U.S. War on Drugs Sparks Dialogue

U.S. War on Drugs Sparks Dialogue
Posted by CN Staff on March 31, 2003 at 14:33:27 PT
By Patricia Drey
Source: Minnesota Daily 
A series of speakers hoped to prompt thought and action Friday night by sharing their views on America’s war on drugs. The University’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws hoped the Willey Hall event would educate and incite dialogue, said Jason Samuels, a history senior and event organizer. Samuels shared with the group how the drug war touched him personally when police shot his 28-year-old half brother. 
His half brother carried a gun inside a bar where he tried to collect drug money, Samuels said. The bartender called police, who shot and killed his half brother as he fled the scene, Samuels said. Mikki Norris, a drug policy reform activist from California, encouraged marijuana users to “come out of the closet to help dispel the negative stereotypes.” “They’re labeling us,” Norris said. “I am offended that they call me a criminal, and I don’t want to take it anymore.” Norris listed celebrities, including Ted Turner, Al Gore and Kevin Eubanks, who she said have used or currently use marijuana. She also rejected a current ad campaign’s idea that drug users support terrorism. “I don’t know about you, but the marijuana I smoke comes from nice California growers,” Norris said. The evening culminated a week-long display in Willey Hall including pictures of people who had been touched personally by the drug war, either through imprisonment or drug-related crime. These “casualties” of the drug war prove it has done more harm than good, said Hamline University religion professor Mark Berkson. Berkson helped bring the display to Hamline nearly a year ago, inspiring University NORML students to bring the display to campus. The war in Iraq should help draw awareness to “the tremendous costs of war,” Berkson said. An elderly woman was evicted from public housing after her grandchildren used drugs in her apartment, Berkson said, and economist Milton Friedman estimates the war on drugs causes 10,000 murders per year. Dealing with drug policy on a local level would be the best way to change the system, Berkson said. “We can make Minnesota a bastion of sensibility in drug policy that other states can look to as an example,” he said. Minneapolis City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee also spoke of problems with the war on drugs, but during a question and answer session said licensed distribution of drugs probably would not work. Johnson Lee’s statements made audience member Aaron Marcus, a second-year law student and president of the University’s Students for a Sensible Drug Policy chapter, wonder why local government is not working harder to change drug policy, which he said is one of the biggest problems cities deal with. The group is trying to gather 16,000 signatures to put a citizen charter referendum on the ballot telling Minneapolis police to consider personal use and cultivation of marijuana one of the least important criminal offenses. In addition to changing restrictions on smoking marijuana, speaker Chris Conrad said increased availability of industrial hemp could introduce $100 million into the economy. Approximately 75 people attended the event, Samuels said. Organizers used a $1,600 grant from the Minnesota Student Association, a $500 grant from the Student Activities Office and other fund-raising money to pay the approximately $3,000 total cost for the event. Patricia Drey covers student life and welcomes comments at:  pdrey Source: Minnesota Daily (MN Edu)Author: Patricia DreyPublished: March 31, 2003Copyright: 2003 Minnesota DailyContact: letters mndaily.comWebsite: http://www.mndaily.comRelated Articles & Web Sites:SSDP NORML Conrad Consumers Campaign Role of Government: Wasted on Pipe Dreams NORML To Light Up UF with Activism
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Comment #1 posted by billos on March 31, 2003 at 19:33:34 PT:
"An elderly woman was evicted from public housing after her grandchildren used drugs in her apartment, Berkson said, and economist Milton Friedman estimates the war on drugs causes 10,000 murders per year."I can just picture Czar Walters behind this poor old woman in her apartment that was, swinging at her with a big "louisville slugger" that has "Get Out" written on it. Any cartoonists out there? 
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