(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #180, 4/6/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
Two exploding scandals on the racial profiling issue are detailed in this week's issue of The Week Online. New Jersey's former Attorney General, Peter Verniero, is under pressure to resign his position as a justice of the state's Supreme Court for failure to forthrightly provide information during his confirmation process on what he knew about racial profiling during his term as AG. In Arizona, police and perhaps prosecutors conspired to destroy a large quantity of traffic stop records to prevent them from being aired in a pending criminal case.
DRCNet today joins the call for Justice Verniero to resign. In doing so, we are acting far less radical than we like to be: Several major newspapers, every member of the state Senate's Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and now the Governor, all have already done so.
Though Verniero's actions are not excusable, it is easy to see why he might feel unfairly singled out. Reasonable observers have known fully well for decades that racial profiling is an endemic feature of the criminal justice system; New Jersey's situation is nothing unusual. In fact, while the civil rights division of the US Dept. of Justice has targeted New Jersey police forces in its racial profiling investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Dept. of Justice has conducted a systematic, nationwide training program explicitly instructing police to use racial profiles.
In short, the prevalence of racial profiling has in reality been very widely known and understood. Any official involved in high levels of governments who claims to be surprised about the racial profiling information now, was either unacceptably disingenuous, unreasonably in denial or hopelessly uninformed and naive before. That includes the very same state senators who rammed his Supreme Court appointment through before but are calling loudly for his resignation now; it includes the former governor, Christine Todd Whitman, now a member of the president's Cabinet; and it includes New Jersey's current governor. Should they not resign in disgrace or at least embarrassment as well?
Were the same spotlight shined on racial profiling in New Jersey to illuminate the drug war throughout our entire nation, it is likely that more attorneys general, governors, judges, police chiefs and many others would fall under its bright beams. That truth is difficult and painful to contemplate, especially for those like Verniero whose identities have for much of their lives been inextricably woven with the prosecution of the drug war. Perhaps that is how a state's top law enforcer could justify to himself the misleading of his legislative overseers in his capacity as Attorney General and again as a nominee for the Supreme Court.
Perhaps by shining this spotlight on the police and prosecutors of state after state, perhaps after 10 or 20 or 50 more such resignations, the wholesale corrupting of our institutions by the drug war will finally be widely revealed and understood.
This chapter is just the first.
According to the latest figures from the US Department of Education, the drug war provision of the Higher Education Act is generating a rapidly rising number of potential victims. Under the act, any student convicted of a drug crime loses full or partial eligibility for student financial assistance for a determined time. Last school year, the first year the provision was in effect, the Education Department left a huge loophole for students when it announced that students who failed to answer the "drug question" on their financial aid forms would nonetheless have their forms processed.
This academic year, however, the drug question was rewritten, and students who fail to answer it will not get financial aid, Department of Education spokesperson Stephanie Babyak told DRCNet. As of March 25th, the last week for which numbers are available, 10,098 students have failed to answer the drug question. And while those students still have the opportunity to gain access to financial aid by answering the question, 22,436 students face potential financial aid loss because they admitted to a drug law violation. (The number of those who were correct in reporting a disqualifying conviction and hence will actually lose aid has not yet been calculated.) These figures are based on the three million financial aid applications received thus far by the Department of Education, roughly one third of the expected total this academic year.
Thus, if the present pattern continues, the final toll of students denied financial aid because of the HEA drug provision could approach 100,000.
"We predicted this would happen," DRCNet Campus Coordinator Steve Silverman told the Week Online. "We knew that with the tighter enforcement more and more kids would have their aid cut. It's shocking to see these numbers, but not unexpected. This will only inspire more students to come out and fight this thing and bring new ones into the fold on this issue."
"As a society, we should be asking ourselves if what we really want is a hundred thousand fewer kids in college," added Silverman's counterpart, Chris Evans. "Now we are seeing the real impact of this ill-advised law. This will only add impetus to the HEA reform campaign," Evans continued. "Now that the number of students affected is going through the roof, student governments will begin to see that this is an important issue affecting their constituents."
Some student governments have already acted. According to Silverman, the number of colleges and universities where student governments have passed resolutions calling for repeal of the HEA drug provision hit 50 this week. And the newest endorsing schools provide evidence of the national scope of student discontent. They range from Bates College in Maine to Florida A&M to Southern Oregon University to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
Those schools join a prestigious list of colleges and universities, including Howard, Yale, the University of Southern California, and the state universities of Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as the Association of Big Ten Schools, statewide student organizations in New York and Wisconsin, and the United States Student Association.
The Coalition for HEA Reform, the umbrella organization for the effort, also includes national organizations such as the NAACP, the ACLU, the American Public Health Association, and the National Organization for Women. Their efforts have recently been supported by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators as well. Rep. Barney Frank, along with 23 cosponsors last month, reintroduced a bill to repeal the provision; at last report, H.R. 786 now has 30 cosponsors, including its first Republican, Rep. Connie Morella of Maryland.
Russell Selkirk, a student at Ohio State University, lost his financial aid last year after answering "yes" to the drug question. He was able to stay in school, he told DRCNet, but only because his parents chipped in. "It was a real burden on them," said Selkirk, "and with my two sisters going to college this year, they couldn't have done it."
Selkirk is still paying a price for his indiscretion. "I still don't have my student aid approved for this year," he said. "I still have to answer 'yes' to the drug question, which means I have to go through another round or two of bureaucratic paper-shuffling. They say I will get the aid this year, but I'm still waiting for final approval."
Selkirk is also part of the movement to kill the HEA drug provision. Involved in the organization For A Better Ohio (FABO), he has been active in the HEA campaign and on other drug policy issues. "FABO still exists, but now some of us have formed a local chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), and we've managed to get the resolution passed by the student government."
SSDP national director Shawn Heller told DRCNet that the large number of students losing aid was "the unfortunate repercussion" that the group had been fighting since it formed in 1999.
That the numbers provide tactical ammunition for the repeal effort was of little comfort to Heller. "In all likelihood, there will be victims on a majority of campuses, and when student governments are able to put a human face on the victims of this policy, they will be even more eager to sign on," he noted. "We are poised to defend these victims and we'll do what we can to help them, but SSDP is saddened that the drug provision is denying students the ability to go to school."
(SSDP has launched a "Students Helping Students" program, in which a portion of the proceeds from t-shirt and other merchandise sales will go to such scholarships. Visit the SSDP store at http://www.ssdp.org to get your t-shirts and help some students go to school!)
(Tell Congress to repeal this bad law! Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to send an e-mail or fax to your Representative and your two Senators. Don't forget to call them too -- use the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to get through, or visit http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to find their direct lines or locations. STUDENTS, PLEASE DOWNLOAD AN ACTIVIST PACKET TOO AND HELP GET YOUR CAMPUS ON BOARD WITH THE HEA REFORM CAMPAIGN!)
New Jersey's is the Energizer bunny of racial profiling scandals -- it just keeps on ticking. This week, as pressure mounted to force the resignation of former Attorney General Peter Verniero from his seat on the state Supreme Court for his role in covering up evidence of racial profiling, his successor as Attorney General, John Farmer, Jr. was telling the state Senate Judiciary Committee that New Jersey state troopers are still practicing racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Farmer said troopers at the Moorestown barracks of Troop D, who patrol the southern portion of the turnpike, searched blacks and Hispanics much more frequently and with lower seizure rates than whites.
Troopers seized drugs or cash in 25% of their searches of whites, compared to 13% of searches of blacks and only 5% involving Hispanics, he told the committee.
"Now we have proof," Farmer said. But the state of New Jersey has had proof since at least 1996, when the Soto case in Gloucester County resulted in the first dismissal of criminal charges because of a racial profiling stop. The state had proof when Farmer himself agreed to a consent decree with the US Justice Department last year. And Verniero himself admitted as much two years ago.
"That's astounding," the Rev. Reginald Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey told the Associated Press. "We've been dealing with this about three years since that admission and you see nothing done."
Ronald Thompson, head of the Garden State Bar Association, the African American bar group, was not so surprised. He told the New York Times that just last week a municipal police car in West Orange, where he lives, followed him until he turned into his driveway.
"This is on my own street, in my own neighborhood," he told the Times. "So if anyone thinks this is just something out of the past, they should pay more attention."
"This only heightens our concern that the issue of racial profiling be pursued beyond these hearings," said New Jersey ACLU executive director Deborah Jacobs. "We need to have real reforms, which would include better police training, more educational opportunities for police, better internal investigation mechanisms, and citizen review panels with real powers," she told DRCNet. "We must have meaningful reform, not just a wrist-slapping."
Racial profiling still persists in New Jersey, but the same can no longer be said with any certainty about the political career of Peter Verniero. After a decidedly lackluster and unresponsive performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, calls for Verniero's resignation have increased to a roar.
Verniero has taken sustained criticism for denying over a two-year period that racial profiling existed, even as his office sat on data proving the case. In his testimony to the committee last week, Verniero demonstrated some contrition, but even more forgetfulness.
"I wish I had done more" to acknowledge and prevent the practice, Verniero said. "I gave it my best shot."
But much more frequent were his "I don't recall" answers. According to the New York Times, an informal survey of Verniero's testimony yielded 158 "I don't recalls," 21 "I don't remembers" and 38 "I don't knows." Verniero typically recalled assigning subordinates to investigate racial profiling reports, but could not recall following up.
At the end of Verniero's marathon 13-hour testimony, Senator William Gormley, the committee's chairman, accused him of "misleading" the committee. He was soon joined by the legislature's Black and Latino caucus, which last week called for Verniero to resign as a state Supreme Court justice.
In an open letter sent last week, the caucus called Verniero's testimony "disturbing and unacceptable."
By this week, every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee had signed a letter to acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco calling for Verniero's resignation. According to the Bergen Record, the letter charged that Verniero "was derelict in his duty" as attorney general for failing to address racial profiling. It also said Verniero "misled" the committee in earlier testimony, and that he had evidence of racial profiling but "chose to ignore it, and/or withhold it" from the US Justice Department during its investigation into New Jersey troopers in late 1996. The Bergen Record, the New Brunswick Home Tribune and the New York Times have all published editorials in the last week calling on Verniero to resign.
Yesterday (Thursday, 4/5), DiFrancesco asked Verniero to step down. At latest report, Verniero had yet to do so.
But, the New Jersey ACLU's Jacobs points out, bringing down one man does not solve the problem.
"We take no position on Verniero's resignation," she told DRCNet. "The danger is that these hearings and the attention on Verniero ends up being all that gets done. What we need as a society is to have those police practices reformed. We know the war on drugs perpetuates racial discrimination. The police need to understand that skin color or appearance is not a basis on which to make assumptions about conducting legal activities."
There aren't a lot of African-Americans in Coconino County, Arizona, but Flagstaff attorney Lee Brooke Phillips kept getting black customers. They were not locals; instead they had been stopped by the Arizona Highway Patrol as they drove along Interstate 40. Once part of fabled Route 66, this stretch of highway is now, in the constricted view of the drug warriors, "the main drug-smuggling route between Los Angeles and the East coast." And, it seemed to Phillips and the Coconino County Public Defenders Office, the cops had it out for black men traveling that route.
"There have been a lot of people being stopped and detained because of the color of their skin," Phillips told DRCNet. "We had cops writing reports like 'I saw a car with Pennsylvania plates with two black males inside and I pulled it over.'"
As the cases began to add up, Phillips and Coconino public defenders began to compare notes. "I've represented 30 or 40 people arrested for transporting drugs on I-40 in Coconino County," said the veteran criminal defense attorney. "Naturally, the public defenders office was getting some of these highway cases as well, and I mentioned my cases and they were aware of similar ones," explained Phillips.
"We became aware of a pattern, and we acted in concert," said Phillips. "The most common method is for police to stop a vehicle for speeding or following too closely behind another vehicle," Phillips said. "One of my African-American clients driving a U-Haul was followed 20 miles by a DPS officer before a stop was made."
"Based in part on the Soto case in New Jersey and similar rulings since, we raised a defense of racial profiling in 14 cases. Our motion to consolidate the cases for a single determination of whether racial profiling was going on was successful, and the cases are being heard by two judges," he said.
The case was filed in March 2000, and last summer Phillips complained to the state Attorney General to no avail. The Department of Public Safety, the Highway Patrol's parent agency, said race was not a consideration in traffic stops.
"We don't tolerate racial profiling and investigate it thoroughly if it is reported," DPS spokesman Lt. Dan Wells told the Arizona Republic. "We look at probable cause and reasonable suspicion factors only."
Phillips laughed when asked to respond. "What the politicians and the high law enforcement people say is one thing, what officers do in real life is another," he said.
But the defense attorneys had also set out to prove their own case and were finding evidence to back them up. By then the Coconino public defenders had already hired Temple University psychology professor John Lamberth, a nationally-known racial profiling expert, to put his suspicions to the test. Lamberth, who has produced racial profiling studies in California, Maryland and New Jersey, ran a similar study on I-40 in Coconino County. His June 2000 study of traffic violations, traffic stops, and the race or ethnicity of those involved found that African-Americans made up fewer than 3% of the traffic offenders, but accounted for 43% of all stops. Hispanics suffered less inequitable but still disparate treatment, accounting for 13% of the offenders and almost 20% of the stops.
In a report he filed with Judges Charles Adams and Robert Van Wyck in Coconino County Superior Court, Lamberth wrote, "All of the data available to me is consistent and strongly supports the contention that the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is targeting African-American motorists on I-40 in Coconino County."
Lamberth's study and report helped convince Van Wyck that the problem was serious enough to take a further look. Ruling in January, he ordered the DPS to turn over some 15,000 copies of tickets, warnings, and other traffic stop data for a one-year period beginning June 1, 1999.
Phillips and the public defenders were convinced an examination of the Highway Patrol records would only strengthen the case that racial profiling existed on I-40 in Coconino County. Now they are not so sure, and the reason why is landing the controversy on the front pages of Northern Arizona newspapers.
On March 22, Coconino County Attorney Terence Hance announced that all traffic stop records for June through December 1999 -- half of the period under study -- had been destroyed by the Highway Patrol. Calling the move "routine," he told reporters his office had also filed a motion to "clarify" just what records DPS is required to produce.
"This could get ugly," said Phillips at the time, and it has.
"Look, the judge ordered the state to turn over a year's worth of records, and the state prosecutor's office refused to turn them over," Phillips said with some indignation. "We learned they weren't turning them over because half have been destroyed. The prosecutors were aware of this, but failed to disclose this fact to the court or to the defense attorneys."
On Wednesday, Phillips sought contempt charges against the Coconino County Attorney's office, as well as asking that the charges against his clients be dropped because the records he sought could not be produced. But Judges Adams and Van Wyck would not go that far. They denied the two motions, but did order the county attorney's office to immediately turn over records in its possession that have not been destroyed and allowed Phillips to review another six months' worth of traffic stop documentation, extending to January 2001.
"This is really shocking," Phillips exclaimed. "I've never seen law enforcement and the state so boldly just ignore the law. Although state law requires these records be maintained by DPS, as does their official policy, we find that after 1997 -- after those first New Jersey racial profiling cases began to get notice -- DPS made an internal policy decision to destroy all tickets."
That practice stopped last year, after DPS headquarters in Phoenix determined the policy violated state law, DPS officials testified in court.
That doesn't mollify Phillips. "Funny thing, now the only records they haven't destroyed are ones from after they knew they were accused of profiling," he pointed out. "Now we won't get the 'saw two black males and pulled them over'; instead, it's going to be, 'observed violation, unable to observe race of motorist.'"
"We have to go back into court and prove again that racial profiling was occurring, and this only makes it more difficult," Phillips continued. "But it's the same thing everywhere, isn't it? They have the money, and they outgun us. The people and the courts are turning a blind eye to violations of the law."
Arizona officials, meanwhile, are adopting the "we don't do it and we promise not to do it any more" mantra already familiar from other states where the practice has been uncovered. "We're doing everything possible on this front," Mario Diaz, spokesman for Attorney General Janet Napolitano, told the Arizona Republic. "The bottom line is that traffic stops have to be made for actual reasons rather than a hunch."
But implicitly admitting that the practice exists in the Arizona Highway Patrol, Diaz told the Republic that the Attorney General would send new policies and procedures regarding traffic stops to all state law enforcement agencies next month. The new policies would include ensuring that officers use proper conduct in making traffic stops, training field supervisors to see warning signs of racial profiling, and procedures within police agencies to field and evaluate racial profiling complaints, Diaz said.
"These cases do have an effect beyond what happens in court," said Phillips. "Here, as soon as we filed our case, the Attorney General put together a committee and is urging all law enforcement agencies to keep those records and make them public. You can put pressure on the politicians."
The nation's combined jail and prison population grew again in the year ending June 30th, reaching a record high of 1,931,859 men and women behind bars in the United States, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics' report, "Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2000," released in late March. The US incarceration rate -- 702 per 100,000 -- makes the US the world leader in imprisonment. The nearest competitor, Russia, has an estimated rate of 675 per 100,000.
The good news is that the prison population appears to have started to level off, as DRCNet reported in February (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/173.html#feverbreaking). In absolute numbers, the prison population increased by 30,710, the lowest figure in a decade. According to BJS, the number of prisoners in state prisons increased at a rate of only 1.5%, the slowest rate in 30 years. Declines occurred in eleven states, including Massachusetts (down 4.8 percent), Alaska (down 4.4 percent), New York (down 3.1 percent) and New Jersey. The two monsters of the state prison systems, California and Texas, have also showed virtually no increase in the past year.
The federal system, however, continued to expand at a rapid clip, with the growth rate declining only slightly to 9.3% from 9.6% the previous year. The feds' more than 12,000 new inmates last year accounted for almost 40% of the increase in the nation's prison population. With more than 60% of federal inmates doing time on drug charges, the drug war continues to fuel the growth of the federal prison system.
The differential racial impact of the drug war -- 79% of state drug prisoners are minorities -- is also reflected in the BJS finding that one in eight black males between 20 and 34 were behind bars.
Visit http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/pjim00pr.htm to read the BJS report online.
The British Columbia Marijuana Party (http://www.bcmarijuanaparty.ca) is making a strong bid for electoral respectability in the upcoming British Columbia provincial elections. According to Vancouver cannabis entrepreneur and party leader Marc Emery, who is putting some of his own funds into the effort, the party can achieve that by coming in ahead of one of the province's two major parties in a few districts.
With the province's New Democratic (NDP) and Liberal parties held in low esteem by British Columbia voters and the populist-conservative Canadian Alliance yet to even field a slate of candidates, the Marijuana Party may well do just that. Prime Minister Ujjal Dosanjh of the NDP, which is expected to lose power to the opposition Liberals, has not yet set the final date for elections to choose the members of the provincial legislature, but it is expected to be May 14th. Elections must be held by June 28th.
"We think we can poll 5% to 8% of the vote across the province," Emery told DRCNet, "and we'd like to come in second in some districts. Watch how we do in Skeena district and Sunshine Coast-Powell River," he hinted.
Garnering numbers like that would be a step up for the party, which received just under 2% of the BC vote in federal elections last fall. But Marijuana Party candidate Dan Loehndorf, also known as the Reverend Damuzi, who is running in the Nelson-Creston district in the interior, says the party is better organized as a result of the previous campaign.
"We're going great," Loehndorf told DRCNet. "We're much more prepared than last time. In the federal campaign, by the time people found out, it was late, but now we're already getting significant attention, and we have tons of people who want to help."
Brian Taylor, the former mayor of Grand Forks, BC, and currently the owner of the Cannabis Research Institute, is running in the West Boundary district just above the US border in eastern Washington and the Idaho panhandle. He, too, is confident.
"We're aiming for second place here," he told DRCNet. "I'm fairly well-known and my NDP opponent is suffering from a medical condition that limits his campaigning. The Liberal candidate is the former mayor of Trail, so it's going to be a battle of the mayors," he said.
"We're getting a surprising amount of support from working class people, and we're getting our program out," Taylor continued. "We also have strong support from seniors. They look at marijuana as another form of natural medicine. Heck, I guess at 54, I'm a senior myself, and I'm not going to put all those pharmaceuticals in my body if I can just smoke a joint. And the yuppies are wanting it too -- pot not Prozac, you know."
For this election, the provincial party has already fielded candidates for 65 of the province's 79 districts in the forthcoming elections for the BC Legislature. "I'm sure we'll get them all," vowed Emery, "even if we have to parachute someone in in some of those remote northern districts."
There are other signs of increased vitality in the BC Marijuana Party. It bought full-page attack ads costing $15,000 (US dollars) in the province's two most influential print media, the Vancouver Sun and the alternative weekly The Province, in late March. "The Liberals will form BC's next government through the virtue of being the only mainstream party left in BC which has never screwed up, and that's only because they have never been in power," said the ads.
"Marijuana legalization is a symbol of prosperity for British Columbians. Marijuana is one of BC's strongest economic engines," read the text. "Marijuana prohibition is a symbol of the undue influence the US has over Canadian laws and policies. This election don't recycle career politicians from failed regimes. Vote for better laws, better police, more democracy, and better solutions."
Those ads also announced a candidates' school, which took place in downtown Vancouver on March 24th. Fifty-five would-be legislators attended.
The party is fielding a diverse crop of candidates, from a 58 year-old suburban grandmother to figures such as Loehndorf/ Damuzi, widely recognized for their cannabis culture antics.
"I'm a pretty open pot smoker," the Reverend told DRCNet. "During the last campaign, I didn't smoke publicly, but I did inform people that I may be smoking pot before some of the candidates' meetings, to demonstrate that after smoking I could do as well or better than the other candidates. And I did."
Still, said Reverend Damuzi, it's not all about smoking pot. "I don't hide it," he said, "but I don't focus on it too much either. I talk about its medicinal use, I talk about marijuana as a symbol of freedom and liberty."
Mavis Becker is the grandmother from Langer, a Fraser River Valley suburb of Vancouver. She is a BC Marijuana Party candidate for her local district. "I started out firmly believing pot was not a bad thing," she told DRCNet. "It never hurt me. When somebody jumped up and said they believed the same thing, that it was time to end this tyranny, I realized I wasn't alone. "I believe in this and am willing to fight for it," said the ebullient Becker, who has enlisted her 80-something parents as two of her most effective campaigners. "So does Dad. He's 87 and he's already out campaigning, handing out Marijuana Party literature. He's one of the best campaign buddies you can have."
But for Becker, like the party itself, the campaign is about more than marijuana. "I have young grandchildren. I don't want to see our health care and education systems go broke because they're paying police officers to bust 50-year-olds smoking a joint."
The BC Marijuana Party platform is centered on the decriminalization of marijuana, naturally, but it also encompasses a variety of planks ranging from the libertarian (school vouchers, no prosecution of people who refuse to register their firearms, legalized prostitution) to the green (decentralized ownership of BC forests, replacement of wood pulp by hemp) to the nationalist (no US drug war advisors, no nuclear weapons).
"These were issues that came forward from our candidates," explained Taylor. "While some planks may not have an apparent connection to marijuana, they all relate to our values of choice, options and tolerance. Take vouchers, for instance. School vouchers are an issue because people want control, they don't want their kids subjected to DARE programs. So, yes, there is a general discontent with the school system, but it also ties into marijuana persecution."
But party candidates also understand that in BC, marijuana is a big industry. "It's a big cash crop," said Becker, "and that's another reason it's an important issue."
US drug authorities estimate the value of the BC crop in the billions and are increasingly focusing on marijuana trafficking across the Canadian border.
For the Reverend Damuzi, campaigning in an area famed for its marijuana production, the industry is an acknowledged component of his constituency. "BC is a major marijuana producing area and you have to look at the real economy," he told DRCNet. "It isn't just growers, it's processors, pickers, dealers, not to mention all the people who profit indirectly."
"Money filters down from marijuana into other businesses, so we feel the pressure when the Mounties put the squeeze on the business," explained Taylor. "We had an operation here last year that took down about a hundred growers. The result was an economic downturn. They took out growers who had been growing for 20 years, supporting their families with their crops. You have to understand that your typical backwoods grower is really just a small farmer; he might make $10,000 in a year."
In a revealing indication of how different the politics of marijuana is in British Columbia, Damuzi mentioned that he had to "overcome the fear of change" among some elements of the electorate. Elderly schoolmarms, perhaps? Redneck ranchers? Not that, explained Damuzi. "Some growers fear that they won't make as much money."
But not to worry, he quickly added. "We have a vision for an expanded and more profitable marijuana economy for all of BC under a decriminalization paradigm. We see no reason why there should be fewer jobs or less work in the industry," he explained. "We'll see massive tourism."
"We want to integrate the BC marijuana industry into society in a beneficial way," said Damuzi.
With a strong enough showing in the elections, the British Columbia Marijuana Party could begin to integrate itself into provincial politics as a member of the opposition coalition opposing the presumed Liberal Party victors.
(courtesy NORML, http://www.norml.org)
Washington, DC: Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced legislation on Tuesday this week (4/3) in the 107th Congress to provide for the medical use of marijuana. The bill is titled the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act."
"People who are suffering from severe or terminal illnesses who find a measure of relief from marijuana ought to be able to use it without being treated like criminals," Frank announced. "This bill offers an opportunity for my conservative colleagues to decide if they really want to be consistent on the question of states' rights or if they think the federal government should tell states what to do."
The legislation states:
"No provision of the Controlled Substances Act [or]... the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict --
(A) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use,
(B) an individual from obtaining and using marijuana from a prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use by such individual, or
(C) a pharmacy from obtaining and holding marijuana for the prescription of marijuana by a physician for medical use under applicable state law in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law."
The legislation reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law. This reclassification properly recognizes marijuana's medical utility and enables physicians to legally prescribe it under controlled circumstances while maintaining restrictions on recreational use.
Since 1996, nine states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- have implemented laws allowing seriously ill patients to possess and use medical marijuana under a doctor's supervision. While these laws protect patients from state criminal marijuana penalties, they do not shield patients from federal prosecution, nor do they allow a state legislature to legally distribute medical marijuana. The legislation introduced in Congress today would afford patients legal protection under federal law, and permit those states that wish to establish medical marijuana distribution systems the legal authority to do so.
NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup called the proposal a streamlined effort to get marijuana to those who require it. "Historically, voters and state legislatures have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government," Stroup explained. "This legislation addresses this paradigm and effectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana available as a medicine."
Stroup said that the Supreme Court's apparent skepticism regarding whether patients or medical marijuana providers may legally raise the defense of "medical necessity" in federal marijuana cases makes the need to reform federal law more pertinent than ever. "Judging from the questions raised by several of the justices, it appears likely the Supreme Court may reject the medical necessity defense in federal cases," he said. "Therefore, passage of this legislation by Congress is crucial. It will enact federal protections to safeguard patients who are using marijuana medicinally under their doctor's supervision, and will provide an opportunity for states to establish their own legal, regulated medical marijuana distribution systems to supply medicine to those who need it."
Joining Frank in support of this act are Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), John Conyers (D-MI), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Olver (D-MA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).
(Tell Congress to support medical marijuana! Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to send an e-mail or fax to your Representative and your two Senators. Don't forget to call them too -- use the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to get through, or visit http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to find their direct lines or locations.)
Medical marijuana patient Chris Giaque thought he was covered. He had a doctor's recommendation, he had a medical marijuana patient's card, and he was carrying less than an ounce of marijuana. Under California's Prop. 215, or the Compassionate Use Act, as the resulting law is known, Giaque should have been safe from the tender mercies of the police.
Wrong. He was arrested after deputies found his medicine during a traffic stop in the Humboldt County town of Garberville in April 1999. When he protested, deputies added disturbing the peace and resisting arrest to his charge of illegally transporting marijuana. Welcome to the world of Sheriff Dennis Lewis, ardent defender of marijuana eradication in this county where growing has been a way of life for years.
Sheriff Lewis is so ardent that he took time off from the lucrative SWAT-style raids in which his department participates along with an array of state and federal anti-drug agencies, to tell a district judge to bugger off.
Last December, Judge Bruce Watson ruled on a motion from Giaque's lawyer, Eureka attorney Russ Clanton, to return his client's seized property, a tupperware container of marijuana. He granted Clanton's motion and ordered Sheriff Lewis to return the marijuana to Giaque. But when Giaque tried to retrieve his property, he was turned away.
"My position is that a state judge cannot order me to violate a federal law," Sheriff Giaque told the Eureka (California) Times-Standard last week.
Lewis and his attorneys had argued that federal law preempted California voters' ability to enact Prop. 215 and that "transporting" marijuana was a crime not covered by the language of medical marijuana law.
Giaque's attorney, Russ Clanton had a cogent response to Lewis' claim. "There is a technical legal term for his argument," Clanton told DRCNet, "and that term is 'bullshit.'" Sheriff Lewis is "on the wrong side of the law in a big way," said Clanton. "The judge ruled against him on that point and on the transportation. The judge ordered it returned because it's for personal, medical use, not for distribution. The court is enlightened and understands that the will of the people of California is not that carrying personal medical marijuana be considered contraband."
Now the hard-line sheriff faces the prospect of jail time himself.
"We've filed a motion with the court and Sheriff Lewis has been ordered to appear and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court," Clanton told DRCNet. "The hearing is set for April 13th. We expect them to ask for a continuance, but we will object."
Lewis and his attorneys have filed a motion in federal court in an attempt to escape having to comply with the California district court ruling, said Clanton, but that will not stop the pending ruling. "They didn't ask for a preliminary injunction to stop the court," said Clanton, "which sounds like a bit of bungling to me because there will be no federal ruling by then. Our matter will move ahead."
"He's ultimately going to be told that he has to obey the law," added the attorney. "What's going to be interesting is to see if the court here will feel pressured by the filing of that federal motion. If the court has any confidence in its previous ruling, Sheriff Lewis is going to find himself in a hard place."
For Clanton, Lewis is a vestige of the old order. "Dennis Lewis has a lot to lose in terms of money to fund his department, so he's trying to appeal to conservative elements. But this is the beginning of the end for that old way of thinking. The people of California have decided marijuana is not worth the trouble."
Now Sheriff Lewis, perhaps about to get a fresh perspective on his jail cells, has to decide if standing in the way of the California medical marijuana law is worth the trouble.
The Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas managed to keep legalization off the agenda in Ottawa earlier this month, but it seems that the drug policy that dare not speak its name will not go away. With Mexico's President Fox talking openly about the prospect and Uruguayan President Batlle having vowed to put legalizing the drug trade on the agenda for the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in less than three weeks, the embattled Colombian government of Andres Pastrana is taking preemptive rhetorical steps to stifle any such talk.
In an interview this week with the Ottawa Citizen, Colombia's Ambassador to Canada, Fanny Kertzman, rejected legalization of the drug trade, saying first that Colombia could not act alone and then adding that even if drugs were legal everywhere, an end to prohibition would lead to a Colombia ruled by a violent narcocracy.
"Legalization is not a choice for Colombia as long as consumer countries are not legalized," Kertzman told the Citizen. "Colombia cannot legalize by itself, otherwise Colombia will become an international pariah." Kertzman, an avid defender of Plan Colombia and apologist for the Colombian government's dismal human rights record, then went beyond the evident pragmatism of those remarks to make a much more untenable argument in an effort to puncture any trial balloons that may appear over Quebec City later this month.
"Even if the consumer countries like Canada, the US, and those in Europe would legalize, and Colombia would legalize, the narcotraffickers would have power," argued Kertzman. "They would be free to spend their money in politics. They would be free to be elected as judges. They would be administering justice," she continued, gathering momentum. "They would be promoting laws. We don't want to be governed by these kinds of crooks."
Tim Lynch, director of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice and editor of Cato's recently published essay collection, "After Prohibition: Adult Approaches to Drug Policy in the 21st Century," isn't buying that argument.
"She's misguided in her thinking," Lynch told DRCNet. "We try to look at the alcohol prohibition experience for guidance, and what we see is that when we moved away from a prohibition model, it allowed legitimate entrepreneurs to move back in and deliver that product to market. We move from Al Capone types, who were knocking off their competitors with machine guns, to Miller Brewing and Anheuser Busch, who don't."
As for rule by violent narcocracy, said Lynch, there is no reason it has to be that way. People who committed violent crimes in the course of drug trafficking could -- and should -- be prosecuted for those crimes of violence. "Criminals would be driven out, because anyone who relies on violence to maintain their business will continue to be the target of police attention and would be thrown in jail," said Lynch. "That is the proper role of law enforcement, trying to catch violent offenders and other criminals. Even someone selling drugs, if he isn't trying to kill his competitor, should be left alone to carry on his business."
Although Lynch did not mention it, there is another answer to the practical problem of preventing undue power from accruing to unsavory types in the event of legalization: A negotiated withdrawal from the trade, with agreed upon limitations on political and economic activity. And although Kertzman did not mention it, the Colombian government was presented with just that possibility during the height of its battle with the Medellin Cartel. At that time, representatives of Pablo Escobar and other cartel leaders offered to walk away from the war and the drug business -- and pay off the national debt (!) -- if they were allowed to retire in peace and keep the rest of their money.
The Colombian government just said no nine years ago, and while Escobar is gone -- the operation ironically led by a prominent legalization advocate, former prosecutor general Gustavo de Grieff -- and the successor Cali Cartel has followed him into extinction, their nameless successors continue to supply insatiable foreign markets and Colombians continue to die for the drug war by the thousands each year.
And each year, it becomes more difficult to stop the talk of legalization.
On April 19th, the long-awaited Banamex-Narco News court battle will commence in New York City. (See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/165.html#akingump and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/172.html#hugochavez and http://www.narconews.com for background info on this case.)
One day before, Narco News will hold a one-year anniversary celebration in New York, and invites supporters to join them. Visit http://www.narconews.com or e-mail [email protected] to be kept informed when the time and location are announced.
Narco News has received generous donations but needs a little more help to make the deadline and make their winning case in court most effectively. Those interested in donating can send checks made payable to "Drug War On Trial," and send them to: Drug War On Trial, c/o Attorney Thomas Lesser, Lesser, Newman, Souweine & Nasser, 39 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060. If you would like to receive confirmation of your donation, send a message to [email protected] with the amount pledged and your e-mail address. When your contribution arrives, Narco News promises to send a thank you note confirming its receipt.
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [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 http://www.prayes.com 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 http://www.brainwashed.com/anxiety/ 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 http://www.whitedog.com 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 18, 8:00pm, Minneapolis, MN, Benefit Concert for NORML Minnesota. At First Avenue, $5 admission for 21 or older, $8 or free for NORML MN members. Call (612) 871-8780 or visit http://www.normlmn.org for further information.
April 19-21, Washington, DC, 2001 NORML Conference. Visit http://www.norml.org/calendar/conf2001intro.shtml 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, 1:00-5:00pm, Houston, TX, 4/20 "Happening" -- awareness festival sponsored by Rice for Legalization and Rice Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At the Rice University Student Center, Brown Garden, including speakers, bands and other events. For further information, e-mail [email protected].
April 20-22, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraising Concert for NORML UTK. For further information, visit http://www.normlutk.org online.
April 22, 5:30pm, St. Cloud, MN, "Hemp 'n Harmony" Benefit Concert for St. Cloud State University NORML. At the Red Carpet, $5 or free to NORML MN members, presentations on medical marijuana industrial hemp and the war on drugs. For further information, visit http://www.normlmn.org/scsu/ or e-mail [email protected].
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 http://www.nasen.org 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 http://www.sit.wisc.edu/~ssdp/ 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 http://www.2001thespaceodyssey.com on the web.
May 19, 2:00pm, Syracuse, NY, ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy Annual Meeting. Keynote address by Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, at the May Memorial, 3800 East Genesee St. For further information, visit http://www.reconsider.org or e-mail [email protected].
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 http://www.whitedog.com for further information.
May 25-28, Vandalia, MI, "Hemp Aid 2001." Call 616-476-2808 or visit http://www.rainbowfarmcampground.com 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org/conference/ on the web.
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