Message from the Executive Director: Another Year at DRCNet and in Drug Policy Reform 12/26/03

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/26/03

David Borden
Every year is different in drug policy reform. Past years have seen exciting victories at the ballot box for sentencing reform, medical marijuana and asset forfeiture. 2002 saw some defeats in that arena. 2003 was more of a "keep plugging" sort of year -- most of the action was in Congress and the legislatures, in protests and demonstrations, and of course the general process of educating the public about the terrible consequences of criminal prohibition of drugs. Things went well or badly in the states, depending on where you looked and at what you looked. In Congress, our side lost two important votes this summer, on medical marijuana and Plan Colombia. But at a different level, the votes were victories -- support for medical marijuana increased by more than 60% since the last such vote five years before; and the Plan Colombia vote was razor thin, a margin that not so long ago would have seemed inconceivable.

Just as every year is different in the issue, every organization is different too. I'd like to take a moment to talk about some of the things we are doing here at DRCNet, and some of the things we'd like to do if we find financial help. Before I do so, I also want to mention -- as many of you already know -- that 2003 was a difficult year in drug reform funding overall, and DRCNet was not spared from financial hits. If you can afford to make an end-year donation -- a tax-deductible one to the DRCNet Foundation, if that is helpful to you, or a non-deductible gift for our lobbying work to the Drug Reform Coordination Network. If you can't make one now, but can pledge something for the first month or quarter or half of next year, that would help too. We are trying to balance next year's budget, and though things look promising, we also need a bit more in confirmed pledges or actual money in the bank if we are to avoid cutbacks that will significantly undermine our ability to do this work. You can donate online by credit card at or print out a form to send in with a check or money order by mail to P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Or free to give us a call at (202) 293-8340; ask for me or for our associate director, David Guard, and contact us if you would like information on how to donate stocks.

DRCNet's action plan includes two components that DRCNet readers know well, this newsletter as well as our action alerts. More generally, educating and mobilizing the masses on issues from sentencing to needle exchange to Plan Colombia to medical marijuana, supporting the work and amplifying the messages of all the other groups making up the drug policy reform movement, helping new groups start, is all a critical part of our work.

With your help and with some likely grants in the works, we will continue publishing Drug War Chronicle -- the only comprehensive publication of original journalism on drug policy and the reform movement. We believe that 2004 will see Drug War Chronicle's subscriber base soar to over 40,000 e-mail recipients, and many more than that accessing it via the web, but we need your help to ensure that this happens. Also with your help, we will resume our web-based write-to-Congress web sites -- the larger the Chronicle list gets, the more important our list becomes for lobbying too, and the action alert web sites also help to grow the list. One member with a friend has pledged $100 per month by credit card to support our use of this service. Would you sign up to give a monthly contribution, small or large, to bring us closer to the goal? Visit to sign up today!

DRCNet entering 2004 is more than just information, though -- please continue and read about the rest of our programs:

Arnold Trebach introduces
Senator Nolin of Canada and
Marco Cappato of the European
Parliament at the DC Out from
the Shadows
news conference.

Out from the Shadows -- our international campaign and conference series calling for an end to drug prohibition and building an "edifice of opinion leaders" going on the record calling for legalization ( Out from the Shadows has gotten a great start, with a 300-person conference at the Autonomous University of the Yucatan, Mérida, Mexico, featuring five members of national parliaments of Latin America (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay) and leaders from the ranks of academia, government, law enforcement, harm reduction, cocalero organizing, media and others. Out from the Shadows Mérida set a record by drawing more high-level participation than any previous drug reform conference in history! Allies organized other Out from the Shadows events, including a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and a DC press conference with Canada's Senator Pierre Claude Nolin. We are seeking $50,000 in seed money to make the next conference possible -- if you know any individuals or foundations who might be interested in Out from the Shadows, please put us in touch!

Higher Education Act Reform -- DRCNet continues to lead, in partnership with our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the campaign to repeal a federal law that delays or denies federal financial aid for college to students because of drug convictions ( Our accomplishments in this area include two other drug reform records -- ten members of Congress speaking at our Capitol Hill press conference calling for repeal of the provision and 67 cosponsors of the bill to repeal it (current count 64), the strongest showing for any positive drug reform legislation before Congress in recent years. HEA offers our movement its first chance to repeal a federal drug law in full since the Boggs Laws (earlier mandatory minimum sentences) were taken off the books in 1970; and achieving that repeal will in turn shift the climate on Capitol Hill in favor of further changes in drug laws.

Ten members of Congress
spoke at our May 2002
HEA press conference.
We have just received a $25,000 grant from the Tides Foundation Fund for Drug Policy Reform for the HEA campaign, and are seeking roughly $10,000 to complete the current project's budget and another $10,000 to expand it. The current project involves grassroots mobilizations in states around the country lobbying Republican Senators to cosponsor the first Senate repeal bill with Sen. Ted Kennedy, who has given his commitment to introduce the repeal bill once such a cosponsor is found. The expansion plan would include a series of forums around the state of Ohio, efforts to start and energize SSDP chapters around the state, substantial local media work, promotion around the state of a student government resolution calling for the law's repeal, grassroots mobilizing and campaigning, "grass-tops" high-level lobbying, more. We will also need further funds by April to continue the campaign on to further stages.

The Perry Fund -- We are seeking funding for a national media/fundraising/organizing campaign built around the John W. Perry Fund, our scholarship program for students who have lost financial aid because of drug convictions. We recently had an initial success in this area, an excellent article in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Oregon, featuring Perry Fund grantee Melanie Cavyell of Linn Benton College ( Also, a Perry Fund PSA has run or is currently running on about two-dozen campus radio stations around the country.

Perry Fund grantee Donald Miller, with David Borden
and former Urban Justice Center intern Gabe Freiman

You can help with this in the meantime. We have five students in a variety of locations around the country whose education we have helped fund -- all of it with donations given expressly for the Perry Fund, not with our general support donations -- and we would like to continue supporting them for at least one more semester. (Four of them will be eligible again for aid after that.) We have received several more completed applications from additional deserving would-be students. Most of our grantees have decided to go public telling their story, a courageous act that does more to fuel discussion of the issue than perhaps anything else.

What we are asking is that those of you who know of individuals or foundations, preferably who are not currently active drug reform supporters but who may have compatible values, to tell them about the Perry Fund and put them in touch with us. In many of these cases, one or two of a few thousand dollars is enough to get the students through a semester or more. A small gift to the Perry Fund, and participation in media work if they are willing, could be a great way to bring a new donor into the movement. We currently have completed applications from students or would-be students in New York City, Oregon, California, Colorado, Idaho, Las Vegas, metro-Washington DC/Virginia, Washington state, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and elsewhere. Visit for more information on the scholarship. The Perry Fund is charity but it is also something more, it is a statement.

Under-treatment of Pain -- We are currently seeking funding for a major, behind-the-scenes effort to bring massive pressure to bear on police and prosecutors to stop their monstrous persecution of doctors who aggressively treat chronic pain patients with opioids (narcotics); and to help groups in the pain movement take their work to the next level to make that possible.

I hope this leaves you with a better idea of what DRCNet is about and how important your support of our organization is to the issue. With your help, there is hope for change! Thank you for being a part of drug policy reform.

-- END --
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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #317, 12/26/03 Message from the Executive Director: Another Year at DRCNet and in Drug Policy Reform | Canadian Supreme Court Upholds Marijuana Law -- Cannabis Battle Heads Back to Parliament | The New Jersey Weedman is Back! Forchion Announces House Bid Before Arrest at Liberty Bell Pot-Smoking Religious Demo | Newsbrief: The Complete List of President Bush's Drug War Prisoner Pardons | Newsbrief: Return of the Undead, Part I -- "B-1 Bob" Dornan to Challenge Rohrabacher in House Race, Attacks Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Return of the Undead, Part II -- Arch-Drug Warrior McCollum Seeks Florida GOP Senate Nod | Newsbrief: Prohibition-Terror Link? | Newsbrief: Cable Giant Censors Medical Marijuana Issue Ads in New Hampshire | Newsbrief: Todd McCormick Released from Federal Prison | Newsbrief: Why Don't People Seek Treatment? | Popular Television News and Drama Programs to Discuss Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in January | BUSTED: New and Improved Video Offer from DRCNet | DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | The Reformer's Calendar

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