Reefer Madness: Is Sanity Breaking Out?

Reefer Madness: Is Sanity Breaking Out?
Posted by CN Staff on June 07, 2005 at 08:26:57 PT
By Silja J.A. Talvi
Source: Salon Magazine
Despite the Supreme Court's ruling against medical marijuana and a scary proposed snitch law, America may finally be awakening from its decades-long stupor about recreational drugs.The battle over the war on drugs heated up several degrees on Monday when the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that state laws allowing the medicinal use of marijuana don't protect patients from federal prosecution for use of a controlled substance, despite a doctor's orders. The case, Raich vs. Gonzales, was originally filed by two California women who smoke pot for medical reasons.
Medical marijuana advocates were quick to point out that although the ruling was a disappointment, it came with a surprising acknowledgment by the justices that medical marijuana users had made "strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes." "While we're disappointed, the validity of state medical marijuana laws was never at issue in this case," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, in a press statement. "The [state] medical marijuana laws ... will continue to protect patients from arrest by state and local authorities. Because [Drug Enforcement Agency] and other federal agents make only 1 percent of our nation's 750,000 marijuana arrests every year, patients in states with medical marijuana laws retain a high level of protection. Congress should act today to give those patients complete protection from arrest." "In his opinion, Justice Stevens stressed the need for medical marijuana patients to use the democratic process, putting the ball in Congress' court," Kampia noted. "This is especially important now because next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on an amendment that would prevent the federal government from spending funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws." The good news is that Kampia and other leaders of the drug-war reform movement represent an increasingly informed and politically savvy group -- including several members of Congress -- who have spent the past several years trying to do something about America's draconian drug laws. As a result of the Supreme Court's decision on Monday, they are stepping up efforts to draw attention to the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which will be considered this month as a part of an appropriations bill and, if passed, would prohibit the federal government from arresting, raiding or prosecuting patients who are abiding by state medical marijuana laws. These reformers have also set their sights on another obviously needed legislative reform: repeal of the provision of the Higher Education Act that prohibits or delays the availability of financial aid to applicants with any drug-related misdemeanor or felony charge. The bill to repeal the provision (H.R. 1184), introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., this session, already has 66 cosponsors in the House. To date, the Drug Reform Coordinator Network estimates, at least 165,000 would-be students have been denied financial aid since the amendment took effect in 2000. If passed, the bill would represent the first full repeal of a federal drug law since 1970. To Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., denying students financial aid because they were busted for drug use or sales at some point in their lives looks more like a mental illness on a large scale than anything akin to an efficacious response to substance abuse. "The idea that we're going to prohibit people from using drugs is just a falsehood; it's just time that we stop what we're doing and try something else," McDermott, a nine-term veteran of Congress, told me at a Perry Fund event in Seattle last week. As for the possibility of legalizing, regulating and even taxing certain illegal drugs, even the most forward-thinking of drug-war reformers have tended to stay away from discussing the idea in public, lest it seem too "radical." But on June 2, the legalization movement gained an unlikely set of supporters -- specifically relating to marijuana, the most popular Schedule I drug. More than 500 leading economists, led by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman, called for the Bush administration to engage in "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition." Their move was in response to the release of a report on the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition by Jeffrey Miron, a visiting professor at Harvard University. According to Miron's research, the legal regulation of cannabis would conservatively save $7.7 billion in law enforcement and criminal justice costs, while revenues for the government could range from $2.4 to $6.2 billion, depending on the type of taxation system. Another radical leap forward in drug-policy reform came in Washington state in January 2005, when the King County Bar Association passed a resolution supporting the statewide legalization and regulation of psychoactive substances. The move followed a three-year period of intensive research into the historical, social, racial, legal, economic and fiscal considerations surrounding the drug war -- both in Washington state and throughout the United States. The resulting 145-page report, "Effective Drug Control: Toward a New Legal Framework," was hailed by a wide spectrum of mainstream organizations, including the Church Council of Greater Seattle, King County Medical Society, Washington State Psychiatric Association, Washington Society of Addiction Medicine, and Washington Academy of Family Physicians. And as a result, Democratic state Sen. Adam Kline is pushing for legislation to examine the possibility of a new legal framework for regulating illicit substances. Other state bar associations (including those in Vermont, Oregon, Maryland and Hawaii) are beginning their own studies of revamped approaches to the drug war, according to Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project. The reverberations of the report have been tremendous, says Goodman, although he admits that getting gung-ho prosecutors and law enforcement onboard remains the biggest hurdle. Aside from the need for legislative reform of drug laws, substance abuse treatment, special drug courts, and needle exchange and other forms of "harm reduction," activists point to the need for more-logical alternatives to the endless cycle of drug-related arrests and heavy-handed mandatory minimum sentences in the federal prison system. The inmate population has increased by 81 percent since 1995, and 55 percent of federal prisoners are incarcerated because of a drug offense, serving an average of three years and seven months. (For African-Americans, the average jumps dramatically to four years and nine months.) Former prisoners with felony drug records can't access public housing, federal assistance for education, and many other social services, to say nothing of the permanent black mark against them when it comes to finding a job or getting back the right to vote. Is it any wonder that so many federal and state prisoners end up back in jail or prison? The ridiculously costly war on the consumption of cannabis is clearly misdirected, as detailed in a May 2005 report by the Sentencing Project. Of the nearly 700,000 marijuana arrests in 2002, a shocking 88 percent were for simple possession. (The number of marijuana arrests far exceeds the number of arrests for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault combined.) And the Sentencing Project estimates that 27,000 men and women are currently locked up for a marijuana-related offense. Legalizing marijuana would be an appropriate start to a long-term vision based on rational fiscal and public health policy. If we're so worried about our kids' experimentation with recreational drugs, why aren't we pouring our resources into providing accurate information about drugs (alcohol and cigarettes being not only the most commonly used but the most obviously damaging as well) and into effective treatment programs for those who develop a destructive habit? Unfortunately, and this is the bad news, American drug policy is still being shaped by political rhetoric rather than fiscally or medically sound strategies for keeping people healthy and out of trouble. For the latest and most egregious evidence of that, look no further than H.R. 1528, introduced this session by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and named in classically Orwellian doublespeak as the Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2005. There hasn't been anything this scary in the already frightening reach of the American drug war in a long time. As written, this bill would create a new, three-year federal mandatory minimum for parents who witness or gain knowledge about drug activities happening around their kids and do not report what they know to the cops within 24 hours, or provide requested assistance to law enforcement in a resulting investigation, apprehension or prosecution. It would also create a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for parents who commit a drug crime in or near the presence of their child, add a new five-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone who sells drugs to someone who has ever been in treatment, and increase to five years the mandatory minimum for the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, library or drug treatment facility. That means just about anywhere in urban centers -- and especially in the concentrated inner cities. The bill is fundamentally aimed at subverting important Supreme Court decisions about the unconstitutionality of federal sentencing guidelines by converting those guidelines into a new framework of mandatory minimums -- once again, with little or no judicial discretion possible. Civil liberties groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the ACLU, the Drug Reform Coordination Network and the Drug Policy Alliance are combining forces to raise awareness and prevent the bill from passing, but it's too early to say if their efforts will succeed. Enough already. The ongoing war on drugs has reached into every echelon of society, dragging medicinal-pot smokers and would-be college students into the mix. And it has made the lives of millions of citizens more miserable than they ever would have been on their own as either recreational or habitual substance users. We certainly don't need another piece of regressive legislation to add to the damage by turning us into a nation of drug-war spies. Source: Salon Magazine (US Web)Author: Silja J.A. TalviPublished: June 7, 2005Copyright: 2005 SalonContact: edit salon.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Angel Raich v. Ashcroft News Medical Pot Users Disheartened by Decision Patients Remain Defiant's Users Say Ruling Won't End Their Efforts 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #9 posted by Hope on June 07, 2005 at 18:17:51 PT
I read that about that man being beaten, too, and I immediatley thought of you and was concerned.The guy was supposed to testify, I believe, today, and they broke his jaw. It's a miracle they didn't kill him.If you have found that the drug war is against the law, I'm sure they'll change the law in a flash...or just like they've done the Constitution...they'll say it doesn't apply.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by jose melendez on June 07, 2005 at 17:09:37 PT
After what I read about that Los Alamos whistle blower I was not taking any chances with these billionaire crooks. So, I made sure my allegation of fraud included an explanation of the penalties for witness tampering and retaliation, and made sure the lawmaker in question and LEOs knew that if I was harmed in any way, the media had been fully informed. The long and the short of it is that normally, our words fall on deaf ears.This time, when he read the complaint aloud, I knew he heard, and understood.I'm not saying Congressman John Mica's aide agreed with my position, just that there was no question he knew what I was talking about, and did not have an iota of a defense.Really, the color literally drained from his face, and I knew at that moment I had done the right thing.Thanks so much for your positive input, Hope.I suppose I'll save the rest for a book.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by Hope on June 07, 2005 at 15:35:34 PT
I can't say that I know or understand what you did...and I hope you do, and I hope you did it well and that it helps.I'm also glad they didn't keep you!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by jose melendez on June 07, 2005 at 12:05:19 PT
net working
I'll post more on this later, but I wanted to report back from my meeting this morning with Ken Harkey in Congressman John Mica's Deltona, FL office.Mr. Harkey and his crew were extremely professional, but I was still glad I faxed the FBI and other LEOs before I got there that I would be reporting a federal crime. Here's why; this morning the news media reported that a  Los Alamos whistle blower was nearly beaten to death by a team of thugs warning him to keep quiet, or die: was enough to make me copy the fax to a couple of dozen media sources. I also remembered to bring a camcorder and a witness with a digital still camera and telephone, preset to warn me if anything funky happened in the parking lot.So in the office, when Ken started putting words in my mouth, I respectfully but firmly explained that I was there to establish on the RECORD a report of the facts as I allege them, and that we were going to ascertain, again, FOR THE RECORD that these allegations  were not only factual, but that they KNOW that federal laws are being broken.The best part was that I had been reminded by my witness several times prior to the meeting to make sure I got them to acknowledge they heard and understood me. So, I asked Ken to pretend for the moment that I was John Mica, and to please relate what my message was.Predictably, he got it way, way wrong, and so I explained again patiently that I was there to REPORT A FEDERAL CRIME ON THE RECORD, and asked him nicely to read from my fax to his office. ( )When he got to the name Andrea Barthwell, I very strongly detected a color change in his face . . .(I'm a photofinisher by trade, so when a white man's face goes from magenta to, well white . . .)Anyway, I certainly detected a moment of recognition and discomfort as he continued reading. I actually stopped him then, to let it sink in.I cannot express my thanks enough to Martha, Stick and all of you here at for giving me the courage and platform to hone my arguments.I love you all, no matter what my dog thinks. (She's bored when I type for days at a time, and wishes I would just get some horses and a cow. BTW, she's half Blue Heeler)So, as a result of this meeting, I have some pictures and probably will be able to post a much more detailed rundown later tonight.If you decide to speak about this to your representative, dress for church, mind your manners, and firmly stick to your talking points. That's what Ken was doing, and I strongly feel that had he not heard those words from his own mouth, he would have dismissed them out of hand.My best guess is that right now he is trying to poke holes in my arguments, which may even leave a paper trail for FOIA act requests, or create a firestorm of activity from the other side, which just means more public awareness, and possibly a paper trail leading to a coverup!OK, enough run on sentences, gotta go now, call me if it's urgent: 888 247-8183BTW Pierre, thanks for calling me out of the blue from wherever you were to remind me to bring up the many polls, all of which are running 90% or so in favor . . .I could tell that he was listening by then, and that he understood the ramifications.Wage peace, all.Jose Melendez
http://www.CCCCP.orgPS, Below is the second group to respond to my fax. Karen Malovrh, the Director of Membership Services
And Public Outreach for NORML kindly agreed to accept a phone call but I did not need it, as Hope gave me strength! - - -The Government Accountability Project appreciates your efforts to
report wrongdoing in your workplace and understands that you have
suffered reprisal in your attempts to blow the whistle to end these
abuses.  Although GAP was unable to take your case due to a case
freeze, we are interested in hearing how the Office of Special Counsel
has handled your case.  (snip) GAP appreciates your experiences and hopes to show Congress that it is
only when employees step forward to report illegal and unethical
practices within the government that a legal system that protects
truth-tellers can exist.We are continuing our campaign, with your help, to end the
unscrupulous practices of the OSC.  Please fill out the attached
survey and return it to jeanh  We will continue to
be in contact with you as we make progress in agency reform.Sincerely,
Melissa Eakin
Government Accountability Project
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Taylor121 on June 07, 2005 at 11:05:16 PT
"The pressure is on congress"...
"and they better not fumble."I sure wish they wouldn't but there is hardly a doubt in my mind that they will. Congress is filled with social conservatives because we put them there.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on June 07, 2005 at 10:12:55 PT:
Push coming to shove...coming to?
The Romans used to ask, "Quo vadis?" "Where do we go from here?"One of the reasons why prohibition has gone on for as long as it has was Richard Cowan's answer of 'bad journalism'. But now? This topic is red hot, and shows the basic...what else to call it?...INSANITY of the DrugWar. The cognitive dissonances and (for want of a better word) schizophrenia built into the very idea of the War on (Some) Drugs has never been held up to the public ridicule it so deservedly warrants. But it may long as we can keep this issue on the radar screens. And we may have some help in this regards.Lots of political groups in this country see this latest Supreme Court ruling for what it is: a danger to The Republic. They know that it affects FAR more than a relative few sick people. It REMOVES basic Constitutional checks-and-balances that have already suffered mightily during the Bus(c)h Administration. For all intent and purposes, the States have become nothing but extended postal codes; their value as legislative and deliberative bodies has been rendered moot. Overly-broad interpretations of this ruling can be expected to be used by police in a great many ways causing much vaster loss of liberties than any previous ruling ever has. This will be abused as all Supreme Court rulings strengthening The State to the detriment of the citizens who comprise it have.We will soon have plenty of company. Time to start networking. Right NOW. Otherwise, if this goes on, the blue field and stars of the flag might as well be replaced by the blood-dripping hammer and sickle. The Commies will have won after all.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by The GCW on June 07, 2005 at 10:10:26 PT
The pressure is on congress.
The pressure is on congress and they better not fumble.The clear American majority want cannabis available to sick humans for health reasons.Period.When We don't like something, We are supposed to write Our congressman.I have.He knows.They know.Every single American state supports this issue as a clear majority.There is no longer any room for congress to fail to realize the will of their people;The overwhelming majirity of voters support medical use of cannabis.Congress has no choice but to support their constituents or be bluntly exposed as not supporting their people;right out in the open.NOW, We are going to see more of what congress is made of.& I do not have faith in congress.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Dankhank on June 07, 2005 at 09:07:50 PT
you got that transcript up right quick ...I just saw Montel on Fox ... he did good ...Peace to all who educateMy first comment on the Raich decision ...I am speechless, all who commented covered it nicely ...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on June 07, 2005 at 08:42:28 PT
Heads Up: Montel on Fox!
We just saw that Montel is coming on Fox. ***Montel: Pot Decision 'Crazy'NEW YORK, June 7, 2005"I'm paying my taxes so I can work every day. If you come after me for this, I'll stop working. I don't know what else to say." Talk show host Montel Williams 
 June 7, 2005(CBS) A visibly frustrated Montel Williams says the Supreme Court's decision that patients can be prosecuted for using prescribed marijuana medicinally is "crazy." The Emmy Award-winning talk show host told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Tuesday that he uses the drug himself "every single evening" to fight the pain from multiple sclerosis. The high Court ruled that federal authorities may prosecute patients who use marijuana on doctors' orders, but said Congress could change the law to permit pot use for medical reasons. The action was in response to a Bush administration appeal of a case it lost in 2003. Overall, Williams says, "Nothing changed. The Supreme Court just validated what has already been in place continuously. This was an appeal decision, not a decision saying all of a sudden there's something wrong with marijuana. "The Supreme Court didn't really attack marijuana. It just said there are some interstate commerce issues here that we need to stop. "The truth is, unfortunately, it shows the confusion on this issue nationally. Our Supreme Court just a year ago said it was OK for doctors to recommend (marijuana) and they can't be prosecuted for telling patients to use it. Therefore, doctors can tell you to use it. But once they tell you to use it, 'I'm gonna then come prosecute you.' How crazy is this?" "I don't think anything will change," Williams continued, "but I think what it has set in motion is the fact that the Supreme Court itself said that this becomes a congressional issue. "Truthfully, the easiest way to solve this problem, very simple: We pay our taxes for this. The (DEA) Drug Enforcement Administration can…put (marijuana) in the same category as cocaine, morphine and other drugs and let doctors prescribe it. I don't understand why this has become so ridiculous." Williams told of legalization moves in Britain and Canada, adding, "Our government has been dispensing marijuana for 25 years through a program at the University of Mississippi. …We've been studying it for 25 years. If they haven't learned enough about it in 25 years, we should fire everybody involved in this program." Calling Justice John Paul Stephens' declaration that medical marijuana opens the door for abuse by dealers and drug traffickers, and for prescription abuse, an "absolute lie," Williams asserted, "Right now, the most abused drugs in this country are prescription medications, like OxyContin, Vicodin and others. "I've tried those," he said. "I've got a cabinet full of them right now prescribed to me, and they don't work. All they do is end up shutting down your kidneys, shutting down your intestines. If I take enough OxyContin, I could sit in a corner and drool. Admitting he's "feared" prosecution "since day one," Williams continued, "The bottom line is, I'm paying my taxes so I can work every day. If you come after me for this, I'll stop working. I don't know what else to say."
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment