Appeal: DRCNet Has Made Amazing Progress in 2007 and We Need Your Help for 2008

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Dear DRCNet reader:

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden-dupont-circle-cropped.jpg
David Borden
StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) is at a very interesting and promising point, and I am writing to seek your support for our organization at this time. If you are making charitable gifts to organizations before the end of the year, I hope you'll include DRCNet Foundation in that set. If you make non-deductible donations to support lobbying organizations, I hope you'll include Drug Reform Coordination Network. Donations can be made at http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate online, where information is also available on how to donate by mail. (Contact us if you'd like information on donating stocks.)

In brief, first, and then in more depth:

  1. We have enormously increased our web site visitation, with most of the increase being new people who don't read about drug policy or legalization on a regular basis. We have achieved this by capturing an audience share on the popular "Web 2.0" sites like Digg.com where readers nominate and vote on which articles should go to "the top," the only drug reform group to achieve this success on an ongoing basis.
  2. We have taken concrete steps to expand the range of issues in which we actively do advocacy including: the explosive issue of the overuse of SWAT raids in drug cases with the sometimes deadly consequences (visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids for further information); the penalties for drug offenders and their families in welfare and public housing law, expanding the major coalition we've already built on the similar college aid law; and continued work on the college aid law. Initial steps have been taken to engage the Afghanistan opium issue as well.
  3. We have expanded our public education efforts on the drug prohibition/legalization question itself, with more on the way (http://stopthedrugwar.org/legalization).
  4. We have continued the most important aspects of our program from before, including the Drug War Chronicle newsletter, and our leveraging of our programs to benefit the work of other groups.
  5. Further site work in the short- and medium- term pipeline should have additional major effects.

WEB SITE

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As you may know from emails I've sent to the list, our web site underwent a major redesign during the summer of 2006, plus an expansion of our publishing (adding the daily content model – blogging, latest news links, daily posting of announcements and releases and so forth from other organizations) commenced in Sept. '06. The immediate result was a substantial increase in our site traffic, with a gradual increase in traffic continuing most of the time for the next several months following.

Around August this year, things started "going wild," with high profile links to DRCNet beginning to appear on major web sites, and more and more often ever since. We literally have had to have our server upgraded twice in order to handle the traffic, and are now negotiating a third upgrade. The chart appearing to the right, unique hosts by month on StoptheDrugWar.org (an estimate for the number of people), illustrates the trend.

I hope you'll agree that we are in a seriously different place now than before. To provide a flavor for how (in part) this has been accomplished, we here list "big hits" that StoptheDrugWar.org has had since fall 2006 – "big hits" defined as articles getting 4,000 "reads" or more. (These numbers were last updated on Nov. 26, so there have been new "big hits," as well as increases in the totals for the articles listed, especially the most recent.) The key point is not just how many times our stories have gone "big," but how much more often it is happening now compared with a year or more ago. Here they are:


9/29/2006 Feature: Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative Trails, But the Fight Is On (7,013 reads) 9/29/2006 Feature: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Organizers See Tight But Winnable Race Going Into Final Stretch (5,155 reads) 12/15/2006 Feature: Clamor Grows for Freedom for Texas Marijuana Prisoner Tyrone Brown (20,190 reads) 2/5/2007 Feature: The Conviction That Keeps On Hurting -- Drug Offenders and Federal Benefits (4,570 reads) 2/16/2007 The Anti-Dobbs: Winning the War Within Through Drug Legalization (5,781 reads) 2/23/2007 Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (13,143 reads between two copies) 3/23/2007 Feature: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Free Speech Case Goes to the Supreme Court (4,354 reads) 4/13/2007 Feature: The War on Salvia Divinorum Heats Up (15,180 reads) 4/25/2007 ONDCP Admits Exaggerating Marijuana Potency (10,589 reads) 5/25/2007 Middle East: Opium Poppies Flower Again in Iraq (5,356 reads) 5/25/2007 Feature: Border Blues -- Canada, US Both Bar People Who Used Drugs -- Ever (4,046 reads) 6/1/2007 Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Bill Passes With Veto-Proof Majorities (11,959 reads) 6/8/2007 Feature: Canadian Mom Searching for Missing Daughter Denied Entry to US Over 21-Year-Old Drug Conviction (8,754 reads) 6/25/2007 Justices Stevens, Souter, & Ginsburg: Drug Policy Reform Sympathizers? (8,050 reads) 6/28/2007 Editorial: Two Good Reasons to Want to Legalize Drugs (6,185 reads) 7/10/2007 Rudy Giuliani Hates Medical Marijuana, But He Loves OxyContin (15,090 reads) 7/26/2007 Analysis: Who Voted for Medical Marijuana This Time? Breakdown by Vote, Party, and Changes from '06 (7,227 reads between two copies) 7/30/2007 San Francisco Orders Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Sell Fatter Bags (7,438 reads) 8/2/2007 New Study: Marijuana Does Not Cause Psychosis, Lung Damage, or Skin Cancer (49,721 reads) 8/6/2007 Press Release: Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars (72,302 reads) 8/6/2007 Marijuana Dealers Offer Schwarzenegger One Billion Dollars (48,654 reads) 8/14/2007 Police Often Lack Basic Knowledge About Marijuana (21,612 reads) 8/15/2007 Who's Planting All That Pot in the Woods? (6,694 reads) 8/23/2007 Drug War Prisoners: 86-Year-Old Alva Mae Groves Dies Behind Bars (6,821 reads) 8/30/2007 Drug Testing Encourages Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth Use (20,291 reads) 9/26/2007 Why Do Police Really Oppose Marijuana Legalization? (20,994 reads) 10/5/2007 McCain and Giuliani Say Terrible Things to a Medical Marijuana Patient (39,636 reads) 10/10/2007 The Truth About Why Republican Candidates Oppose Medical Marijuana (4,801 reads) 10/16/2007 Digg & Reddit Users Want to Legalize Marijuana (16,576 reads) 10/22/2007 DEA Director Resigns, Says She Had an Awesome Time (11,182 reads) 10/24/2007 This Man Receives 300 Marijuana Joints a Month From the Federal Government (40,075 reads) 10/31/2007 Cowards: Democratic Front-Runners Reject Marijuana Law Reform (6,608 reads) 11/2/2007 Feature: Can Medical Marijuana Cost You Your Kid? In California, It Can (15,105 reads) 11/5/2007 Drug Scare: Kids in Florida are Getting High by Sniffing Feces (7,797 reads) 11/13/2007 Marijuana Evolves Faster Than Human Beings (27,144 reads) 11/23/2007 John McCain's Awful Response to a Cop Who Wants to End the Drug War (34,950 reads) 11/23/2007 Feature: On the Anniversary of Kathryn Johnston's Death, Poll Finds Most Americans Oppose Use of SWAT-Style Tactics in Routine Drug Raids (7,183 reads)

ISSUE EXPANSION

As mentioned briefly above, we have begun our first foray into the explosive issue of the overuse of SWAT teams in low-level drug enforcement, the kind of practice that led to the killing of 93-year-old Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta last year. In October we commissioned a set of polling questions (our first) in a likely voter poll conducted by the Zogby firm. One of them asked if police should use aggressive entry tactics in non-emergency situations. (The text of the question, which recounted the Johnston tragedy and listed a few specific tactics, along with other info about the issue including extensive recommendations of how policy should change appears on our web site at http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids, and our Chronicle article about it appears at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/511/two_thirds_oppose_SWAT_raids_kat... – it has continued to get traffic since the data compilation listed above, and now has almost 10,000 reads.) We got 66% of respondents on our side, including a majority of conservative and very conservative voters, politically a strong result.

There's a lot more to say about our issue expansion and our activist plans in the raids issue -- please email David Borden at [email protected] for further info.

ANTI-PROHIBITION ADVOCACY

Another question included in the aforementioned Zogby poll asked, "If hard drugs like heroin or cocaine were legalized, would you be likely to use them?" A mere 0.6% of respondents answered yes. While the poll should be thought of as more qualitative as quantitative -- people don't always predict their future behavior accurately -- the results clearly show that almost all Americans have strong reasons for not wanting to use these drugs that are not limited to the laws against them. Therefore the prohibitionists' specter of massive increases in addiction and social implosion following legalization isn't a sound assumption to make.

The web page http://stopthedrugwar.org/legalization presents this result, as well as links to our many "consequences of prohibition" news category feeds. We have also had video footage from the aforementioned 2003 legalization conference formatted for the popular YouTube web site, so that people can run the videos from their own web sites. Videos available so far are linked from the same legalization main page. A major component of our strategy is the idea of promoting the voices of respected leaders who are pro-legalization, in order to use the persuasiveness of their reputations to shift public opinion. With the web site successes of the past several months, and certain technical issues being addressed by a web site designer over the next couple of months, we will also soon be launching our VIP blogger series, also fitting into this strategy. Other publishing is on the way too.

DRUG WAR CHRONICLE AND SUPPORT FOR OTHER GROUPS

One of the particularly gratifying aspects of our web site success is that at times we have been able to bring other groups along with us. By this I refer primarily to the use of YouTube video – as mentioned above, a way that different web sites can easily present the same video clips without having to host copies of the footage on their own servers. Among our "big hits" articles are blog posts running video footage from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (one of their speakers posing a tough question to John McCain that he answers in an unbelievable way), the DrugTruth Network (an interview conducted during the NORML conference with federally legal medical marijuana patient Irv Rosenfeld), and MPP's "Granite Staters" New Hampshire presidential candidates and medical marijuana campaign. YouTube's stats indicate that roughly a third of the people visiting our web pages running these videos actually click to watch the videos (though after a certain amount of time the YouTube stats start omitting older data).

The stats also indicate that our relative effectiveness for getting out the drug reform message in terms of number of people can actually be greater than the most widely visited web sites that cover lots of different issues. For example, of the 36,000+ readers we had on the aforementioned John McCain story, nearly 13,000 clicked to watch the video itself, accounting for more than half of the total views the video has gotten. An article about the encounter on the widely-read Huffington Post blog, by contrast, garnered not quite 1,400 views for the video. Our post with the Irv Rosenfeld video on DrugTruth, and our post featuring outrageous McCain and Giuliani footage responding to a medical marijuana patient with Granite Staters, both have garnered over 40,000 reads. Hence, our cooperative approach of promoting the work of other organizations has extended to the new web site format, and we are thereby in some cases getting them a lot of exposure.

Here are a few of the testimonials we've received recently for how readers put the Chronicle to use:


I read Drug War Chronicle assiduously to be up to date on the failing drug war.
- Gustavo de Greiff, former attorney general of Colombia, chair of Latin American drug reform network REFORMA

As LEAP [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition]'s representative in Washington, DC I read without fail the weekly Drug War Chronicle and have for years. This allows me to quickly and without wasted time know what events and people are shaping policy. To date I have met with staffers from half of the 535 offices on Capitol Hill. Years of reading the Chronicle have made me informed and able to speak knowledgeably on all facets of the New Prohibition. It is an invaluable tool I use constantly.
- Officer Howard J. Wooldridge (Retired)

The Drug War Chronicle is the first place I send people who want to know more about what is going on in drug policy today.
- Tyler Smith, Associate Director, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

I'm an award-winning investigative journalist. I've heard about things on DRCNet that I then turned into articles for the likes of Rolling Stone and Wired magazines.
- Vince Beiser

Drug War Chronicle is useful for me and my staff to keep us up to date on issues around drug policy and practice. We hear from hundreds of DC prisoners caught up in this nightmare and have little time to keep current on the issues you report on.
- Philip Fornaci, Director, D.C. Prisoners' Project, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

I find Drug War Chronicle very helpful in doing grassroots activism. I serve on my county's Substance Abuse Advisory Board and Substance Abuse Prevention Association and as the community co-chair for the Washington State HIV Prevention Planning Group. I have used information from Drug War Chronicle to bring others in my community to recognize the need for drug policy reform. As a member of the Substance Abuse Advisory Board I have been able to circulate materials to all members of county government.
- Monte Levine

I host a weekly radio program where we discuss issues related to the failed war on drugs and the prison industrial complex. We use the DRCNet as a resource every week. DRCNet makes this activism work so much easier, by providing a resource that is accessible, not only as a tool for research, but as an interpreter in this political world. Occasionally, a guest will need to cancel at the last minute. This hazard is part of live radio, and our way of being prepared is to have the DRCNet information in hand, ready to share with listeners.
- Sharon North, Shattered Lives Radio, KZFR, 90.1 FM, Chico, CA.

Here in the Netherlands we use a lot of your paper to write our own monthly "war in drugs journal" made by the Legalize! Foundation.
- Has Cornelissen, Stichting Legalize!

I use stories from Drug War Chronicle to lead high school juniors and seniors in an on-going inquiry into the Drug War as a model of failed public policy. DWC enables me to track current issues, update my materials, and stay connected to the drug policy reform community so I can continue my work of developing in young people a deep and critical understanding of the world in which they are coming of age.
- Jeanne Polk Barr, Chair, History Dept., Francis W. Parker School, Chicago

I am editor of The Liberator Online, a libertarian email newsletter. With almost 70,000 readers, it is as far as we know the largest-circulation libertarian publication of any kind. It is published by the Advocates for Self-Government, a non-profit non-partisan libertarian educational organization. I use Drug War Chronicle and DRCNet as a source for information on Drug War-related issues of interest to our readers. In fact, we have a story based on a DWC item (Sen. Mike Gravel's support for drug law reform) in our current issue.

I used information in an article to help form a scholarship for those convicted of a drug crime who have lost federal funding for school. Now, we are aiming to expand the scholarship to other universities and community colleges. Thanks for your help!

WEB SITE DEVELOPMENT PLANS

Plans in the works for StoptheDrugWar.org have the potential to achieve as much for the site's reach and impact as the work already done has achieved. Along with some needed improvements and fixes to our logon, commenting, and list subscription frameworks, we will be executing major improvements to how we promote our material to the aforementioned "Web 2.0" sites that have driven so much traffic to our site already. Right now, we are only doing a good job of promoting our material to the site Digg, and only for our blog posts. Our minor redesign will make the Digg links on our pages more prominent, will add them to our Drug War Chronicle pages and elsewhere, and will add links to promote articles to other important sites where we've had some success already, like Stumbleupon, Reddit and Netscape. This is a logical extension of a strategy that has already been very successful.

Plans are also underway to dramatically expand the background information we have available on all the different drug policy issues, using the technology available through our web site system to present it in some pretty powerful ways. (Here again, more later.)

I hope you can tell from the foregoing how excited we are about the state of DRCNet's work at this juncture, and how important we feel it is to continue to push forward at full strength. With your continued support, we will build on our successes reaching wider online audiences. We will take on the explosive issue of reckless police raids. We will expand the coalition opposing the college aid drug conviction penalty to include the similar laws in welfare and public housing. We will get the message out about the urgent need for legalization and the impressive people who support that viewpoint. We will continue to publish Drug War Chronicle to empower activists throughout the drug policy reform movement, and to educate the media, policymakers and the general public. And we will put in place new, important sections of our web site to increase the reach and impact of our educational work even further. Thank you for your support and for being part of the cause.

Sincerely,


David Borden, Executive Director

P.S. Contributions of $50 or more can be credited toward our first (not-yet-selected) book premiums of 2008. (You'll need to remind us after we send out the premium announcements next year.) Remember that tax-deductible donations should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation. (The amount that is deductible will be reduced by the retail price of any gift(s) you select.) Non-deductible donations for our lobbying work should be made payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network.

P.P.S. In case you would like to donate at this time, I am providing the information here for your convenience: DRCNet Foundation (for tax-deductible donations supporting our educational work) or Drug Reform Coordination Network (for non-deductible donations supporting our lobbying work), P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, or http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate online. (Contact us if you'd like information on donating stock.)

P.P.P.S. Please feel free to call us at (202) 293-8340 if you'd like to discuss any of our programs or have other questions or concerns.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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