(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #383 -- 4/22/05
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 4/22/05
Imagine the sentence is 20 years. Now how do you feel?
Senseless members of Congress like Wisconsin's James Sensenbrenner have forgotten that a year of incarceration is a very harsh punishment. They feel compelled to find new and creative ways to send more people to prison for years or decades. Whether it helps the drug situation or not.
They must be stopped. The Sensenbrenner bill is a moral outrage, an Act not only of legislation but of terrible cruelty. Many, many lives will be destroyed if it passes, for no legitimate rationale and with no benefit to society. How many of the stories must be told -- how many of Sensenbrenner's own ideological allies must speak out against mandatory minimum sentencing, Chief Justice Rehnquist himself -- before the unreasonable, if unwilling to admit error, will at least back down?
Now is not the time to create new mandatory minimums. Now is the time to end mandatory minimums. The Supreme Court's rendering of sentencing guidelines as advisory to judges rather than binding was a rare act of wisdom and a beginning for the restoration of reason and justice to our criminal justice system. Entrenching the same and worse mistakes with this new bill would be ignorant at best. Mandatory minimums should be ended for the same reasons the Court struck the guidelines and more.
History may not demonize the Sensenbrenners of the world individually. But America's prison madness will indeed be remembered as a moral blindness and a blight which ruined so much life so unjustly. Those who stand up and say "no" will at least know we did our part to help right an historic wrong. Let us all join that chorus today.
House conservatives led by Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) are moving ahead with a draconian anti-drug bill that would set harsh new mandatory minimum sentences for federal drug crimes as well as creating new drug crimes with even more harsh mandatory minimums. The bill passed the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on April 12, and while a Judiciary Committee vote some feared could take place as early as this week has not yet occurred, the bill is alive and could move quickly.
Drug and sentencing reform advocates grouped in the Justice Roundtable have banded together to oppose the measure, with lead roles taken by the Open Society Institute, the Drug Policy Alliance, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Justice Policy Institute, La Raza, the Marijuana Policy Project, and The Sentencing Project. The groups have created a web site -- http://www.mandatorymadness.org -- that provides information and a template for letters to Congress on the issue.
Gifted with the Orwellian title of "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act," HR 1528 might more appropriately be known as the "Federal Prison Drug Offender Overflow Assurance Act." Among the bill's most egregious provisions:
"This is one of the worst, most needlessly draconian bills I've seen in 10 years in Washington," said Drug Policy Alliance national political affairs director Bill Piper. "It is shocking that Sensenbrenner would introduce such a bill both because it contains a bunch of brand new mandatory minimums when everyone else is criticizing them and because with its sentencing 'fix' and tightening up the safety valve it seems to fly in the face of what representatives voted for six years ago, when they moved to let first-time low-level offenders escape mandatory minimums," he told DRCNet.
"It's a bill that goes way too far," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It proposes incredibly harsh penalties for infractions such as 'enticing' someone who was once upon a time in drug treatment to smoke a joint. That would be a five-year sentence for a first offender," he told DRCNet. "And 10 years for distribution of marijuana to a minor. Even members of Congress were asking if that meant someone could go to prison for 10 years for sharing a joint at a fraternity party. Ten-year mandatory minimums are insane!"
The bill combines reflexive drug-fighting with burning conservative hostility to the federal judiciary, said Piper. "Sensenbrenner and others have this sense that judges aren't punishing people enough, that they have too much discretion. There is a whole sort of craziness going on up here around judges, a feeling that they're a law unto themselves, that they're legislating from the bench. Then you have things like same sex marriage and Terry Schiavo, and it all just kind of blends together in a hatred of judges," Piper said.
But the very hostility toward the judiciary and desire for stiffer punishments that have impelled the bill forward so far may serve to kill it in the end -- it may be too much even for this Republican-controlled conservative Congress. "There is definitely a sense in Congress, even among Republicans, that they should just wait and see how the sentencing stuff plays out before they over-react," said Piper. "We have that going for us. We can use that same 'wait and see' argument with the mandatory minimums as well. It may not be much noticed, but there is a growing trend of conservatives talking about the over-federalization of crime, and if you look at the Sensenbrenner bill, you see that state laws are able to prosecute the offenses it describes. It's one thing to create new federal laws to toughen penalties on international drug traffickers, but it's something else altogether to make a federal crime out of selling an eighth-ounce of marijuana or a gram of cocaine outside a drug treatment center."
"The bill is not flying through," agreed MPP's Fox. "Our sense is that the sentencing 'fix,' which we thought might be a reason for the bill to move quickly, has now ended up being more of a source of controversy than we originally anticipated. There are even some Republicans who are questioning the wisdom of not only that, but of mandatory minimums themselves." Two subcommittee members, Reps. Dan Lundgren (R-CA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) expressed skepticism about mandatory minimums and when the bill was voted on, only voted present, Fox noted.
The bill could move forward if the sentencing "fix" provision were eliminated, Fox said. "Then we would be back to the bill we had last year that created all those mandatory minimums," and that would still be bad news, he said.
Now is the time for people to mobilize, said Piper. "People need to call their members of Congress and say they oppose mandatory minimum sentencing. Unless their members are on the Judiciary Committee, it's probably too early to mention this bill, but the message we've been getting out is that we need to not overreact, we need to take things nice and slow. Congress needs to hear that it could make things far worse if it acts too quickly. They shouldn't be trying to fix the Supreme Court decisions in a few rushed sessions; they should be having hearings."
This bill is one onrushing locomotive that needs to be derailed, but for some reformers it's not that the train needs to be stopped but that the tracks need to be torn up.
For Nora Callahan, director of the November Coalition, a national group that highlights the stories and voices of people imprisoned under the drug laws, the Sensenbrenner bill represents the thrashing of a deeply wounded, but still dangerous, drug prohibition regime. "Before spirit leaves a living being and death replaces life, beast or not, a creature often groans in a monstrous way," she told DRCNet. "No one should assume that death of the drug war is near. I've seen what I thought was a dead dog come back to life, and people, too."
While some drug reformers are working the Hill to stop the Sensenbrenner bill, Callahan and the November Coalition are calling on others to join them in an August march on Washington as part of a coalition led by Alabama radio host Roberta Franklin, who has formed Friends and Family of Incarcerated People. While not specifically targeting this legislation, the Journey for Justice will call for an end to the mass imprisonment of Americans on drug charges. "If we don't come to Washington DC on the morning of August 13th and support this genuine grassroots effort in a grand way, the beast won't be put down," said Callahan. "And this beast of a drug war needs putting down. It's nothing but misery."
The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it has approved Sativex, a prescription pharmaceutical product derived from marijuana extracts, as a treatment for the relief of neuropathic pain in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). While Canada already has a medical marijuana program, Tuesday's step marks the first time any government in the Western Hemisphere has approved a natural, marijuana-based medicine since marijuana prohibition begun in the last century. Patients and advocates cheered the approval of the cannabis-based medicine, but some marijuana law reformers raised concerns about the potential political implications of the move.
Produced by the British company GW Pharmaceuticals and marketed in Canada by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, Sativex is a spray administered under the tongue through a spray pump. A study of Sativex's efficacy in treating neuropathic pain related to MS found that the formulation provided significantly greater pain relief than a placebo and significantly reduced pain-related sleep disturbances.
GW Pharmaceuticals had originally hoped to win approval to introduce Sativex in Great Britain in 2003, when the British government granted the company a license to cultivate marijuana for medical research purposes. But last December, British authorities put the plan on hold, saying they wanted more evidence about its benefits. The company said this week it also plans to take "first steps" to seek approval in the United States. Sativex should be available in Canada by the beginning of summer, GW said.
"I think it's a good product and it is great to improve the options people have for accessing cannabis therapies," said Philippe Lucas, director of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society and head of the medical marijuana defense group Canadians for Safe Access. "The government's approval also serves to illustrate the hypocrisy of our drug laws," he told DRCNet. "You can have a plant-based medicine available through prescription, but medical marijuana is available only through an onerous bureaucracy and to not very many people. It's like having Vitamin C on the shelf, but outlawing oranges."
"Effective pain control and management are extremely important in a disease like MS," said Dr. Allan Gordon, Neurologist and Director of the Wasser Pain Management Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario. "The approval of Sativex in Canada reflects the urgent need for additional treatment options in the field of neuropathic pain in MS."
"We are very pleased that Health Canada did approve Sativex," said Deanna Groetzinger, vice-president for communications for the MS Society of Canada. "We think it is a good step forward for people with MS who have neuropathic pain. It provides another choice for people with MS and their physicians to treat pain that can be debilitating," she told DRCNet.
Many Canadian MS patients use or have used medical marijuana, said Groetzinger. "Some of the MS clinics have done studies to see how many patients use marijuana and how much. What they have found is that a good number try it, and some stay with it, but others stop because they don't like the side affects or they don't think it is helping or they're worried about the illegality. Now those patients will have one more option."
The decision also drew praise from south of the border. "This confirms that virtually everything the US government has told us about marijuana is wrong," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "GW Pharmaceuticals has proven -- and the Canadian government has acknowledged -- that marijuana is indeed a medicine, one that is both effective and remarkably safe. This natural plant extract is nothing like Marinol, the THC pill sold in the United States, and GW's research shows conclusively that marijuana's medical benefits go far beyond THC. The bottom line is that patients should have access to marijuana in whatever form they and their doctors find most useful. Sativex is to marijuana as a cup of coffee is to coffee beans, and there is simply no justification for arresting patients for using different varieties of the same medication."
But while there was much joy at the approval of Sativex and the validation of marijuana as medicine, there were also concerns, both practical and political. "We don't know how much it will cost," said Groetzinger, noting that GW and Bayer had yet to set a price. "That is a concern."
"How expensive will it be?" echoed Barb St. Jean, editor of Cannabis Health magazine and executive director of the Cannabis Health Foundation in Grand Forks, BC. "If we're talking Marinol prices, which are outrageous, how many will be able to afford it?"
That question will be answered soon enough, but questions about the political impact of the approval of a marijuana-based prescription drug will be more difficult to settle. Marijuana reform advocates on both sides of the border worried about whether governments will use Sativex as a wedge against smoked marijuana, medicinal or otherwise. GW Pharmaceutical's recent announcement that it had hired former deputy drug czar Dr. Andrea Barthwell as a consultant for campaign to win approval for Sativex in the US isn't helping them rest any easier. As recently as two months ago, Barthwell was campaigning against medical marijuana; now her job will be to help push a marijuana-based prescription drug.
"I just emailed GW with a bunch of questions about Barthwell," said St. Jean, "but in their reply, all they did was confirm that they had hired her. I asked them if they were alienating the herbal community. No reply."
"When we look at the recent hiring of Andrea Barthwell, we see the ruthlessness with which GW is charging at the American market," said Lucas. "We are right to have some concerns about the impact of this on drug reform in general. The fear is that this will be used as tool in the arsenal of prohibitionists to further restrict options of Canadians using medical marijuana. The fear is that Health Canada could use this as an excuse to either shut down or further restrict the already incredibly restrictive federal medical marijuana program. I am not suggesting that GW has nefarious intentions, but the product could lead to a shift in policy that could have a negative impact on medical marijuana users, cultivators, and distributors."
Those political implications could extend to the US, said Hilary McQuie of Americans for Safe Access. "It is really important we don't let them use Sativex against us," she told DRCNet. "We need to make sure they can't claim that this has the medical marijuana movement shaking in its boots because there is this pharmaceuticalized form out there now. Instead, we need to make sure our foes have to admit that marijuana is medicine now," she told DRCNet.
Meanwhile, shares of GW Pharmaceuticals climbed 10% this week on the news.
A tough drugs and crime bill that some observers hoped was only a campaign tool for the Labor Party in advance of next month's general election has passed both houses of parliament and is set to become the law of the land. The bill, launched as part of a populist Labor "tough on crime" crusade before the election, was approved earlier by the House of Commons and rushed through the House of Lords during "wash-up week" when last-minute parliamentary business is taken care of, and received Royal Assent on April 7. Its various provisions will take effect as the British government enacts commencement orders.
Conceived in Prime Minister Tony Blair's office as a show of toughness designed to blunt Conservative attacks, the act bypassed the government's own drug advisory experts. Attacked by MPs, leading drug policy organizations, and civil liberties organizations, the bill nonetheless passed under the parliamentary discipline exercised by Blair's Labor Party and with the agreement of the opposition Conservatives and even the Liberal Democrats.
"This is a travesty," said Danny Kushlick of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation as the bill moved through the House of Lords. "The bill has no support and is universally criticized by all sides. The passing of this legislation makes a mockery of the entire apparatus of the legislative process."
Drawing the most attention is the bill's criminalization of the possession and sale of fresh psychedelic mushrooms, mostly psilocybe cubensis. Although psychedelics were outlawed under Britain's existing anti-drug legislation, the old law only criminalized the possession and use of processed mushrooms. As a result, a thriving industry of psychedelic mushroom sellers has sprung up in the Sceptered Isle and previous government efforts to suppress have been blocked by the courts. Under the new law, fresh psychedelic mushrooms move from being a legal, taxable product to being scheduled as a Class A drug -- those drugs classified as most dangerous -- along with heroin and cocaine. Possession or sale of said mushrooms could now bring a life sentence.
"By no stretch of the imagination can you equate magic mushrooms with heroin or cocaine," said Lord Benjamin Mancroft, a member of the all-party group on the misuse of drugs and chairman of Mentor UK, a group that seeks to reduce drug misuse by young people. "There's no evidence magic mushrooms are addictive, cause harm to people, or are a public order problem. The bill is completely disproportionate," he said during debate in the House of Lords. Mancroft also complained that the government pushed the bill through without a chance for proper debate in an apparent deal between Labor, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats.
"We are banning psilocybin, a natural product that will disappear from the market, possibly to be replaced by drugs such as fly agaric, a far more dangerous drug," he said. "It's election politics pure and simple."
According to the British Home Office, the criminalization of mushrooms should be in place in time for June's annual Glastonbury Festival, when British counterculture gathers by the thousands. When it does come into effect, magic mushroom retailers have vowed to challenge it, saying it contravenes European free trade regulations.
But while the new law's magic mushroom provision has drawn the most attention, the drug bill also contains a number of other retrograde features:
And British drug reformers have their work cut out for them. They will work to undo the damage and possibly block some provisions from coming into effect, said Transform. "The various clauses of the bill are now subject to commencement orders and many of them will have consultations on how they will function in practice," the group noted. "Some of the clauses may never come into law, and there is considerable scope remaining to ensure that some of the clauses are modified or repealed."
In the meantime, British drug users are now subject to new, more intense efforts at repression and Prime Minister Tony Blair can now polish his "tough on drugs" credentials as he campaigns to retain his seat on May 5.
A parliamentary report on the new drug bill is available online here.
Congressman Jim McDermott has agreed to deliver the keynote address for this event, which will take place on the evening of June 1st in downtown Seattle. We hope that you'll join DRCNet, KCBA, Rep. McDermott and others for this exciting occasion.
Emceeing the event will be KCBA's Roger Goodman, and additional speakers will include Andy Ko, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington; Dan Merkle, Center for Social Justice; Lisa Cipollone, Sen. Maria Cantwell's Office; Cindy Beavon, Students for Sensible Drug Policy; David Borden, DRCNet; others to be announced.
All proceeds will benefit the John W. Perry Fund, providing scholarships for students who have lost financial aid because of drug convictions while memorializing a hero of 9/11 and champion of drug policy reform and civil liberties. The Perry Fund is a project of DRCNet Foundation.
The Details: The event will take place on Wednesday, June 1, 2005, from 6:00-8:00pm, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Seattle, Third Floor Garden Pavilion, 1113 6th Ave., Seattle, WA. Please RSVP to [email protected] or (202) 362-0030. Light refreshments will be served, donations requested.
Jim McDermott is United States Representative for Washington's 7th Congressional District. Born in Chicago, IL on December 28, 1936, he was the first member of his family to attend college, and went on to finish medical school. After completing his medical residency and military service, he made his first run for public office in 1970 and served in the State Legislature from the 43rd district in Washington State. In 1974, he ran for the State Senate, and held the office for three terms. In 1987, after 15 years of legislative service, Rep. McDermott decided to leave politics and continue in public service as a Foreign Service medical officer based in Zaire, providing psychiatric services to Foreign Service, AID, and Peace Corps personnel in sub-Saharan Africa. When the 7th district Congressional seat later became open, he returned from Africa to run for the US House of Representatives. He began serving in 1989 to the 101st Congress and is currently serving his 9th term.
Please join us on June 1st in Seattle to thank Rep. McDermott for his support of this issue while raising money to help students stay in school! If you can't make it, you can also help by making a generous contribution to the DRCNet Foundation for the John W. Perry Fund. Checks should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, with "scholarship fund" or "John W. Perry Fund" written in the memo or accompanying letter, and sent to: DRCNet Foundation, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. DRCNet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, and your contribution will be tax-deductible as provided by law. Please let us know if we may include your name in the list of contributors accompanying future publicity efforts.
About John Perry: John William Perry was a New York City police officer and Libertarian Party and ACLU activist who spoke out against the "war on drugs." He was also a lawyer, athlete, actor, linguist and humanitarian. On the morning of September 11, 2001, John Perry was at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan filing retirement papers when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without hesitation he went to help, losing his life rescuing others. We decided to dedicate this scholarship program, which addresses a drug war injustice, to his memory. John Perry's academic achievements are an inspiring example for students: He was fluent in several languages, graduated from NYU Law School and prosecuted NYPD misconduct cases for the department. His web site is http://www.johnwperry.com.
Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org for further information on DRCNet. Visit http://www.kcba.org/druglaw/ for further information on the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project. Contact the Perry Fund at [email protected] or (202) 362-0030 to request a scholarship application, get involved in the HEA Campaign or with other inquiries, or visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com and http://www.ssdp.org online.
More jail guards gone bad, a Border Patrol agent pleads guilty, a former Puerto Rican cop gets busted in a Florida heroin dragnet, and New York City police take preemptive steps to stop corruption before it starts. But before we get to it, we should note a couple of important things. First, some of these reports are of arrests only -- not convictions -- and the accused deserve and should be accorded the presumption of innocence. Second, we do not glory in seeing police officers being severely punished for drug offenses. The case of the Pennsylvania jail guard who faces 25 years in prison for trying to smuggle what was apparently a small amount of marijuana into the jail is a perfect example of prosecutorial overkill. We don't like to see that happen to anybody. All right, now let's get to it:
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, county jail guard Amos Romero, 43, was arrested Sunday after being caught in a sting where he took money from an undercover officer to deliver what he thought was cocaine to a jail inmate, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Romero was arraigned Tuesday on two counts of conspiracy to traffic cocaine into the jail and remains in jail on two $100,000 cash-only bonds. The sting began early this month when a local narcotics task force heard from a jail inmate it called a "reliable source" that Romero conducted "many narcotics transactions with inmates," for between $150 and $300 per delivery. On April 6, Romero was stung, agreeing to take 3.1 grams of fake cocaine and $150 from a woman working with the task force. (Romero is apparently not only a crook but a cheat; he only delivered 1.9 grams of the fake coke.) On April 17, he was stung again and arrested while in uniform after making another surveilled transaction.
In Sunbury, Pennsylvania, another jail guard is in trouble. Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini announced Wednesday that guard Jeremy Bowersox, who worked at the Northumberland County Prison, has been arrested for trying to smuggle marijuana into the prison. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance, criminal attempt to deliver a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility, and bribery -- all felonies -- as well as misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia. He faces up to 25 years in prison. He went down as a result of an undercover operation by the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force.
In Orlando, an unnamed former Puerto Rican police officer was one of 15 people arrested by Central Florida drug agents taking down a heroin sales ring. Operation Dirty Dancing rolled up users and dealers in a series of raids last week. Investigators told WFTV in Orlando that the unnamed Puerto Rican former cop was one of the dealers.
In San Diego, former Border Patrol Agent Luis Higareda, 31, who was caught with 750 pounds of pot in his patrol vehicle in Imperial County has pleaded guilty in federal court to drug smuggling, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported April 15. Higareda is being held without bail and faces a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. That sentence will be handed down July 5. Higareda was observed by his coworkers loading duffel bags full of marijuana into his vehicle after meeting unknown people coming from Mexico. He led Border Patrol agents on a 20-mile chase before stopping and being arrested.
In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is taking preemptive steps to crack down on what he called a "cowboy culture" among narcotics detectives in the NYPD. The move comes after a special integrity committee set up by Kelly found "a climate of loose supervision" in the Organized Crime Control Bureau, which oversees drugs, as well as vice and auto crime, the New York Daily News reported. The bureau saw standards slip as it expanded from 1,500 cops to more than 4,300 in recent years, and the result "was a significant infusion of unqualified, inexperienced personnel who lacked the dedication and drive essential to a highly specialized unit," said the report. The review recommended changes to tighten controls over the bureau, including stricter oversight of snitches, an increase in the number of unannounced inspections and random monitoring of officers to ensure they show up in court. With cash seizures last year of more than $23 million, the potential for corruption exists, the review warned.
A bill that would eliminate the disparities in sentencing for offenses involving crack and powder cocaine is moving in the South Carolina legislature. First offense possession of either cocaine or methamphetamine would become a misdemeanor. But the news is not all good. Currently, those convicted of first offense crack possession face up to five years in prison, while those convicted of first offense powder cocaine possession face only a maximum two-year sentence. Under Senate Bill 16, both offenses would have a maximum three-year sentence, so while crack offenders would see a reduction in possible sentences, powder offenders face more serious penalties.
The bill removes the distinction between crack and powder cocaine from state law, as well as the distinction between ice and methamphetamine, and brings the penalties for all cocaine offenses in line with those for methamphetamines. It also defines methamphetamine trafficking as "violent crimes" for sentencing purposes and adds new meth-related offenses, such as possession of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine.
The measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee April 13, and faces a full Senate vote. Judiciary Committee members rejected on a 12-2 vote an amendment from Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) that would require mandatory minimum prison sentences for cocaine and meth possession.
In a case that pits the Religious Freedom Restoration Act against the Controlled Substances Act, the Supreme Court announced Monday it would hear the Justice Department's appeal of a series of federal court rulings that it cannot bar the US branch of a Brazilian religion from using the psychedelic Amazonian tea, ayahuasca, as a religious sacrament. The court agreed to review a November ruling by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals that held the US government cannot interfere with the Union of the Vegetable's (UDV) religious use of the tea despite its containing DMT, a controlled substance.
The UDV has picked up some unusual allies in its quest to use ayahuasca. In a friend of the court brief filed by the Christian Legal Society, Gregory Baylor wrote that trying to ban religious ayahuasca use was "tantamount to banning the wine served at a Roman Catholic mass." In passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, wrote Baylor and others, Congress intended to make religious freedom the top priority.
Students at the University of Colorado in Boulder (CU) have voted overwhelmingly to signal their support of equalizing campus disciplinary penalties for marijuana and alcohol. As DRCNet reported last week, a similar referendum two weeks ago was approved by students at Colorado State University in Fort Collins with 65% of the vote. But CU students outdid their brethren, approving the initiative with a whopping 86% of the vote.
Sponsored by the statewide group SAFER, or Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, the non-binding referenda ask university officials to consider the wishes of students in setting disciplinary policies. SAFER argues that using marijuana is safer for students than using alcohol, a substance which has been linked to five student deaths in the state last semester.
"We are very happy," SAFER director Mason Tyvert told the student newspaper the Daily Camera after the vote count. "This demonstrates what our organization and many students at CU feel, and that is that marijuana is safer than alcohol. The current penalties put forward by the university are not sensible."
University administrators, stung by a series of scandals and concerned about CU's reputation, quickly repudiated the show of student sentiment. In a statement released Monday, CU officials both denied there were significant differences in the school's alcohol and pot policies and vowed to ignore the referendum. "CU Boulder will not be bound by the outcome of the student referendum," the statement said.
Tyvert and SAFER have in turn vowed to keep the pressure on school officials. Calling the university's decision to ignore the referendum result's "hypocritical," SAFER scheduled a protest Wednesday 4/20 in front of the Coors Events Center on campus. Carrying signs reading "CU Promote Alcohol Use? Of Coors!" and "Coors Kills, Pot Does Not," students will demand the university respond more affirmatively. The Wednesday 4/20 protest came off successfully, as several hundred CU students and supporters played cat and mouse with campus police officers attempting to prevent them from lighting up in honor of 4/20.
In a call to end drug prohibition and a move to dramatize civil society's exclusion from the European Union's (EU) drug policy-making process, members of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies Thursday presented a peace pipe to EU representatives at a public hearing on the future of EU drug policies. Among those offered the pipe, specially designed for the event by German water pipe maker ROOR and signed by prominent European drug legalization advocates, was EU Justice Commissioner Frattini.
"To share a peace pipe is a common ritual among various civilizations across the globe," the continental drug reform umbrella group said. "The gesture is meant to create the right atmosphere for dialog between opponents."
"Today we need symbols more than ever," said Howard Marks, former cannabis offender turned legalizer and one of the signers of the pipe. "A good dialogue will lead to far-reaching and intelligent decisions, and as the Indians already knew, sharing the peace pipe will give us the courage to do so."
The European Parliament hearing comes in the wake of the "Catania Report," a set of recommendations for drug policy reform approved by the Parliament in December. That report, named after its author, Italian MEP Giusto Catania, described current policies as inadequate, called for health promotion as the founding principle of European drug policy, and recommending creating concrete measures to ensure the involvement of civil society organizations in policy-making.
While the European Parliament has proven to have a least limited sympathy for drug reform, the EU, in which governments are represented in the Council of Europe, has not. Its new action plan, released by the European Commission in February, completely ignored the recommendations of the parliament as embodied in the Catania Report.
In addition to offering the peace pipe and addressing representatives Thursday in a bid to win support for the conclusions of the Catania Report, ENCOD has also collected more than 35,000 signatures in an online petition to support the report, the group said.
A parliamentary exchange last week between Malaysian Parliamentary Secretary Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop and members of parliament (MPs) last week suggested the Malay government may be willing to consider providing drugs to dependent drug users. Experimental heroin maintenance programs are underway in Canada and various European countries, but the notions come as something of a surprise in a country where small-time drug traffickers get a mandatory death sentence and authorities claim they are fighting "an epidemic" of amphetamine-type stimulant (mainly meth and ecstasy) use.
The matter arose during parliament's April 13 Question Hour, when members are allowed to address ministers on any matter. MP Baharum Mohamed noted that despite the death penalty, drug use continued, so, he asked Secretary Abu Seman, why not just supply the addicts with their drugs?
"I notice that the mandatory death sentence on drug traffickers has not been effective in curbing the problem. This is because drug traffickers want to get rich quickly while the addicts want to die quickly," he said. Instead, said Baharum, the government should supply drugs for hardcore addicts and put them on a remote island for monitoring. Some drug users, he said, prefer to keep using despite the government's most tender efforts. "It is better to give them drugs and let them live their lives the way they want to," he said.
Surprisingly, Abu Seman did not dismiss the notion out of hand. There was historical precedent for the idea in Malaysia, he said, referring to the licensing of opium shops in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. "Supplying drugs to addicts for free needs to be studied in terms of its pros and cons although there were licensed opium dens in the past," he said.
Not everyone proved so receptive to the idea. "Why don't we just behead the addicts and traffickers in public and show it on television," suggested MP Ismail Noh. "At least then we can see if it's effective."
Abu Seman did not directly address Noh's suggestion. Instead, he said it would have to be studied because it would require the law to be amended to allow public beheadings.
12. Media Scan: Debra
Saunders on Student Drug Testing, Brown University SSDP Opens Drug Resource
Debra Saunders writes Student Drug Testing is Un-American in the San Francisco Chronicle
Brown SSDP collaborates with the university to open a campus Drug Resource Center
Debra Saunders writes Student Drug Testing is Un-American in the San Francisco Chronicle
Brown SSDP collaborates with the university to open a campus Drug Resource Center
April 23, 1998: The Ottawa Citizen reports that Canadians who tell US border officials the truth about their past use of marijuana will be denied entry to America indefinitely.
April 24, 2001: In Oklahoma, Will Foster, 42, a medical marijuana patient who in 1995 was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing 39 marijuana plants in his basement, is released on parole. Foster used marijuana to relieve chronic pain caused by acute rheumatoid arthritis. "My medical use of marijuana never interfered with my work, I ran a successful business," said Foster. He added, "I was minding my own business taking care of my health and my family. What was I doing to anybody that got me 93 years?"
April 25, 1894: The Indian Hemp Drug Commission concludes that cannabis has no addictive properties, some medical uses, and a number of positive emotional and social benefits.
April 25, 2000: Despite the formal opposition of the Hawaiian Catholic Church, the Hawaii State Senate passes medical marijuana legislation, joining California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Alaska, and Arizona in shielding medical marijuana patients from criminal prosecution.
April 27, 1937: In a statement before the US House of Representative Ways and Means Committee, Clinton Hester testifies that a Washington Times editorial published shortly before Congress held its first hearing on the marijuana issue argued: "The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug and American children must be protected against it."
Students for Sensible Drug Policy is currently soliciting designs for new SSDP t-shirts and flyers, to be made available on the SSDP web site and used by youth and students nationwide.
T-shirt designs must include "Students for Sensible Drug Policy" and "www.DAREgeneration.com" -- otherwise the theme is open, and the more creative the better. Note that SSDP does not use the marijuana leaf on its products. The winner will receive 50 free SSDP t-shirts, and will be recognized on the web site.
SSDP also needs new flyers to be made available for download its web site. Flyers can address almost any drug policy topic and action, including general information meeting flyers, campaign flyers, protest flyers, event flyers, etc. Send both full-size and hand-bill sized flyers -- the more the better. The winners will receive a book or t-shirt and will be recognized on the web site.
Entries must be submitted by the competition deadline of Friday, May 13, 2005. E-mail them to Abby Bair [email protected].
Best-selling author Andrew Weil, MD, will be online for an audio web chat with Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann on the re-release of "From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs and The Natural Mind," two books that have been recognized as the definitive guide to legal and illegal drugs. Dr. Weil's work has helped to frame the debate surrounding drug use in society, as well as exploding the myth that legal drugs are substantially different from illegal ones.
Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].
April 21-23, Tacoma, WA, 15th North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, visit http://www.nasen.org for further information or contact NASEN at (253) 272-4857 or [email protected].
April 22, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Candlelight Vigil for Victims of Medical Marijuana Prohibition." At the North East corner of Rittenhouse Square, 18th and Walnut, visit http://www.phillynorml.org for further information.
April 22-24, Washington, DC, "Promoting Health and Justice," 1st Annual National Drug Policy Summit of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition. At the Marriott at Metro Center, 775 12th Street NW, registration $250 (or $225 by April 15) for summit only, $500 including Friday evening black tie reception and dinner, $250 for reception and dinner only. Click here or contact (202) 806-8604 or [email protected] for further information.
April 26, 6:45-8:45pm, Washington, DC, " Politics and Race: A Truly American Perspective," free training at the Social Action Leadership School for Activists (SALSA). At 733 15th Street, NW, Suite 1020, space limited, visit http://www.ips-dc.org/salsa/signup.asp or call (202) 234-9382 for info or to register.
April 28, 4:00-6:00pm, New York, NY, "Rockefeller Drug Law Reform: Where Do We Go from Here?," panel featuring former Rockefeller prisoner Elaine Bartlett, New York State Senator Tom Duane and others. At NYU's Kimmel Center, Room 805, 60 Washington Square South between Thompson and LaGuardia, light snacks provided. To RSVP or for additional information, contact Shayna Kessler at (212) 254-5700 x319 or [email protected].
April 30, 11:00am-3:00pm, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!" 2nd Annual National Pain Rally. At the US Capitol Reflecting Pool, call (662) 247-1471 or visit http://www.AmericanPainInstitute.org for further information.
April 30, 7:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop-The-Rockathon," all night benefit concert against the Rockefeller drug laws. Sponsored by Revel Arts and Liv-I-Culture Holistic Living Arts Collective, at Space 515, 515 W. 29th St. (between 10th and 11th, A/C/E to 34th St. by subway), admission $10-$20 sliding scale. For further information visit http:// www.Liv-I-Culture.com or e-mail [email protected].
May 4, Washington, DC, Marijuana Policy Project 10th Anniversary Gala. Featuring Montel Williams and Rep. Sam Farr, at the Washington Court Hotel, contact Francis DellaVecchia at (310) 452-1879 or [email protected] or visit http://www.mpp.org/galas/ for further information.
May 4-6, Columbus, OH, " COPE Corrections: Opportunity for Professional Excellence," 4th annual conference of the Ohio Community Corrections Association. At the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, 50 N. 3rd St., visit http://www.occaonline.org/event_conference2005.asp for further information.
May 6, 8:30pm, Hollywood, CA, "Howard Has High Hopes," medical marijuana benefit comedy show supporting the Eddy Lepp defense fund, local compassion clubs, and Inglewood's Let's Rap Brothers locally and their Operation Africa, a quality of life activity for Black men afflicted with HIV/AIDS. At the Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., admission $20 or $10 for patients with ID, cash only at the door. Visit http://www.greentherapy.com for information.
May 7, numerous locations worldwide, "Million Marijuana March," visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org for further information.
May 9, Santa Monica, CA, Marijuana Policy Project 10th Anniversary Gala. Featuring Montel Williams and Tommy Chong, at the Sheraton Delfina Hotel, contact Francis DellaVecchia at (310) 452-1879 or [email protected] or visit http://www.mpp.org/galas/ for further information.
May 14, 1:30-4:20pm, Laguna Beach, CA, "Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs," with OC NORML, November Coalition and So. Cal NORML. At Laguna Main Beach, call (714) 210-6446 or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further information.
June 1, Seattle, WA, John W. Perry Fund fundraiser, featuring US Rep. Jim McDermott. Details to be announced, contact DRCNet Foundation at (202) 362-0030 or [email protected] for updates or visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com/perryfund/ online.
August 13, Washington, DC, "Million Family Members and Friends of Inmates March," sponsored by Family Members of Inmates. Contact Roberta Franklin at (334) 220-4670 or [email protected] for further information.
August 19-20, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science and Response in 2005," First National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis C. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Harm Reduction Project, visit http://www.harmredux.org/conference2005.htm after January 15 or contact Amanda Whipple at (801) 355-0234 ext. 3 for further information.
August 20-21, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest 2005. At Myrtle Edwards Park, Pier 70, admission free, visit http://www.hempfest.org or (206) 781-5734 or [email protected] for further information.
August 28, 11:00am-9:00pm, Olympia, WA, Third Annual Olympia Hempfest. At Heritage Park, visit http://www.olyhempfest.com for further information.
November 9-12, Long Beach, CA, "Building a Movement for Reason, Compassion and Justice," the 2005 International Drug Policy Reform Conference. Sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance, at the Westin Hotel, details to be announced. Visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/events/dpa2005/ for updates.
November 13-16, Markham, Ontario, "Issues of Substance," Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse National Conference 2005. At Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre & Spa, visit http://www.ccsa.ca/pdf/ccsa-annconf-abstract-2005-e.pdf for info.
April 5-8, 2006, Santa Barbara, CA, Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, details to be announced, visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com for updates.
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