DRCNet Associate Director Adam J. Smith is on vacation this week in Israel, but is so devoted to (or perhaps obsessed with) the cause that he located an Internet cafe, where he was able to read his e-mail and compose most of this issue of The Week Online.
Accordingly, this week's edition of The Week Online is sponsored by Strudel, Jerusalem's one and only Internet Bar. If you ever find yourself in the middle-east, you can find Strudel at 11 Monbaz Street, Russian Compound, Jerusalem, Israel, 95150, 972-2-623-2101 (phone), 972-2-622-1445 (fax), [email protected], or visit them on the web at http://www.eye-on-israel.com/Strudel/homepage.htm. (Their server was down last we checked, but should be back up shortly.)
(visit the last Week Online)
(The first two articles this week are excerpted from the NORML Weekly News, courtesy of the NORML Foundation, (202)483-8751, [email protected], http://www.norml.org.)
State voters rejected a drug-law reform ballot initiative that contained provisions allowing physicians to recommend the use of marijuana as a medicine to seriously ill patients.
Initiative 685, the "Drug Medicalization and Prevention Act of 1997" received only 40 percent support from state voters Tuesday. The defeat came as a disappointment to reformers, but medical marijuana proponents said that public support for medical marijuana remains strong.
"The defeat of I-685 was not a defeat for medical marijuana," NORML Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said, citing exit poll results indicating 46 percent of those opposed to the initiative would support a measure dealing only with medical marijuana. "It further supports our belief that a majority of Americans favor focused legislation allowing a patient to use marijuana medicinally under a physician's supervision."
Tacoma physician Rob Killian, who filed the initiative, told reporters that he felt I-685's broad language regarding other drugs and prison reform may have turned off some voters who would have otherwise supported the measure. He said that he may file an initiative next year to deal strictly with medical marijuana.
In the meantime, state legislators Alex Deccio (R-Yakima) and Jeanne Kohl (D-Seattle) announced they will work to push the issue forward in the Legislature. Deccio, who chairs the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee, said he will likely hold hearings on the issue, and Kohl announced that she hopes to co-sponsor legislation permitting the use of marijuana as a medicine.
"I'd like to focus only on marijuana and keep it [limited] to medical use," Kohl said. "I think we're farther ahead than we were a year ago, especially with public awareness of the issue."
Kohl previously sponsored a medical marijuana appropriation bill in 1996 that secured $130,000 to conduct a state study into the benefits of marijuana as a medicine. That proposal remains delayed indefinitely while awaiting federal approval.
For more information, please contact either Paul Armentano or Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500.
(The I-685 home page can be found at http://www.eventure.com/I685.)
Also from the NORML Foundation:
A district court judge yesterday reversed her week-old decision to allow an AIDS and cancer patient facing marijuana charges to present evidence that he uses the drug as part of his medical treatment.
The case involves Peter McWilliams, a best-selling author and former Detroit resident who is facing criminal charges for possession of seven marijuana cigarettes. McWilliams, who now lives in California, uses marijuana medicinally to alleviate the side effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome and cancer chemotherapy. He was arrested December 17, 1996, at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after telling officers that he was carrying marijuana legally acquired in California.
William's attorney, NORML's Legal Committee member Richard Lustig, expressed extreme surprise at the judge's reversal. "Judge [Tina] Green's initial decision was brave and correct," Lustig said. "Thousands of patients rely on medical marijuana to relieve their pain and to ease their nausea and other side effects caused by medical treatment."
Judge Green said she reversed her position after concluding that McWilliams would not suffer bodily harm if he stopped using marijuana as part of his medical treatment. McWilliams contests that assertion.
"Without medical marijuana, I can't keep down the drugs that are keeping me alive," McWilliams said. "Judge Green's original decision may not be considered politically correct by some, but it was definitely the medically correct decision to make."
Lustig said he will immediately file an appeal with the Wayne County Circuit Court.
For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or NORML Legal Committee member Richard Lustig @ (810) 258-1600.
On October 18-19, 1997, over 130 people gathered in Santa Cruz, CA for the first-ever Conference of Medical Marijuana Providers. Robert Randall, a glaucoma patient who is one of eight people receiving legal medical marijuana from the federal government, and perhaps the first true pioneer of the medical marijuana movement, gave the keynote address.
Twenty-eight medical marijuana providers and start-up groups signed the following "Affirmation of Principles and Guidelines," and 17 established groups were provisionally seated as Affirmed Providers on a statewide council.
Affirmation of Principles & Guidelines for Medical Cannabis Providers
Revised in Conference -- October 18-19, 1997
WE, the undersigned, representing California's community-based medical cannabis providers, caregivers, collectives, and cooperatives, do hereby AFFIRM the following "Principles and Guidelines" for the responsible implementation of Proposition 215 and the safe and affordable distribution of medical cannabis to qualified individuals.
We make this Affirmation in the interest of those seriously ill and disabled Californians for whom Proposition 215 was and is intended.
We join in this Affirmation so that transparency might enable progress, that self- regulation might show the way, and that honor and integrity might yet win the day.
To these ends, we RESOLVE TO:
Diligently Verify All Applicants
- Make every effort to verify the diagnosis and approval of the treating physician, in writing or verbally, with supporting documentation.
- Provide service to patients of California physicians ONLY.
- Distribute to qualified, registered individuals ONLY.
- Develop policy regarding acceptance of other clubs' identification cards (rarely, conditionally, case-by-case, or not-at-all).
Observe Responsible and Accountable Business Practices
- Organize and register for non-profit or cooperative purposes.
- Maintain precise and accurate records (purchasing, inventory, disbursements, and cash flow) subject to inspection as provided by law.
- Observe local zoning and planning restrictions.
- Pay all fees and/or taxes as appropriate for organizational status.
Cooperate With Local Authorities
- Seek input and support of community, political, public health leaders.
- Advise local law enforcement of identification system and tracking procedures.
- Cooperate with local law enforcement in matters of public safety and any investigation relative to a client's diagnosis and legally exempt status.
Provide Adequate Safety, Security, and Access
- Protect confidentiality and integrity of patient records.
- Provide for security of all facilities, records, and products.
- Maintain a healthful environment and a community-appropriate smoking policy.
- Develop standards to insure quality and purity in production, storage, and packaging.
- Develop and inform all members of safe- transport and safe-use guidelines.
- Insure access to services for the disabled and physically challenged.
Conduct Operations Ethically
- Maintain lowest possible prices.
- Maintain charitable distribution programs for indigent clients.
- Not offer on-site diagnostics or "recommending" physicians.
- Not offer sign-up incentives or membership promotionals.
- Refrain from behavior and statements blurring lines between medical and non-medical use of marijuana.
Each medical cannabis provider, caregiver, collective, and/or cooperative signing this Affirmation shall remain a separate and distinct entity. No legal liability amongst or between the signatories shall be created by this document. Notwithstanding, all signatories agree to be morally bound by this Affirmation.
For further information, contact Scott Imler at [email protected].
Bonnie Metcalf, a 38 year old medical marijuana patient who is confined to a wheelchair because of sarcoidosis (immune system attacks vital organs) and osteo-arthritis, has been targeted for arrest in Yuba City, CA. Metcalf had returned from the Medical Marijuana Providers conference in Santa Cruz, and had approached the Yuba County Board of Supervisors with other patients in her fledgling co-op, to explain their situation, introduce themselves as medical marijuana patients, and to request a dialogue with local officials about developing a community-based medical marijuana program.
Following Metcalf's presentation, a warrant was issued for her arrest, though the DA's office has said that nothing will happen until the DA returned on Monday. According to Scott Imler, of the Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers Club, "Sheriff Tindel, they say, is right out of the wild, wild west."
Please call Yuba County District Attorney Charles O'Rourke at (916) 741-6201 to protest the persecution of Bonnie Metcalf and the violation of Prop. 215; and please send letters to the editor in support of Bonnie Metcalf to the Appeal Democrat, via fax at (916) 741-6201, or through the web at http://www.appeal-democrat.com/opinion.html. Please send copies of your correspondence to DRCNet, [email protected].
For further information, contact Scott Imler at [email protected].
This week, South Carolina became the first US state to allow the prosecution and imprisonment of mothers whose newborns test positive for drugs, an indication that the mother used these substances during her pregnancy. The case involved Cornelia Whitner, who pled guilty to child neglect in 1992 based on the results of a drug test performed on her baby. Ms. Whitner was sentenced to eight years in prison.
The decision of the court discussed, among other things, the "effects of cocaine" on prenatal development, despite the fact that even the authors of the original "crack baby" report have since recanted their findings, saying that their research, in fact, could find virtually no differences in the health of such children when other factors such as poverty and pre-natal care, were factored in.
As with so many "get tough" responses to the problems of substance abuse, this ruling will have unforseen and far- reaching consequences. The primary concern, according to women's advocates, is that pregnant women who are, in fact, substance abusers, will be far less likely to seek pre-natal care for fear of having their children taken away and of being incarcerated. These women and their children (born and unborn), are generally poor and have the most to gain from such care.
Moreover, only publicly funded hospitals can be required to drug-test newborns. Thus, the threat of detection and incarceration will fall primarily on the poor and those without private health insurance. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the South Carolina ruling will be discriminatory in its application.
For more information on this emotionally-laden, widely misunderstood topic, visit the Lindesmith Center's online library section on Women and Drugs, at http://www.lindesmith.org/tlcintro.html#women. See DRCNet's article of October '96 for a list of medical and public health organizations opposing criminal prosecution of pregnant addicts and for further info about the Whitner Case: http://www.drcnet.org/guide10-96/pregnancy.html
The AP reports this week that the body of a former federal narcotics prosecutor, strangled and apparently tortured, was found in an oil drum on the side of a road in the central state of Morelos. Fernando Pasqual Velez, 47, had been practicing on his own for some time, but there are reports that he may have been investigating traffickers in addition to his private defense practice.
Also this week, 11 Mexican policemen, including 2 commanders from the southern state of Guerrero, were detained by the Mexican Army when they were found to be transporting over 1,600 lbs. of marijuana in official vehicles. A cache of weapons were also recovered. This arrest comes less than a month after the arrests of two other commanders and three police officers on similar charges in the nearby town of San Miguel Totolapan.
For the second time in recent months, blank, authentic Canadian passports have been seized from suspected drug traffickers. Police found 25 of the documents, apparently smuggled out of a high-security printing firm, in connection with a $1 million heroin bust this week. Recently, 10 other passports were seized in another, apparently unrelated bust.
Canadian officials claim to have found the "weak link" in the security system and to have "taken care of it." It is believed, however, that a large number of additional passports were also stolen, and there has been no comment regarding the extent or ramifications of their flow in underground commerce. There is concern that these incidents will serve to weaken the image of Canada's passports internationally, and thus cause undue problems for Canadians traveling abroad.
A poll conducted by the London Bureau of the Japanese newspaper Hokkaido Shimbun found that 70% of British MP's said that there was a case for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, with only 15% of respondents rejecting the notion. Also, more than a third of responding MP's answered "no" to the question "Do you think that the possession and consumption of cannabis for recreational purposes should be illegal?" Of Labor Party MP's, 41% answered no to that question, showing significant departure from the hard-line stance on drugs taken by Labor's new Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Interest in the issue has exploded in Britain in the wake of the campaign by The Independent on Sunday for the decriminalization of cannabis. Hundreds of prominent Britons have signed a petition put out by The Independent, including Paul McCartney, and, according to the paper, more public and professional figures are being added every week.
You can visit the Independent's campaign web site at http://www.independent.co.uk/sindypot/index.htm.
Five former police officers, including the former acting police chief of Donna, Texas and a former sergeant, admitted to taking payoffs from marijuana smugglers in return for their help in transporting over 250 pounds of marijuana. The men, who face up to 40 years in prison and fines of up to $2 million, will be sentenced in January.
In New Jersey, the state with the third-highest rate of injection-related AIDS in the nation, incumbent Governor Christine Todd Whitman held onto her post by the slimmest of margins, 47% to 46% over Democratic challenger Jim McGreevey, with less than 25,000 votes separating the two. Libertarian Murray Sabrin gained 5% of the votes cast.
Although it did not become an issue in the campaign, McGreevey had stated that he would support needle exchange with "appropriate medical supervision," while Whitman has been steadfast in her refusal to consider a change in New Jersey law which currently outlaws the AIDS-prevention measure. Under Whitman's tenure, thousands of New Jersey residents have been infected either directly or indirectly as a result of shared injection equipment. The Centers for Disease Control have estimated that approximately 46,000 injection drug users are as yet uninfected in New Jersey.
Learn more about this deadly epidemic at http://www.drcnet.org/needle-exchange and http://www.drcnet.org/AIDS.
Issue 15 of The Week Online reported that Kate Shindle, this year's "Miss America", had endorsed needle exchange in a press conference held with Senators Carol Moseley-Braun and Dick Durbin, from Shindle's home state of Illinois. (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/10-11-1.html#america) On Wednesday, November 5, Ms. Shindle was welcomed to Baltimore by Mayor Kurt Schmoke, with whom she visited the city's west-side needle exchange program. According to Wendy Royalty of the Baltimore City Health Dept., "Her comments were sincere and heartfelt and her representation of the program was inspiring. Now that she has seen a needle exchange program in operation we are all hoping that she will continue her public support of needle exchange during her tenure as Miss America as we are constantly being challenged by conservative thinkers."
If you didn't last time, take a moment to e-mail the Miss America Pageant to congratulate them on Ms. Shindle's stand: http://www.missamerica.org/talktous.html
A two-year study released in Britain this week showed "dramatically positive" results with a new treatment for patients with MS, according to British MD Richard Hughes. The treatment, consisting of thrice-weekly shots of Interferon Beta, is being viewed with cautious optimism by British health care professionals as the costs could reach as high as $16,000-22,000 per year, which would put an inordinate drain on the UK's national health care system. Previously, MS patients have cost the UK relatively little as there was not much that doctors could do for them.
Many MS sufferers have reported excellent results in controlling symptoms with the use of marijuana. Marijuana treatment can be maintained for less than 10% of the cost of the new treatment, but is illegal under British law.
A report issued this week by the World Bank outlines the AIDS crisis in developing and underdeveloped countries and concludes that needle exchange and condom availability, although politically controversial, should be funded by the bank, one of the world's largest sources of anti-AIDS funding. The report notes that needle exchange programs have proven their effectiveness as a prevention strategy.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's highest incidence of HIV and AIDS, with life expectancies in some countries shortened by "10 or 20 years," according to Joseph Stingletz, chief economist at the Bank and a former advisor to President Clinton. But the report also notes that the virus may well be on the verge of exploding in parts of China, India, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The report did not include analysis of the epidemic in the US or Western Europe.
Richard Feacham, Director of the World Bank's health department said that the bank was prepared to pay for needle exchange programs if asked by a government.
Last week, a Newsweek report quoted unnamed American officials who claimed the US had "solid proof" that Colombian presidential aide Horacio Serpa had ties to drug traffickers. Serpa, who is widely considered to be the front-runner to succeed Colombian President Ernesto Samper in next year's elections, responded angrily, but did offer to resign if anyone could prove such charges.
This week, in an apparent attempt to calm the international waters, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey told reporters, "It is inappropriate for U.S. authorities to either accuse or absolve Colombian candidates."
The annual report of the European Union Drug Monitoring Service shows that Ireland's 16 year-olds are using drugs at the highest rates in the EU. Nearly 2 of 5 Irish teens have used drugs, mainly cannabis. The revelation surprised some as Ireland is among the most repressive states in the EU on issues of drug prohibition.
In contrast, The Netherlands, which has, for years, tolerated the sale of "soft drugs" in coffeeshops and which deals with even personal use sale and possession of "hard drugs" as a health, rather than criminal problem, had far lower use rates among its teens. According to the report, only 14% of Dutch 16 year-olds had experimented with drugs. In the US, which was not included in the EU report, estimates of the number of high school-aged teens who have used drugs range from 25 to 35%.
A study conducted in Britain by the independent think tank Demos and published by the Rowntree Foundation, contradicts the stereotype of the "drug-taking teen." According to the study, which polled and interviewed people 16-24 years of age, most recreational users in that cohort were sociable and sensible, rather than deviant. Most drug users were found to be extremely knowledgeable about the substances they were taking, had given much thought to how their drug use fit into their lives in a larger context, and were strongly disapproving of "out of control" and "problem" drug-using behavior.
"Most drug use takes place as part of a consumer lifestyle, not a deviant one" said the report. The youths were found to be no less moral than their non-using counterparts, and were no more prone to fatalistic thinking. It also notes that there was no "national drug culture" in Britain, but that patterns of use varied widely among regions and populations.
Patrick O'Hare, Executive Director of the International Harm Reduction Association, told The Week Online, "This kind of report, not only shoes up the futility of education AGAINST drugs but reinforces the case for education ABOUT drugs." (IHRA is on the web at http://www.ihra.org.uk/.)
The Rowntree Foundation's press release and summary of findings can be seen at http://www.jrf.org.uk/jrf.html under the title "'Czar' warned to beware of myths about young people who use drugs" -- follow the Press Release link to get there.
Thomas Constantine, Director of the DEA, issued a public statement this week in response to an episode of Murphy Brown in which the title character uses marijuana to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. (The episode came out on the exact one-year anniversary of the passage of California's Prop. 215, November 5th.)
In a thinly veiled shot at the drug policy reform movement, and specifically at financier George Soros and his world- wide Open Society Institute, the statement said that CBS and the show's creators were "doing a great disservice" by "trivializing drug abuse" and "pandering to the libertarian supporters of an 'open society' and to the myths of legalization."
Bill Zimmerman, Director of Americans for Medical Rights, said "A few years ago, Murphy Brown shocked Dan Quayle by revealing that single women were having children. Now she's upset the DEA by disclosing that cancer victims are using marijuana to relieve their nausea. These guys ought to spend less time in Washington and more time in America."
Those who have followed the medical marijuana campaign may be reminded of California Attorney General Dan Lungren, who held a press conference during the Prop. 215 campaign last year to denounce Zonker, the fictional character from the Doonesbury comic strip, for his advocacy of medical marijuana.
For the American Cancer Society's Murphy Brown Breast Cancer brochure, as well as information on the show, go to http://www.cancer.org.
In addition to Murphy Brown, drug policy has been the topic of discussion in a variety of recent articles:
WAR STORIES: Hawai'i's "War on Drugs" is creating many casualties,
but it can't be won. Cover story in the Honolulu Weekly, 10/22, by DRCNet
member Pamela Lichty.
HIGH HOPES FOR HEMP: Set of MSNBC articles and slide showon medical marijuana and the Washington initiative. http://www.msnbc.com/news/MEDPOT_Front.asp
Five-part series from the Washington Post on border trafficking, violence and corruption. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/frompost/features/nov97/border1106.htm
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GEORGE SOROS: Excerpts from November 5th Nightline
Report on and interview with financier and DPR funder George Soros.
The release this week of the EU's annual report on kids and drugs highlights a debate which is beginning to gain popular prominence across the globe. The report concludes that teens in Ireland, a country with historically "tough" policies on drugs, are using substances at higher rates than their European neighbors, and, significantly, at more than three times the rate of their compatriots living under the notoriously "lenient" drug policy of The Netherlands.
Another report, this one out of the UK, finds that despite government-perpetuated stereotypes about what types of kids use drugs, the typical young recreational user is socially well-adjusted, knowledgeable about the substances they are using, and disapproving of "out of control" or "problem" use-behavior.
In the US this week, DEA administrator Thomas Constantine released a statement in response to the airing of an episode of "Murphy Brown" in which the title character smokes marijuana to relieve the nausea brought on by chemotherapy. In the statement, Constantine's main assertion is that this representaion sends the "wrong message" to kids and that the show would mislead kids into thinking that recreational pot use was "OK."
Without disputing the fact that many young people do, in fact, have problems with substance use, these reports effectively demonstrate how current drug policies, particularly in the US, woefully underestimate both the intelligence and the social skills of young people who use drugs. This disconnect undermines our ability to communicate important information about drugs and their use aimed at reducing both the incidence of use and the harms associated with misuse of various substances.
What could be the possible implications of the fact that the EU study found that only 14% of Dutch teens had even tried "drugs" while 40% of Irish teens have done so? Or that in America, where "zero tolerance" has been an official policy for decades, over 25% of teens are estimated to have used illegal substances? Rational observation of such trends can lead to no conclusion other than that the "zero tolerance" approach has failed miserably in its stated goal of reducing drug use among youth. Judging by the recent actions of the US government, however, rationality is far from the rule when it comes to the Drug War.
Take, for example, Constantine's statement with regard to Murphy Brown's use of medicinal marijuana. The very assumption that American kids cannot differentiate between the medical and recreational use of a substance is more than simply insulting; it is indicative of a naive and counterproductive approach to a generation far more sophisticated and far less vulnerable to scare tactics and propaganda than its government believes it to be.
Dr. Joel Brown, in his landmark study of California's Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Education program (DATE), found that by the time kids turned 13 or 14 years old, the overwhelming message that they had garnered was that educators and police had systematically lied to them about drugs and drug use. This led, Brown concluded, to a general disrespect for those authority figures and disdain for their message. In a nation where leaders seem intent on basing drug policy on "messages" this is a very disturbing finding indeed.
The fact is that the rumblings coming from our elected and appointed leaders amount to little more than pandering to the fears of parents, and has little basis in either the realities of the lives of teenagers or in any pragmatic strategy for the reduction of harms associated with drug use. Are American kids somehow intellectually or morally inferior to their Dutch counterparts? In The Netherlands, drug policy aims to impart factual information, based upon the assumption that kids exist in the real world, where they will be faced with real choices and opportunities, including choices concerning drug use, and that kids armed with the facts will act in a more or less rational manner. In the US, the assumption seems to be that we must somehow protect our kids from the facts, lest they be tempted to make choices that make adults uneasy. This strategy has served only to alienate and disenfranchise our youth, leaving them to drift through their world without the very moral compass that our wrongheaded policies are attempting to instill.
The lesson to be drawn from these bits of news from around the world is that lies, threats and oppression are likely to lead teens to far different conclusions than the ones we intended for them to reach. So let us reassess our direction. It is worth considering that for all the assertions of the US government that Dutch drug policy is a failure, the numbers show that in rejecting the "drug free" American ideal they have, ironically, come far closer to achieving it than the American model itself. And for all the U.S. government's talk of "zero tolerance," the fact is that American kids are making their own decisions with little regard for the rhetoric. If the numbers of American and Dutch kids who used drugs were reversed, our leaders would be proclaiming, rightly, the success of their system. Now that it is clear that this isn't so, the time has come to learn from our mistakes, and to finally allow our kids to learn from the facts.
Adam J. Smith
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