The Week Online with DRCNet
ISSUE #40, 5/3/98
TO OUR READERS: Due to an overwhelming week in the office, this issue of The Week Online is arriving a couple of days late. We thank you for your patience.
ALERT: We at DRCNet are proud to bring you the drug policy news each week. But DRCNet is not only about education, but also about Taking Action to Bring About Change Today. We lists here a few important action requests, followed as always by the weekly news.
1) Cleveland needle exchanger Ken Vail was arrested last week, as city officials place obstacle after bureaucratic obstacle in the way of this life-saving program. Vail and The Xchange Point NEP need our support now! Read our alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/4-28.html and act.
2) DRUG CRAZY: How We Got Into This Mess, and How We Can Get Out -- read about this important new book by DRCNet advisory board member Mike Gray, forthcoming from Random House, in our alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/4-29.html and take action. Your phone calls to bookstores in your area -- whether big chains or local independent stores, can help propel Drug Crazy to the bestseller list. As Newt Gingrich and the Republican leadership go "drug crazy" for the campaign season, and several more initiatives head to the ballots across the nation, Drug Crazy is coming out at just the right time to puncture the drug warriors' far-fetched fantasies of how they will "win the war on drugs." And DRCNet is lauded and prominently featured in the book's appendix, together with an Internet directory of drug policy reform and informational resources, so building up Drug Cray will build DRCNet and the movement too!
3) The House of Representatives is expected to vote this Tuesday on H.R. 372, a "Sense of the House" resolution opposing medical marijuana unequivocally and totally. While not legally binding, passage of H.R. 372 would be a political victory for the drug warriors, and could make further progress for medical marijuana more difficult. Please call your Representative ASAP, and ask him or her to vote NO on H.R. 372. You can reach your rep via the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121. (The vote is coming right up, so phone calls or faxes are needed more than e-mails or letters.)
4) Support DRCNet! We rely on our members for continuing support. If you haven't yet donated to DRCNet, this would be a perfect time to join. Your support at any level, be it a $10 virtual members, a $25 full membership, $30 to get a free copy of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, or more, represents a vote for DRCNet and drug policy reform. Your support will keep the organization going strong, and will show our major funders that our subscribers care about our work and are ready to act, helping us raise the money to build our subscriber list from the current 5,000 up to 50,000 and from 50,000 to 100,000, creating an unstoppable force for positive drug policy change. If you are already a member, we would be grateful for your continuing support. Please visit our registration/donation form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html, or send your checks to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036. Contributions to DRCNet are not tax-deductible.
Table of Contents
The Drug War, and the Clinton Administration's leadership on the issue, came under attack from nearly all sides this week in a confluence of events which may ultimately be remembered as the Fort Sumter of the brewing civil war over America's drug policy. Republicans, who have labeled Clinton's 1998 drug war strategy a "weak" series of "half-steps" (despite America's status as the world's #1 incarcerator), unveiled their counter-strategy this week, while the NAACP, the Urban League and the head of the Congressional Black Caucus sent an open letter to the president calling on him as well as Congress to "re-examine" the Drug War's focus on prisons.
HOUSE GOP UNVEILS LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE
House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich and his newly-created "Speakers' Task Force for a Drug-Free America" chaired by J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), unveiled a "comprehensive, World War II-style" drug war legislative package on Thursday (4/30). Details of the package will be presented to the public over an eight-week period at a series of orchestrated media events complete with blue ribbon-wearing participants. The package, which will include at least a dozen separate pieces of legislation, is being compared by House Republican staffers to the 1994 "Contract With America," both in its scope and its intended centrality to the election-year message of the party.
While much of the legislation is still being written, the bills will range from largely symbolic, such as drug testing of Congressional Representatives and their staffs, to punitive, such as the denial of direct or indirect federal funding to any organization involved in providing syringes, to overtly war-like, such as the reinstitution and expansion of military deployments on the US side of our national borders. The stated goal of the Republican package is to "win" the drug war by creating a "drug-free" America in four years. Longer sentences, the death penalty, technological upgrades in interdiction and federal law enforcement, a doubling of the border patrol and incentives for expanded work-place drug testing will also be addressed.
Unlike the recent rhetoric of Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey, who has said that we ought not call our drug policy a "war", the Republicans are openly embracing the lingo of destruction. Rep. Hastert, chairman of the task force, told the press, "We are in a war with real casualties. This Congress will deploy its legislative battleplan with the War on Drugs on three major fronts...", those being demand reduction, supply reduction, and accountability.
Andrew Weinstein, a spokesman for House Speaker Gingrich, told The Week Online, "We expect strong backing for this agenda. This is not a political initiative, it is a substantive plan, a powerful and comprehensive anti-drug strategy designed to protect our children against drugs. And while it is not designed as a political tool, we expect that a number of Republicans will be running very strongly behind this message in the 1998 campaign."
At the press conference on Thursday, more than fifty Republican legislators and a hundred local schoolchildren shared the stage with Speaker Gingrich. Gingrich told reporters that it was imperative that the Drug War be won in four years. Otherwise, he said, "The public will get cynical, and the movement to legalize drugs will succeed."
Reformers, however, have a different take on both the timing and the impact of the GOP initiative. Kevin Zeese, President of the Common Sense for Drug Policy Foundation, told The Week Online, "I think that this strategy is going to misfire badly for the Republicans and for Drug Warriors in general. A few years ago, this kind of thing would have flown easily. The level of understanding on this issue has taken quantum leaps, however, as evidenced by the NAACP-Urban League-Maxine Waters letter this week. The public clearly understands that the Drug War doesn't work, and I wouldn't be so sure that a plan which essentially calls for more of the same is going to be politically well-received. I think that Gingrich is misreading his polls on this, and as a consequence, we are going to be able to use the publicity that this will generate to educate the public about alternatives to a policy of never-ending war."
VOICES OF DISSENT
While the Clinton Administration prepares to defend its Drug War efforts against attack from the right, the decision, made last week (4/20), against lifting the ban on the use of federal anti-AIDS funds for syringe exchange has apparently broken the dam and unleashed, if not a torrent, then at least a stream of dissent from the President's left. This backlash has come specifically from officials and organizations concerned over the Drug War's devastating impact on poor and minority communities.
In an open letter to President Clinton, signed by an impressive list of national leaders, including Maxine Waters, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the presidents of the NAACP and the Mexican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the call was raised for a total elimination of the 100-1 sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine. And while that disparity is the focus of the letter, the issue of the Drug War's disparate overall impact, as well as its reliance on incarceration, are also addressed. It reads in part:
"The American anti-drug effort's focus on imprisonment over treatment and its targeting of small-scale African American and Latino drug offenders has devastated minority communities and raised public concern about the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing." The letter goes on to cite a 1997 Rand Corporation study which shows the relative cost-effectiveness of drug treatment over either mandatory minimum sentencing or standard policing.
A FOCUS ON TIMETABLES
The first hints that this battle over the Drug War was looming came in February, when the Clinton Administration released its 1998 Drug Strategy, including a 10-year plan to reduce illegal drug consumption by 50 percent (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/2-13.html#ondcp). That plan was attacked by Gingrich and other Republicans as "weak", and they vowed to craft a plan to "win" the war in 4 years (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/2-20.html#gingrich and http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/2-20.html#editorial).
If Gingrich's four-year plan sounds ambitious, it is perhaps less so than the goal laid out by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL), the Task Force Co-Chairman, who is focusing his efforts on the supply-side. McCollum's stated goal is to reduce the amount of drugs entering the U.S. by 80% in just three years. McCollum has been pushing in recent weeks for increased military aid to Colombia, and observers of the region worry that the U.S. is backsliding into an unwinnable quagmire in that nation's 35 year-old civil war (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/3-27.html#colombia).
As noted above, Speaker Gingrich made overt reference during this week's press event to the possibility of a war-weary public joining "the movement to legalize drugs." This backhanded reference to the growing strength of the anti-war movement was widely noted among reformers.
Ty Trippet, spokesman for The Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think tank, told The Week Online, "It's interesting to hear Newt Gingrich admit to his fear of the reform movement. For those who are professionally and politically wedded to the idea of war at all costs as the solution to the problems associated with substance abuse, it would be hard not to notice that around the world, alternatives to punitive prohibition are being sought."
In the aftermath of the decision, hotly contested within the Clinton Administration, against lifting the ban on the use of federal anti-AIDS funding for needle exchange, several members of the Congressional Black Caucus have called for the resignation of Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, made the demand. CBC chair Maxine Waters (D-CA) stated, "This is a life and death issue. You can save lives with needle exchange as we work at getting rid of drugs."
The Clinton Administration's decision to keep the ban in place, even as they made the determination that syringe exchange saves lives without promoting increasing the use of drugs and called on states and local communities to support the programs, got strong reaction from the reform community, although there was disagreement about its impact. In the final weeks leading up to the decision, it became apparent through information leaked to various media that it was McCaffrey who was lobbying the president to ignore the advice of AIDS Director Sandra Thurman, Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, the presidential Advisory Commission on AIDS, Surgeon General David Satcher and others who were urging that the ban be lifted. And in the end, McCaffrey, who is seen as critical to the president's credibility on the drug issue, got his way.
Chris Lanier, coordinator of the National Coalition to Save Lives Now, told The Week Online, "This is just outright political spinelessness. They didn't even try to hide the fact that they are making a decision which goes against the scientific evidence. There is no way to justify this. This administration bears direct responsibility for thousands of preventable infections and deaths."
But DRCNet Board Member Joey Tranchina, Executive Director of the AIDS/Hepatitis Prevention Action Network, told The Week Online, "I think that this (the administration advocating exchange without lifting the ban) is probably the best possible scenario. Let's be honest, the federal government has a long and distinguished record of destroying nearly everything it touches. Federal funding would have come with massive amounts of restrictive regulation which would, in all likelihood, have kept us from doing this work in the ways that work best. Now, we have the department of Health and Human Services virtually locked in to promoting these programs on the state and local levels, without giving them control. In addition, federal AIDS money would not have covered the entire costs of most exchanges, but it would have been hard to convince our private funders to continue to support us once they heard that the government was picking up the tab. There are lots of worthy causes, and I think that a lot of the private money coming in now would have been redirected."
And Robert Fogel, a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on AIDS, which three weeks ago was hours away from calling for the resignation of Donna Shalala, until a call from the White House assured them that a decision on the ban was forthcoming, took a similar view.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what the commission will decide to do now," Fogel told The Week Online. "But personally, I think that this could work out very well. The key issue is going to be how out-front HHS Secretary Donna Shalala will be in urging localities to support the programs. It's going to make it much easier, in places where exchange is still illegal, to get them established and recognized by the local authorities. We'll have to see how it plays out from here, but I'm hopeful that this decision will prove to be a positive development."
Last fall, DRCNet reported on the Free Kemba Smith rally on the steps of the US Capitol, featuring high school students from Dayton, Ohio, who had learned of the Kemba Smith case from the May, 1996 issue of Emerge magazine, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), John Conyers (D-MI), and Maxine Waters (D- CA), Rev. Jamal Bryant, Youth and College Director of the NAACP, representatives from Families Against Mandatory Minimums and others. Smith was sentences at age 24 to a 24-year mandatory minimum sentence for drugs sold by an abusive boyfriend who had been killed before prosecutors could try him (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/9-12-1.html#kemba).
The May, 1997 issue of Emerge again features the Kemba Smith case, and the effort to free Kemba, reverse mandatory minimum sentencing, and educate youth on the dangers they could face at the hands of the criminal justice system. Check your local newsstand, or call (800) 888-0488.
To learn more about the important work being done by Kemba's parents, Gus and Odessa Smith, visit the Kemba Smith Justice page at http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/8899/. To learn more about mandatory minimums, visit Families Against Mandatory Minimums at http://www.famm.org.
Activist and medical marijuana user Doug Keenan and his wife Theresa (both DRCNet members) were arrested this week, just one day after appearing on the PBS Frontline special, "Busted: America's War on Marijuana". Keenan, an electrical engineer, computer programmer, and holder of ten U.S. patents, suffers from testicular cancer, but believes in the right to use marijuana, whether medicinally or recreationally. During the show, Doug appeared on camera, openly admitting that he grows and uses marijuana medicinally, and that to him, the issue is a simple matter of his God-given right to use whatever the earth gives forth in his efforts to treat himself. Video footage showed him tending to several marijuana plants. (DRCNet's web site also appeared on Keenan's computer screen during the show. That computer is now in police custody. Keenan's was one of two homes in which DRCNet's web site popped up during the one-hour show. If you're impressed by that, why not become a member? http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html)
The Keenans' house was raided on Wednesday evening (4/29) by members of the Noblesville City Police, members of the Hamilton County Drug Task Force, and two men in suits who refused to identify themselves. "We're pretty sure they were feds," Theresa told The week Online. "When we asked who they were, they told us 'you don't need to know who we are.' So I just told them, 'well, that's too bad, because we're proud of what we do. I'm Theresa Keenan.' They wouldn't even shake my hand." Police claim to have found less than one ounce of marijuana in the house.
Doug reports that the house and its contents were trashed beyond any reason. He told The Week Online, "Everything was on the floor, scattered around. Pictures were torn off of walls, my papers covered our floor. Among the items they took were my computer, every phone number they could find, and every book on my shelf related to marijuana. The funny thing is that they left all the books on hemp. I guess our educational efforts here in Indiana have had some impact. They apparently know the difference."
The Keenans knew that they were taking a risk when they agreed to appear on Frontline, but were determined to "come out" and to take a stand against what they view as the unjust persecution of marijuana users, be their use medical or recreational. "Doug thought that maybe they wouldn't come, but I knew that they'd be here," Theresa said. "We have two kids, they're nine and fourteen, and we prepared them for this. They were absolute warriors, no tears, they did exactly as we'd discussed. I have to say that whatever message the government is trying to send to America's children, our kids will grow up knowing that it's important to stand up against injustice, even if it involves personal sacrifice."
The Keenans have been charged with maintaining a public nuisance (a felony) as well as misdemeanor possession. Contributions to their defense can be made to:
Keenan Defense Fund
Excerpts, interviews and other information related to the Frontline special can be found on the PBS web site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/.
- Barrington Daltrey for DRCNet
Medical marijuana remains at the center of a firestorm of controversy in California. This week, the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivators' Club reemerged from the shut-down recently ordered by Judge David Garcia, as the Cannabis Healing Center. The entity has new management and revised procedures intended to comply with Proposition 215 and Judge Garcia's ruling. Operations will be directed by Hazel Rogers, a septagenarian who uses marijuana to treat her glaucoma.
In Southern California, the Orange County District Attorney has targeted members of the Orange County Cannabis Co-op for enforcement. The co-op's director, Marvin Chavez, has been arrested, along with two others members. Chavez is in jail awaiting trial on charges relating to the co-op's operation.
Chavez' supporters report that he suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative spine disease. While in jail, he is being deprived of necessary medication and the use of a back brace. A rally has been called for May 7, 1998, at 8:30am at the Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana, California. Supporters seek to provide a significant presence, followed by packing the Division 313 courtroom for Chavez' hearing.
- Alex Morgan for DRCNet
Penn State Professor Emeritus Julian Heicklen, in the fourth month of a weekly civil disobedience campaign in which he and a group of supporters smoke marijuana in front of the University gates each Thursday afternoon, was arrested on April 20 for failing to appear at his arraignment on charges of marijuana possession from the Feb. 12 demonstration.
Heicklen had earlier announced that he would not attend the Arraignment because he was not indicted by a grand jury, as specified in the Fifth Amendment for a "...capital or otherwise infamous crime..." Pennsylvania abolished the Grand Jury procedure for most crimes in the 1970's. Heicklen was arrested by two Centre County Deputy Sheriffs and taken directly to the county prison and held overnight. The next day, Prof. Heicklen, wearing a prison uniform, handcuffs and leg shackles, was taken to his arraignment before Judge Charles Brown Jr., Presiding Judge of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.
Judge Brown ignored Heicklen's demand for a Grand Jury and proceeded with the arraignment. Heicklen refused to participate and would not sign the arraignment plea form that was presented to him. Heicklen was taken back to the prison, where he was released at 2:50pm.
At the April 23 rally, Heicklen said that he would continue to fight for a Grand Jury proceeding, taking it to the US Supreme Court if necessary.
Commenting on his first night in jail since the civil disobedience campaign began, he said, "I wish to thank the citizens of Centre County for their hospitality on April 20, 1998. I was provided free room, board, health club, around-the-clock police protection and the opportunity to see some old friends and make some new ones..."
Prof. Heicklen also announced that Prof. Lynn Zimmer and Dr. John Morgan, authors of MARIJUANA MYTHS, MARIJUANA FACTS: A REVIEW OF THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, have agreed to testify as expert witnesses at his trial. Zimmer and Morgan were at Penn State on April 7 where they talked about the flawed studies and drug war propaganda that are the basis of the war on marijuana. Prof. Zimmer said that the sanctions against marijuana are increasing and that there is "...good reason to be involved in trying to turn this thing around."
Heicklen also said that he had recently addressed 300 students at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where organizational plans and legal help are being prepared for a similar civil disobedience campaign that will start in the fall. Heicklen is willing to help activists anywhere in the country and can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]
"It's now appropriate to take this to all the counties in the state... ultimately as we win in the counties the Federal Government has to decide what to do. They'll have to come after us and we'll do the same thing with the Federal Courts. Slowly as more of these things go on, people will give up fighting it."
Professor Heicklen warns his supporters not to expect quick results and that the process may take a number of years, but he also says he's in this for the long haul. "I'm retired. I've got nothing else to do."
At the April 30 rally, Heicklen said that he has now been charged with a total of four counts of possession for marijuana confiscated on February 12, March 19, March 26 and April 2.
Although he continues to smoke every Thursday, the police have not been there to witness it since the April 2 rally. On April 9 they showed up at the end to clear the protest away from a restaurant entrance, where the rally had moved for shelter from the rain, but for the last three weeks the police have been conspicuously absent.
At this week's demonstration, Heicklen received the support of Ken Krawchuk, the Pennsylvania Libertarian gubernatorial nominee, who said he would grant pardons to all those convicted of drug offenses and other victimless crimes and return seized assets if he wins the November race.
The New York Academy of Medicine is sponsoring: Two Conferences on Pharmacotherapy for Opiate Dependence.
The 1st International Conference on Heroin Maintenance, Saturday, June 6, 1998, 9:30am to 5:30pm, $40 (lunch included), $20 for students.
Expanded Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Opiate Dependence, Friday, September 25, 1998, 9:00am to 5:00pm, $50 (lunch included), $20 for students.
Both conferences will be held at the New York Academy of Medicine, 5th Ave. & 103rd Street, New York, NY, and are co-sponsored by Beth Israel Medical Center, Columbia University School of Public Health, The Lindesmith Center of the Open Society Institute, Montefiore Medical Center, the New York Academy of Medicine, and the Yale University Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. For information, call (212) 822-7237 or go to http://library.nyam.org/heroin/.
"It is imperative that we win the Drug War in four years, or else the public will grow cynical, and the movement to legalize drugs will succeed." - Newt Gingrich, 4/30/98
With those words, House Speaker Newt Gingrich launched a "comprehensive... World War II-style battleplan," a legislative agenda that he says will create a "Drug Free America" by 2002. And while raising the spectre of "the legalizers" is a calculated move designed to conjure up images of LSD and Methamphetamine being sold out of corner convenience stores, it would be impossible to overstate the historical significance of Gingrich's putative warning. Newt Gingrich, whatever you might think of him, is a smart man. And in looking at the state of the drug policy debate around the world, and the growing strength of the American reform movement, he knows that this is very likely the last chance that anyone will have to prove, despite damning evidence to the contrary, that Prohibition can actually work.
Gingrich has every reason to be concerned. In 1994, the Swiss government began a program of heroin maintenance for hard core addicts over the strong objections of the United States and its virtual puppet, the United Nations office of Drug Control Policy (UNDCP). The results, released late last year, were so promising that in a nationwide referendum, over 71% of Swiss voters agreed that aggressive harm reduction, including where appropriate, opiate maintenance, should become national policy. In the aftermath of those results, Australia was ready to begin a similar trial, until the U.S. State Department, in an arm-twisting maneuver that was supposed to remain secret, threatened to have the UNDCP shut down Tasmania's legal opiate industry if the Australians went ahead with the trials. At the last possible moment, the Australian government backed down. Since then, at least five European nations have expressed interest in holding trials of their own.
On cannabis policy, Belgium, which long has been caught between France's US-style drug policy on one border and the Netherlands' decriminalized market on the other, recently resolved to decriminalize possession for personal use. This followed on the heels of the new French Socialist government's statements indicating that it would like to see a radical change in their own laws, as soon as public opinion, long subject to harsh drug war rhetoric from French leaders, could be swayed. In England, a sustained and vocal movement to legalize cannabis has materialized, while in Canada, which shares a virtually indefensible border with the US, polls show that the majority is already in favor of a legalized and regulated market.
Here in the US, constituencies which were until recently either hawkish or disinterested on drug policy have begun to attack various aspects of the Drug War. African American and Latino leaders, many of whom had at one time been adamant that more police be assigned to minority neighborhoods and that the war be fought tooth and nail on their streets, seem to have suddenly come to the conclusion that their children and their communities cannot withstand the levels of incarceration and disease that the war has wrought. Mandatory minimum sentences, injection-related AIDS, and concerns over police brutality and corruption have led to an expanding re-examination of the Drug War.
Syringe exchange is another issue around which opposition to the war has coalesced. The vocal and well-organized anti-AIDS movement, virtually silent on drug policy for nearly a decade, suddenly got involved when it became apparent that the majority of new AIDS cases were related to injection drug use. And the medicinal use of marijuana, now out of the closet, has further involved the AIDS community in reform, and has brought others, including friends and family of patients, members of the medical establishment, and legions of concerned citizens to question whether having our government wage war on the sick and the vulnerable is rational policy. Or whether it is a message that we want to be sending to our children.
Other issues, such as the escalation of U.S. military involvement in Latin America, the national explosion of asset forfeiture, the DEA campaign of terror waged against physicians who treat chronic pain, the expansion of random drug testing, and on and on, have brought new constituencies to the issue of the Drug War. And, as these various groups have begun to look at the war through the prism of their single issues, it has become apparent to many of them that it is the Drug War itself that is the problem. That the system is unredeemable. That Prohibition doesn't work any better for drugs than it did for alcohol. That it is imperative that we find alternatives.
On April 30, 1998, Speaker Newt Gingrich announced his intention to make America drug free in four years. Gingrich and his troops know that this is their one last chance to show that Prohibition can work. They know that the forces of reform are steadily gaining ground. And so the warriors prepare for the mother of all battles, complete with troops and guns and prisons and propaganda and all of the other weapons at their disposal. But Prohibition cannot work. It never has and it never will. And the movement will grow. And it will succeed. And it will happen sooner than most Americans believe. Go ask Newt. He said so himself.
Adam J. Smith
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