(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #227, 3/8/02
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Phillip S. Smith, Editor
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New Yorkers and others nearby, please come to our Tuesday, 3/26 evening event launching the John W. Perry Fund, providing scholarships to students losing financial aid because of drug convictions (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/226.html#perryfund).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
the Week Online archives)
1. Editorial: History's Dustbin
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 3/8/02
Early this morning I received the good news that a federal court had "stayed" the DEA's interpretive rule attempting to ban hemp food products (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/227.html#hempfood). A final ruling won't come out for another month -- and it's not official until it's official -- but the fact that the stay was granted means the court is pretty sure the DEA was in the wrong. Chances are they just need a little more time to write the opinion. In the meantime, producers, vendors and consumers are free to distribute, sell, buy and eat the chips, spreads, pretzels, pastas and many other food products made with hemp seed, safe in the knowledge that they are perfectly legal now and will probably continue to be legal.
It's good to see at least one of DEA's idiotic policies get consigned to history's dustbin of bad ideas. But was it really necessary to force honest, law-abiding merchants to take to the courts and the media and the halls of Congress, desperately hoping to save their fledgling but growing industry from government-imposed extinction? Was it necessary to force foreign companies dealing in legal hemp seeds to invoke NAFTA treaty provisions and sue the United States to protect their legitimate and innocuous interests?
DEA chief Asa Hutchinson claimed it was, that they were just obeying the law, which according to Hutchinson banned any quantity of THC, no matter how minute. The problem is, Hutchinson lied. The Controlled Substances Act does indeed make an exception for such foods, as the Department of Justice -- of which the DEA is a part and to whose authority it is subject -- stated in a year 2000 memo that hemp food industry activists procured and made public. And Hutchinson never addressed why, if the law banned these foods, did the DEA in all previous decades since its founding in the 1970s consider the foods legal? DEA clearly knew that what they were doing was illegal, that they were unlawfully conspiring to put a legal industry out of business, hoping to get away with it and assuming they had nothing to lose by trying.
The arrogance is nauseating. What punishment will there be for Hutchinson and the rest of his rogue bureaucrats who willingly participated in this conspiracy? Most probably nothing. But the merchants whose businesses were damaged, and the customers whose culinary options were unfairly inhibited, can at least take solace in the knowledge that Hutchinson's unsuccessful attempt to ban hemp foods is unlikely to be cited in the annals of outstanding public service.
I am confident that more of DEA's bad policies will end up in the historical dustbin. In fact, I believe that with time, the public will come to understand that the very idea of the DEA is inappropriate, not to mention the stupid, extreme form the agency has taken in its implementation.
In the meantime, we seem at least to have won the food fight. Other rights have yet to be won back. But our rationality and integrity will prevail over the corruption and fanaticism of the drug warriors in more than just food freedoms. Have a hemp bar and store up some energy for the next stage. It's coming soon.
2. Swarthmore to Replace Student Aid Lost to HEA Anti-Drug Provision
The Swarthmore College Board of Managers has voted to replace financial aid denied to students under the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision, which delays or denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions. In so doing, it joins Hampshire College and a handful of other private colleges that have responded to the provision by creating replacement financial aid funds. According to the latest estimates from the US Department of Education, some 43,000 students or would-be students were denied aid under the ban this academic year.
While the move had its genesis in a letter written two years ago by student activists, Swarthmore officials portrayed the decision as in line with positions the school has taken in the past. For example, Swarthmore President Al Bloom told the Swarthmore Phoenix last Thursday, "in 1983, the college joined with 10 other schools to state publicly that we thought access to education should not be linked with the Selective Service requirement."
The same drive to disentangle educational access from social policy issues was behind the board's decision, Swarthmore vice president for college and community relations Maurice Eldridge told the Phoenix. "It is bad policy to use federal funds intended to expand access to education as a means of enforcing drug laws," Eldridge said.
Bloom told the Phoenix that the board's action "would entail that we meet our obligation" to ensure that any student accepted for admission at the college be able to enroll.
While students welcomed the move, concern lingers over a proposed revision to the student admission application form intended to identify students who could be in danger of losing federal financial aid. According to the Phoenix, Swarthmore is in the process of finalizing language for a new question on the admissions application form. Currently, the form asks prospective students, "Have you ever been suspended or dismissed from school?" The new question, however, will ask about criminal records. The Phoenix quoted Student Council co-president Matt Rubin as saying he had "reservations" about asking applicants about their criminal records, and reported that students will be meeting this week with admissions and financial aid dean Jim Bock to address the issue.
Former Swarthmore Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) head Benjamin Gaines and then head of the College Democrats Delonte Gholston wrote a letter to the Phoenix in February 2000, praising the college for participating in a boycott of South Carolina over its flying of the Confederate flag and urging the college to broaden its efforts to create a "humane and just" society by working to repeal the HEA anti-drug provision. The letter also asked Swarthmore President Bloom to "work with the Swarthmore financial aid department, to replace aid denied to students because of this act of Congress."
Two years later, the effort begun with that letter has borne fruit. "Following the letter, I met with the school's president a few times, and he agreed to look into it and raise the question to the board of managers," Gaines told DRCNet. "Since then, the process has been largely out of our hands." Gaines has since graduated and moved into the workaday world, but his efforts have now paved the way for Swarthmore students affected by the anti-drug provision to be able to continue their education.
The loan replacement tactic is a powerful symbolic gesture in the effort to repeal the HEA anti-drug provision and one that could be repeated at other private colleges and universities across the land. State universities, on the other hand, are less likely to be fertile ground for this sort of maneuver, given that their political status as government agencies opens them up to a potential backlash from drug war zealots.
(Visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com for further information on the HEA drug provision and the campaign to repeal it. DRCNet is launching a national scholarship fund for students losing aid under this law at a 3/26 NYC fundraiser; for further information visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/226.html#perryfund in last week's issue.)
3. Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full
DRCNet, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is leading a major national campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision, a law that delays or denies students with drug convictions their eligibility for federal financial aid for college -- over 43,000 people this school year alone. But the author of the Higher Education Act drug provision, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), is trying hard to divert attention from the repeal effort by focusing on one narrow change, limiting the law's impact to students who were enrolled in school and receiving aid at the time of their offense.
Such a change would help some small percentage of the people hurt by the drug provision and would be welcome for that reason. But it is a 5% solution to a law that is 100% flawed: Only full repeal addresses the serious education and discrimination concerns raised by educational, civil rights, religious, drug policy reform and other groups for the past three years. That's why we need you to help us send a loud and clear message to Congress that this law is fundamentally flawed and should be repealed in full.
Please visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com to tell Congress you want them to remove the drug war from education and pass H.R. 786, a bill that would repeal the drug provision and which already has 57 Congressional cosponsors. When you're done, please call your US Representative on the phone to make an even stronger impact -- you can call them via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or visit http://www.house.gov to look up their direct numbers.
Students, visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/students.html to find out how to get involved with the campaign on your campus. Eighty-seven student governments so far have endorsed our resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision. If you're already at work on this, please write us at [email protected] and let us know what's happening. Also, visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/download.html for an online copy of our activist packet. (Leave your e-mail address if you want to be notified of updates on the HEA campaign. Also, we will be updating the download packet within the next week.)
Please forward this alert to your friends or use the tell-a-friend form that will come up on your screen after you send your letter. And please consider making a donation -- large or small -- to keep this effort moving forward at full speed. Though our funding situation for 2002 is very promising, we've had a shortfall of the non-tax-deductible lobbying funds that are needed for the HEA campaign itself. Visit http://www.drcnet.org/donate/ to help, or mail your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.)
Again, visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign! Here are some reasons the HEA drug provision is wrong:
4. Breaking: Ninth Circuit Court Blocks DEA Hemp Rule
(press release from Vote Hemp)
Late yesterday (3/7), the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the hemp industry's Motion to Stay the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA's) "interpretive" rule, which was issued October 9, 2001 without public notice or opportunity for comment and would have banned the sale of nutritious hemp foods containing harmless trace amounts of naturally-occurring THC under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970. Just this week the industry had learned that the Ninth Circuit's Motions panel had referred the industry's Motion to Stay to the Merits panel, who had in turn scheduled expedited oral argument for April 8. Due to this turn of events, the industry had not expected that a ruling would be forthcoming on their Motion to Stay and was happily surprised to learn that the motion had been granted.
The Motion to Stay was brought jointly by the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and several major hemp food companies in the US and Canada. The court is currently hearing a substantive challenge to the interpretive rule, and in light of today's ruling, the hemp industry is optimistic that the Court will ultimately invalidate DEA's rule, as one of the prime criteria in granting the Stay was whether the hemp industry is likely to ultimately prevail on the merits of the case. Because trace infinitesimal THC in hemp seed is non-psychoactive and insignificant, the US Congress exempted non-viable hemp seed and oil from control under the CSA, just as Congress exempted poppy seeds from the CSA, although they contain trace opiates otherwise subject to control. The hemp industry is assuring retailers and consumers that hemp food products should continue to be stocked, sold and consumed. Joe Sandler, counsel for the HIA, stated: "The Court's order effectively prevents DEA from enforcing its 'Interpretive Rule' until a final ruling by the Court on the validity of DEA's action. With this stay in effect, all those who sell, import, manufacture, distribute and retail edible hemp oil and seed, and oil and seed products, can continue those activities secure in the knowledge that such products remain perfectly lawful."
Hemp seed has a well-balanced protein content and the highest content of essential fatty acids (EFAs) of any oil in nature: EFAs are the "good fats" that, like vitamins, the body does not produce and requires for good health. Dr. Udo Erasmus, an internationally recognized nutritional authority on fats and oils, writes in Fats that Heal -- Fats that Kill: "Hemp seed oil may be nature's most perfectly balanced oil." Not surprisingly, shelled hemp seed and oil are increasingly used in natural food products, such as corn chips, nutrition bars, hummus, nondairy milks, breads and cereals. In the last few years, the hemp foods industry has grown from less than $1 million a year to over $5 million in retail sales.
The court ruling allows the hemp foods industry segment to continue its phenomenal expansion. Popular hemp foods include pretzels, tortilla chips, energy bars, waffles, bread, salad dressing, cereal, cooking oil, ice cream and even non-dairy milk. Unlike the US, other Western countries (Canada, Germany, Australia) have adopted rational THC limits for foods, similar to those voluntarily observed by North American hemp food companies which protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from any psychoactive effects or workplace drug-testing interference (see http://www.testpledge.com for hemp industry standards regarding trace THC). The 10-year-old global hemp market is a thriving commercial success. Unfortunately, because DEA's drug-war paranoia has confused non-psychoactive industrial hemp varieties of cannabis with psychoactive "marijuana" varieties, the US is the only major industrialized nation to prohibit the growing and processing of industrial hemp.
Visit http://www.VoteHemp.com to read scientific studies of hemp foods and see court documents.
5. US Drug Warriors Waging Backroom Campaign to Put Their Man Serrano in UN Drug Czar Post
A cabal of Bush administration and congressional drug war zealots are enmeshed in a largely behind-the-scenes effort to gin up official US support for the nomination of former Colombian National Police chief Rosso Jose Serrano as head of the United Nations Office on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCCP). Serrano, who stepped down as head of the Colombian police in June 2000, has long been a favorite of US drug war hard-liners, as much for his slavish willingness to support misbegotten US anti-drug policies in Colombia as for his much vaunted reputation for incorruptibility.
But according to the Washington Times, the rightist newspaper that has been carrying the drug warriors' water on this issue, the State Department is instead prepared to endorse the candidacy of Giuseppe Lumina, an Italian protégé of the last, and widely-criticized, UN drug czar, Pino Arlacchi. The State Department is keen to stay in the good graces of European allies by supporting the Italian candidate, the Times lamented.
Still smarting from being voted off the UN's International Narcotics Control Board and Human Rights Commission last year (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/185.html#incb), congressional and administration conservatives are determined to regain their place as first among equals in international drug control efforts. They see Serrano as their man at the UNDCCP.
Serrano first won plaudits from US drug warriors for his role in the destruction of the Medellin and Cali cartels in the early 1990s. He also earned accolades for firing 11,000 corrupt members of the National Police and reducing human rights violations in Colombia's war on drugs. He gained much publicity and favorable press profiles upon his resignation, when he famously announced he was retiring because "I have been to so many police officers' funerals that I can't bear another."
But Serrano has from the beginning made a career of supporting US anti-drug policies in Colombia that ensure that many more police officers, as well as soldiers, guerrillas, and civilians will join those already in the ground. In addition to waging war on the cartels (which has led to a many-headed hydra of smaller trafficking organizations with no decline in cocaine exports), Serrano pioneered aerial fumigation of coca crops in the early 1990s. During the administration of President Ernesto Samper, whom the Clinton administration accused of receiving campaign funds from cocaine traffickers and subsequently froze out of bilateral relations, Serrano and his National Police became the primary conduit for continuing and ever-increasing flows of anti-drug assistance from the US.
In fact, the former police chief became such a favorite of congressional drug warriors that when Samper's successor, current President Andres Pastrana, came to Washington in 1999 to lobby for his Plan Colombia, Republican members of Congress rebuked him for not bringing Serrano with him. "I am the president of Colombia," a peeved Pastrana was forced to remind the solons.
While Serrano has talked about reducing demand, he remains a staunch prohibitionist. "Drug trafficking is the devil," he told the Chicago Tribune in 2000. "Drugs are different from alcohol, and Prohibition was different from what we're going through. A drink can be managed socially, but doesn't necessarily lead to alcoholism. Whereas drug users always ascend. You see that many marijuana smokers go on to shoot heroin, and so on."
Serrano has been a staunch supporter of Plan Colombia and its Bush administration successor, the Andean Initiative, and the drug warriors know a pliable ally when they see one.
"Gen. Serrano's reputation as an international law enforcement officer and unwavering ally of the US government is nothing short of legendary," burbled DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson in a Feb. 15 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell urging the department to back Serrano's bid. "His relentless pursuit of the Medellin and Cali cartels, even in the face of countless threats against his life, personifies the resolve of the Colombian people in their ongoing struggle against the oppression of illegal drugs," wrote Hutchinson. "Gen. Serrano's appointment as executive director would be a natural transition and well-deserved capstone of a stellar career in the counterdrug arena."
Former DEA administrators Donnie Marshall and Thomas Constantine have also written letters in support of Serrano, the Times reported. That is no surprise, given that the agency in July 2000 awarded him with the DEA's special agent award -- the first time the award had been given to anyone other than a DEA agent.
Drug czar John Walters has also jumped on the Serrano bandwagon, the Times reported, as have a veritable who's who of Republican congressional drug warriors. "I strongly urge you to consider promoting Gen. Serrano's candidacy for this important UN post," wrote Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC). "His credentials are impeccable, his friendship with the US is firm, and his dedication to the task at hand is without question."
Other drug war hardliners running interference for Serrano include House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), and House members Cass Ballenger (R-NC), Bob Barr (R-GA), Dan Burton (R-IN), Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Mark Souder (R-IN).
Gilman, head of the House Committee on International Relations, and Burton, head of the House Government Reform Committee, also chimed in with support for Serrano: "He is a good friend of the United States and a longtime ally in the worldwide fight against illicit drugs and crime," they wrote to the State Department. "He is the right man at the right time."
For the right wing perhaps, but a successful effort to place an unreconstructed drug warrior and mouthpiece for retrograde Washington drug warriors such as Serrano would not bode well for enlightened drug policies at the global level.
6. Drug Reform Groups and Paid Advertising: What Are They Getting For Their Money?
In the weeks since drug czar John Walters and his Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) commenced their latest anti-drug media campaign with the now infamous $3.4 million Superbowl ads linking domestic drug use to international terrorism, several major players in the drug reform movement have invested in paid advertising in major newspapers and select targeted publications. Two of the ads targeted Bush administration efforts to forge a link between illicit drugs and terrorism, while the other challenged Congress and the administration to act on behalf of medical marijuana patients. But despite the recent flurry of major advertising buys, some of those involved caution that such campaigns have limited utility and must be narrowly focused.
Drug reformers have resorted to paying to get their message out before -- perhaps most strikingly with the 1998 two-page New York Times ad responding to the UN anti-drug summit coordinated by The Lindesmith Center, featuring hundreds of global figures signing on (http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/un.html) -- and Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org) has been running a series of full-page ads in small political opinion journals monthly for several years.
But the appearance of full-page paid ads challenging administration drug policies in the New York Times, the Washington Times, USA Today, and Roll Call, a trade journal for Congress and Congress watchers, in a two-week time span, means drug reformers are spending more on advertising than ever before. The spending spree began with the Libertarian Party's Feb 26 ad in the Washington Times and USA Today, a full-page close-up of drug czar John Walters parodying the Walters' own drug-terror ads (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/225.html#lpadcampaign).
Two days later, the Drug Policy Alliance (formerly The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation) provided another variation on the theme with a full-page ad in Roll Call, the influential Capitol Hill bi-weekly. "This month I watched the Super Bowl, wasted 10 million taxpayer dollars on a deceptive ad campaign, and shamelessly exploited the war on terrorism to prop up the failed war on drugs," reads the ad, over a photo of President Bush. "C'mon, it was just politics."
"The drug czar's office seems to think that American youth are as dumb as a doorknob," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, in a prepared statement. "It's hard to believe that any American teenager smoking homegrown marijuana is going to believe she's subsidizing Bin Laden's terror campaign. They're going to spoof these ads just the way they spoofed the 'fried egg' ads a decade ago. Blaming nonviolent Americans for terrorism is like blaming beer drinkers for Al Capone's murders," continued Nadelmann.
And on Wednesday, the Marijuana Policy Project's Coalition for Compassionate Access (http://www.compassionateaccess.org) placed a full-page in the New York Times, calling on President Bush to allow seriously ill people to use medicinal marijuana without fear of arrest and imprisonment. Across from a photo of a white-haired man standing in a garden, the large-font text read: "Walt could spend his final days in prison instead of a hospital."
In smaller type, the ad urged the president to acknowledge and act on the findings of the 1999 Institute of Medicine study of medical marijuana, which found limited but legitimate uses. Beneath the letter were the names of the so-far 400 signatories, ranging from prominent individuals such as Walter Cronkite, Alan Dershowitz, Hugh Downs, Milton Friedman, Frank Serpico and Dr. Andrew Weil to organizations such as the American Public Health Association and more than a dozen state nursing associations, as well as doctors, patients, and more than a hundred state legislators.
The ads aren't cheap. The Libertarian Party paid nearly $10,000 for its ad in the Washington Times and $60,000 for the USA Today spot. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, they got a bargain, paying $38,000 for a "stand-by" full page ad in the New York Times. By accepting a degree of uncertainty and short notice of when the ad would actually run, MPP got a dramatic reduction from the normal $126,000 weekday rate. Drug Policy Alliance paid $8,000 for its ad in the small circulation but target-rich Capitol Hill newspaper.
Some question whether they were effective. "We will not be buying more ads like that," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. "You can measure the effectiveness of an ad or campaign in three ways: how it helps your organization grow, how much free media it generates, and how much it actually changes public policy," Kampia told DRCNet. The New York Times ad failed on two of the three measures, he said.
"Our response rate in terms of hits, new subscribers and contributions was negligible," Kampia said, adding that paid ads were a "terrible" way to build a database. "And we didn't get the media response we expected, that was a disappointment. We tried to generate attention -- I can't blame our staff -- but that is one of those things that is out of your control," he said.
"But the most important measure of effectiveness is whether this can kick-start a campaign to actually change federal policy," said Kampia, "and we will not know the answer to that for some months. But we do think this will set the stage for some meetings with Bush administration officials."
While officials of the Libertarian Party told DRCNet they did not know if they would run similar ads in the future, they had a more upbeat assessment than Kampia. "We definitely feel positive about the ad," said party press secretary George Getz. "We wanted to do three things: We wanted to generate more media coverage and we did that. We wanted to generate money for the campaign from people who had not been involved with the party before. We did that. One-third of the money came from non-party members," Getz said. "And we wanted to fire up the party members and spit in the drug czar's eye and we did that, too," he said.
But while the Libertarian ads generated some press attention, with the latest coup being the appearance of LP political director Ron Crickenberger on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor this week, Getz complained that non-actions by government officials could dampen media responses to paid ads, citing his party's recent experience with the drug czar's office as a case in point.
"The media thrives on controversy," said Getz, "and ONDCP is studiously avoiding any comment despite having gotten a number of media inquiries about it. Several journalists have called ONDCP spokesman Tom Reilly, including the producers of a nationally syndicated talk show, and he won't return their calls," said Getz. "It's pretty maddening to have a taxpayer-funded press secretary who refuses to do his job."
Or maybe is doing his job all too well, Getz suggested. "They've been hoisted by their own petard," he said. "They know we are using government figures to make the case that prohibition is dramatically driving up the price of drugs and funneling money to terrorists. That's their information, not ours," he said. "No wonder they don't want to respond."
The Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman expressed mixed feelings about the group's ad in Roll Call. "It led to a very favorable San Francisco Chronicle story and it got [DPA executive director] Ethan Nadelmann on Fox's Hannity & Colmes, but I have to say we were a little bit disappointed in the media coverage," he told DRCNet. "You have to remember that we had been in the mix on this drug-terror issue from the beginning; the media will only come for our opinion so many times on one issue," he said.
"But this is an important issue. To blame half of American high school students for terrorism is just outrageous," said Newman, "and it is important that our audience -- and it was a very carefully targeted audience of politicians and beltway types in DC -- know that we are on to their cynical approach and will continue to hammer them."
According to advertising industry wisdom, it helps if that hammer strikes repeated blows. "A full-page ad in a national newspaper has tremendous impact even if it's a one-shot deal," said Mary Hilton, director of public affairs for the American Advertising Federation. "But repetition is ideal," she told DRCNet. "It keeps the brand in front of the consumer."
That can be a problem when those ads go for tens of thousands of dollars a pop. Common Sense for Drug Policy gets around that hurdle by pursuing a strategy similar to DPA's use of Roll Call to find a key target audience. "We've been putting ads in the same magazines for more than a year now," said CSDP director Kevin Zeese. "We do change the ads, but they have a common style and they're always about the drug war, so we are achieving that repetition of the message. And we do it relatively cheaply by targeting opinion leader magazines. For under $10,000 a month we regularly place ads in the New Republic, the National Review, the Weekly Standard, Reason, the Nation and the Progressive," Zeese told DRCNet.
"We're aiming at more bang for the buck by targeting opinion leader mags, those that are read by the media, elected officials and their staffs, heads of trade associations and advocacy groups," Zeese explained. "These are people who are concerned about issues and will repeat our message."
When asked what he would do with a larger advertising budget, Zeese daydreamed aloud. "Ah," he said, "we'd like to run a series of four or more ads in Time and Newsweek, but also TV and radio commercials, and more likely, an ongoing presence in key trade journals," he mused. "Give me a quarter-million dollars and you'll see that series of ads in Newsweek and Time, followed by the trade journals."
And Zeese encouraged others dipping their toes into the expensive world of big media ad buys to persevere. "It's great more people are advertising," he said. "If you're disappointed, well, learn that lesson, but don't give up, keep coming back. We have to get our message out."
Kampia may feel disappointed about the response level to the New York Times ad, but he is definitely not giving up. "We may not be doing any more ads like that, but we will definitely continue to publicly call on the Bush administration to change their policy," he said. "We'll be doing other media shenanigans, news conferences, letters to the editor, civil disobedience."
7. Marijuana Foes Fall in California Elections
For the national media, the big story coming out of California's Tuesday primary elections was the stunning defeat of Richard Riordan, the Bush administration's choice to face incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in November general elections, by conservative Republican newcomer Bill Simon. While California marijuana advocates hailed Riordan's loss -- he had told reporters when asked about medical marijuana that he supported the federal law -- the real story for drug reformers lies in the results of some local races. For years, drug reformers have talked about making politicians "pay a price" for supporting the drug war. Now it appears to be beginning to happen, at least in Northern California.
According to a list made available to DRCNet by California NORML director Dale Gieringer, "medical marijuana supporters scored significant victories in several key races." Gieringer highlighted the following:
Gieringer is not ready for the medical marijuana movement to take credit for the defeats, though, but says the movement can take partial credit at best. A perusal of press accounts of some of the campaigns shows that drug policy was not a driving force in the races, and Gieringer agreed. "Medical marijuana and drug enforcement were not defining issues in any of these campaigns," he said, "but they did influence certain voters."
The medical marijuana issue certainly influenced voters in Humboldt County, said Marie Mills of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project (http://www.civilliberties.org), a grassroots nonprofit set up to confront police injustices whose origins lie in complaints from citizens about helicopter harassment from the annual Campaign Against Marijuana Production, the harvest-time mass raids by Northern California law enforcement. "It had a big part in the change," she told DRCNet. "The DA and the sheriff were refusing to enforce the medical marijuana laws, and not only did that influence the election, in southern Humboldt it brought out more people to vote."
Sheriff Lewis generated popular resentment with his stand on marijuana, said Mills. "This is the guy who turned in Dr. Tod Mikuriya to the medical board. This is the guy who said he didn't want doctors coming to the area to recommend medical marijuana. This is the guy who ran to the DEA when the judge told him he had to give back somebody's medicine," said Mills. "This is the guy who just got voted out of office."
"There has long been a feeling that law enforcement up north has not been as liberal as the people who live there," said Gieringer.
That situation is changing and medical marijuana and drug law enforcement in general is now helping to generate that change. Being "tough on drugs" has long seemed like a winner for vote-hungry politicians, but these results from California suggest that the drug war no longer is a sure bet and that, yes, drug warriors can be brought down for their misdeeds. To what degree repressive positions on drug policy contributed to defeats for the candidates mentioned here is difficult to determine and probably relatively small, but the electoral power of the drug reform movement is beginning to bite.
8. Hawaii "Treatment Not Jail" Bill Stalled as Key Legislator Unveils Plan for Popular Referendum on Issue
Last year, the first half of the Hawaii legislature's bifurcated two-year session, a "treatment not jail" bill backed by Gov. Benjamin Cayetano (D) that would have mandated probation and drug treatment for nonviolent, first-time drug possession offenders passed both the House and the Senate, only to remain bottled up awaiting action by a conference committee (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessioncurrent/bills/sb1188_.htm). Because this year's session is a continuation of last year's, only a reconciliation of minor differences between House and Senate versions of the bill in the conference committee stands between the measure and final votes in the two chambers. But in a surprise move, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Brian Kanno (D-Makakilo) last week pushed forward an alternative measure, much to the consternation of drug reformers, the state's Department of Public Safety and one of the state's leading newspapers.
In a hearing with very little public notice last week, Kanno's committee approved and sent on the Senate floor SB 883 (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessioncurrent/bills/sb883_sd1_.htm), which calls for a constitutional amendment mandating drug treatment for first-time nonviolent drug offenders. Under Hawaii law, such a measure must pass both houses of the legislature by a two-thirds vote and would then be placed on the November ballot for a popular vote.
Oddly enough, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure without hearing a single witness testify in favor of it. The ACLU of Hawaii, the Community Alliance on Prisons, and the state law enforcement bureaucracy and the Department of Pubic Safety all testified in opposition. Critics testified that they supported drug treatment instead of prison, but that Kanno's constitutional amendment was not the best way of achieving that end.
"The treatment not jail bill was stalled in conference committee last year because Kanno was worried about its provisions removing mandatory minimums for ice [smokable methamphetamine], Hawaii ACLU head Pam Lichty told DRCNet. "Ice is a big problem here, and Kanno is very concerned about what his constituents think about ice," she said. "This proposed constitutional amendment is a way for Kanno and the legislature to avoid the issue. If they want a treatment bill, SB1188 is a perfectly good bill. All they need to do is get it out of conference committee," she said.
Kanno, as head of the Senate Judiciary committee, is the person who will make that decision, Lichty said.
Both the ACLU and the Community Alliance on Prisons testified that they wanted legislators to support SB1188 instead of the constitutional amendment. Changing the penal code is the proper way to do sentencing reform, they said, not a constitutional amendment.
"The consensus among the knowledgeable is that you don't enact penal reforms via a constitutional amendment -- it's unwieldy and inappropriate," said Lichty. "In this case, they're replacing a well thought-out 25-page bill with a one-sentence question to voters. If the constitutional amendment were to pass instead of SB1188, there would inevitably be months of delays in implementation. Hawaii has a prison overcrowding crisis right now; we can't wait," she said.
Kanno's maneuver has also earned the wrath of the Honolulu Advertiser. In a Tuesday editorial, the newspaper lambasted the lawmaker for his shenanigans. "If Kanno comes to believe that treatment for nonviolent drug offenders is simply the better way, then there is no need to pussyfoot around a constitutional amendment," the newspaper wrote. "Kanno should lead, follow, or get out of the way. Treatment instead of incarceration for first-time drug offenders is way overdue and should become law this year."
Although Lichty said drug reformers would prefer action on the senate bill, "if this constitutional amendment goes forward and it is the only thing on the table, we'll support it. Just as with SB1188, we have some differences of opinion on coerced treatment, but the board of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (http://www.dpfhi.org) has voted to support these kinds of efforts. We have been at the table helping to craft these bills, and most of us see this as progress," she said.
SB1188 has its limitations -- it is restricted to first-time drug possession offenders, for instance, excluding many habitual drug users, as well as even small-time drug dealers -- and its provisions mandating probation and court-ordered drug treatment will find little favor with ardent anti-prohibitionists, but politics is the art of the possible, said Lichty.
"We had to make the bill politically palatable if we wanted it to pass," Lichty said. "We don't have a citizen initiative process here, and we had to work with the legislators. Everyone thought we did the best we could in the circumstances."
Lichty was not prepared to prognosticate on the fate of the bills. "The legislature closes on May 4," she said, "so we still have some time, and it could move pretty fast if the legislators are willing. We think the constitutional amendment doesn't have much chance, but with a threatened lawsuit over prison overcrowding hanging over all this, SB1188 could move."
9. Scotland Ends Drug War, Sort Of
A flurry of newspaper headlines in the Scottish press over the weekend announced a pending drug policy shift in Scotland, but there may be less to the move than meets the eye. Both the Glasgow Sunday Herald and the Scotland on Sunday newspapers ran articles this week touting comments by Scottish officials named and unnamed about a soon-to-be released overhaul of Scottish drug policy. More than anything, though, the reports seem to herald a shift in emphasis from the shrill anti-drug propaganda of the Nancy Reagan school to less tendentious information-sharing in the harm reduction mode.
Dr. Richard Simpson, the deputy justice minister and point-man for Scottish drug policy, set off the furor with comments in an interview with the Glasgow Sunday Herald: "The only time you will hear me use such terms as 'war on drugs' and 'just say no' is to denigrate them," said Simpson. "I've never used the term 'teach children how to take drugs,' but what I would say is that we need to provide them with information. We need to say 'we'd rather you didn't take ecstasy, but if you make that decision, here are the risks,'" Simpson said.
"It is pretty clear that the 'just say no' types of messages have not had any effect," an unnamed source in the First Minister's office told Scotland on Sunday. "They are not leading young people to try to find out more information about drugs, which is the best way of preventing them from taking drugs and to ensure they are informed of the dangers."
Providing solid information is key, said Simpson. "We have to give them all the information they need to take responsibility for themselves," he said. "It's not about wagging a finger at young people as they won't pay attention to that, so it's not worthwhile. We've got to be very realistic and not say 'you're going to die if you take ecstasy,' what we will say is 'some people do die when they take ecstasy but we don't truly know why,'" he explained.
"We can't pretend that we're going to stop the availability of drugs," Simpson added.
Simpson and his boss, Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell, were reacting to a drumbeat of bad news on the drug front, including a recent finding by Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Education that pegged the number of hard-core Scottish drug users at 56,000, nearly double projections from 1998, despite decades of "just say no" drug policies pursued by Scottish governments of all political hues. A survey released last month only added to McConnell's and his Labor government's discomfiture. That study found that at least 40% of schoolchildren aged 12-15 had been offered drugs. The grim Scottish hard drug scene, immortalized in Irvine Welsh's novel, "Trainspotting" (later made into a movie), has led to as many as 6,000 deaths since 1980, with an average of 290 people dying of drug-related causes each year.
Now, the Scottish Executive will turn to harm reduction measures, such as drug treatment, methadone maintenance, and possibly, ecstasy testing kits, the press reports say. Simpson told the Sunday Herald there must be "adequate resources" for all drug abusers and attacked the use of imprisonment for drug offenders. "Drug addicts going into prison and coming back out again is a waste of public money," he said. "It neither addresses their offending behavior nor does it cut crime. It's purposeless. We have our priorities wrong," the Scottish drug czar said.
That will begin to shift with the formal announcement of the Scottish Executive's drug communication strategy later this month. According to reports in the Sunday Herald, Scotland on Sunday and the London Observer, the new campaign will use TV, newspaper and billboard advertising to provide harm reduction information to Scots. According to the Observer, Scottish drug authorities were concerned by poll results showing that while most Scots were aware of the police role in combating drug abuse, few were aware of the array of drug prevention and treatment services already available.
While Simpson agreed with British Home Secretary David Blunkett's plan to down-schedule cannabis and suggested that the issues of decriminalization and legalization "have to be addressed," there is no sign that the Scottish Executive is about to go beyond the harm reduction measures mentioned above. In fact, a spokesman for the Executive took pains to tell BBC that the measures should not be seen as a sign that the Labor government was "going soft on drugs." And just in case anyone missed the point, another unnamed spokesman told the Scotsman newspaper on Monday that there would be "no let-up" in drug enforcement.
But even the halfway measures hinted at this week are too much for local anti-drug crusaders. "The Executive needs to be very careful with its message," said Gaille McCann, cofounder of Mothers Against Drugs. "They are in danger of promoting drug use, which opens up more avenues for people to use drugs," she told Scotland on Sunday.
Past DRCNet coverage of Scotland:
Scottish Parliament Members Call for Dutch-Style Coffeehouses as Legalization Debate Heats Up (7/7/00)
10. ENCOD Letter to UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs Annual Meeting
Reader of this newsletter
may already know that DRCNet is in the process of organizing a series of
conferences in different parts of the world, focusing on the root issue
of repealing drug prohibition. One of our partners in this effort
is the European NGO Council on Drugs and Development (ENCOD). This
week ENCOD released a letter on behalf of the International Coalition of
NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies, addressed to the Annual Meeting
of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations, taking place
in Vienna next week. The following is the text of the letter:
(For further information, e-mail ENCOD at [email protected], visit http://www.encod.org or call 00 32 (0)3 272 5524. ENCOD can also be reached by mail at Lange Nieuwstraat 147, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium.)
11. Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia
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].)
March 10, 11:00am, Tallahassee, FL, "The Cost of Prohibition," featuring John Chase of The November Coalition, Allen Turnage of Florida NORML and Toni Latino of Floridians for Medical Rights. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee. Contact [email protected] for further information.
March 11, 7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, Public Meeting with the League of American Marijuana Patients & Supporters, with special guest Captain Kevin Cashman of the San Francisco Police Department's Narcotics Division, explaining SFPD guidelines relating to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. At the Women's Building, 3543 18th St. near Valencia, Mission District. Visit http://www.thehempevolution.org or call (415) 487-0561 for info.
March 13, 4:00pm, Washington, DC, Book Forum on "Drug War Addiction," by Sheriff Bill Masters, with comments by former federal prosecutor William Otis. Free of charge, reception following, at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., NW. Contact Julie Johnson at (202) 842-0200 ext. 435 or [email protected] to register.
March 13, 9:00 and 11:00pm ET/PT, "Guilt By Association," the Court TV cable network's first original movie, a gripping dramatization of mandatory minimum sentencing and drug conspiracy laws, starring Mercedes Ruehl.
March 14, 5:30-7:30pm, San Francisco, CA, "The Prison Business: Who Pays? Who Profits?" Panel and discussion moderated by John Irwin, ex-convict, author, activist, with Ruthie Gimore, James Austin and Deborah Vargas. At the Delancey Street Foundation, 600 Embarcadero, contact Virginia at (415) 753-6602 or [email protected] for further information.
March 14, 6:00pm, Washington, DC, First "Kick the Drug War Addiction" dinner, hosted by the Libertarian Party, featuring Colorado Sheriff Bill Masters. At the Hotel Washington, 515 15th Street, NW, $50 admission, reserve these or higher level tickets at http://www.lp.org/contribute?prog=mastersdinner&fund=2002-0042 online.
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 16, 5:00-10:00pm, Hood River, OR, MAMA Benefit Dance, supporting Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse harm reduction drug education program. At Dee Fire Hall, in the pear and apple orchards outside town, featuring the Irish-flavored music of Rockwork, as well as food and beverages and a silent auction. For further information, contact Sandee at (541) 298-1031 or e-mail [email protected].
March 19, San Francisco, CA, "Meeting Challenges in the 21st Century: New Perspective and Practical Tools," 1st West Coast African Americans in Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition with the American Foundation for AIDS Research, admission free. At Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, contact Amu Ptah at Amu Ptah at 212-213-6376 ext. 32 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
March 22, 8:00am-5:00pm, Tallahassee, FL, Educational Display on the Shafer Report and the Jenks & Musikka Decisions. In the rotunda of the Capitol, sponsored by Floridians for Medical Rights, Florida NORML and the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Contact [email protected] for 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.
March 26, 6:00-8:00pm, New York, NY, "American Drug Laws, The New Jim Crow Justice," kick-off and fundraiser for the John W. Perry Fund, providing scholarships to students losing financial aid because of drug convictions. Sponsored by the DRCNet Foundation, featuring former ACLU director Ira Glasser, with representatives of DRCNet, SSDP, friends of John Perry and others, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 64th and Central Park West. RSVP to [email protected] or (212) 362-1964, and visit http://www.drcnet.org for further information.
April 2, Grand Junction, CO, Protest for Liberty and Against Victimless Crimes. At City Hall, Mesa County Justice Center, visit http://students.mesastate.edu/~jahawk/ for information.
April 7-16, upstate New York, New York Interfaith Prison Pilgrimage, mile per day or more walk to major prisons "to vigil, pray, and seek a new, more humane response" to incarceration and the prison system. For further information, visit http://users.bestweb.net/~cureny/walk.htm or contact the Western New York Peace Center at (716) 894-2013, the Judicial Process Commission at (716) 325, 7727, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].
April 8, 9:00am-noon, Philadelphia, PA, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Judges forum sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, at Temple University School of Law, Kiva Auditorium (Ritter Hall Annex), $35.00 with CLE credit, $10.00 without, contact Roseanne Scotti at (215) 746-7370 or [email protected] for information or to register.
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 13, 1:00-10:00pm, Tallahassee, FL, "Tallahassee Hemp Culture Fest." Bands and speakers to be announced, contact Florida State University NORML at [email protected] for 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 19-20, Sweetwater, TN, "Freedom Fest," sponsored by NORML UTK. Visit http://www.webnow.com/goldenboy/ to order tickets, or contact Rachel at [email protected] for further information.
April 19-21, Seattle, WA, Amnesty International USA 2002 Annual General Meeting. At the Renaissance Madison Hotel, visit http://www.aiusa.org for further information. (Dues-paying Amnesty members will have the opportunity to vote on a groundbreaking anti-drug war resolution.)
April 20, Eau Claire, WI, noon, Hemp Festival with UWEC SSDP. Music, information, speakers, raffle and more, at the Eau Claire Rod and Gun Park, visit http://www.uwec.edu/Student/CHILI/ for further information.
April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 for further information.
April 20, noon, Kingston, RI, Fourth Annual "Day for HOPE," sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Hemp Organization for Prohibition Elimination. On the URI Quad, e-mail Thomas Angell at [email protected] for further information.
April 20, 3:00-8:00pm, Atlanta, GA, "Atlanta 420," regional gathering of marijuana activists and reformers with entertainment, speakers and organizations. Presented by CAMP, in Piedmont Park, in downtown Atlanta, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.worldcamp.org or call (404) 522-2267 for information.
April 20, 2002. Moscow Hemp Festival in Moscow, Idaho. E-mail [email protected] for more information.
April 24-27, Albuquerque, NM, "Public Health for All is Justice Served," Twelfth North American Syringe Exchange Convention. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.nasen.org or call (253) 272-4857.
April 27-28, Middletown, CT, "Northeast Summit for New Drug Policies." Regional gathering of anti-prohibition thinkers and activists, hosted by Wesleyan University Students for Sensible Drug Policy but intended for interested parties of all ages. Contact Booth Haley at (860) 658-4350 or e-mail [email protected] for info.
May 3-4, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, the Oregon Nurses Association and Oregon Health Division, for further information visit e-mail [email protected], http://www.medicalcannabis.com or call (434) 263-4484.
May 4, international, "Million Marijuana March," demonstrations in many cities worldwide. Visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org/mmm/ for information and local event listings.
June 22, Philadelphia, PA, "Mid-Atlantic Criminal Justice Colloquium: Fostering Compassion, Dignity and Hope," colloquium organized by the Drug Concerns Working Group of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). For further information or to get involved, contact Melissa Whaley at (856) 303-0280 or [email protected].
December 1-4, Seattle, WA, "Taking Drug Users Seriously," Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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