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Feature: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Stirs the Waters in Ireland

Retired Florida police chief and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) spokesman Jerry Cameron managed to put the drug debate squarely on the front burner with his appearance in Ireland last week. Cameron's address at the "Rethinking the War on Drugs" conference in Dublin, sponsored by a trio of Irish groups working on prison, drug policy and youth issues sparked numerous newspaper editorials and opinion pieces, filled the airwaves with talk about legalization, and forced the Irish government to respond.

Organized by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the drug charity Merchant's Quay, and the Union for Improved Services, Communication, and Education (UISCE), a group combining sports and Gaelic language learning, "Rethinking the War on Drugs" brought more than one hundred Irish politicians, government workers, reformers, and activists together on August 28. With Cameron as the keynote speaker, the conference certainly inspired Irish reflection on national drug policy.

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Jerry Cameron at the Dublin conference (courtesy IPRT)
That's just what the IPRT wanted, said executive director Rick Lines. "The IPRT doesn't have any formal policy supporting legalization or decriminalization," he told Drug War Chronicle. "However, we do work from an analysis that drug criminalization is a main driver of growing prison populations in Ireland, and is a main cause of high rates of HIV and Hep C infection in prisons. Therefore, examining alternatives to drug criminalization, and alternatives to prison for people who use drugs, must be a central part of the work done by penal reform organizations. I understand that this might make us a bit unusual among our sister organizations internationally. I am often told by people at harm reduction conferences that the prison reform organizations in their countries don't talk about drug laws at all. Whether this is true or not, I am not sure, but I hope it isn't."

For Lines, the conference and the attention it drew were a huge success. "The event was successful beyond all our expectations," he said. "The crowd was much bigger than anticipated -- standing room only -- as was the press coverage. We counted 26 separate TV, radio, and print outlets covering the event, and we may have missed some. As such, the event was a very successful beginning to reframing the debate on this issue, which was all we really hoped to accomplish."

"This was one of the better conferences I've been to," LEAP's Cameron told DRCNet. "The folks from the Irish Penal Reform Trust did a wonderful job of organizing it, and among those attending were a member of parliament and a member of the European Parliament, the immediate past Irish drug minister, several members of the probation system, a representative from the Garda [Irish police] -- it was a real cross-section of people interested in these issues. I have to say that the people from the Irish government were a lot more open-minded than the politicians I run into in the US."

The media attention was tremendous, Cameron said. "We were in every Irish newspaper the day after the conference. I also did a lot of work with Irish radio and TV stations," he explained. "I even appeared on a radio talk show where the woman arguing me was so crazed we had caller after caller calling in to reject her positions and argue for fundamental reform."

Indeed, the media response was intense and mostly favorable. The Irish Examiner covered the conference and Cameron's remarks the same day with a story titled "US Police Chief's Warning Over Doomed Drug Policy", while the Irish Times published a reaction piece, "Government Considered Legalizing Heroin", and the Examiner came back the next day with another reaction piece, "Legalizing Cannabis 'Would Result in State Being Sued'". But even those reaction pieces featuring government figures explaining why drugs could not possibly ever be legalized kept the discussion of drug prohibition in front of the Irish public.

By the end of last week, the Irish government was forced to respond directly. The man in charge of Irish drug treatment, Minister of State at the Department of Community Noel Ahern, called in reporters to tell them the government was rejecting calls for drug legalization. "We are not going in that direction," he said in remarks reported by Irish wire services. "And if there are moves in the future it would have to be dealt with on a worldwide basis. One country on its own cannot move. Holland tried for a few years ago and they're backing off big time because they realized they were bringing in drug tourism," Ahern added, misrepresenting current Dutch drug policies as he did.

"We wouldn't have expected anything else from the government response," said IPRT's Lines. "But again our main objective was really just to raise debate, and in that sense we were remarkably successful. To paraphrase one of the speakers at the event, if we had held a public forum 20 years ago talking about needle exchange, people would have thought it was a crazy idea, but now it is well established policy."

"The media storm is still going on," Cameron said Tuesday with a mixture of surprise and pleasure. "There have been a couple more columns in the last few days, one of which quoted me extensively. The tack I took went over quite well. I told them I was not there to tell Ireland how to conduct its business, but to tell them US drug policy has been a total failure and ask them to profit from our mistakes. They have a lot of talented people who can come up with Irish solutions for Irish problems. What we've done in the US sure hasn't worked," he said.

An op-ed in the Irish Independent last Sunday titled "The War Isn't Working So Is It Now Time to Consider the Unthinkable and Legalize All Drugs?" was typical of Irish press commentary. "Currently, there is more crime, disease, death and addiction than ever before," wrote the columnist. "He [Cameron] believes, and I share his view, that not one objective or goal of the 'war on drugs' has been met, and that the 'relegalization of drugs' is 'the only way to stop drugs falling
into the hands of our children, to make room for violent offenders to serve their full terms in our prisons, and to return law enforcement to its legitimate function of protecting our citizens.'"

A columnist in the Irish Examiner opined similarly the day before in a piece titled "We Are Losing the War on Drugs and Policy Should Be Stood On Its Head". In that piece, columnist Ryle Dwyer summarized Cameron's argument, added some of his own, and concluded thusly: "Using tried and tested tactics that have failed so dramatically is a cause of, not the answer to, our problems."

"The first step in any effort to promote policy change is to mainstream your perspective, and move it beyond being a 'crazy idea' and make it into a legitimate part of the public discourse," said IPRT's Lines. "One event won't accomplish this, but it is a start. The story continued on in the press in the days after the event, and I think this bodes well for continuing work on this issue, as perhaps we have helped open up safe space for others to make similar arguments themselves."

Conference by conference, op-ed by op-ed, radio show by radio show, the anti-prohibitionist message is spreading, and with the help of groups like LEAP and the IPRT, it is spreading into the mainstream.

Click here to watch the LEAP video online or donate $15 or more to DRCNet to order a copy of the DVD.

An Open Letter to the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee

September 6, 2006 Re: "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 & A933) Restrictions Opposed New Jersey lawmakers will soon consider whether to pass into law the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 and A933). This act would remove the statewide criminal penalties for the use, possession and cultivation of a small amount of marijuana for qualified patients under a program administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS). The Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey (CMM-NJ) urges lawmakers to support this bill as it is written. We oppose any attempt to restrict the diseases or conditions that would qualify a New Jersey patient for medical marijuana. This is a question that is properly left only to the treating physician. There are, moreover, a number of rare conditions that respond well to medical marijuana. The federal government, in its only existing Investigational New Drug (IND) trial of medical marijuana, recognizes Nail-Patella Syndrome as well as Multiple Congenital Cartilaginous Exostosis as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. These two conditions respond well to marijuana therapy, as do the more common conditions included in the IND study, Glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis. The federal government has been treating patients in this study for up to 27 years by giving them marijuana. Each month the patients in this IND study receive from the federal government a cannister that holds about nine ounces of marijuana. The cannisters hold 300 pre-rolled cigarettes, that may be consumed at the rate of 10 or more per day, or about two ounces per week. All of the patients in this study are doing well—their conditions are controlled, side effects are minimal, and marijuana is the only medicine they are using for their conditions. Here in New Jersey, a mother contacted CMM-NJ to beg that her son be allowed medical marijuana for a condition called Friedreich's Ataxia. She said, "There are about 6,000 people in the country who have this disease. There is no cure and marijuana is the only thing that works for the pain. It's not easy watching your child suffer from pain when a simple solution like marijuana can ease the muscle spasms, bone and joint pain, muscle pain and involuntary eye movements that this disease (causes)." Nothing relieves her son's symptoms as safely and as effectively as marijuana. Who could face this mother and say, "We will only allow medical marijuana for cancer and multiple sclerosis, but not for your son's condition?" And what about Roberta—a kindly, New Jersey grandmother who suffers from a very painful condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy? Her condition is progressive (getting worse) and incurable. Roberta plans to commit suicide when the pains get too great and the medical intervention too oppressive. She wants to try medical marijuana as a last ditch measure before suicide. Who could say to Roberta, "No, it is better that you commit suicide than have a trial of medical marijuana?" No one can foresee all of the conditions that might respond to medical marijuana. Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana must only be decided by the patient's own physician, not by a politician, no matter how well intentioned. Restricting conditions for medical marijuana can only be described as arbitrary and capricious. CMM-NJ urges lawmakers to adopt the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 & A933) as written. Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey 844 Spruce St. Trenton, NJ 08648 (609) 394-2137 www.cmmnj.org [email protected]
Location: 
NJ
United States

Announcement: ASA Seeking Patients Who Did Not Use Medical Marijuana Because of Government's Claims

Americans for Safe Access is conducting a nationwide research study and is looking for patients in the US (any state) who for some period of time did not use cannabis because of the federal government's claim that it's not medicine.

PLEASE REVIEW THE CRITERIA LIMITATIONS BELOW TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MEETS THE ELEGIBILTY REQUIREMENTS TO PARTICPATE IN THIS STUDY.

PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THIS MESSAGE UNLESS YOU SATISFY ALL OF THE FOLLOWING CRITERIA:

1. Did a patient NOT consume marijuana for some period of time within the past 5 years BECAUSE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAID IT HAD NO MEDICAL VALUE?

2. Can patient demonstrate, THROUGH VERIFIABLE MEDICAL RECORDS, that after beginning medical marijuana use, it improved their health or relieved symptoms?

3. Patient MUST possess (or be able to obtain) DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE BY HEALTH PROFESSIONALS that shows harmful effects from their medical condition prior to using cannabis and evidence of relief or diminished effects as a result of cannabis use.

4. Their medical records must document a change in condition within the past 5 years.

5. In addition to DOCUMENTED MEDICAL EVIDENCE, it would be helpful, but not necessary, if their doctor were willing to testify to their improved health condition as a result of cannabis use.

A sample scenario would look something like this:

Jon Smith (who is HIV+) refused to use cannabis until two years ago because the federal government says it has no medical value. As a result, Jon suffered some physical harm (nausea, pain, weight loss, etc). Finally, Jon decides to use cannabis at the encouragement of his friend(s), doctor(s) or other individual. As a result of his NEW use of cannabis, Jon was able to demonstrate with MEDICAL RECORDS that his health has improved.

It is important to understand that you will incur no financial obligations or benefits for your participation in this study.

If you or someone you know meets the criteria mentioned above and would be interested in participating in this very important and timely research study, please contact Americans for Safe Access (ASA) as soon as possible.

Please send all inquiries to [email protected] or contact ASA by phone at (510) 251-1856 ext. 306.

Job Listing: Administrative Assistant, NORML

Immediate opening at a progressive drug law reform nonprofit organization, full time, college graduate preferred, prior office experience, with computer skills (dbase) a must.

Duties include phones, daily data entry, processing mail & organize/maintain volunteers.

Salary $20-25K, send cover letter with resume to: NORML, c/o Executive Director, (202) 483-0057 (f), [email protected]. No calls or visits please.

Drug Dealers Don't Card

On Sunday, August 27, Troy Dayton, associate director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative will be giving the sermon at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada at 10:30 a.m. at 780 Del Monte Lane, Reno, NV 89511. The name of the sermon is called “Drug Dealers Don’t Card.” Everyone is welcome.
Date: 
Sun, 08/27/2006 - 10:30am - 1:00pm
Location: 
780 Del Monte Lane
Reno, NV 89511
United States

Families Against Mandatory Minimums 15th Anniversary

September 21, 2006 Sphinx Club 1315 K St. NW, Washington, DC 6:00 reception 7:00 dinner and program Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation invites you to join in commemorating the 15th anniversary of FAMM's sentencing advocacy in Washington, DC on September 21. For 15 years, FAMM has advocated for fair and proportionate sentencing laws on behalf of the thousands of individuals and families affected by harsh mandatory sentences. Since 1991, FAMM's work has directly contributed to more equitable sentences for tens of thousands of defendants nationwide and paved the way for a shift away from mandatory sentencing policies. Among FAMM's successes are changes to federal LSD and marijuana sentencing policies, and a "safety-valve" to allow judges to sentence below the mandatory minimum in certain federal drug cases. In Michigan, FAMM led the successful effort to repeal all drug mandatory minimum sentences - a change that provided earlier parole eligibility to hundreds of prisoners serving harsh sentences. Will you please join us for cocktails, dinner and an awards program to honor the following individuals whose voices have fostered support for sentencing justice. Representatives Bob Inglis (R-SC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) For their courageous leadership in sentencing reform Mercedes Ruehl, actress For her poignant portrayal of a mother in prison in Court TV's movie, Guilt by Association Gary Fields, Wall Street Journal reporter For his relentless coverage of those affected by sentencing and criminal justice policies JeDonna Young, formerly incarcerated mother For tipping the scales of sentencing justice in MI with her personal story With music by national recording artist Jill Sobule The host committee for the gala includes: Ed Crane The Honorable Don Edwards The Honorable Mickey Edwards Jason Flom Wade Henderson The Honorable Bob Kerrey Laura Murphy Pat Nolan Carly Simon and many others Please visit http://famm.org to purchase your tickets today, so that you won't miss out on this exclusive event! You can also show your support for FAMM by purchasing an advertisement in the dinner program. All proceeds will be used to support FAMM's work for fair and equitable sentences. I look forward to seeing you on September 21. Sincerely, Julie Stewart President, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Date: 
Thu, 09/21/2006 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: 
1315 K St. NW
Washington, DC
United States

Extravaganja: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show

September 21, 8:30pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Extravaganja: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show." Benefit at the Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., visit http://www.greentherapy.com or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
Date: 
Thu, 09/21/2006 - 8:30pm - 11:00pm
Location: 
8433 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Feature: Federal Sentencing Reform Goes NASCAR

With the federal prison system stuffed to the gills and still growing, pressure for sentencing reform is building. One bill aimed at helping ex-offenders, the Second Chance Act, is moving in Congress and could pass this fall. Coming right behind it is H.R. 3072, a bill that would reintroduce parole into the federal system. And in a novel effort to broaden support for the parole bill, some of its supporters are bringing the issue to the massive NASCAR racing audience.

In the first of series of NASCAR events, on August 23 the Carter 2 Motorsports team will compete in the race at Bristol, Tennessee, using that opportunity to publicize the parole bill, as well as the organizations backing the effort, Federal CURE and FreeFeds. More than 160,000 are expected to attend, with a television audience estimated at 3 million. The effort will also be the focus of a PBS documentary with an audience estimated at between 10 and 14 million viewers when it reaches the air.

"I was a federal prisoner myself," said Carter 2 Motorsports main man Roger Carter II, who served nearly three years for a white collar offense. "I met a lot of wonderful people in prison, nonviolent drug offenders. I was able to go home after a couple of years, but these guys are serving 10, 20, 30 years or more," he told Drug War Chronicle. "Don't get me wrong. I believe people who break the law should be punished, but this is about fair and just punishment. What gets you six months in the state courts can get you six years in the federal system, and that's just not right."

While Carter's effort is relatively recent, he is encouraged by the reaction he is getting. "The support has been overwhelming," he said. "People are really susceptible to this and the press is eating it up. The whole idea is to get this before the public because people need to see where their tax dollars are going. Anyone who looks at H.R. 3072 is pleased to see it is a common sense approach to imprisonment instead of just throwing people away for no reason," he said, adding that he has H.R. 3072 messages painted on his NASCAR truck and stock car, as well as on his web sites and e-mails.

Since Congress abolished parole in the "sentencing reform" of 1986, the federal prison system has grown progressively larger, filled increasingly with nonviolent drug offenders doing lengthy sentences with no chance of more than highly limited early release for good behavior. As of this week, the federal Bureau of Prisons put its prisoner count at more than 191,000, with 54% serving time for drug offenses.

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George Martorano (courtesy We Believe Group)
That number includes George Martorano, the man who carries the unlucky distinction of being the longest serving nonviolent offender in federal prison to date, a fate he earned through a first-time marijuana offense. Martorano is now 23 years into a life sentence with no chance of parole. It was Martorano's plight that inspired Florida resident John Flahive to join the fight for sentencing reform.

"I was courting a young lady, and one night when I was at her house, the phone rang with a message. It was a call from a federal inmate," Flahive explained. "It was George, and the young lady was his sister. She told me he was doing life without parole and I asked her how many people he killed," he told the Chronicle. "He didn't kill anybody. He was involved in a deal -- around 2400 pounds of pot. After a while, I went to visit him, and found he was a pretty nice guy -- he writes books and teaches other inmates and has a perfect prison record. We figured we had to help him out somehow, so we created the We Believe Group to try to raise awareness of his plight."

It has been an education, said Flahive. "I started working on this five years ago. Before that, I wasn't involved, I didn't even vote," he explained. "I figured George's case was a screw up, but as I got more involved, I realized there were thousands of Georges rotting away in there." As a result, Flahive has broadened his activism and is now working to get sentencing reform legislation through Congress. He, too, will be heading to the NASCAR tracks along with Carter in an effort to bring the message to the masses of racing fans.

"I'm working with Federal CURE on this," he said. "They've got two motor homes that we will dress up with H.R. 3072 and we'll have lots of literature to hand out. People listen when you tell them if they pay federal taxes they are affected by the cost of the federal prison system. Federal parole could save $4 billion a year," Flahive claimed.

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Rep. Danny Davis
The federal parole has been around for awhile and was originally sponsored by Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HI), but since her unexpected death in 2002, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) has taken up the gauntlet and is now the lead sponsor. Davis was traveling and unavailable for comment this week, but his communications director, Ira Cohen, told the Chronicle the bill could use all the help it can get. "Rep. Davis is proud of all that he has accomplished with the Second Chance Act and the parole bill, and he continues to look for support," said Cohen.

A source close to Davis told the Chronicle that Davis is concentrating this fall on the Second Chance Act as a means of opening the door to a serious discussion of sentencing reform in Congress. "The strategy has always been to press for another bill to pass first, and the Second Chance Act is very close now," the source said. "If it passes, the congressman intends to use that opportunity to have this broader discussion on the parole bill because it will open up the whole issue of broader federal criminal justice reform."

But Flahive, Carter, and 100,000 federal drug war prisoners aren't waiting for Congress to act -- they're pushing it to act. In addition to the Bristol race on the 23rd, Carter and his H.R. 3072 car and truck will be racing NASCAR tracks at New Hampshire, Martinsville, and Homestead and taking the message to the masses. "Like anything else, once this gets some momentum, once politicians see they can benefit from voting for this, it'll be all over. We're here to help the people get the politicians to that point."

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics

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August 5-6, Spokane, WA, Spokane Hempfest, visit http://www.spokanehempfest.com for further information.

August 9, 2:00pm, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Public Forum on Methadone Treatment. Sponsored by The British Columbia Association of People On Methadone, at the Vancouver Public Library, Main Branch, 350 West Georgia, downstairs in the Peter Alma Room, snacks, open to the public. For further information, contact Ann at (604) 719-5313 or VANDU at (604) 683-606.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

October 28-29, 11:00am-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Wonders of Cannabis Festival," benefit for the Cannabis Action Network and Green Aid, hosted by Ed Rosenthal. At the Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate park, individual admission $20, 18 and over, contact Danielle at (510) 486-8083 or [email protected] for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at [email protected].

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

December 1, 6:30pm, New York, NY, First Annual Charity Dinner/Fundraiser for In Arms Reach: Parent Behind Bars: Children in Crisis, with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks. At the Great Hall of City College, call (212) 650-5894 for further information.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Announcement: Sick Editor = Short Issue

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Phil Smith
After enduring nine straight days of 100 degree-plus heat on the drought-ravaged, sun-baked prairies of South Dakota, Chronicle editor Phil Smith was struck down by an attack of chills and fevers Sunday night and diagnosed with pneumonia Monday morning. (The doctors say they are seeing many cases of "summer pneumonia" that they attribute to the record-breaking heatwave.)

Determined journalist that he is, Smith ripped the IV tubes from his arm and staggered from his hospital bed to do the Chronicle.

Okay, okay, they gave me a shot in the butt, some antibiotics, a bottle of Motrin, and sent me on my way. Still, it cut into my work week this week, thus the short issue. Don't worry -- we'll be back at full strength next week.

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