(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #216, 12/21/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/21/01
"Protecting our freedom" has been the government's rallying cry since the vicious attacks of September 11th drove our nation into a war against perpetrators of terrorist violence. The term has some justification: Though the terrorists' hatred was probably not motivated by America's civil liberties or democratic system of government, violence is itself a form of tyranny; the victims of the attacks saw their freedom taken away in the most drastic way, the loss of their very lives.
Yet freedom is about more than protection from criminality. Freedom in a deeper sense requires the restraining of the heavy hand of government power. In this constitutional sense of the word, freedom is very much at threat during times of crisis, but from within, not without. The impulse for a society to sacrifice fundamental liberties and elements of legal due process for the sake of public safety is strong, as is the tendency to accept that whatever such curtailments our leaders ask for in the name of safety will truly provide it.
In fact, civil liberties have been under an extraordinary assault since September 11th, and in ways that have no legitimate connection to fighting terrorism. The so-called Patriot Act, for example, defines some very minor crimes, such as low-level computer hacking or certain types of vandalism, as "terrorism" -- a devaluation of the term that ought to offend any victim of actual terrorism.
Worse, some legitimate political or philanthropic activity potentially falls under Patriot's broad net. One example that has been cited is that of a conflict resolution program seeking to prevent violence and foster peaceful negotiations in a nation torn by civil conflict; sending their materials to the insurgent group -- which has rightly or wrongly been placed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations -- could be interpreted as "assisting terrorism" -- even though the purpose of sending the materials is to prevent terrorism or other political violence. DRCNet is considering holding an anti-prohibition conference somewhere in Latin America next year or the following. Suppose that representatives of Colombia's FARC rebel organization happen to show up. Will that implicate DRCNet in terrorism? Possibly, the way the law was written.
Disturbingly, Attorney General John Ashcroft has gone so far as to blast civil libertarians for criticizing some of these so-called anti-terrorism policies. Ashcroft charged that critics are effectively supporting terrorists by diluting public support for the government's war against terrorism. Yet how can, and why should, defenders of freedom stand by while the Ashcrofts of the world gut our civil liberties for no good reason?
The drug war has shown us that freedom can easily become abridged even in the absence of a crisis. Here in the nation's capital, for example, medical marijuana advocates have had to sue the government to obtain the right to place an initiative on the ballot. Congress passed a law forbidding the District of Columbia's local government from expending funds on any ballot measure that would reduce marijuana penalties -- even though they would be welcome to vote to increase them -- a clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to "free exercise" of speech and to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Even though Congress has the power to overturn acts of the DC government, the law is still a violation of the First Amendment, because it seeks a priori to ban a vote based on a political viewpoint on its outcome. Congress may have the legal right to block medical marijuana in the capital. But if the people who vote in the capital choose medical marijuana, then a Congress intent on preventing that should have to specifically vote to stop it, and under undergo the public embarrassment of overturning a vote of the people that passed overwhelmingly, on an issue of compassion where their own constituents around the country agree with DC.
Nothing could be further from a crisis situation than the placement or attempted placement of a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. But that didn't stop drug war extremist Bob Barr (R-GA) from proffering his blatantly anti-democratic legislation. Yet Barr doesn't deserve all the blame. Any member of Congress who voted for the Barr amendment is guilty of violating his or her oath to uphold the US Constitution; and any member who failed to stand up for the Constitution in this case also bears some responsibility.
"Freedom" is an easy word to say. But it's harder to live by, especially in times of crisis, but even when the threat is merely to an ideology or doctrine. Bob Barr might truly have seen DC's medical marijuana initiative as a crisis, but the threat was only to his warped and Neanderthal worldview, not to any person's safety. Barr in fact became the threat: an ideological threat to our freedom and democracy, by ignoring democracy's tenets; and a real-world health and safety threat to patients who need marijuana for medical reasons.
Let us resist those who speak the word "freedom" in vain but fail to respect freedom in their actions.
A consortium of Washington professional associations led by the King County (Seattle) Bar Association (KCBA) late last week called for an end to the drug war. Releasing a one-year KCBA study on illicit drug use, the five major associations called for a drug policy "shift from criminal justice to public health" and for authorities to stop imprisoning drug users. The report, endorsed by the Washington State Bar Association, the Washington State Medical Association, the Washington State Pharmacy Association and the King County Medical Association called the current policy of jailing drug users an expensive and ineffective failure.
The report and joint call for action from these influential organizations adds considerable heft to an ongoing push for drug reform in the state. In the last legislative session, a bill to shorten drug sentences and increase drug treatment funding passed the state Senate but died in the House. And the state budget crunch, cited by legislators as an important reason for drug reform earlier this year, has only worsened. Bills are expected to be introduced in January that would cut sentences for drug possession -- except for possibly methamphetamine, the demon drug de jour -- and perhaps even small-scale drug dealing.
"This is politically significant," said Roger Goodman, head of the KCBA's Drug Policy Project. "We aren't the pony-tailed fringe, we're the establishment," he told DRCNet. "Nowhere in the country have establishment organizations united like this to question the war on drugs. Our combined institutional weight allows us a place at the table when drug policy is being made in the state of Washington."
Andrew Ko, director of the ACLU of Washington's Drug Policy Reform Project, and a member of the task force that created the KCBA study, agreed with Goodman. "This is incredibly important," he told DRCNet. "We have some of the most respected professional organizations in the state coming forward to say the drug war is an abysmal failure. This will really help the legislative effort," he said.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng was not so pleased. "The report ultimately concludes that we should eliminate sanctions for drug users, abusers, manufacturers and dealers," Maleng wrote in a November letter to the King County bar, "but it offers no alternative."
This is what the task force on criminal sanctions, whose members included not only lawyers and judges but also clinicians, scholars and professionals from many fields, wrote in its conclusion:
While the call by the professional organizations helps move the center ground in the drug policy debate in Washington state, ardent legalizers may be disappointed. "Talking about legalization is a non-starter," said Goodman. "Instead, we are asking how the state should respond to someone who is arrested for drugs. We are now negotiating with a group of stakeholders -- prosecutors, judges, treatment providers -- to get a bill drafted and introduced," he said. "We are working on reducing sentences and looking at court-supervised drug treatment or education," Goodman explained.
"But the coercive element of the current system is front and center and not likely to change," he added. "Prosecutors hold sway, and that's who we have to deal with. If we can make a proposal prosecutors can live with, we can get that enacted."
And, Goodman added, if no drug reform proposals appear likely to pass by early spring, there is talk of a "treatment not jail" ballot initiative that could be unleashed by frustrated reformers. "Just the threat of an initiative is a real hammer over opponents' heads," he said.
But whatever pragmatic political considerations of the moment shape the nature of drug reform at the moment, only the most dogmatic of legalizers could find much problem with the task force's guiding principles for future drug policy:
According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, the US Department of Education has decided it does not have the authority to rewrite agency regulations so that the student aid ban on persons with drug convictions would apply only to students convicted of a drug offense while they are in college. In 1998, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) authored the anti-drug provision in the Higher Education Act (HEA), which mandates that students with drug convictions lose their student aid for specified periods. The law's language makes no distinction between old drug convictions and those received while students are attending college -- three possession convictions or two sales convictions render an applicant ineligible indefinitely -- but Souder, long an ardent drug warrior, has now emerged as a leading critic of the department's decision.
According to the Chronicle, agency officials said they tried "nine ways to Sunday" to find a way around the law's language, but concluded that Congress would have to amend the HEA in order to make a distinction between pre- and post-enrollment drug convictions. The HEA does not give the department "the flexibility to address this in our regulations," department spokesman Jerry Andrade told the Chronicle.
Rep. Souder strongly criticized the department for its decision. As a campaign led by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and DRCNet to repeal the anti-drug provision of the HEA has gained broad support, Souder has increasingly backed away from the current form of the bill he authored. The congressman from Ft. Wayne met with department officials several times this year to urge them to direct the provision only toward students who received drug convictions while receiving student aid, the Chronicle reported.
Department officials met Wednesday with Souder to inform him of their decision, said the Chronicle. After the meeting, Souder said he could not understand why the agency was "unwilling to correct an erroneous regulation that is keeping otherwise deserving applicants from receiving federal funds to attend institutes of higher education."
Souder has not said if he will seek to amend the law, but he now says that the law's intent was to punish only people who got drug convictions while in college, the Chronicle reported. After the Wednesday meeting, Souder told the Chronicle that if the Bush administration does not reverse its position, he would call Education Department officials before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Reform that he heads "so that members of Congress can directly ask administration officials why they have chosen to deny federal aid to prospective higher education students in clear defiance of the express intent of Congress."
Congress passed Souder's provision in 1998, but it didn't have an impact until the 2000-2001 academic year. That year, more than 9,000 students lost financial aid because they honestly reported previous drug convictions on their financial aid application forms. So far this academic year, 14,249 students have lost some or all of their aid because of the provision, and another 29,000 could lose their aid because they either admitted prior convictions or did not answer the drug question on their application forms.
SSDP national director Shawn Heller found no fault with the Dept. of Education, and while applauding Souder's concern for students whom he says he did not intend to lose financial aid, placed the onus for fixing the problem squarely on Souder. "The Dept. of Education, unlike the DEA, doesn't want to engage in regulatory fiat and change the law administratively," said Heller. "If Rep. Souder, who wrote this bill, doesn't feel certain people should lose their aid, he needs to go back and change it. This is further evidence of Souder's efforts to backtrack and enforce the rule less harshly, because public opinion just says no."
Still, HEA reform advocates see the current flap as a sideshow to the central goal of repealing the law outright. "None of the central concerns raised over the HEA drug provision will be addressed by simply scaling the law back as Souder wants," said DRCNet executive director David Borden. "This law is economically discriminatory; it is based on a criminal justice system and drug war with enormous, unresolved racial disparities; and it is a second punishment levied against would-be students who have already been punished by the criminal justice system," said Borden. "Our allies in this effort, which include many of the nation's leading education and civil rights associations, have been clear all along that we seek full repeal."
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a sentencing case that could call into question federal sentencing provisions, including mandatory minimum sentences and even federal sentencing guidelines themselves. Building on last year's ruling in Apprendi v. New Jersey (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/202.html#9thcircuit), where the justices held that sentencing factors that could increase a prison sentence beyond the statutory maximum sentence must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury (and not merely found by the judge in a post-trial hearing), the Court is now poised to decide whether that same logic applies to any sentencing enhancements.
The case in question, Harris v. United States, is relatively narrow, but gives the Court the opportunity to decide whether to extend Apprendi protections to the much larger set of cases -- primarily drug cases -- where sentencing factors lead not to sentences exceeding the statutory maximum but to mandatory minimum sentences.
William J. Harris, a North Carolina pawnshop owner, was convicted in 1999 of selling four ounces of marijuana to undercover agents. Because he wore an unconcealed handgun in a holster on his hip during the transaction, his federal indictment charged him with both marijuana distribution and a violation of Section 924 (c)(1)(A) of the US criminal code, which makes it a crime to carry a weapon during a drug deal. Harris was convicted under the gun statute, which carries a five-year mandatory minimum, but in a post-trial hearing, the judge found that Harris had not only possessed but also "brandished" the weapon. Instead of the five-year sentence for the gun charge, the judge sentenced him to seven years, the mandatory minimum sentence for brandishing.
Harris appealed to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court found that the sentence did not violate Apprendi because it did not exceed the statutory maximum. The 4th Circuit is not alone in its interpretation of Apprendi; only the 9th US Circuit Court has so far shown a willingness to extend Apprendi to cases not involving sentences that exceed statutory minimums (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/199.html#apprendicontinues).
But now, the Supreme Court has shown a willingness to consider whether to extend Apprendi. The question before the court is whether "[g]iven that a finding of brandishing as used in USC 921 (c)(1)(A) results in an increased mandatory minimum sentence, must the fact of brandishing be alleged in the indictment and proved beyond a reasonable doubt?"
For the Court to find in the affirmative, it will have to overturn a 1986 precedent, McMillan v. Pennsylvania, which held that judicial discretion in sentencing within the sentence range was not subject to constitutional challenge. But in Apprendi, Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas wrote that McMillan should be overruled. According to the New York Times, "few people would be surprised if a majority of the court held this view."
The court could avoid the constitutional issue involved in overturning McMillan if it held that the brandishing question was a sentencing factor, such as criminal history, rather than an element of the offense itself. But since Apprendi, appeals from people doing mandatory minimum sentences who argue that Apprendi's logic invalidates their sentences as well, have steadily increased, and the court will have to deal with the issue sooner or later.
"This is a signal that the court wants to revisit McMillan," said Mary Price, general counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums (http://www.famm.org), a group representing prisoners, their families and others interested in sentencing reform. "The 4th Circuit said the brandishing was a sentencing factor, not an element of the crime."
FAMM will file an amicus curiae brief urging the court to overturn McMillan, said Price, who is cautiously optimistic that the court will rule favorably. "If mandatory minimums are overturned, that would be momentous," she told DRCNet. "There would be major implications for the tens of thousands of people affected by mandatory minimums."
But, Price warned, even a favorable Supreme Court ruling could be undone by Congress. "Congress could redraft the sentencing laws," she said. "The fix would be to explicitly make these sentencing factors into elements of the offense instead." Also, Price noted, the legality of mandatory minimums in and of themselves is not in question. "Only those statutes that use sentencing factors -- almost entirely drug and gun statutes -- would be affected," she said.
The Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) and the Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee filed suit in US District Court Tuesday seeking to gain the right to place a medical marijuana initiative on the Washington, DC, ballot. The lawsuit comes three years after District residents voted in favor of medical marijuana by a whopping 69-21% margin.
That electoral victory was never implemented, however, because congressional drug warriors used their oversight powers, first to prevent the votes from even being counted -- advocates had to go to court to secure that right -- and then to block the initiative from becoming law. And not only did they block the medical marijuana law from coming into effect, they then passed another amendment to the DC appropriations bill which allowed District voters or elected officials to increase marijuana penalties if they chose, but not to decrease them.
"We're seeking a temporary restraining order that will at least allow us to collect the 16,000 signatures we need for another referendum," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. "To be on the November ballot, everything has to be in place by May," he added.
"This is a First Amendment, free-speech issue," said MPP attorney Alexi Silverman. "DC residents have the right to voice their opinion and their vision of what the laws in their city ought to be."
MPP and the Medical Marijuana Initiative Committee had sought to do the preliminary work to prepare for an initiative campaign, but the DC Board of Elections and Ethics ruled last week that the congressional rider to the annual appropriations bill prohibited the District from spending any funds to prepare for a medical marijuana initiative. Thus, the lawsuit.
The initiative restriction is the brainchild of Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), a former prosecutor from suburban Atlanta. Barr's office did not return DRCNet calls asking for comment on the lawsuit and an explanation of why District residents should not be able to express their opinions on marijuana policy at the ballot box.
Barr might want to talk to DC resident Candida Fraze, a multiple sclerosis patient who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. "I have terrible pain in my nerves and joints," she told the news conference. "I would like the opportunity to try marijuana to alleviate some of the symptoms I have," she said. "Congress' position seems to be archaic and lacking any sense of compassion."
In remarks in Washington last Friday, President Bush explicitly linked foreign terrorism and domestic drug users as he vowed to return the war on drugs to "the center of our national agenda."
At a ceremony celebrating the signing of the reauthorization bill for the Drug Free Communities Act, Bush told his audience drug users aid terrorists, who benefit from black market profits from the drug trade, he claimed. "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America," Bush said.
"Drug use threatens everything, everything that is best about our country," Bush told an audience that included newly-confirmed drug czar John Walters and 1200 members of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), one of the primary beneficiaries of funds from the legislation. "It breaks the bond between parent and child. It turns productive citizens into addicts. It transforms schools into places of violence and chaos. It makes playgrounds into crime scenes. It supports gangs at home. And abroad, it's important for Americans to know that the trafficking of drugs finances the world of terror, sustaining terrorists," Bush said.
Under the newly reauthorized Drug Free Communities Act, CADCA and other anti-drug activist organizations will see their annual appropriations increase from $50 million this year to $100 million by 2007. Such groups work on drug treatment and prevention, but have also been sometime soldiers in the drug war's rear-guard action against drug reformers.
While saying he supported efforts for drug education and treatment, Bush also vowed a renewed commitment to the drug war. "We must aggressively enforce the laws against drugs in our communities and on our borders," he said.
Sounding more like a preacher than a president, Bush also resorted to moral arguments to support his position. "Above all, we must reduce drug use for one great moral reason," he said. "Over time, drugs rob men, women, and children of their dignity, and of their character. When we fight drugs, we fight for the souls of our fellow Americans."
In the immediate wake of the September 11 attacks, drug reformers expressed great concern about using the attacks to support their calls for an end to drug prohibition. But reformers have revisited that conclusion after watching drug warriors attempt to exploit the vague and tenuous links between Osama bin Laden and the drug trade.
Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org), a Washington, DC-based reform group has been most prominent in the counterattack. Since September 11, the organization has published full-page ads in political magazines such as the Nation, National Review, New Republic, the Progressive, Reason and the Weekly Standard, arguing that it is not the drug traffic but the huge profits engendered by prohibition that fuel political violence and terrorism.
"Is the funding of terrorism another unintended consequence of drug prohibition?" asked one ad. "Could a regulated and controlled model for soft drugs similar to our approach with alcohol and for hard drugs similar to prescription drugs stop the flow of illegal drug profits? In so many ways, does the War on Drugs cause far more harm than good, both here and abroad?"
A second ad, published this month, shows a photo of bin Laden on one side and an American flag on the other. Beneath the former, the caption reads "Enemy." Beneath the latter, the caption reads "Not the Enemy." The large-face text reads, "Now we're in a real war. Isn't it time to abandon the war on ourselves?" After listing various consequences of drug prohibition, the text concludes, "Experience teaches: Prohibition fails but liquor stores and pharmacies succeed in controlling soft and hard drugs."
CSDP president Kevin Zeese had little patience for Bush's claim that drug users abet terrorism. "You mean where he called drug users traitors," Zeese snorted. "C'mon, it's not drug use that creates these huge black market profits, it's prohibition. The one sure way to end these huge profits is to end prohibition. Manufacturers of regulated drugs don't cause this problem. The problem is not drug use or the drug trade, it's prohibition," he said.
As drug reformers fight for the hearts and minds of Americans and President Bush aims at their souls, the battle over defining the nature of the beast is underway.
Transnational Radical Party (http://www.radicalparty.org) member and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marco Cappato was arrested in a civil disobedience action Thursday in Stockport, England, home of British marijuana activist Colin Davies' groundbreaking "Dutch Experience" cannabis cafe. Davies has been held in Strangeways Prison since his November 20 arrest on cannabis trafficking charges. Cappato presented a small packet of cannabis to the Stockport police and was promptly arrested. Cappato, fellow Radical Party MEP Maurizion Turco and Radical Party board member Ottavio Marzocchi had traveled to the Manchester area to support Davies and British MEP Chris Davies (no relation), who himself was arrested last week in a similar act of civil disobedience as part of the ongoing antiprohibitionist mobilization surrounding police actions against the cafe and its owner (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/212.html#businessasusual).
Cappato was still being held by police at press time.
"He [Cappato] heard about Colin Davies, and came over partly to support me and partly to make a further gesture in support of a change in the drug laws," MEP Chris Davies told Reuters. Davies pleaded not guilty at Stockport Magistrates' Court after being arrested for presenting police with a tiny quantity of cannabis stuck to a postage stamp. "I want a jury to consider the broader issue about whether laws of this kind should be in place," he said. The arrests of MEPs Cappato and Davies are only the latest in a series of protests that have broken out since the Dutch Experience was raided and Colin Davies arrested last month. In fact, MEP Davies' arrest was part of a march of dozens of cannabis supporters.
Civil disobedience against prohibitionist laws is nothing new for the Transnational Radical Party, either. The party, with members in 43 countries, offices in four, and official consultative status with the United Nations, advocates Gandhian nonviolent tactics to achieve change on a number of issues ranging from abolishing the death penalty to antimilitarism to ending drug prohibition.
Radical Party members have taken part in many civil disobedience actions against drug prohibition since the party's founding in 1965. In 1975, Marco Pannella, Radical Party founder and MEP, was arrested in Italy after publicly and deliberately smoking a joint. From prison, he led a campaign to persuade the Italian parliament to decriminalize drug consumption. That tradition of civil disobedience on behalf of drug reform has continued ever since.
In 1989, the Transnational Radical Party founded the International Antiprohibitionist League, an association of scientists, drug experts, journalists and politicians from all over the world whose aim is to work for the reform of prohibitionist laws on drugs. In 1993, Radical Party leader and European Union commissioner Emma Bonino was arrested in New York City for distributing sterile syringes to drug users. Since the mid-1990s, numerous party members have been arrested for handing out chunks of hashish in Rome, including one notorious incident in which a party member gave 200 grams to the anchorperson of a popular live TV news program. At this time, some 35 Radical Party members, including four MEPs, await trial for drug-related civil disobedience actions.
Top officials in the administration of Ohio Republican Governor Robert Taft are involved in a behind-the-scenes effort to block a proposed constitutional amendment that would send convicted drug users to treatment instead of prison and may be violating state law in the process, according to the Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies (http://www.drugreform.org/ohio/). OCNDP, which is spearheading the initiative effort, has charged that state officials are unlawfully using state employees and state facilities at taxpayer expense in their battle to forestall any changes in Ohio drug laws.
"State officials have plotted to block our initiative, to keep it off the ballot, and failing that, to scare and confuse voters into opposing it," said Edward Orlett, head of Ohio CNDP, an affiliate of the Santa Monica-based Campaign for New Drug Policies, which ran the successful Prop. 36 campaign in California in 2000. "There is a pattern beginning to emerge that could very well be criminal," Orlett told DRCNet. "Under Ohio law and the state constitution, public officials may not under color of law use their office or their employees to deprive or attempt to deprive Ohio citizens of their constitutional rights. The right to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot is one of those rights," he said.
Now, OCNDP has formally requested that State Auditor James Petro investigate whether two cabinet members have misused public resources, employees and funds in planning a campaign against the proposed ballot initiative. "The scope of these agencies' planning and strategizing to thwart our ballot initiative was extraordinary," said Orlett. "It cannot be legal and proper for so many staff hours and resources to be poured into preparations for an expected campaign effort. If this level of campaign activity by executive agencies is permitted, it will set a terrible precedent for all future campaigns for candidates and ballot measures in Ohio."
Orlett has obtained documents that back up his assertion and has made copies available to DRCNet. One is a 21-page "Ohio Drug Reform Playbook" created by employees of the state Office of Criminal Justice Services. The playbook is an outline of how to defeat the proposed initiative, an effort to be led by a coalition with the Orwellian double-speak-style name of "Ohio Drug Reform Coalition." Prominent among the "reformers" are the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, the Ohio Crime Prevention Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and last on the list, "local treatment and prevention practitioners."
The playbook calls for initiative opponents to craft an "Ohio Drug Reform Resolution," which would "[reflect] local level opposition to the legalization of drugs." It also calls for coalition partners to consider other steps to block or ameliorate the impact of the proposed treatment initiative, such as attempting to force revisions in the initiative, creating an alternative initiative "to reduce CNDP initiative impact," offering watered-down reforms in the legislature, and a blockade "to stop the CNDP initiative from appearing on the ballot." Coalition members also planned a marketing campaign to indirectly target the initiative. The playbook called for state agencies to develop a marketing strategy that would promote drug courts and "Ohio's promising drug treatment practices."
The playbook also provided evidence that the conspiracy to block "treatment not jail" initiatives may extend to other states targeted by CNDP, specifically Florida and Michigan. Other evidence suggests it also extends to Washington, DC. "Organize Tri-State Drug Policy Forum," reads the playbook. "Discuss common goals and objectives for multi-state drug reform [sic] campaign, including funding considerations. Implement Tri-State Drug Policy Collaboration."
The playbook listed the governor's office, the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) as primary resources for organizing the anti-initiative campaign in its early stages.
Orlett and OCNDP have asked state auditors to investigate Domingo Herraiz, head of OCJS, and Luceille Fleming, head of ODADAS. "Herraiz used the employees and resources of his office over a two-month period to develop this playbook on how to defeat or block the initiative," said Orlett. "And Fleming has gone to Washington to attend meetings on how to block the initiative. We also have copies of official correspondence from her on state letterhead to the governor's office and others regarding "Fighting the Ballot Initiative."
"This is the gang that couldn't shoot straight," said CNDP's Dave Fratello. "The rules of politics preclude government officials from using their offices to play a direct role in campaigns like this, but these guys never even thought to get competent legal advice on what they could and couldn't do," he told DRCNet. "What arrogance. Because Republican control of Ohio is so solid, they thought they could get away with it."
Ohio officials deny they have done anything wrong. A spokesman for Gov. Taft defended the governor's actions to the Columbus Dispatch last week, saying that the governor was adamantly opposed to the initiative. "He's spoken with experts and drug court officials and will oppose it," said spokesman Joe Andrews. "He thinks it's a de facto decriminalization of drugs. He's concerned about bringing the failed California drug experiment to Ohio."
"What failed drug experiment in California?" retorted CNDP's Fratello. "There is no data yet on Prop. 36, it's very early. You can't call Prop. 36 a failure with no data. That's just wishful thinking," he said.
After being held up at the Ohio Attorney General's Office for ten weeks while the Attorney General deliberated over whether the initiative's summary is a fair and truthful statement, the initiative is now only one step away from the beginning of petitioning. The initiative is now waiting for the Franklin County Board of Elections to certify the 100 signatures required to begin the petition drive. Once that happens, backers will begin the task of obtaining the 335,422 signatures required to put the issue on the November 2002 ballot.
The initiative would mandate treatment instead of jail for first-time nonviolent drug possessors, but would not apply to those convicted of drug trafficking or manufacture. Treatment programs could last up to 18 months, and those who fail to complete them could be sent to prison.
The Texas Domestic Marijuana Eradication (DME) program has had another banner year of pulling up non-psychoactive weeds at taxpayer expense. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported on Tuesday that it eradicated 760,000 cannabis plants this year in an effort funded by Texas taxpayers and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
But with only 48,700 of those plants being under cultivation, 93.5% of the plants destroyed were ditchweed or feral hemp, descendants of plants planted in a government program during World War II. The effort involved a number of state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as operational, technical and financial support from the DEA. The program has operated in Texas since 1987, and last year seized 415,000 plants.
"Domestic marijuana eradication by the DPS, the Air National Guard, local law enforcement agencies and the DEA has helped make Texas a safer place," said DPS Director Thomas A. Davis Jr. with a straight face. "This is a program that shows definite, immediate results," he told a Tuesday press conference. "Many burglaries and other crimes are related to drugs and drug use."
The DEA allocated $13 million for its domestic marijuana eradication program this fiscal year. The Texas Dept. of Public Safety, or Texas DPS, did not respond to DRCNet requests for information on the amount of state taxpayer dollars used in the annual exercise.
Most drug reformers criticize the ditchweed eradication programs as a pure waste of taxpayer funds to kill hemp plants that do not get people high. Some, such as California cannabis expert Chris Conrad (http://www.chrisconrad.com) have also pointed out that the eradication program is destroying the genetic heritage of the world's largest feral hemp crop.
[Week Online editor Phil Smith, himself a former Texan and long-time observer of Texas drug enforcement activities, indulged himself with a bit of sarcasm reflecting on the program: "We must applaud these authorities for their efforts to eradicate this menace. We must insist that ditchweed eradication be the highest priority for drug warriors across the country. Ditchweed was the gateway drug for me. Once I tried it, I wanted the real thing. Furthermore, I am sure there is a terrorism-ditchweed connection if we only dig deep enough. And why aren't they arresting all those farmers who allow this pernicious plant to flourish?"]
DRCNet readers first read of Tracy Johnson and Jeff Jarvis in June, when the Oregon couple publicly outed themselves as pot-smoking good neighbors in a full-page ad in the Portland alternative weekly the Willamette Week (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/192.html#neighbors). Since then, the pair have done more full-page ads in Seattle and San Francisco, garnering local and national media attention. Now the clean-cut couple is trying to organize a massive, emphatically non-countercultural benefit concert to aid drug reform organizations.
POTaid will be an "un-hippy, no pot leaf, non-tie-dyed, come out of the closet so you can be free" concert," Johnson told DRCNet. "We're going to lose the counterculture symbols, bring together 100,000 pot-friendly neighbors, and invite world-class entertainers to come and give us a world-class show," she said. "We want to raise a million dollars in net ticket sales, to be distributed to various nonprofit groups working to change drug policy."
Although the plan is still in its formative stages, Jarvis and Johnson are looking for a venue in Portland for September 2002. "It will be in Oregon," said Johnson, "and with September only two months ahead of the fall elections, we think that is a strategic date. It will certainly help increase awareness of the issue," she said. "Securing a venue is just the tip of this iceberg. We also need to handle security, sanitation, publicity, production, and of course, we must attract top-shelf entertainment. This is a huge undertaking."
As for the finances of such an undertaking, "the details are down the road," said Johnson. "We're just starting with this, although we do have some financial backing already." Although the couple say they want to handle no money themselves and are encouraging potential donors to pay directly for benefit budget items, someone will have to coordinate financial details. Who that will be is unclear at this point. Still, Johnson and Jarvis are optimistic. "This will actually come off," Johnson predicted, "and if we can get 100,000 people, that million-dollar net could be conservative."
The search for performers is just beginning. Johnson would not name names, but she did tell DRCNet "we've been talking to world-class entertainers."
Jarvis and Johnson plan to create 100 shares of the POTaid pie, to be divided among drug reform organizations including Change The Climate, The November Coalition, NORML, Marijuana Policy Project, MAMA, Voter Power, DRCNet and The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, among others. If the project works out, each share would end up as a $10,000 donation.
The "un-hippy, no pot leaf" theme is a continuation of the couple's campaign against inaccurate stereotyping of all marijuana users as members of the counter-culture. "Tens of millions of Americans smoke pot, and you don't know who they are," said Jarvis, "because they are afraid to talk about it."
"We are not hippies," added Johnson. "We are the everyday folks who accept your bank deposits, deliver your packages and educate your families. POTaid is about demonstrating the lunacy of clinging to a law that makes criminals out of more than a tenth of the American people."
In their print ads, the couple proclaimed: "We're Jeff and Tracy. We're Your Good Neighbors. We Smoke Pot," and told readers they were just ordinary folks. "Do you remember the guy who stopped to help you when you blew a tire and didn't have a jack?" asked Jarvis in a rejected paid radio ad reprinted in the Willamette Weekly. "And I was the woman who brought you a smile and a fresh loaf of baked bread when you moved in across the street," added Johnson. "Are you sure you want to throw us in jail?"
The print ads brought a huge response, said Johnson. "We've had 24,000 hits on our web site (http://www.potaid.org) and thousands more emails. Everyday my mailbox is overflowing." The local media frenzy over the print ads also got the couple a slot on the nationally syndicated Inanda Lewis show, said Johnson. Lewis, a former MTV DJ, is seen in 140 markets. "We had an ex-DEA agent and a prosecutor on the guest panel, along with Will Foster, High Times' Steve Hager, and us," Johnson recounted. "The audience was highly emotionally charged and clearly thought the marijuana laws were ridiculous. So did Inanda Lewis."
Somebody call Willie Nelson.
As we approach the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, we are sending you a short preview, following below, of the work we plan or hope to do in 2002. We are also asking your help in keeping our organization healthy and able to do all this work and do so effectively.
Any donation, large or small, will mean a lot to DRCNet and our ability to effect change. So please take a few minutes and visit http://www.drcnet.org/donate/ to make an encryption-secured donation by credit card or PayPal -- if you want, sign up to donate monthly and never have to think about it again -- or use our form to generate a printout to mail in with your check or money order, or just send those to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. We are also now set up to accept contributions of stock -- our brokerage is Ameritrade, account #772973012, company name Drug Reform Coordination Network, Inc.
In the legislative arena (Drug Reform Coordination Network, contributions are not tax-deductible):
Thank you for doing your part to end the failed, destructive war on drugs.
MoJo online publishes "Washington's Lonely
Drug War," by former DRCNet Associate Director Adam J. Smith:
Witness for Peace has posted photographs
documenting the impact of recently renewed anti-coca spraying in Putumayo,
Our story last week on the failed lawsuit against Narco News (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/215.html#narconews) contained a typo in the name of the former Banamex chief who sued Narco News. His name is Roberto Hernandez, not Fernandez.
In our story on British police chiefs calling for prescription heroin for addicts, we incorrectly identified the author of the Cleveland Report as Chief Constable Barry Straw QPM. The correct name is Barry Shaw. We also misattributed a quote to him that should have been attributed to another: The Cleveland Report did not call British drug policy "ineffective" and "clearly based upon American experience." Rather, that was a characterization of the report made by a British journalist.
Last week, we were unable to locate a copy of the Cleveland Report. This week, however, we are pleased to note it is accessible at http://user1.netcarrier.com/~aahpat/ukpol.htm online.
Click on the links below for information on these issues and web forms to help you contact Congress:
Repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision
(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)
December 21, 8:00pm, Portland, OR, Benefit for the American Antiprohibition League. At the Phantom Gallery, 3125 SE Belmont Street (bus #15), featuring Bob Soper and friends performing traditional American and Irish folk music. Admission $5, age 21 and over only, contact Floyd Landrath at [email protected] for further information.
January 2, 7:00-10:00pm, Washington, DC, "Hemp Seed Cafe," monthly gathering with the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition, featuring guitar and violin duet Johnny Bonneville & Fiddlin Phil Swaby and special guests G-13. At the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St. NW, $5 donation. Call (202) 887-5770 or visit http://www.fourthofjuly.org for info.
January 21, Albany, NY, Drop the Rock press conference opposing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, marking Martin Luther King Day. Near the Empire State Convention Center, followed by speakers, awards presentations, entertainment and a march on the capitol. Visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
January 24, 7:30pm, Melbourne, FL, "Express Yourself: A Guide to the First Amendment," role-playing workshop dealing with direct action, petition gathering and tabling for nonprofits. At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, call Kevin at (321) 726-6656 for further information.
January 25-27, New York, NY, "Maternal-State Conflicts: Claims of Fetal Rights & the Well-Being of Women & Families." Conference sponsored by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the Mt. Sinai Hospital-Based Clinical Education Initiative. For further information, call (212) 475-4218, visit http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org or e-mail [email protected].
January 26, 9:30pm-3:00am, Miami, FL, Benefit Concert for the medical marijuana petition drive. At the Tobacco Road Night Club, 626 South Miami Avenue, call Flash at (305) 579-0069 for info.
January 29, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Kris Krane, national chapter coordinator for NORML. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 5, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Jodi James, director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 16, Albany, NY, Drop The Rock Upstate-Downstate Coalition Organizers Conference, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway. Call (518) 463-1121 or visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
February 21-23, Washington, DC, National Families Against Mandatory Minimums Workshop. At the Washington Plaza Hotel, call (202) 822-6700 or visit http://www.famm.org for information.
February 23, noon, Tampa, FL, "Washington’s Birthday Hemp Festival." Sponsored by FORML, featuring music, vendors, speakers and more. At Lowry Park, contact Mike at (813) 779-2551 for further information.
February 28, 7:30pm, Melbourne, FL, "Marijuana: Medical Effects and Legal Consequences." At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, contact Jodi at (321) 253-3673 for info.
February 28-March 1, New York, NY, "Problem Solving Courts: From Adversarial Litigation to Innovative Jurisprudence." Panelists include former Attorney General Janet Reno, Rev. Al Sharpton and Mary Barr, Executive Director of Conextions. At Fordham University Law School, take the A, B, C, D, 1, and 9 subway trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle and walk one block west. For further information, call (656) 345-5352 or e-mail [email protected].
March 3-7, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 13th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm and 2nd International Harm Reduction Congress on Women and Drugs. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit http://www.ihrc2002.net or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
March 14, 7:30pm, Court Watch Project Training Meeting. At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, with the Florida Cannabis Action Network, call Kevin at (321) 726-6656 for further information.
March 24-27, Rimini, Italy, "Club Health 2002: The Second International Conference on Night-Life, Substance Use and Related Health Issues." Visit http://www.clubhealth.org.uk for info.
March 26, Albany, NY, "Drop The Rock Day," march and demonstration against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
April 8-13, Gainesville, FL, "Drug Education Week," series of presentations on different topics in the drug war, including daily keynote, followed by Saturday free concert. Hosted by University of Florida Students for Sensible Drug Policy, visit http://grove.ufl.edu/~ssdp/ or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
April 18-20, San Francisco, CA, 2002 NORML Conference. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Square, registration $150, call (202) 483-5500 for further information. Online registration will be available at http://www.norml.org in the near future.
April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 for further information.
May 3-4, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time and Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, for further information visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com or call (804) 263-4484.
December 1-4, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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