity, conveniently preceding Wednesday's Supreme Court medical marijuana oral arguments by less than a week, the agency last week formally denied the petition submitted by Jon Gettman and High Times magazine in July, 1995.

The novel administrative tactic, which would, for CSA purposes, make marijuana roughly the equivalent of valium, could potentially alter the drug war's terrain with a bureaucrat's signature. After years of being ignored and stalled, Gettman and High Times got the administrative equivalent of the bum's rush from the DEA last week.

"They didn't even give us the opportunity for a hearing," Roberto Rionda told DRCNet. Rionda, an attorney with the New York law office of Michael Kennedy, which handled the case, added, "We were informed by a seven-page letter, with 32 pages of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) findings to back up their conclusions."

Rionda questioned the timing of the decision. "They wanted to influence the Supreme Court, that's why they ruled now," he said. The DEA's decision was a calculated effort to strengthen the government's case with its reasoning in the denying the petition, he said.

A press release from the Kennedy law office added that, "This tactic poses a great danger to ill patients who rely on medical marijuana because the Supreme Court's decision may be influenced by the flawed conclusions of the DEA."

In denying the petition, the DEA found that marijuana has a high abuse potential -- similar to heroin or cocaine -- and that even if it did not have a high toxicity or abuse potential, it had no accepted medical use and must therefore remain in Schedule I.

Confronted with plentiful evidence of marijuana's relatively low dependency levels and practically nonexistent toxicity, the agency grew expansive in defining the plant's substance abuse potential. Arguing that other factors, such as "failure to fulfill major obligations at work or school, physical risk-taking, or even substance-related legal problems, are indicative of a substance's abuse potential, the agency attempted to make the case that marijuana's potential for abuse merited its inclusion in the same category as heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy.

Among the DEA's indicators of high abuse potential was broad use, which, when combined with the DEA's official position that any use of an illegal drug constitutes "drug abuse," leads to the Kafkaesque tautology that because marijuana use is illegal it constitutes abuse, and because it is therefore widely abused it must remain illegal.

Again departing from consensus reality, the DEA continued to maintain that marijuana had no approved medical uses. It ignored the fact that eight states have embraced marijuana as medicine at the ballot box, and it ignored the government-sponsored Institute of Medicine study that charted marijuana's medical uses.

Gettman, High Times, and their lawyers aren't buying that logic, nor are they giving up the fight. "We have 30 days to appeal to the US District of Columbia Circuit Court, and we will absolutely file before that deadline," Rionda told DRCNet.

8. Kampia vs. the Inquisition: House Republicans Rake Reformer Over the Coals

In a one-sided dog-and-pony show sponsored by the House Government Reform Committee's criminal justice subcommittee as part of the political run-up to Wednesday's Supreme Court arguments on medical marijuana, GOP drug war zealots went out of their way to demonize drug reform advocates and personally attacked the Marijuana Policy Project's ( executive director, Rob Kampia.

The committee hearing, which had no discernible purpose other than to allow a parade of anti-drug war zealots, drug war bureaucrats and grandstanding congressmen to wail and moan and gnash their teeth over the prospect of medical marijuana, rapidly degenerated into an opportunity for drug war stalwarts to take pot-shots at the reform movement.

The weight of Kampia, the only anti-prohibitionist witness, was counterbalanced by Joyce Nalepka of the anti-drug group America Cares, Inc., Betty Sembler of the Drug Free America Foundation, former California Attorney General Dan Lundgren, defeated congressional drug warrior and drug czar candidate Bill McCollum, Laura Nagel of the DEA, and Dr. Janet Joy, author of the Institute of Medicine's 1999 landmark report on medical marijuana.

Kampia told DRCNet that the reform community was represented only because MPP contacted committee staffers. "We made inquiries once we heard about this hearing," he said. "The only reason we were able to testify is because we made the effort."

"What's really going on here is people are trying to legalize smoking marijuana and they're using cancer and AIDS patients as a prop," pronounced Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) as the hearing opened.

"This is really an effort by the druggies to legalize marijuana," chimed in Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who then turned on Kampia. "I don't respect Mr. Kampia. You're not a wonderful person. You're doing something despicable and you're putting a nice face on it."

Subcommittee chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), infamous for authoring the Higher Education Act's smoke a joint-lose your loan provision, intoned solomonically for civility in the hearing, then told Kampia, "You are an articulate advocate for an evil position."

The committee might have seen Kampia's pitchfork tail might twitching when he told the members, "The Marijuana Policy Project believes that sick people as well as healthy people should not be put in jail for using marijuana."

Or perhaps they smelled the sulphurous fumes beginning to swirl around him as he added, "But if we can keep sick people out of jail in the short run, then by God [or was it Beezlebub?] we're going to do it."

As for Barr's lack of respect for him, Kampia retorted, "I'll be cordial with Congressman Barr, but I don't respect him because he's supportive of a policy that criminalizes seriously ill people who have their doctor's approval to use what is a legitimate medicine."

Kampia told DRCNet he was not surprised by the committee's behavior. "They behaved approximately like I thought they would given our previous experience with Barr and Souder and the overall mean sentiment of House Republicans on drug policy issues," he said.

Still, Kampia added, such unpleasant confrontations are necessary. "I wasn't going in there thinking I was going to convince anyone to think differently," he said, "but I wanted to let them know they can't wage a vicious war on patients using marijuana without expecting to be criticized for it. Also, I knew there would be some media coverage, and that coverage could set the tone for the coverage around the Supreme Court case," added Kampia. "I wanted that coverage to be clear on what the Supreme Court can and cannot do with regard to state medical marijuana laws."

Kampia has presumably returned to Hell pending further committee appearances.

9. High School Drug Tests Barred Again, This Time in Oklahoma -- Divided US Circuit Court Decisions Herald Eventual Supreme Court Resolution

Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported on the Lockney, Texas, high school drug testing case, in which a US District Court judge ruled unconstitutional the random, suspicionless drug testing of all students in the district's junior high and high school grades ( Now, judges on the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, have ruled the same way in the case of the Tecumseh, Oklahoma, school board and its testing program.

In Tecumseh, beginning in 1998, the school board required random drug tests for all students involved in extra-curricular activities. In the fall of 1999, students Lindsay Earls, a member of the show choir, marching band and academic team, and Daniel James, also a member of the school's academic team, challenged the policy in court, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

As in Lockney, Earls and James ran up against significant popular support for the testing regime. According to reports in the Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star, a public meeting prompted by the students' lawsuit was packed with parents and community members who applauded any measures to protect their children from drugs.

In March 2000, US District Court Judge David Russell upheld the drug testing, ruling that the district's concerns about student health trumped constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A split panel of the 10th Circuit Court, sitting in Denver, begged to differ. If student health had been the district's primary concern, the majority wrote, then the district would test all students, not just a certain group -- those who had been targeted for their extraordinary achievements.

The 2-1 majority opinion said, "Schools must demonstrate that there is some identifiable drug abuse problem among a sufficient number of those subject to testing, such that testing that group of students will actually redress its drug problem."

The judges added that, "It is difficult to imagine how participants [in extracurricular activities] are in physical danger if they compete... while using drugs, any more than any student is at risk simply from using drugs. In essence, [the testing policy] too often simply tests the wrong students."

The Tecumseh school board has not decided whether to appeal to a full panel of the appeals court, as dissenting Judge David Ebel encouraged it to do. In his dissent, Ebel wrote that the Supreme Court may have to decide "the important constitutional issue presented in this case."

The Lockney and Tecumseh decisions conflict with rulings in other federal appeals courts since 1995, when the Supreme Court gave its imprimatur to the suspicionless drug-testing of student athletes in the Vernonia, Oregon, school district. The US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld an Indiana district's program of drug-testing students involved in extracurricular activities, prompting a wave of school districts around the country to begin similar programs. (The Indiana policy was reversed last August by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found that it violated the Indiana constitution. Earlier this month, however, the Indiana Supreme Court accepted the case for review, and some of the 69 school districts that had halted drug-testing after the appeals court ruling have begun re-instituting the program, the Indianapolis Star reported.)

State courts in New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have also struck down similar policies in the last few months.

"The political and legal atmosphere is really changing," said Graham Boyd, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) drug policy litigation project. "There's not just the knee-jerk reaction against any effort to challenge a policy that purports to be about pursuing the war on drugs," he told the New York Times.

With conflicting rulings emanating from the federal appeals courts, student drug testing appears destined to be revisited by the Supreme Court.

10. November Coalition Label Campaign

The November Coalition, an organization focusing on drug war prisoners and their loved ones, has launched an innovative new "label" campaign. November's label depicts drug war prisoners as sardines trapped in a sardine can, and the label is designed to fit on and stick to the typical sardine can.

November, whose campaign web site protests that "our loved ones aren't sardines," asks supporters to send labeled sardine cans to ten specified targets, seven of them political and three media.

Visit for further information, or call the November Coalition at (509) 684-1550.

11. Kentucky Governor Signs Industrial Hemp Bill

Years of activism have finally paid dividends for industrial hemp supporters in the Bluegrass State, as Kentucky Governor Paul Patton (Democrat) on March 20th signed into a law a bill that establishes a state Industrial Hemp Commission and paves the way for research on hemp to get underway at Kentucky universities.

Kentucky joins four states that have approved hemp research programs -- Hawaii, where the first legal hemp crop in 50 years was planted in December, 1999, Minnesota, New Mexico and North Dakota, which went a step further and also authorized hemp production in 1999. Similar legislation passed both houses of the Illinois legislature this year, but was vetoed by GOP Gov. George Ryan last month.

Despite opposition from law enforcement and free-lance drug warriors such as Drug Watch International's Jeannette McDougal, who weighed in with a "Hemp a Cover for Legalizing Pot" op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader the day before the governor put pen to paper, HB100 easily passed both chambers, 66-32 in the House and 68-28 in the Senate.

The measure came after years of organizing around the issue, including the occasional interventions of actor and cannabis activist Woody Harrelson, whose 1996 arrest and subsequent trial (he lost) for planting hemp seeds generated copious media coverage. This year, the legislation was aided by active lobbying by former Gov. Louie Nunn, the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, and other hemp and drug reform supporters.

Hemp growers' co-op head Joe Hickey is happy. "I'm pleased that the state of Kentucky is finally going to be researching industrial hemp and its potential for Kentucky farmers," he told DRCNet.

"We've worked hard on this for a long time, and eight years of educating the public finally paid off," said Hickey. "We finally got to the point where the public understood the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana, and they understood we weren't trying to legalize marijuana, but are looking at hemp as alternative for the loss of revenue facing Kentucky tobacco farmers."

The hemp law calls for the state Agriculture Department to administer a hemp research program at a university or universities designated by the Council on Postsecondary Education. And there is even a minor role for law enforcement: A successful amendment requires that the Kentucky State Police be notified of the whereabouts of all industrial hemp plots. The hemp commission established by the law must issue a report and make recommendations to the governor by December 15th.

Hickey doesn't expect much to happen by then, though. "It's too late in the year to get a crop in with all the red tape we have to go through here and with the DEA," he told DRCNet. "More likely, it'll be next summer before we are able to realize research plots."

Although Hickey told DRCNet that linkage between hemp and broader marijuana law reform was a significant obstacle for the hempsters, he was loathe to criticize the pot people. "Everyone has their own issues," he said, "and their own feelings about what is right. But cannabis advocates were the biggest hurdle for us to get over, because people would say we were trying to legalize marijuana through hemp, which is simply not true."

In fact, said Hickey, there is an emergent contradiction between farmers who want to grow hemp and the state's legions of backwoods, cash-crop marijuana farmers. (Kentucky is a major marijuana producer, with marijuana being its leading cash crop, according to the DEA.) Making a point that belies the oft-repeated warnings from police that marijuana growers would hide their crops within hemp fields, Hickey noted that, "Lots of marijuana growers out there are afraid of mass industrial hemp crops, because of cross-pollination. They don't want their harvests ruined by hemp's low THC content."

It isn't about smoking pot, said Hickey, but about finding a way for Kentucky's beleaguered small farmers to survive.

"Farmers are caught between a rock and a hard place," Hickey told DRCNet, "with marijuana growers on one side, law enforcement on the other, and farmers are conspicuously stuck in the middle. Farmers aren't interested in growing a crop regulated by law enforcement, and they aren't really interested in marijuana. They just want to keep the family farm."

"What does it say about the state of affairs in America," asked Hickey, "when farmers here aren't allowed the same freedom to grow hemp as farmers in Canada, England, France, and the rest of the industrialized world? The cops there can tell the difference."

(Visit for the full text of Kentucky's hemp bill.)

12. Hemp and Medical Marijuana Initiatives Gear-Up in South Dakota, State Legislature is "Hopeless"

When a statewide poll conducted this January found overwhelming popular support for industrial hemp and the use of marijuana as a medicine, local drug reformers dared to hope that the state legislature would respond. That didn't happen, and now activists are by-passing the lawmakers and taking the issues directly to the voters.

In their session, which ended early this month, South Dakota legislators killed separate medical marijuana and hemp production bills despite compelling testimony from patients and the broad popular support evidenced by the poll, conducted for the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council and the Marijuana Policy Project. The survey of 505 residents in the sparsely-populated, heavily agricultural state found that 85% supported allowing farmers to grow hemp, while 81% approved of changing the law to allow for medicinal use of marijuana and 95% opposed jailing medipot users.

"This just shows how hopeless the legislature is," Bob Newland told DRCNet. Newland, founder of the state hemp council, president of SoDakNORML ( and point man behind the South Dakota Cannabis Coalition, which is sponsoring the industrial hemp and medical marijuana initiative petition drives, explained further. "We provided good, solid testimony to these people who are supposed to represent South Dakota voters -- especially South Dakota farmers -- and they listen instead to the ridiculous testimony of the Highway Patrol about how pot growers will hide their plants in hemp fields."

"It's the same all over the country," growled the publisher and photographer from the Black Hills town of Hermosa. "These legislators have no sense of shame or dignity or what is absurd. How can someone tell a quadriplegic who gets thrown out of his wheelchair by spastic paralysis that he can't have this stuff? What are they so frightened of?"

Newland and supporters -- SoDakNORML has about 80 active members, he says -- are not waiting any longer for the legislature to act. "I've begun the process," he told DRCNet. "I have submitted the language of the industrial hemp initiative to the Legislative Research Council, which basically just reviews and cleans up the language, and we will begin our one-year window to collect signatures on May 6th."

The measures would appear on the November 2002 general election ballot, along with another Newland-sponsored measure. Justice Unlimited ( has already gathered 25,000 signatures putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment allowing anyone to argue the merit, validity and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws, in state court.

"The hemp proposal simply says anyone may possess, cultivate, sell, or manufacture industrial hemp," Newland explained, "and we'll probably throw in a less-than-one-percent THC requirement, but that language isn't final."

The medical marijuana initiative awaits a ruling from the Supreme Court in the Oakland Cannabis Co-op, which heard oral arguments on Wednesday. (See related story above.)

"We've been talking to the Marijuana Policy Project folks, and they will help us craft an appropriate measure once the ruling comes down," Newland told DRCNet. "Even if they don't have common sense in the federal courts, we're going to give South Dakotans the chance to have some common sense in the local courts.

"Once we have the language down, we'll start the medical marijuana petition drive, probably around July 1st," he added.

Based on recent polling and the success of the constitutional amendment petition-drive, as well as a wave of successful medical marijuana initiatives in other states, Newland is very confident both petitions will easily gather the necessary 13,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

It will take "36 hours," he told the Yankton Press & Dakotan, "two days," he told the Custer County Chronicle.

"Well, that's a little bit of hyperbole," Newland chuckled. "But even with our all-volunteer force, we could easily do this in three months. Heck, we'll hit the college campuses on hemp before the semester is out and bang, bang, bang, there's four or five thousand signatures right off the bat. We have people coming out in droves to work the hemp petitions and if we still need signatures on hemp by July, I imagine most of them will carry the medical marijuana petition, too."

"We don't have any big national funding," Newland told DRCNet. "National NORML doesn't really have the money, and MPP helped out with the survey -- which, by the way, was the best two grand we ever spent. Now we know four out of five people agree with us."

For Newland, hemp and medical marijuana are two parts of a three-pronged cannabis liberation strategy. "Ultimately, we'll go after marijuana prohibition," he said, "but this is a much easier sell. With these issues we can, for the time being, separate out the polarization that arises around the issue of recreational drug use. We don't have to worry about people worried about their kids," he explained.

"Marijuana is demonstratively less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol," Newland said, "and there is no reason for people to be thrown in jail because of it. Period."

Newland also asked DRCNet to let everyone know that the initiative drive will start building up steam with the first South Dakota Hemp Hoe Down. "This will be huge," said Newland, "maybe a thousand people, plus more members for SoDakNORML."

If the snow has melted by then (or even if it hasn't), it will be Sunday, April 1st, at Classics Bar & Grill in Piedmont. That's Exit 48 on I-90.

13. Calling All Spanish Speakers: Volunteers Needed to Proof "DRCNet en Español"

DRCNet has officially begun publishing in Spanish -- visit to read selected translated articles from recent issues of the Week Online.

Native speakers are needed to proof our Spanish translations on a regular basis. If you are willing to volunteer, please write to Phil Smith at [email protected] or call (202) 293-8340.

14. Harm Reduction Coalition's Latest "Communication" Now Available, Newsletter Provides Insights, Questions

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), the nationwide network of service providers, current and former drug users, methadone consumers, health care workers and medical professionals, drug treatment specialists, activists and community organizers, as well as policymakers, researchers, academics, and legal professionals committed to harm reduction principles, this week announced the release of the latest issue of the "Harm Reduction Communication," the group's occasional publication.

The Communication is a forum for both harm reductionists working in the trenches in needle exchange programs, methadone centers, and other programs and for those interested in larger political and theoretical issues related to harm reduction and drug policy reform. Articles in the current issue range from common-sense advice pieces such as "Heating Drug Solutions is Good Harm Reduction!" to research reports such as "Reducing the Risks of Self-Medication: Clinical Trials" and "Let's Get Real: Looking at the Lives of Pregnant Drug Users."

The latter piece, based on surveys with 126 drug-using pregnant women, explores the various ways drug use both helps these women cope with their lives (as a survival strategy in grim circumstances, as self-medication, and to gain a sense of control over their lives) and exposes them to a triple-whammy of stigmatization -- as women, as pregnant women and as drug-using pregnant women. Not surprisingly, the authors find that existing social service models fail to adequately address the problems of this group.

Paul Cherashore's "Letter from the Editor" provides another thoughtful and provocative piece, this one on organizing drug users and the complicated issues that can arise when active drug users are involved in harm reduction organizations. Drug using activists fear they are a potential liability for harm reduction groups, writes Cherashore, because their public presence could threaten funding or cause critical scrutiny of the organizations for whom they work. But, asks Cherashore, if active drug users cannot play a role in the harm reduction movement, then where?

According to Harm Reduction Coalition executive director Allan Clear, the Communication, which has appeared sporadically over the past few years, will now be appearing on a regular quarterly schedule. It has a readership of 25,000, both HRC members and non-members, Clear told DRCNet.

And they are seeking submissions for the next issue, Fall 2001, which will concentrate on harm reduction and women. HRC is "actively seeking articles, essays, interviews, and reporting, up to 4000 words in length. We invite drug users (and ex-users) to submit pieces based on experience: personal & political. We are especially interested in hearing from people on the front lines, be it on the street, in prison, or in drug treatment programs. Please encourage your program's participants to submit, and/or submit something yourself. We want to hear about your lives!"

"Personal accounts describing encounters with social service agencies, health care and treatment providers, the criminal justice system, public health bureaucracies, etc. and/or creative & provocative explorations of programs that really work (especially drug treatment and housing and healthcare services for active users), the prison -industrial complex, the role of active drug users in the harm reduction field, the relationship between harm reduction and drug policy reform & whatever else is on your mind. How-to information services recipients can use to improve the quality of their lives: safer use info, tips on accessing services, use management techniques... We are also seeking artwork."

The deadline for submissions is June 15, 2001. For questions or assistance, or to make submissions, contact Cherashore at Harm Reduction Coalition, 22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001, (212) 213 6376 ext. 16, fax: 212 213 6582 or [email protected]. Copies of Harm Reduction Communication are available at the same address, or can be found at online.

15. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)

April 1-5, New Delhi, India, 12th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Coalition, for information call 91-11-6237417-18, fax 91-11-6217493, visit on the web, e-mail [email protected], or write to Showtime Events Pvt. Ltd., S-567, Greater Kailash - II, New Delhi 110 048, India.

April 2, 6:30pm, New York, NY, Community Forum on Plan Colombia. Sponsored by the Colombia Media Project, featuring exiled Colombian sociologist Alfredo Molano. At the Columbia University School of Law, 435 West 116th St. off Amsterdam Ave. For further information, call (212) 802-7209.

April 4-6, East Lansing, MI, "Race in 21st Century America: A National Conference." At the Kellogg Center, Michigan State University, sponsored by MSU's James Madison College and the Midwest Consortium for Black Studies. For further information, visit or call (517) 353-6750.

April 5, 6:00-9:00pm, Berkeley, CA, Symposium on Ecstasy. Hosted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and UC Berkeley's Public Health department, featuring Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum of Lindesmith West, Emanuel Sferios of DanceSafe and Dr. David Presti of UCB's Molecular and Cell Biology department. Free and open to the public, in room 145 Dwinelle on the UC Berkeley campus. For further information, e-mail [email protected].

April 5, 8:00pm, Danbury, CT, "The Great Debate: Heads vs. Feds." Sponsored by Western Connecticut State University NORML, featuring Steve Hager of High Times Magazine and DEA agent Robert Stutman. At the Student Center Theater, 1st floor, WCSU's Midtown Campus. For further information, contact Josh at (203) 207-0275 or e-mail [email protected].

April 6, 8:00am-5:30pm, Ann Arbor, MI, Symposium on Cannabis Prohibition Reform. At the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty Ave., advance registration required. For further information or to register, call the Schmid Law Office at (517) 799-4641 or visit on the web.

April 6, 9:00am-6:00pm, New York, NY, "The Great Debate: Abstinence vs. Harm Reduction," conference sponsored by the New York State Psychological Association and the New School. At the New School, 66 W. 12th St., call (800) 732-3933 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

April 6, 13, 20 & 27, 8:45pm, New York, NY, Benefit for Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center's Women's Program. Little Annie, aka Annie Anxiety, will perform at The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street (corner of Stanton Street), accompanied on piano by Nicky Paraiso. Minimum donation $5, all profits going to the program. For further information, call (212) 253-7246 or visit on the web.

April 7, noon, Ann Arbor, MI, "Hash Bash." At the University of Michigan DIAG.

April 7, 2:00pm, Richmond, VA, Rally against supermax prisons. At the State Capitol Building, contact Sally Joughin at [email protected] for further information.

April 9, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, Storytelling Night with Families Against Mandatory Minimums Communications Director Monica Pratt and members of families affected by mandatory minimum sentencing. At the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., optional a la carte dinner at 6:00pm. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit for further information.

April 10, 7:00-9:00pm, Berkeley, CA, Presentation on Medical Marijuana. Hosted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy, featuring Jeff Jones, director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club and Robert Raich, Jones's attorney in the recent Supreme Court case. Free and open to the public, in room 200 Wheeler on the UC Berkeley campus. For further information, contact [email protected].

April 19-21, Washington, DC, 2001 NORML Conference. Visit to register or for further information, or call (202) 483-5500.

April 20, 10:00am, Oklahoma City, annual marijuana law reform event, at the State Capitol. Visit information table in 1st floor rotunda to prep for meeting your state legislators, speakers and entertainment on the south side steps at noon. For further information contact Norma Sapp at (405) 321-4619 or [email protected].

April 20, New York, NY, "Convictions" conference, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women and Society, City University of New York. For further information, contact Barbara Martinsons at (212) 817-2015.

April 20-22, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraising Concert for NORML UTK. For further information, visit online.

April 25-28, Minneapolis, MN, North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, for further information call (253) 272-4857, e-mail [email protected] or visit on the web. At the Marriott City Center Hotel, 30 South Seventh Street.

April 26, 6:30pm, Middletown, CT, "The War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex: How It Affects Minorities and the Working Class. Sponsored by Efficacy and the Central Connecticut Green Party, featuring Hartford City Council Member and Green Party activist Elizabeth Horton-Sheff, defendant in the Sheff vs. O'Neil school desegration case; former New Haven police chief Nick Pastore, now representing the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation; and Efficacy's Clifford Wallace Thornton, Jr. At the First Church of Christ, 190 Court St., call (860) 285-8831 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

April 28, Hartford, CT, Youth Rally against Connecticut's proposed 4,500 supermax prison, emphasizing the failure of the war on drugs. For further information, contact Adam Hurter at (860) 285-8831 or e-mail [email protected].

April 28, noon, Kingston, RI, Third Annual Hempfest. Sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Hemp Organization for Prohibition Elimination (HOPE), featuring live music and speakers. For further information, e-mail Tom Angell at [email protected].

April 28-29, Madison, WI, "Illuminating Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic, and Faith Based Approaches to the War on Drugs in the 21st Century." For further information, visit on the web.

May 4, Tucson, AZ, protest of the War on Drugs. Sponsored by the Y.U.R. political activism club, at the U.S. District Court on Congress & Granada. For further information or to volunteer, contact [email protected].

May 5-6, international, "2001: The Space Odyssey," marches for marijuana law reform. For further information, visit on the web.

May 20-27, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Study Tour of Dutch Drug Policy, organized by the White Dog Cafe. Particularly for persons with a background in health and social services, legislation, activism, drug law or policy. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit for further information.

May 25-28, Vandalia, MI, "Hemp Aid 2001." Call 616-476-2808 or visit for information.

May 30-June 2, Albuquerque, NM, "Drug Policies for the New Millennium." First annual conference of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, following in the footsteps of the 13 years of the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform. For further information, call (202) 537-5005 or visit on the web.

16. Errata

In our article on the San Francisco Women and the Drug War forum (, DRCNet reported that the forum was cosponsored by the Lindesmith Center/Drug Policy Foundation and the San Francisco Medical Society. The Medical Society hosted the event, but was not a cosponsor.

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