(visit last week's week online)
CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE. The Henry Hyde sponsored "Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill" which would have significantly reduced the authority of the Federal Government to seize the property of American citizens, has been watered down to the point of meaninglessness. Under reported pressure from the Justice Department, the terms of the bill (H.R. 1965, formerly H.R. 1835) have been altered so significantly that the bill is no longer worthy of its title.
Due to a lack of enthusiasm for the bill as currently constituted, DRCNet is not expecting it to go anywhere in the House. But we will keep you apprised of any further developments. For further information on asset forfeiture, visit Forfeiture Endangers American Rights at http://www.fear.org.
After months of frustrating delays, DRCNet is happy to announce that the NEW SEARCH ENGINE for Drug Library is up and running! For those of you who have not visited the Drug Library, it is quite simply the largest online repository of drug policy information in the world. For those who have previously visited but have not been back in awhile, you'll be impressed by the volume of new information. The table of contents alone comprises 300k.
The new search engine will allow you to search the entire Library, which includes DRCNet, the Schaffer Library, The Lindesmith Center, the Drug Policy Foundation, Drug Text and Drug Text USA, National NORML, Portland NORML, Carl Olsen's Marijuana Archive, Think For Yourself, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Ibogaine Dossier, and the Stanton Peele Addiction Web Site. A number of new sites will soon be added, and THE WEEK ONLINE will keep you informed of the upgrades as they happen.
The searchable Library is an invaluable tool for students, activists, journalists, historians, scholars, researchers, policy-makers, or just about anyone else who is concerned about our nation's drug policies.
To illustrate the importance of this resource, we would note that many of the documents contained in the Library have been more downloaded more times than the number of copies produced by their original source. We urge you to come and familiarize yourself with this tremendous resource. You can find it at http://www.druglibrary.org.
From time to time, THE WEEK ONLINE with DRCNet will feature a current legal battle of significance to drug policy reform. The following information has been provided to DRCNet courtesy of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). You can find NORML's web site at http://www.natlnorml.org. The NORML site is also part of the DRCNet Drug Library family of sites and therefore, you guessed it, searchable via our new Drug Library search engine!
In an 11th hour reversal, prosecutors in Wayne County, MI have switched from compassion to zero-tolerance in their prosecution of AIDS-cancer patient Peter McWilliams. McWilliams, a familiar figure to many Americans after two years as a correspondent for the Today Show, is also an author whose books, including "Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do" have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list five times. He currently publishes the Medical Marijuana Magazine Online (http://www.marijuanamagazine.com) and is the founder of the Medical Marijuana Foundation, a non-profit educational organization.
McWilliams, a California resident who uses cannabis to relieve nausea caused by AIDS and his cancer treatments, was arrested last December at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport after an officer asked if he was carrying marijuana. As recently as two weeks ago, according to McWilliams, "the prosecutor's office led me to believe a letter from my doctor was all I needed." But the Wayne County prosecutors have suddenly changed their tune.
In a blatant strong-arm attempt to force McWilliams to take a guilty plea, Assistant Prosecutor Maria Petito sent a fax to McWilliams on July 11th informing him that he must either plead guilty or begin trial on July 18th. "How can I prepare to defend myself in less than a week?" He asked.
On July 14th, McWilliams submitted an impassioned motion to the 34th district court asking for a 60 day delay in the trial date, due to the fact that he was led to believe that the case would not be tried.
If you are a member of the media, and would like to receive a copy of the motion, including pertinent correspondence between McWilliams and Wayne County prosecutors, or to be added to a fax list for future press releases in this case, please call Ed Hashia at (213) 650-9571 x125.
DRCNet will keep our members updated on this story as it progresses.
This week's link comes from our own family of web sites. The Lindesmith Center, a New York based drug policy think tank under the direction of Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, has posted a summary of the recently released report on the three year Swiss heroin trials at http://www.lindesmith.org/presumm.html (see EDITORIAL below). The summary is part of a Focal Point collection of reports and articles on clinical drug substitution and maintenance. These articles are must reads for anyone who gets disgusted when politicians rant about "sending the wrong message" and "enabling addiction," without acknowledging the destructive and wasteful results of our current policies.
While you're there, spend some time poking around the rest of the site. It's a treasure-trove of information and can be searched on the Drug Library's recently re-vamped search engine. (Have I mentioned that we have a new, functioning search engine?)
First, thanks to everyone who graciously offered to help DRCNet with our Win 95 networking. We have secured the services of a capable volunteer and we should be internally networked in a couple of weeks. (To Dave's great delight. As for me, as soon as I figure out what networking actually means, I'm sure that I'll be delighted too.)
This week, there's still time to get your resumes in for these two positions at the Drug Policy Foundation.
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Organized, artistic self-starter wanted to help conceptualize and layout publications for a nonprofit drug policy reform agency. Responsibilities include laying out magazine and direct mail pieces, designing brochures and annual reports. Must be familiar with PageMaker and Photoshop as well as drawing and spreadsheet programs on Mac. 2-4 years experience preferred; web skills necessary. Send resume, salary requirement, portfolio to: Drug Policy Foundation GD search, 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008. Fax: (202) 537-3007.
GRANT PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR: Immediate opening for experienced individual to be responsible for day-to-day administration of its multi-million $ grant program. Position requires 2-4 years experience in related position, excellent organization and communication skills, and advanced capabilities in computer apps. and database management. Graduate degree preferred; knowledge of field helpful. Send resume & salary requirements to: Drug Policy Foundation GP search, 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008. Fax: (202) 537-3007.
"What is a black market after all? Would we deny the FDA the right to protect 100% of our children because there might be a few black market cigarettes around?"
-- President Clinton, objecting to terms in the proposed tobacco settlement which would limit the FDA's authority to regulate or ban nicotine. The settlement, as currently constituted, would allow the FDA to ban nicotine altogether as early as 2009.
This remark demonstrates either astounding naiveté regarding the effects of a widespread black market, or a cavalier disregard of those effects. Contrary to the simplistic logic of "make it illegal and it will be unavailable," history repeatedly demonstrates that Prohibition actually makes substances MORE available to those who would be denied them under a rational regulatory scheme. (See http://www.drcnet.org/1996/12-19-2.html#salvationarmy for what may be the ultimate example.)
Furthermore, one need only look to Germany's recent experience with exorbitant taxes to see what a black market in tobacco would look like. In 1995, under a system of excessively high tobacco taxes, Germany experienced over 40 "tobacco-related" murders. And, according to the Drug Policy Letter, (Summer, 1996) "Because of (tobacco) smuggling, Europe has lost between $4 and $5.3 billion in tax revenues. While watching an illegal cigarette vendor ply his trade across a street, a German police officer told an Associated Press reporter, 'We could arrest them as well, but it doesn't do any good. They just spring back up.'"
Sound familiar, Mr. President?
On February 17 of this year, the Australian National Drug and Research Centre conducted a study of the physical and psychological effects of long-term marijuana use (averaging 19 years) on 268 subjects. Conclusion: There seemed to be no significant impact on health. According to chief investigator David Reilly, "The results seem unremarkable -- the exceptional thing is that the respondents are unexceptional."
In the April edition of The American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Stephen Sidney writes about a long-term (12-year) study undertaken by Kaiser Permanente, a medical insurer/provider, and therefore an entity with a fiduciary interest in the integrity of the results, into the mortality rates of marijuana smokers. The study population comprised 65,171 subjects aged 15 through 49 years. Conclusion: Marijuana use had little effect on non-AIDS mortality in men and on total mortality in women. (Am J Public Health. 1997;87:585-590)
On July 9, 1997, 37 leading physicians including Dr. Joseph B. Martin, the new dean of Harvard's Medical School, Dr. Lonnie Bristow, past president of the American Medical Association, Dr. David C. Lewis, director of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and several former Reagan and Bush administration health officials, announced the formation of Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Declaring that "the current criminal justice-driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling, drug abuse in America," they called for the U.S. to explore "harm reduction" approaches to substance use and abuse which rely more upon medical science and public health than on public hysteria and incarceration.
On July 10, 1997, researchers at the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Zurich released the final report on Switzerland's 3-year heroin prescription trial. (On the web at http://www.lindesmith.org/presumm.html). Conclusion: The carefully supervised provision of heroin to long-term addicts with a history of failure in other treatment modalities resulted in a significant decrease in crime, mortality, disease transmission, treatment failure, and unemployment, at a substantial savings over other, less successful treatment methods.
These four events have much in common beyond their subject matter. Each is of international significance. Each represents, in unambiguous and scientifically sound terms, a challenge to the very underpinnings of prohibitionist drug policies. Yet, most importantly, each of these stories was virtually ignored by nearly every major U.S. news source.
Why has the mainstream press, which chomps at the bit to put every new drug scare on page one, burying this news?
The fact is that today’s media is owned, nearly totally, by a small (and shrinking) group of mega-corporations whose financial holdings extend far beyond newspapers and television stations. These entities have much to gain by currying favor with a government addicted to bloated Drug War budgets and campaign contributions from Drug War profiteers. (See The Netizen in the current issue of WIRED for a discussion of Big Media’s lobbying efforts.) It would also be interesting to know whether and exactly how much financial interest these media conglomerates have in the industries that profit from the Drug War...but that is another matter for another day.
In any case, it has become clear that "All the news that's fit to print" is a very subjective standard. That leaves it up to those of us who understand that the War on Drugs is both morally and intellectually bankrupt to tell the truth. Whether this means pressuring major media outlets through letters and such, exchanging and disseminating information via the Internet, informing and supporting responsible alternative media sources, or simply carrying forth our message in the human interactions of our daily lives, it is imperative that we take responsibility for educating our fellow citizens. Recent experience shows that we cannot rely on Big Media to investigate or expose the big lies behind the War on Drugs. Because as long as they can maintain the appearance of credibility while playing the game, the New York Times might just find the that the truth doesn’t quite "fit."
Adam J. Smith
Drug Reform Coordination Network
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