The Family Council on Drug Awareness
"Responsible decisions based on accurate information."
"This is something I dealt with a long time ago. It is old news. When I was young I did things young people do. When I grew up, I put away childish things."(in 2000 campaign, speaking about his reported daily marijuana use)
1977: "Yes, (I used) grass and hash -- no hard druygs. But the point is that I do what I feel like doing. I'm not on a health kick. I know I should take vitamins, for example, but I forget half the time. " (Oui magazine, August 1977)
1985: "In Pumping Iron, when you saw me getting stoned, it was all designed, very thoroughly, to sell the idea of body building." (Rolling Stone magazine, January 1985)
1988 "Never (did I use drugs) in my entire life. When I came to America, someone gave me a drug like speed. He told me it would make me sharper and I'd lose weight. But I lost muscle tojne. I don't like that. I like to feel fully pumped. I therew the pills away. Nor has anyone so much as smoked a joint when I was there. Or sniffed coke. Or taken any drugs. In Hollywood, I have never seen any drugs on the set or anywhere. It could be because people know me well enough to know that I don't want anything like that." (January 1988, Playboy magazine)
Thom Marshall: Will compassion be part of future? Dec 17, 2000, Houston Chronicle
Salim Muwakkil, Drugs 'R' Us If We Were Honest, Chicago Tribune
NY Times: Clemency for Drug Prisoners
Eisenhower Foundation criticizes Zero Tolerance, prisons, and the Drug War
Former Governor of NJ says it's time to tax and regulate drugs
International Dignitaries write open letter against the Drug War
Ann Landers, Syndicated columnist: Laws regarding marijuana are too harsh
Dear Abby, Syndicated columnist: Marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul
Alan Bock, Orange County Register
Time magazine criticizes Three Strikes laws
DEA head Thomas Constantine: US not winning the Drug War
Gen. Barry McCaffrey wants crack cocaine penalties modified.
Charlie Reese, Syndicated columnist
Mark Trail comic strip talks about hemp
Carlos Santana guitarist supports industrial hemp, medical marijuana
Judge Judy wants de-facto death penalty for IV drug users.
Polls on therapeutic Cannabis
1995; ACLU poll found 79% of the public said they thought it "would be a good idea to legalize marijuana to relieve pain and for other medical reasons if prescribed by a doctor."
1997: Gallup poll found that 60% of North Americans support a policy where physicians should be able to prescribe marijuana to their seriously ill and terminally ill patients.
1997: CBS News poll found that 62% of North Americans support a policy where physicians should be able to prescribe marijuana to their seriously ill and terminally ill patients.
1998: Virginia Quality of Life survey found 72% either "strongly agreed" or "somewhat agreed" that marijuana should be recognized as a medicine.
1999: Virginia Quality of life survey found 77% either "strongly agreed" or "somewhat agreed" that marijuana should be recognized as a medicine.
1999: Gallup poll found that 73% of the American public would vote for "making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering."
"Violence Commission Update": Eisenhower Foundation criticizes Zero Tolerance and the Drug War
A report issued by the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation for the Prevention of Violence, a nonprofit research group that grew out of a well known commission created in 1968 by President Johnson, has concluded that the nation has moved backwards because of misguided crime policies and remains "a society in deep trouble," the Los Angeles Times reported on December 5, 1999.
The report said that the widely publicized decline in crime rates of the past seven years has resulted primarily from high levels of prosperity, and masks a failure to grapple with the fundamental causes of violence in today's society. The report pointed out that violence is much more common today than 30 years ago in the US or in most other industrialized nations today.
Among the wrong policy choices that have contributed to continuing violence, said the foundation, is a national preoccupation with hard-line policies -- building prisons, waging the war on illegal drugs and creating "zero tolerance" policies toward criminals, which have come at the expense of longer-term solutions such as early intervention programs for troubled youth, job training and drug rehabilitation programs. "Prisons have become our nation's substitute for effective policies on crime, drugs, mental illness, housing, poverty and employment of the hardest to employ."
The report also blamed a doubling in the number of guns, to 200 million, and the continuing problem of poverty and lack of economic opportunities for large segments of the population, noting that more than one-quarter of US children live in poverty.
The report, titled "Violence Commission Update," can be obtained from the Eisenhower Foundation by calling (202) 429-0440, or writing to The Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, 1660 L St., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20036.
Ann Landers - January 5, 1999
Mom Thinks Marijuana Laws Are Too Harsh
Dear Ann Landers:
I just got a phone call from my son. He said, "I've been arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute." I knew he had used marijuana on occasion, but I'm sure he never tried to sell it. A lawyer told me if someone is caught with marijuana, chances are police will add "intent to distribute," even in the absence of supporting evidence. The accusation of intent changes the crime from misdemeanor to a felony.
Ann, my son is a good kid who attends college and has a part-time job. He didn't hurt anyone. He didn't steal anything. He didn't cheat anybody. He was caught with marijuana for his own personal use, and for this, he could get 30 years in prison. He has never gotten so much as a parking ticket.
I don't approve of smoking grass, nor do I approve of smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. But this punishment seems excessive. I can't help but think of the thousands of families that have suffered this same horror. These harsh laws hurt us all. People who criminalize marijuana believe that users are dangerous addicts in dark trench coats, lurking near playgrounds, ready to pounce on young children.
I plead for compassion for those who are hurting only themselves when they use dangerous substances. What they need is counseling and medical intervension, not prison. Harsh laws don't work. Furthermore, they cost us a fortune in taxes to prosecute and incarcerate people who pose no danger to society. Enough.
--A Sad Mother in Virginia.
Dear Sad Mother:
I'm sad about your son's predicament. If the police added "intent to distribute" without real evidence, your son will need the help of a lawyer who can get those charges dismissed. I have long believed that the laws regarding marijuana are too harsh. Those who keep pot for their own personal use should not be treated as criminals. Thirty years in prison makes no sense whatsoever.
-- Ann Landers, (c) 1999
Alan Bock, Senior Editor, Orange County Register
"Those who insist on keeping the plant illegal bear a serious degree of moral responsibility for young marijuana users who do go on to use cocaine, heroin, PCP or other genuinely dangerous or addictive drugs. If Barry McCaffery and other drug warriors were really, seriously troubled by the possibility that use of marijuana might lead innocent or psychologically troubled people to harder drugs with much more severe physiological dangers, they would move as quickly as possible to legalize marijuana. The fact that they don't do so makes their plaintive pleas of compassionate concern for those victimized by addiction and drug-induced disorders ring hollow."
Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register (CA), Fri, 02 Apr 1999. http://www.ocregister.com
Drug Czar asks Congress to change crack penalties
The median sentence for convictions involving 50 to 150 grams of crack cocaine is 120 months in prison; it's 18 months for like amounts of powder. Since nearly all cocaine is smuggled in powdered form across national borders and state lines, the federal sentencing disparity has produced long incarceration for low-level crack dealers rather than for international, interstate and wholesale traffickers.
Attorney General Reno and I recommended to Congress that federal sentencing treat crack as ten times worse than powder, not a hundred times worse, with a ratio of 25 crack grams to 250 powder. This difference, without gross exaggeration, is enough to reflect the greater addictive potential of crack &emdash; which is smoked &emdash; as compared to snorted powder cocaine, and to underscore the importance of targeting mid- and high-level traffickers as opposed to small-scale dealers.
TV's "Judge Judy" calls for germ warfare by using dirty needles to kill off injection drug users
by Neil Blincow
"Give 'em all dirty needles and let 'em die!" acid-tongued Judy Sheindlin declared during a press conference in Australia to promote her book Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever. She also branded as "liberal morons" supporters of clean-needle programs, which are aimed at preventing AIDS-infected addicts from spreading the disease.(Addicts can accidentally spread HIV to others without knowing they have the condition.)
Experts say needle exchange programs can reduce the risk of contracting HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - by 50 percent. "The benefits of these programs are well documented," says Daniel Gentry, director of the Center for HIV Studies at St. Louis University in Missouri. "The idea is to help drug addicts lower the risk of gettting AIDS from infected needles."
Jesus replies to Judge Judy: "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me." Matt 25:39-40
The New York Times on the Web http://www.nytimes.com . December 3, 2000 http://www.nytimes.com/2000/12/03/opinion/03SUN2.html
Defending the Fourth Amendment
The Supreme Court, in an important case last week, reaffirmed the fundamental Fourth Amendment principle that searches and seizures must be based on suspicion that a particular individual is engaged in wrongdoing. The case involved roadblocks set up by the Indianapolis Police Department to stop and check passing cars for illegal narcotics with drug-sniffing dogs.
The majority opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor forcefully rejected such roadblocks as violating the Fourth Amendment, which requires that searches and seizures be reasonable. In ordinary situations, that means there has to be individualized suspicion before such searches can take place.
In 1990, the court upheld as constitutional roadblocks used to check for drunken driving, and in the 1970's, it upheld fixed border checkpoints to intercept illegal aliens. But clearly the court sees those cases as limited exceptions to Fourth Amendment principles. Sobriety checkpoints were upheld because they served to protect the public from the immediate highway hazard posed by drunken drivers. Fixed checkpoints were upheld because of the special need to protect the integrity of the borders.
A 6-to-3 majority declined to expand these exceptions to drug roadblocks. It noted that drug checkpoints, unlike sobriety stops, are not closely related to highway safety concerns, but instead serve a general interest in crime control. Justice O'Connor said the court "cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed a crime." Unless the court drew the line at drug roadblocks, she warned, "the Fourth Amendment would do little to prevent such intrusions from becoming a routine part of American life."
Battle Lines in Drug War Not So Easily Drawn
Dear Abby: I'm responding to the letter in your column from our federal
drug czar, Barry R. McCaffrey. The general is not an M.D. or social worker, and isn't qualified to speak on the drug problem. None of what he suggests will prevent drug abuse. Furthermore, he recently made himself look foolish with his inaccurate statement that Holland has a higher crime rate than the United States due to Holland's liberal drug policies. In fact, Holland has a much lower crime rate and a lower rate of drug abuse than the U.S. Obviously, Holland's moderate approach works far better than our draconian criminal approach.
The United States should follow Holland's good example and make a distinction between marijuana and hard drugs. The alleged dangers of marijuana have been absurdly exaggerated. There is a growing mountain of hard scientific evidence that marijuana is not harmful unless used in very large doses. By lying about the dangers of marijuana, we cast doubt on the warnings about truly dangerous cocaine, LSD, heroin and designer drugs.
We shouldn't ruin the lives of young people -- or anyone else -- by jailing them for smoking marijuana, nor should sick people be denied medical marijuana. I have read your columns for 25 years, Abby. You have good sense. I hope you'll seriously consider that prohibition is not preventing abuse or addiction, but is instead greatly worsening the drug situation. Prohibition didn't work with alcohol, and is an even bigger failure with marijuana.
&emdash; Steve J. Wilcott, San Francisco
Dear Steve: I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of a majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation.
However, regardless of whether Gen. McCaffrey is right or wrong about the crime rate in Holland, I'm staunchly behind his effort to initiate dialogue between concerned parents and children about drugs. Honest dialogue is essential. Parents must level with their children about which drugs are dangerous and which are not, or they'll lose their credibility and be disregarded. This is especially important at a time when drug dealers offer an array of new designer drugs -- some virtually undetectable, and some of which can be fatal.
An excellent book on the subject of marijuana is "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts" by Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D., and John P. Morgan, M.D., published by the Lindesmith Center in New York. It can be ordered through Bookworld Cos. by calling 800-444-2524. The cost is $12.95 per book, plus $3.95 per book shipping and handling. When ordering, please provide the following ISBN number: 0-9641568-4-9.
&emdash; Abigail Van Buren.
A Get-Tough Policy That Failed:
Mandatory sentencing was once America's law-and-order panacea. Here's why it's not working
Author: John Cloud, With reporting by Andrew Goldstein and Elaine Rivera/New York, Viveca Novak and Elaine Shannon/Washington, Kermit Pattison/St. Paul and James Willwerth/Los Angeles
Remember little Polly Klaas? She was the 12-year-old Petaluma, Calif., girl whisked from a slumber party in 1993 and found murdered two months later. Her father Marc, horrified to learn that her killer was on parole and had attacked children in the past, called for laws making parole less common. He joined with others backing a "three strikes and you're out" law for California--no parole, ever, for those convicted of three felonies. Klaas went on TV, got in the papers, met the President--all within weeks after his daughter's body was found.
Then he began studying how the three-strikes law would actually work. He noticed that a nonviolent crime--burglary, for instance--could count as a third strike. "That meant you could get life for breaking into someone's garage and stealing a stereo," he says. "I've had my stereo stolen, and I've had my daughter stolen. I believe I know the difference."
Klaas began speaking against three strikes. But his daughter had already become a symbol for the crackdown on crime, and California's legislature passed the three-strikes law. It now seems politically untouchable, despite horror stories like the one about a Los Angeles 27-year-old who got 25 years to life for stealing pizza. Last year two state senators tried to limit the measure to violent crimes, but the bill didn't make it out of committee. Governor Pete Wilson vetoed a bill simply to study the effects of the law.
Wilson probably knew what the study would conclude: while three-strikes laws sound great to the public, they aren't working. A growing number of states and private groups have scrutinized these and other "mandatory-minimum laws," the generic name for statutes forcing judges to impose designated terms. The studies are finding that the laws cost enormous amounts of money, largely to lock up such nonviolent folks as teenage drug couriers, dope-starved addicts and unfortunate offenders like the Iowa man who got 10 years for stealing $ 30 worth of steaks from a grocery store and then struggling with a store clerk who tackled him (the struggle made it a felony).
How much are we spending? Put it this way: mandatory minimums are the reason so many prisons are booming in otherwise impoverished rural counties across America. The U.S. inmate population has more than doubled (to nearly 2 million) since the mid-'80s, when mandatory sentencing became the hot new intoxicant for politicians. New York (the first state to enact mandatory minimums) has sloshed $ 600 million into prison construction since 1988; not coincidentally, in the same period it has sliced $ 700 million from higher education. Americans will have to spend even more in the future to house and treat all the aging inmates. California has already filled its 114,000 prison beds, and double-bunks 46,000 additional inmates.
More important, mandatory minimums for nonviolent (and arguably victimless) drug crimes insult justice. Most mandatory sentences were designed as weapons in the drug war, with an awful consequence: we now live in a country where it's common to get a longer sentence for selling a neighbor a joint than for, say, sexually abusing her. (According to a 1997 federal report, those convicted of drug trafficking have served an average of almost seven years, nearly a year longer than those convicted of sexual abuse.) Several new books, including Michael Massing's The Fix, point out that the tough-on-drugs policies of the past 15 years haven't had much impact on the heart of the drug problem, abuse by long-term urban addicts. Even the usually hard-line drug czar Barry McCaffrey has written that "we can't incarcerate our way out of the drug problem." He has urged Congress to reduce mandatory minimums for crack, which are currently 100 times as heavy as those for powdered coke and impact most on minority youth.
This injustice is most palpable on city streets. In places like New York
there are more black and Hispanic kids in prison than in college. That injustice may have played a role in the fate of Derrick Smith, a New York City youth who in October faced a sentence of 15 years to life for selling crack. At the sentence hearing a distraught Smith told the judge, "I'm only 19. This is terrible." He then hurled himself out of a courtroom window and fell 16 stories to his death. "He didn't kill anyone; he didn't rob anyone," says his mother. "This happened because we are black and poor."
Worst of all, mandatory minimums have done little to solve the problems
for which they were crafted. Casual drug use has declined since the 1970s, but the size of the addict population has remained stable. And even conservative criminologists concede that demographics (i.e., fewer young men) and better policing are more responsible for the dropping crime rate than criminals' fear of mandatory minimums. John DiIulio Jr., the Princeton professor who wrote a 1994 defense of mandatory sentencing for the Wall Street Journal with the charming headline LET 'EM ROT, now opposes mandatory minimums for drug crimes. He points out that more and more young, nonviolent, first-time offenders are being incarcerated--"and they won't find suitable role models in prison."
But even some older, repeat offenders are getting punishments that seem ridiculously disproportionate to their crimes. Consider Douglas Gray, a husband, father, Vietnam veteran and owner of a roofing business who bought a pound of marijuana in an Alabama motel for $ 900 several years ago. The seller turned out to be a police informant, a felon fresh from prison whom cops paid $ 100 to do the deal. Because Gray had been arrested for several petty crimes 13 years earlier--crimes that didn't even carry a prison sentence--he fell under the state's "habitual offender" statutes. He got life without parole. The good news is that a consensus is emerging among judges (including Reagan-appointee Chief Justice William Rehnquist), law enforcers and crime experts--among them many conservatives who once supported the laws--that mandatory minimums are foolish. The Supreme Court last week declined to hear a case challenging the California three-strikes law, but four Justices expressed concern about the law's effect and seemed to invite other challenges. A fewbrave politicians have gingerly suggested that the laws may be something we should rethink. Some states are starting to backtrack on tough sentencing laws:
--MICHIGAN Last February former Republican Governor William Milliken called the "650 Lifer Law" his biggest mistake. The 1978 law mandated a life-without-parole term for possession with intent to deliver at least 650 g (about 1.4 lbs.) of heroin or cocaine. But though the law was intended to net big fish, few major dealers got hit. In fact, 86% of the "650 lifers" had never done time; 70% were poor. "A lot of them were young people who made very stupid mistakes but shouldn't have to pay for it for the rest of their lives," says state representative Barbara Dobb, the Republican who began a reform effort. In August, G.O.P. Governor John Engler signed a law allowing 650 lifers to be paroled after 15 years.
--UTAH In March 1995, Republican senate president Lane Beattie, concerned about the excesses of mandatory minimums, introduced a bill to eliminate them in certain cases. Worried about the political fallout, he did so near midnight on the last day of the legislative session. The bill passed quietly, without debate, but victims' groups noticed. Though a public outcry followed, the G.O.P. Governor said he agreed with the bill and refused to veto it.
--GEORGIA In the final minutes of the 1996 legislative session, state lawmakers nixed mandatory life sentences for second-time drug offenders. State statistics showed that four-fifths of those serving life had hawked less than $50 in narcotics. Even state prosecutors backed the change.
--NEW YORK John Dunne, a former Republican legislator who helped devise the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the mandatory-sentencing legislation promulgated in the 1970s by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, is lobbying to end them. "This was a good idea 25 years ago, but the sad experience is that it has not had an effect," says Dunne, who also served in the Bush Administration. "Behind closed doors, virtually everyone will say these drug laws are not working, but they cannot say that publicly."
Certainly no one in Washington is saying it publicly. The House Judiciary Committee didn't even hold hearings on the bill that created the current minimums, which coasted to victory just in time for the 1986 midterm elections. Congress and the President last year added a new mandatory minimum to the books: five years for 5g of crystal meth, the crack of the '90s. Mandatory minimums remain political beasts, and it would probably take Nixon-goes-to-China leadership from a Republican to turn public opinion against them. Either that or more Jean Valjeans serving 10-year sentences for stealing steaks.
2 million Number of people behind bars in the U.S., including local jails--twice as many as a decade ago
60% Portion of federal prisoners jailed for drug crimes, up from 38% before mandatory-sentencing laws were passed in 1986
36% Portion of drug offenders who committed nonviolent, low-level crimes
GRAPHIC: COLOR PHOTO, DERRICK SMITH The 19-year-old was accused in New York City of selling crack. Distraught at how many years he could get, he leaped out a window to his death Likely sentence 15 years to life; COLOR PHOTO: FAMM, PORSCHA WASICK "Oh my, that's a long time!" the Ohio judge exclaimed on learning of the tough sentence awaiting this college student convicted of selling LSD in 1996 Sentenced to up to 25 years; COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL S. GREEN, JEDONNA YOUNG After 20 years in prison for heroin possession, she was ordered released on Friday under a new Michigan law allowing parole in drug cases Sentenced to life, now freed; COLOR PHOTO, [GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL card from Monopoly game]; COLOR PHOTO: FAMM, DOUGLAS GRAY Alabama police caught him buying a pound of pot. Earlier petty crimes made him a "habitual offender" Sentenced to life, no parole
Letters to the editor should include the writer's full name, address and home telephone, and may be edited for purposes of clarity or space. They should be sent to Time Magazine Letters, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10020, or faxed to 212-522-0601, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep letters short (under 100 words) and simple. Letters should be sent as soon as possible.
DEA chief: Drug fight lacks desire
by Gary Fields
WASHINGTON -- The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration says the nation has neither the will nor the resources to win the drug war.
DEA Administrator Thomas Constantine, in an interview Thursday, said that curbing drug use is not a high enough priority with the American people. He also said the nation has not made the financial commitment to curb the flow of illegal drugs into the USA. Despite having an army of 8,000 employees and a $ 1.4 billion budget, Constantine said the DEA has fewer resources than international drug rings.
Many of Constantine's comments echo those of White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who recently released a plan focusing on drug awareness education and the treatment of addicts.
Constantine thinks "vigorous law enforcement is part and parcel of the treatment," McCaffrey said Thursday. "But he, like I, think it is the parents and coalitions of folks who talk prevention who at the end of the day will make the difference."
In 1998, DEA arrests and seizures of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana set records for the 25-year-old agency. The DEA arrested 36,835 people last year, an 11% increase from 1997, when the agency made 33,160 arrests.
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What do Prohibition, Drug War have in common? Sure failure
Let's take a short quiz on liquor prohibition. In 1919, the Constitution was amended to ban the manufacture and distribution of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Prohibition was repealed in 1933.
Did Prohibition succeed in banning liquor? No.
Did Prohibition cause the formation of powerful criminal gangs? Yes.
Did Prohibition cause violence as a result of these gangs fighting over territory? Yes.
Did Prohibition cause a huge amount of public corruption? Yes.
Did Prohibition result in a general disrespect for the law? Yes.
When Prohibition ended, did the United States suddenly go to Hades with everyone becoming an alcoholic? No.
All right now, let's fast-forward to the war on drugs.
Has the war on drugs succeeded in banning illegal drugs? No.
Has the war on drugs caused the formation of powerful criminal gangs? Yes.
Has the war on drugs caused violence as a result of these gangs fighting over territory? Yes.
Has the war on drugs caused a huge amount of public corruption? Yes.
Has the war on drugs caused a general disrespect for the law? Yes.
If we ended the war on drugs, legalized these drugs and allowed people to buy them by prescription or from carefully licensed and regulated dealers, would the United States go to Hades and everyone become an addict? I don't think so. For evidence of that, we have pre-drug-ban history, during which life went along pretty much as normal.
Then, how can we justify continuing this failed effort that has caused more damage to the Constitution than it has to the drug dealers -- all of whom, of course, are replace-able.
I don't think that people should take drugs, not even most of the ones their doctors prescribe. In a free society people should be free to choose and free to suffer the consequences of their own choices.
The current drug war is a racket. Everybody but the taxpayer is making money on it, and, after nearly 40 years, illicit drugs are flowing as freely or even more freely than before. In the meantime, the government uses the drug war as an excuse to whittle away the traditional rights and liberties of all
American citizens. And taxpayers are taking it in the gazoo.
A drug is a drug is a drug. If people become addicted to them -- and thousands become addicted to doctor-prescribed drugs already -- then that's a health problem, not a police problem. There is nothing inherently evil in morphine, heroin, marijuana or cocaine. They each produce certain effects, just as other drugs do, but those effects do not cause people to commit crimes.
What causes the crime is drug prohibition. It limits the supply to illegal dealers and therefore drives up the price. Addicts will sometimes resort to
crime to finance their own habit if they have no other source of income. But it is important to understand that the criminal behavior is produced by the legal prohibition, not by the drug.
The drug use, in a legal setting, would cause no problems other than to the user, which is the case in alcohol consumption. We could still have laws against operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, just as we do in the case of alcohol.
I wonder how long the American people are going to put up with government officials making saps out of them. That's what they're doing. They feed you propaganda and then extract billions of dollars from your pockets to waste chasing people who are simply supplying a product for which there is a demand.
Charley is a conservative columnist from Orlando, Fla.
By Karina Balderas (Reuters)
MEXICO CITY -- Rock legend Carlos Santana [on Dec 8, 1999] ... then went on to discuss the merits of marijuana. "Marijuana is not a drug and if factories are set up here to make clothes, tofu cheese, medicine and paper from marijuana, we won't have to chop down so many trees," said the singer.
By PAULINE JELINEK
Copyright © 1999 Nando Media, © 1999 Associated Press
WASHINGTON (November 3, 1999) - The US-led war on drugs is a failure and should be revised to fight the demand for drugs and drug money, a group of prominent Americans and Latin Americans said Wednesday.
The 13 signers of the letter included jurists, doctors, artists, religious leaders and three former Latin presidents - Belisario Betancur of Colombia, Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Oscar Arias of Costa Rica.
"The escalation of a militarized drug war in Colombia and elsewhere in the Americas threatens regional stability, undermines efforts towards demilitarization and democracy and has put U.S. arms and money into the hands of corrupt officials and military ... units involved in human rights abuses," the group said in a letter to delegates to this week's drug strategy conference.
"As you meet to develop hemispheric drug strategy, it is time to admit that after two decades, the U.S. war on drugs - both in Latin America and in the United States - is a failure," the letter said.
Despite spending tens of billions of dollars for raids on drug labs, crop eradication and arrests and imprisonment at home, "today in the US, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent and more easily available than two decades ago," it said.
The signers urged officials attending Thursday and Friday's drug conference to consider policies that will focus more on reducing consumption, expanding drug treatment programs, and promoting economic development to decrease the reliance on drug income among people who produce it.
The letter was released at a press conference organized by the Washington-based Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, which pushes for reform on crime issues.
Officials said it was unclear whether delegates to the closed-door meetings would speak against the US anti-drug approach because they rely not only on military aid that comes with it, but fear jeopardizing trade and other relationships with the United States
New York Times editorial, January 31, 2000. Website: www.nytimes.com
Clemency and Unjust Drug Laws
During the past Christmas season, Gov. George Pataki granted clemency to four state prison inmates who were first-time, nonviolent drug offenders serving long mandatory sentences under the state's harsh drug laws, known as the Rockefeller laws. Mr. Pataki's compassionate gesture is to be applauded, but his real task is to push for reform of the misguided laws that created the need for clemency in the first place.
All four inmates had been sentenced to either 15 or 20 years to life, making their sentences longer than those typically imposed on violent criminals. Three of the inmates were released last week, and a fourth will be released this week.
Elaine Bartlett, one of the inmates, was a single mother of four young children when she was convicted of selling four ounces of cocaine to a police informant in 1984. It was her first brush with the law. She refused to make a plea bargain, choosing instead to go to trial. She was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years to life. Jan Warren, another of the inmates, was sentenced in 1987 to 15 years to life for selling cocaine in a sting operation. It was her first and only sale.
Their stories are not unusual. Although the laws enacted under Gov. Nelson Rockefeller were originally aimed at major drug dealers, many of those who have received tough mandatory sentences under them were small-time addicts, or girlfriends of addicts, with no criminal records. The laws have contributed to a fivefold increase in the state prison population since 1973.
They give judges no discretion to fit a sentence to the circumstances, requiring instead that offenders be given long sentences even in cases involving a small amount of narcotics. The annual cost of incarcerating an inmate is about $32,000. That money could be better spent on treatment and education that would give minor offenders a chance to become productive citizens.
Mr. Pataki has expressed concern about the severity of the laws. But his weak reform proposal last year to allow a very limited number of defendants to appeal their sentences was not a meaningful change. Commuting a handful of patently unjust sentences is not enough. Democrats in the State Assembly and the Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, have said they support giving judges more discretion in sentencing. Mr. Pataki needs to take up the job of overhauling these irrational drug laws that waste taxpayer money and destroy families left behind.
Tapping Into the Drug Market
NEWARK -- Former Gov. Brendan Byrne has an answer to America's drug problem: decriminalize marijuana and make use of heroin and cocaine a disorderly persons offense, with fines of $50 to $100 per offense. Then take the billions of dollars saved on enforcement and pump it into education and treatment.
On New Jersey Network's "Due Process" show, to air Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Byrne says it's time to stop "tolerating politicians whose only solution ... is to increase the penalties and make the sentences mandatory." Byrne says the country needs to acknowledge that drug laws fail to stop drug use.
Byrne, who as Essex County prosecutor chased his share of dealers and users, takes off on the "whole group of people who have an interest in keeping drug laws tough ... the people who run the prisons, who run law enforcement. There are a huge number of people engaged in chasing drug addicts and drug dealers."
His foil on the show, Robert Del Tufo, the former US attorney and state attorney general, agrees with allowing marijuana for medical purposes and putting more resources into education, prevention and treatment. But he stops short of endorsing decriminalization of pot. And as for making heroin use a disorderly persons offense, "it's just out of the question."
Asked how he would have sold such policies to the Legislature, Byrne responds: "I had the need to educate the Legislature on the need for an income tax," he says. "That's even tougher than drugs."
by Dodd and Elrod, Feb. 6-2000
"The hemp plant has flourished as a cash crop throughout most of American history...Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations!"
"The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp-fiber paper...The plant also supplied early Americans with rope, sails, clothing, etc.!"
"In 1937 Congress enacted a ban on marijuana that came to include hemp, its look-alike cousin!"
"During World War II some farmers were allowed to grow the plant in a 'Hemp For Victory Drive.' But after the war it was banned again!"
"Today synthetic fibers like nylon are taking its place..."
"But if marijuana didn't exist, hemp would probably be growing on many of our farms!"
(c) Chicago Tribune, September 18, 2000
Drugs 'R' Us If We Were Honest
by Salim Muwakkil
Deep in the hearts of Americans there lurks an almost religious belief that drug use is not just illegal, but inherently evil and immoral. If rationality guided our drug policies, most of the illegal substances now generating billions of dollars in underground profits would have been decriminalized and drug treatment centers would be wherever they're needed. But our society's attitude about (certain) psychoactive substances is oblivious to rational critique; our demonization of drugs has fanatical and cultlike dimensions.
The cold reality is that we'll never be free of these drugs.
Indeed, drugs are us. Serotonin, endorphins, Adrenalin, dopamine, norepinephrine, etc. are mind-altering chemicals produced by our own bodies. These powerful substances produce such dramatic changes in mood and behavior, there's little doubt they would be illicit were they not endogenous. Our circulatory systems are very efficient drug pushers.
Perhaps if we better understood our biological connection to drugs, we'd realize the need to avoid punitive social policies that command us to terminate our intimate relationship with drugs. And it is quite intimate; humanity evolved from herbivorous ancestors, whose diets regularly included plants with powerful psychoactive agents.
Virtually all pharmaceutical agents (legal and illegal drugs) originally derive from wild plants and fungi.
Much of this information is available in Daniel M. Perrine's 1996 path-breaking book, "The Chemistry of Mind-altering Drugs: History, Pharmacology and Cultural Context."
Scientists believe that our neurological system accommodated and, in some cases, incorporated these substances as our bodies became more complex.
Studies have found evidence of that co-evolution with the discovery of neurological receptor sites for most of the psychoactive drugs we now demonize. Those substances produce specific chemical transmitters that fit receptors within us like keys do a lock.
Marijuana, cocaine, opiates (heroin, morphine and codeine), "psychedelic" drugs like LSD and mescaline and even amphetamines have their own private receptor sites in the network of neurons that enable humans to think and feel.
Vitamins provide a good analogy of this evolutionary process. Produced in nature outside the human body, vitamins now are necessary for optimal human metabolism and well-being.
Since our contemporary diets lack many of those essential substances, we've created an entire "health-food" industry devoted to nutritional compensation.
Similarly, modern humanity no longer ingests the drug-rich plants that once typified our primal diets (and helped design our nervous systems), so we use external substances to compensate.
That's why the desire for drugs is such a universal need. Human beings can't "just say no" to physiology. We resist this conclusion because it humanizes rather than demonizes drug use and undermines the "bogeyman strategy" that motivates this nation's ridiculous war on drugs.
But it also is clear that certain drugs are demonized while others are lionized. Commercials for BuSpar, for example, a new drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, tout the substance's miraculous powers to reduce anxiety. Similar drugs, Prozac being the most prominent, are aggressively being marketed (pushed?) to anxiety-ridden Americans.
These drugs are not seen as chemical solutions to human problems, they have redefined human problems as chemical imbalances.
Our natural connection to drugs also increases our tendency to abuse them, which is undesirable. However, to discourage abuse, we recklessly exaggerate the dangers of certain drugs and criminalize their use. Rather than reducing the social harm caused by drug abuse, these misguided policies serve to exacerbate the problem.
I won't bore you by listing the negative effects and perverse incentives of our drug policies, though the list is expanding ominously. But even that lengthening list has failed to prevent drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey from ratcheting up the idiocy another notch.
We've exported our prohibitionist logic and $1.3 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia, where we're opening another front in the destructive drug war.
I'm arguing for rationality in our drug policies, but that line of argument apparently has little persuasive power over people who believe drugs are the work of supernatural demons or other theological bogeymen. Perhaps if we began to understand our drug policies as a series of fruitless assaults on human nature, we would assist rather than punish drug-abusing citizens. Perhaps we would bring our policies more into accord with those of several European countries that have learned to accept drugs as a part of humanity's biological heritage and decided to reduce the harm of abuse instead of denying reality.
Copyright 2000 Chicago Tribune
Dec 17, 2000, Houston Chronicle (TX)
Will compassion be part of future?
By Thom Marshall
Listening to President-elect George W. Bush speak of his hopes and plans and declare his intention to do his best for all Americans, I couldn't stop thinking about Dalton Smith.
I had just returned from visiting with Smith and his attorney in time to catch Bush's victory speech on national TV.
Bush said: "After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens."
And I thought of how Smith said this election was his first time to vote. He is 18 years old. He is a straight-A student and plays on the Fort Bend Austin High School baseball team, sometimes pitching, sometimes in the outfield.
Bush said: "Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements."
Smith has been exploring what scholarships he might qualify for, to help cover college expenses. A high school senior these days faces amazing opportunities, but also tremendous challenges -- deciding where to go, what to study, competing for grades, setting priorities. It is a most exhilarating, exciting time, filled with pressures and tensions and emotions.
Bush said: "Together, guided by a spirit of common sense, common courtesy and common goals, we can unite and inspire the American citizens."
Life took unexpected turn
A few days ago, Smith's future encountered an unexpected question mark. He was led out of school in handcuffs and spent the next 28 hours in jail. He said he asked the officer to please put the handcuffs on him when they got outside, rather than parade him past other students wearing the shackles. The officer refused.
Smith had not been in a fight. He had done nothing violent. He had not caused a disturbance. He had not stolen anything. He had not vandalized anything. He had not harmed anyone. He had not threatened to harm anyone.
A vice principal watching a security monitor screen had observed another student open a door of Smith's pickup at a time when Smith and other students were in class. That led to a search of the vehicle. Smith and his lawyer, Thomas Steinmeyer, said that search turned up some cigars, a small amount of marijuana, and a half tablet of the prescription tranquilizer Xanex.
Bush said: "Together, we will address some of society's deepest problems one person at a time, by encouraging and empowering the good hearts and good works of the American people. This is the essence of compassionate conservatism, and it will be a foundation of my administration."
Smith's outstanding record as a student was not a consideration under the zero tolerance rules that our schools and so much of our society have embraced in recent years. Steinmeyer said his client faces misdemeanor charges for the marijuana and felony charges for that half tab of Xanex.
While it is against school rules to have tobacco products on campus or in vehicles driven to school, and, although nicotine is an extremely addictive and deadly drug, it is not an illegal substance and Smith faces no criminal charges for the cigars found in his pickup.
Bush said: "Respect for each other. Respect for our differences. Generosity of spirit. And a willingness to work hard and work together to solve any problem."
Expelled from school
Released from jail on bond, Smith was expelled from school. He took semester finals in a school district behavioral learning center. But rather than complete the year in a special facility with other students who have been expelled, Smith plans to attend one of the private schools in the area next semester.
Steinmeyer said the outcome of the criminal charges may not be known for many months. Our criminal justice system routinely deals quite harshly with people charged with drug offenses, even while millions of other citizens choose to use various controlled substances. In fact, some who foolishly experiment with illegal drugs when younger, but never get caught, go on to attain high political offices. The unlucky ones who do get caught find that the arrest record alone can keep them from getting a decent job.
Bush said: "I will be guided by President Jefferson's sense of purpose: to stand for principle, to be reasonable in manner, and, above all, to do great good for the cause of freedom and harmony."
A country that values common sense, respect for one another, reason, freedom, harmony, compassion -- our next president has some fine improvements in mind. I wish him the best of luck.
And good luck to Dalton Smith, too.
Content (c) 2000-2004. Family Council on Drug Awareness (FCDA), El Cerrito CA