Dear DRCNet reader:
I am writing today to request your financial support for DRCNet's work in 2006. Would you be willing to visit our web site right now or before the end of the year to donate online? (Mail-in info appears below as well.)
My case – in addition to the details of our work, which I describe below – has two parts to it. First is that groups like ours can do more work, and more powerfully, when supporters like you contribute, and do so on a regular basis. Otherwise, we are left, not only with smaller resources on which to draw, but also with financial uncertainty, which in turn makes it harder to plan long-term efforts.
The second part of my case is that I believe DRCNet is playing certain unique roles in the drug policy reform movement that would be hard to replace and which are essential to the overall effort. First, we are the only organization with a large list (multiple tens of thousands) that uses its list to literally build new organizations, and to systematically support the work of all the other organizations in the movement. At least three other drug reform groups have grown out from DRCNet, and more such work in 2006 is on the way. Our newsletter, Drug War Chronicle, is a major movement-building, movement-empowering force every week. It is also the only truly journalistic level of publication that our movement offers to the public.
Secondly, DRCNet is the only full-purpose national membership group that formally calls for an end to prohibition outright, and as such we have a crucial role to play if our issue is to eventually progress beyond marijuana legalization and sentencing reform or harm reduction for other drugs to get to the core of the issues that plague our inner cities, degrade the lives of addicts and dilute our freedoms and constitutional rights. One of the programs I describe below takes a step toward addressing that level of the drug policy debate in a more ambitious way than has ever been done before.
For all these reasons, I hope we can count on you to become or remain a supporter of our organization. Would you be willing to make a donation right now, or before the end of the year? Please contact us if you would like specific information on your past donations. Our web site for credit card donations is http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ � mail-in information appears below as well.
2005 has been quite a year at DRCNet, and with your help 2006 can be even more of one – we are poised to build on our steady work of the past 12 years in a way that will propel DRCNet’s impact in new and ever more significant directions – in 2006 we will use the achievements we’ve had in both our educational and lobbying programs as a platform for advancing the cause in a broader way and at a greater level.
David Borden and US Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA)|
at our June 1 Seattle Perry Fund event
First, some 2005 highlights:
Now for 2006:
- A year of gaining access: Nine members of Congress and two celebrities spoke for events organized by DRCNet in 2005.
- A year of affecting federal legislation: Pending likely changes to the Higher Education Act drug provision that may go further this year than anyone thought was possible.
- A year in which DRCNet has been read: Roughly two million people will have visited DRCNet web sites this year by the end of it.
- A year in which we’ve been in the media – such as an August article in The Washington Post, where David Borden was quoted criticizing the drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA); a July article and editorial in the St. Petersburg Times also quoting Borden, as a vote on the drug provision approached in a House committee; a December Boston Globe article (well, this one late last year, but it’s good) about our 12/9 Perry Fund reception featuring Rep. Barney Frank.
- A year of cutting-edge journalism – such as Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith’s two-week stint in Afghanistan reporting on the impact of opium eradication and prohibition on the war-torn nation. With a month to go, the Chronicle has seen 47 issues so far this year, including more than 750 articles.
On the educational side: You are probably aware that DRCNet is known for producing the most extensive, journalistic, in-depth publication on drug policy in the world, the aforementioned, acclaimed Drug War Chronicle newsletter. Numerous advocates around the world have told us how important this weekly report is to their work. (If you’re not getting Drug War Chronicle, I hope you’ll check it out – visit our web site to read the current issue or sign up for Drug War Chronicle e-mails.) Drug War Chronicle will continue, but that is not all we will be doing. In 2006 we will launch the “Stop the Drug War Speakeasy,” a concerted intellectual assault by anti-prohibitionists on the sphere of media, opinion leaders and communities involved with discourse on social issues. The way to do this in 2006 is via the blogosphere (with accompanying publishing and letter-writing), and the potential for affecting the public debate is greater than ever before. DRCNet’s status as the only full-purpose national membership and lobbying group that formally takes a broad, outright anti-prohibitionist stance and our in-depth, original reporting via the Chronicle, place us in a unique position for doing this. With your support it will happen in a big way and the case for legalization will be taken to the media where it needs to happen.
Drug War Chronicle's Phil Smith interviews former opium-
growing villagers in the countryside outside Jalalabad
On the lobbying side: As you probably know, the bulk of our legislative advocacy at DRCNet has been the spearheading of the campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, a law that has stripped over 175,000 would-be students of the college aid eligibility since going into effect 5 1/2 years ago. We have devoted as much of our resources to this campaign as we have because it is the only drug law that the US Congress in the current political climate is willing to scale back, because it is the drug law that has the singular most amount of support in Congress for repealing, and because it is a phenomenal issue for purposes of reaching out to mainstream organizations and beginning the process of getting them involved in drug policy reform. The Senate and the House of Representatives are currently considering different versions of partial reforms to the law, and soon a “conference committee” consisting of members of both chambers will pick one or the other or some combination of both. While the outcome this year will not be all that we want – we want the law repealed – it is still a victory, and an historic event – rollbacks of drug laws by Congress are few and far between.
A key component of our strategy has been the building of a national coalition of organizations, the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, or CHEAR. Over 250 organizations to date have now called for repeal of the drug provision, at least 200 of them due to DRCNet’s outreach efforts. We believe that many of these groups will also be willing to speak up on other issues affected by the drug war, and next year we want to begin the process of bringing them further in. We will probably start with similar “drug provisions” such as those affecting eligibility for welfare or for public housing, but we will also look at what we can do to help medical marijuana, or sentencing, or relieving the under-treatment of chronic pain, etc. By continuing this work, and by broadening it to more issues, we envision building a national network of literally thousands of organizations, some of which will go further or do more than others, but all helping us chip away at one or more pieces of the drug war. Coalition building is one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to change policy; we have made a great start of it, and with your help will do this in a bigger way than has ever before been done in this cause.
||The Washington Post, August 15, 2005, reporting on the HEA drug provision:
“Going to school is their way of getting back on track,” said David Borden, executive director of the Drug Reform Coordination Network, an advocacy group. “This is a second punishment that can [interfere] with the process of recovery.”
and“The government has done nothing to publicize it, other than include it on the financial aid form, but that's often too late,” Borden said. “And no one thinks they're going to get caught.”
Though we are eager to see our advocacy branch out into more drug war issues, we also believe it is important to continue what we’ve started and that the financial aid issue has much more potential for building bridges and helping people now. Through this route, DRCNet will also expand in a significant way into the arena of state legislation and policy reform. It came to our attention over the last year that while most state legislatures have never voted to deny financial aid benefits to people with drug convictions, most such people are losing their state aid as well due to the intertwined nature of how federal and state financial aid systems work. DRCNet will shortly release (again under the auspices of CHEAR) our first report, detailing the impact of this issue at the state financial aid level. State legislators have told us this will be the most important thing for enabling them to fix this problem. If we can’t repeal the drug provision in Congress this year, maybe next year we can gut or reduce its impact by getting people aid back at the state level. And in doing so, we will forge relationships with state politicians and organizers, some of whom will be willing to do more to stop the drug war in the future; and we will build the expertise needed to help them do it.
And a program that blends education with advocacy: our National Perry Fund Campaign, a series of events in different cities that raise funds for our scholarship program assisting students who have lost their financial aid because of drug convictions. In addition to being a charity, the Perry Fund is also an awareness campaign – it has been covered by BET, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe, among other outlets – and it is a way of establishing contact with a class of people who have been hurt by the drug war – hundreds of people who've lost their financial aid because of a drug conviction have registered with the Perry Fund through our "pre-application" form. The ACLU recently announced that it is seeking people affected by the drug provision for a pending national class action lawsuit – the Perry Fund database is the “big list” for finding such people, and we are calling it to find them plaintiffs. Also, because a scholarship fund is “respectable,” we have been able to bring political officials out in ways they had not done before. For example, our Seattle Perry Fund reception last June featured US Rep. Jim McDermott in his first public showing of support for ending the drug war. The Perry Fund campaign will continue at some level in 2006.
On a budget of a few hundred thousand dollars a year to get all this done, DRCNet is a bargain. But unless you step up to the plate it won’t happen – we can’t do this with grants alone. So please consider making a generous donation today, or by the end of the year. Again, our web site for credit card donations is http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ – consider signing up to donate monthly – or donate by check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.
Thank you for your support. I hope to hear from you soon – please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, and take care.
David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
P.S. The sooner we receive your donation, the sooner we can move forward on all these plans. Please donate today if you can!
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