The Week Online with DRCNet
ISSUE #38, 4/17/98
TV: Todd McCormick freed, appearing with actor Woody Harrelson on POLITICALLY INCORRECT WITH BILL MAHER, this Monday night, April 20. See http://www.marijuananews.com and http://www.marijuanamagazine.com/toc/articles/toddfree.htm for more info.
IN PRINT: Pick up this Saturday's New York Times (4/18) for letters to the editor responding to A.M. Rosenthal's latest "backdoor to legalization" column.
FREE WILL FOSTER RALLY this Monday, and other events, see item 8 below.
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Table of Contents
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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, on a tour of South Asia, will arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan on April 17 to discuss human rights and the opium poppy with the ruling Taliban. Afghanistan is said to be the world's largest source of the opium poppy, raw material in the production of heroin. The Taliban, in control of approximately 75% of the country, are not officially recognized by most of the world's governments due to their extremist policies regarding women. These include barring women from education and health care, from speaking in public, and from appearing in public without a close male relative. Penalties for failure to abide can include public beatings, amputations or execution. The Taliban have ignored repeated calls from international organizations to reform these policies, calling their detractors, including the leadership of several international women's rights groups "infidels". (See "Sympathy for the Devil" at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/12-5-1.html#editorial.)
Pino Arlacchi, the new United Nations' "Drug Czar", has seized upon Afghanistan's opium production to justify his plan, as part of the soon to be released United Nations drug strategy, to fund the Taliban to the tune of at least $250 million over ten years in return for their promise of opium eradication. This despite the fact that the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs 1997 report warned that "(The Taliban's) limited capacity to engage in substantial processes of policy-making or the implementation of governmental programs remains the main obstacle to meaningful cooperation." The Taliban have also made a mockery of other UN efforts by repeatedly attacking aid workers, especially women, to the point that earlier this year, the UN pulled most of them out of the southern part of the country. In addition, a high-level United Nations official has previously told The Week Online, "no one really believes that (the Taliban) will follow through on this. It seems to be (Arlacchi) looking for headlines."
As June approaches, and the first-ever United Nations Special Session on Narcotics draws near (June 8-10 in New York), plans are being finalized for events all across the globe in protest of the global Drug War. At least 35 separate events will be held in at least 30 different cities, from Belgium to Tel Aviv, Amsterdam to San Francisco. The events, all part of the "Global Days Against the Drug War", will take place primarily over the weekend of June 6-7.
A special event will be held starting on Monday, June 8 in New York, which will allow for the participation of people from all over the world. Details of this event, including how you can become involved, no matter where you are, will be available starting next week. For information regarding events in your part of the world, or to make an organizational endorsement of the sign-on statement, go to http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/globalcoalition/.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ben Petrone at (212) 787-4822 or
DUTCH MARIJUANA USE LOWER THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT: NEW STUDY SHATTERS AMERICAN MYTH THAT RELAXED DUTCH MARIJUANA LAWS CAUSE INCREASED MARIJUANA USE Despite Decriminalization, Dutch Use Less Marijuana Than Americans A new study with sweeping implications for marijuana policy in the United States and abroad has found the number of marijuana users in the Netherlands to be substantially lower than previously estimated.
According to a study released today by the Centre for Drug Research (CEDRO) at the University of Amsterdam, only about 2 to 3 percent of the Dutch population (ages 12 years old and up) had used marijuana in the previous month. Earlier studies had put the rate at about 5.0 to 6.5 percent.
"Previous estimates were based on surveys in Amsterdam, which has a higher use rate than the rest of the country," said Peter Cohen, one of the authors of the study. "By including the cities of Tilberg and Utrecht in our survey, the results are more representative of the Dutch population as a whole."
These findings offer new insight into the relationship between marijuana use and marijuana policy. For the last twenty years, Dutch citizens over the age of 18 have been able to buy and use marijuana in government-regulated coffee shops. In the United States, where it is illegal under federal law to grow, purchase or use marijuana, U.S. government studies have found Americans use marijuana more often than the Dutch. According to a 1996 U.S. government study, between 4.2 and 5.3 percent of the U.S. population (ages 12 years old and up) had used marijuana in the past month. Despite fundamentally different marijuana policies, the Dutch use less marijuana than Americans.
"This study is further evidence that Dutch marijuana policy has not resulted in an explosion of marijuana use," said Dr. John P. Morgan, co-author of the book Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence (The Lindesmith Center, $12.95 U.S., paperback). "Despite an overly punitive policy toward marijuana in the U.S., Americans still use more marijuana." Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts co-author Lynn Zimmer asks, "If the Dutch are using less marijuana, what purpose was served by arresting 642,000 Americans for possessing marijuana last year?"
A report issued this week (4/15) by the U.S. Department of Commerce finds that as of the end of 1997, over 100 million people world-wide were online, and that the volume of net traffic (the number of messages being sent) has been doubling every 100 days. The report indicates that it took the Internet just four years to reach 50 million users, compared to 38 years for radio and 13 years for television. In 1994, just after DRCNet's founding, only 3 million people worldwide were online.
The bad news is that 99.995% of these 100 million net-users aren't subscribed to DRCNet! (Though many of them may be reading our material via other lists or forums.) You can help remedy this appalling situation by telling your friends, colleagues and fellow list subscribers and forum participants about DRCNet. If you like, use the following text to do so:
If you're opposed to Drug Prohibition, or even if you just think the War on Drugs has gone too far, you should sign up online with the Drug Reform Coordination Network, drug policy reform central on the Internet. DRCNet's weekly news bulletins and as-needed action-alerts will keep you up to date on what's going on with the issue and the movement to change US drug policy. Just one, sometimes two messages a week, DRCNet won't jam your mailbox, but will put you "in the loop". Every supporter of drug policy reform should be on DRCNet.
Please visit our home page at http://www.drcnet.org and follow the link to our "quick sign-up" form, and you can get "in the loop" for drug policy reform in less than a minute. Tell your friends!
Bryan Anderson, a student at Southwest Texas State University, is fed up with the Texas State University system's zero-tolerance policy which mandates a minimum two semester suspension for any student caught in possession of an illegal substance for any reason. Anderson is so fed up, in fact that he has set himself up as its latest victim in an effort to bring it down. On January 28, Anderson stood on the campus' central Quad, read a statement denouncing the policy, and lit a joint in front of campus police. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail.
On Thursday, April 2, Anderson's case was heard by a tribunal consisting of two University-selected students and one faculty member. At that hearing, Anderson was not permitted to question witnesses against him, nor to present evidence in mitigation. The tribunal's decision, mailed to him last week, was that he too would serve a two-semester suspension.
Anderson is already a local celebrity in San Marcos Texas. For the past year he has been a disc jockey for KIND-Radio, a "pirate" station which operates at low power (under 10 Watts) without an FCC license. KIND-Radio, like other unlicensed broadcasters, has been involved in an ongoing legal battle with the FCC over its right to exist. KIND-Radio, which broadcasts to the San Marcos community at 105.9 FM, seems to have broad local support in their struggle. KIND-Radio also broadcasts over the net in Realaudio at http://www.mediadesign.net.
Anderson has no intention of backing down. He told The week Online, "There have been a couple of other students who have decided to challenge the University's disciplinary code, but once they either graduated or pressured the University enough to have their tuition refunded, they backed out. But unlike most of the students who are caught up in the system, I didn't get caught with marijuana in my dorm room, I purposely and publicly smoked a joint in order to protest an unjust policy."
David Sergi, Anderson's attorney, spoke with The Week Online. "The hearing, as mandated in the University's disciplinary handbook, does not allow for student's cases to be considered on an individual basis. There is no provision for the presentation of mitigating evidence, and no opportunity for the student to question the witnesses against him. There's a case, decided by the District Court in Austin (Payne v. U. of Texas System), and affirmed by reference by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which states that within the University System, each student has the right to present mitigating evidence. In other words, there can be no "mandatory minimum" punishment based solely on the act itself. Each case and each student must be considered individually."
The school, however, is arguing that they are in compliance with this requirement. "The school claims that there is a right to appeal to the University president" said Sergi. "But this option is not published anywhere, and therefore students have no way of knowing that it exists. In addition, this right of appeal is at the sole discretion of the president. That doesn't exactly look like due process as the Texas courts have apparently defined it."
Anderson plans to appeal to the president and to seek an injunction in district court against the imposition of the suspension.
NOTE: DRCNet subscribers are urged to email editors of both the Austin American Statesman at [email protected] and the San Marcos Daily Record at [email protected]. You might consider telling them that any university policy, especially at a state school, which refuses to allow the facts of an individual case to be aired, is a poor way of educating students as to the tenets of the American system of justice. Or you might just let them know that Bryan Anderson's act of civil disobedience highlights the absurdity of filling Texas prisons with non-violent marijuana users. Whatever your take on this incident, the very act of writing to the editor will let the local press, and the Texas state University system know that people across the country, and around the world, are watching.
AND: Don't forget to check out KIND-Radio at http://www.mediadesign.net. Tell 'em DRCNet sent you!
- Marc Brandl for DRCNet
The first act of public civil disobedience Lynn Harichy committed was in September of 1997, when she lit up a joint in front of the London, Ontario police station. For that act, she was charged with "possession of a narcotic". Since then, Harichy, 36, a mother of two who uses medical marijuana to alleviate the pain and spasticity of her multiple sclerosis, has gone on to become one of the most prominent activists in Canada for the right to safe and legal access to medical marijuana.
Harichy's newest endeavor has been the opening of the London Cannabis Compassion Center (LCCC). The goal of the club is to keep patients in medical need off of the streets, by providing them with access to safe marijuana. Although things have started off slowly, progress is being made, says Harichy, "Today, April 8th, I got back my first completed application, and at 5:22pm it was approved." Patients must supply a prescription from a doctor in order to qualify as a member of LCCC.
Although Canada lacks any legal protection for medical marijuana patients and their primary care providers like Harichy's LCCC, public support remains high and officials have been leery of cracking down. "Any police intervention would make for a tremendous amount of bad press, and the clubs would continue operating anyway." says Chris Clay of HempNation and a board member of the Vancouver Cannabis Compassion Club, which has been up and running for about a year. Despite this small pocket of protection that has emerged for cannabis buyers clubs (CBC's), operators like Harichy still face problems due to medical marijuana's shaky legal standing. "Most doctors are leery of filling these [prescriptions] out because of the legal implications they could be involved with. However, I have been assuring them that everything would be kept under complete confidentiality," states Harichy. "I will under no circumstances divulge any information for any reason to anyone, including the police."
Harichy is part of an association of CBC's called the Medical Marijuana Centers of Ontario, of which she and her husband Mike are the presidents. The group of ten activists came together in February and announced publicly their intention to open multiple CBC's in Ontario province. "We are all working together and will support one another if any or all are busted." says Lynn, "We are working together on this because this is a medical necessity for people who are suffering."
The case involving Lynn Harichy's act of civil disobedience back in September is still working its way through the courts. Professor Alan Young of the Osgoode Law School is representing Lynn in the case and has also agreed to represent the Ontario medical marijuana centers if necessary. Young hopes through cases like Lynn's, and the success of the CBC's, legal access to medical marijuana can be attained.
The prospects for medical marijuana continue to look good for Canada, but they are far from certain, and clubs such as the one Lynn Harichy runs could still be busted. If that happens, says Lynn, "I have been informing the police and government and have told Alan Rock the Minister of Health that if anyone goes to jail let it be me and me alone. If anyone is punished in any way it must be me."
If anything is certain in the rugged landscape of medical marijuana reform, the efforts of Lynn and other activists will ensure the issue will not drop off the radar screen in Canada anytime soon.
AN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN CANADA
It is truly a small, interconnected world, as the existence of this newsletter proves. Countries are now less and less likely to make policy, especially regarding a global issue such as drugs, by considering only internal political forces. New policy in one country can influence laws being written by another. We have seen this with some environmental issues and laws passed to ban land mines, to name just two areas. How do efforts at drug policy reform in one country affect another? With Lynn Harichy and many others' undaunted efforts in Canada in mind, the Week Online sought out a U.S. perspective on medical marijuana internationally.
Dave Fratello is the Director of Communications of Americans for Medical Rights, which successfully headed the Prop. 215 effort in California and which is running similar initiatives in several states in '98. The Week Online briefly talked to Fratello about what successful efforts like those in Canada might mean for the U.S., and what problems other international efforts might face.
"Just as surely as pressure can be brought to bear on Washington by the states, it can also come from progress being made internationally. Frankly, the U.S. government gets away with writing off the Dutch experience as an anomaly. But when you see pressure and activity on medical marijuana growing in Great Britain, France, and other parts of Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and even here in North America, from Canada, the pressure on Washington threatens to become real."
"The activity in Canada is interesting in this context. What happens to our immediate north is inherently different from what happens in the Netherlands or Australia, for example. Americans generally feel that Canada is like the United States. We're already seeing folks in some Midwestern states who are supporting the industrial use of hemp asking why Canadian farmers are going to be allowed to grow it, but American farmers aren't. I think you'll see the same kind of question if the Canadian policy on medical marijuana continues to veer off from the path ordained by Washington."
But countries do not make drug policy in a vacuum, and Fratello says pressure from the U.S. is a real danger. "What is clear about the whole medical marijuana controversy is that the U.S. government is the greatest obstacle to reform. Everyone involved internationally recognizes that the U.S., through the DEA and even the reactionary, U.S. dominated U.N. Drug Control Program, calls the shots on drug policy. But the increased openness of some of these nations provides real hope."
But now in 1998, the U.S. government will face a second round of medical marijuana initiatives, creating an international opportunity for reform. "One of the most interesting questions is how the synergy might work between what is going on internationally and what's due to happen later this year in several U.S. states, with November votes on marijuana initiatives. To the extent that certain governments might feel cowed by the American hard line on marijuana, the discrediting of federal policy by voters in several states at once could embolden those governments who are considering going their own way on issues like medical marijuana."
(Check http://www.hempnation.com for continuing updates on the Canadian drug policy situation.)
(Please accept our apology to anyone whose important event we missed. Submit your event listings by e-mail to [email protected], as far in advance as possible.)
At some point in the evolution of every social movement, questions arise about the value of various forms of civil disobedience (CD) as a tool for achieving change. In the U.S. over the past thirty years, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the environmental movement and the AIDS movement have all made use, with varying degrees of success, of civil disobedience.
But perhaps no American movement has had as ambivalent a relationship with civil disobedience as the drug policy reform movement. This is true not because those who are involved in it doubt the effectiveness of CD as a concept, but rather it is due to the nature of the most widely employed method of those advocating drug law -- or more accurately marijuana law -- reform: the large-scale smokeout.
This week, the week of April 20th, is generally considered by marijuana activists to be the "proper" time to hold a smokeout. And so on that date, across the country, large numbers of marijuana users come together to listen to speakers rail against the status quo, to thumb their collective noses at prohibition, to protest a set of laws that are as universally ignored as they are unevenly enforced, and to celebrate communally the mellow high of their favorite intoxicant. Oh... and to listen to cool bands.
The activists who organize these events are quick to point out their value to the cause. Smokeouts tend to bring together large crowds, sometimes 50,000 people or more (depending on the bands, of course). They are a great place for organizing, collecting names and addresses, handing out literature, and providing a forum for other groups and organizations who set up tables and gain access to the (admittedly only marginally attentive) masses. Organizers of the largest smokeouts point out that by bringing that many people together, they are sending a message to politicians. Further, they argue, since these events are noteworthy for the lack of violence (due mainly to the virtual absence of alcohol) or other disturbances, they are a good way to show the public that marijuana is not the demon drug that the prohibitionists would have people believe. Finally, they say, the sheer empowerment of coming together, in public, to share some bud and proclaim their God-given right to partake in the ingestion of their favorite plant on a sunny spring day, is a boost to the morale of a population that is generally forced into the shadows, lest they be picked off by local police and become one of the statistics rattled off from the stage at next year's event.
Other drug policy reformers hold a far different opinion of smokeouts. They will tell you that while they have no problem with the argument that there is a God-given right to naturally occurring plants, or to do with those plants as the individual sees fit, that this is not an argument which is likely to sway the uninitiated. The smokeouts, they say, present the image of drug policy reform as something out of the 1960's -- a self-indulgent group of long-hairs who simply want to be left alone to get stoned without being hassled. (Not, they will reassure you, that they have anything against long-hairs.) That image, they say, devalues the message of reform, for which there is a real moral, economic and social imperative. And not only marijuana reform, but, by association, all drug policy reform issues, from methadone maintenance to needle exchange, from asset forfeiture to mandatory minimums, and from pain control to the war in Colombia.
But by far the biggest problem that the anti-smokeout reformers have with the tactics of their pro-smokeout bretheren is the reaction of the media to the events. Hold a smokeout, they say, any smokeout in any public space, and do you know what happens? Some reporter with camera crew in tow will head directly -- like a heat-seeking missile -- for the single youngest smoker in the crowd. They'll snap pictures of the grinning red-eyed kid and ask him some tough questions, like: "Do you like smoking marijuana? Do you wish it were legal?" And unless a nuclear holocaust happens to erupt on the same day (and only if it happens somewhere really important), guess what will be on the cover of the next day's papers, or, if it was a video camera, leading off the local news.
It is that image, of course, the image of the drug-taking thirteen year-old, upon which the drug war survives. Never mind that the kid with the joint in his mouth bought his weed under a prohibitionist system that makes rational age restrictions impossible. Never mind that rather than licensed vendors, marijuana, along with heroin, cocaine and LSD is available from the girl who sits next to this kid in science class. And never mind that the organizers of the protest may have done all that they could to discourage underage people from smoking at the rally. That kid, and his joint, will lead. Because the image of a pubescent doing drugs has done more for drug war budgets than the image of Joe Camel ever did for the sales of RJ Reynolds.
And don't expect the news story accompanying that image to mention that the same anti-prohibitionist views being preached from the stage have also been preached by such noted hippies as William F. Buckley, George Schultz or Milton Friedman. Nope. Here are your legalizers... and here is the product of their message. And in the eyes of reformers who argue against the use of smokeouts as mass civil disobedience, that picture is worth a thousand words.
Adam J. Smith
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