Reefer Mindless

Reefer Mindless
Posted by FoM on June 27, 2000 at 06:36:21 PT
By Michael Simmons
Source: Penthouse Magazine
As we enter a new century, the decades-long war against marijuana continues, with pot busts doubling in the past decade, and tens of thousands of Americans behind bars for possessing, growing, or selling the nation's third favorite recreational drug. When will this official Reefer Madness end? Possibly sooner than anyone thinks. "We are locking up this country!" the boyish-looking man in a suit thundered from the podium. "Should drug use in the privacy of your own home  end you up in jail?"
The packed crowd in a conference room at the Pyramid Crowne Plaza Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico, answered the question with an emphatic "NO!" "Does anybody want to press a button and retroactively punish the 80 million Americans who have done illegal drugs?" the man asked. "NO!" the crowd roared back again. "And did I mention that I'm one of those people? I'm one of the 80 million!"This impassioned speech, delivered last November before a group of drug-law reformers attending a panel discussion on "The Drug War: Who Is Winning?," could have been made by any one of 70 million Americans who have smoked pot, or the millions more who've tried harder stuff. But here was Gary E. Johnson, second-term Republican governor of New Mexico, denouncing the war on drugs as "a miserable failure." The 47-year-old triathlete, who now abstains from all mind-altering substances, including sugar, admitted prior to winning his first term in 1994 to using both marijuana and cocaine during his college days. After declining to run for higher office following his second and last term (which expires January 2002), Johnson began to air his maverick views. He has received enthusiastic praise from those who see the drug war as an attack by the government on its own citizens. He's also become the whipping boy for everybody from White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, who claimed that schoolkids were referring to the governor as "Puff Daddy" Johnson ("This is goofy thinking that's harmful to New Mexico," remarked the czar -- "He ought to be ashamed of himself"), to fellow New Mexican politicos and law-enforcement officials, to a middle-school cheerleading team that refused to meet with Johnson because of his views.In a conversation after the conference, Johnson discoursed upon the "reefer madness" scare tactics prevalent in his own youth, today's ludicrous brain-on-drugs-equals-fried-eggs analogy, and the inability of rule makers to differentiate between substances as disparate as pot and heroin. "We lived the lie," he said. "Kids continue to live it, see it played out on them. Take the [Partnership for a Drug-Free America] advertisement, 'Here's your brain, here's your brain on drugs.' Well, okay, so that means marijuana. We experienced the same thing. We did marijuana. And it's not what it's been portrayed. You don't lose your mind. You don't have a propensity to do crime. It's okay. It's not a bad experience. So does that mean what the rest of the government is telling us is also a lie?" Unlike other boomer politicos, Johnson doesn't mince words or plead "youthful experimentation" to explain his inhalations. "I didn't experiment. I smoked pot," he said. "At the time, it was something that a lot of us did. We knew it was against the law. Did any of us belong in jail as a result of what you can argue was a bad choice? I don't think so. And that's really what this is about. We're in charge today. So now that we're in charge today, are we supposed to enact laws that would have made our lives different? It seems like today we're trying to get tougher with things that we got away with! And there's a hypocrisy to that, in my opinion." Johnson is a mind-blowing anomaly -- a politician who tells the truth, consequences be damned. And the core truth he speaks is that at the heart of the multibillion-dollar drug war and its thousands of related jobs in law enforcement and the prisons system is the nonsensical demonization of marijuana. For 63 years, since the passage of the Marihuana (sic) Tax Act of 1937, Americans have been told that pot is an addictive narcotic that causes everything from amotivational syndrome to sociopathic behavior to premature death. (The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and L.S.D., thus categorizing it as a substance with a high potential for abuse and no medicinal applications.) Yet as we enter the twenty-first century, pot is the third favorite recreational drug of choice in the United States after alcohol and tobacco. Unlike alcohol and tobacco, however, marijuana cannot be bought legally for pleasure or relaxation by Americans who run to the corner store. Unlike alcohol or tobacco, marijuana found in the possession of adults can result in criminal sanctions ranging from the equivalent of a parking ticket to, in the case of a federal statute governing the import or growing of more than 50,000 plants or pounds, the death penalty. But the truth is that, slowly and inexorably, the Berlin Wall of Prohibition is crumbling. The millions of Americans who have either tried or continue to smoke marijuana know that its negative side effects are either overstated or outright lies, and public outrage at the constitutional violations perpetrated in the name of the drug war is increasing exponentially. Medical marijuana has enjoyed majority support wherever it's been on a ballot. And farmers looking for a profitable crop, entrepreneurs looking for an environmentally and financially green product, and young people looking for a cause have transformed hemp -- the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, with hundreds of beneficial uses -- into a $200-million-a-year industry.Still, there is a dangerous disconnect at work in America regarding marijuana. Viewers guffaw when the gang in That '70s Show paints a marijuana leaf on the town's water tower -- cultural code that marijuana is a relatively harmless drug as well as a rite of passage for youth. Reefer jokes are cracked on The Simpsons and by Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, and weed is smoked to hilarious effect in such major studio movies as Dazed and Confused and The Big Lebowski. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Americans are arrested annually, imprisoned, and made to face forfeiture of their homes and belongings because of its use, cultivation, or sale. Furthermore, draconian mandatory minimum sentencing (the least amount of prison time to be served by law) passed by Congress and many states is grossly disproportionate to the alleged crime, as well as leaving judges no leeway to take into consideration the particulars of each case. Indeed, the continuing integration of marijuana into the mainstream American experience -- with presidential candidates, actors, musicians, scientists, even Olympic medalists tabbed as tokers -- has led to a common perception that reefer laws are relatively lax. While this is true for small quantities of marijuana in certain regions, the horror stories belie any notions that pot has been de facto legalized. "People have this misinformed belief that people don't go to prison for marijuana," says Monica Pratt of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, one of the foremost drug-prisoner-rights organizations, headquartered in Washington, D.C. "It's a willful blindness to what's going on in America right now." Last November, Time magazine ran a tongue-in-cheek but factually accurate breakdown of the particular social groups that prefer certain drugs. For pot smokers, the social group was described as "everyone." According to recent studies, more than 70 million Americans have smoked marijuana at least once in their lifetime, 11 million use it monthly, and about half of those inhale almost daily; this means that about five percent of people over the age of 12 can be loosely defined as pot smokers, and between five and six million of them are dedicated stoners. Of course these figures must be gauged against the reality that many potheads will not 'fess up to illegal behavior, even when guaranteed anonymity. With "zero tolerance" the watch-phrase of the antidrug forces and corporate policy makers, such paranoia is completely justified. If you factor in expanded police power to search and seize, payments to informants, snitching for plea bargains, aggressive conspiracy charges, and mandatory urine testing, the pot smokers' dilemma becomes abundantly clear. Their jobs and their families, not to mention their very freedom from imprisonment, are constantly at stake. As R. Keith Stroup, the 56- year-old founder and director of the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, observes, "People are in the closet; they're intimidated after 20 years of the war on drugs. They can't be honest; they might lose their jobs, or they might get drug-tested. There are all kinds of reasons why people are not necessarily honest about how they feel about marijuana smoking -- including those of us who smoke." Supplying these millions of American tokers with their recreational drug of choice is an underground industry that survives -- and thrives -- through secrecy. Last year, Jon Gettman, former director of NORML, published "Marijuana by the Numbers," an as-definitive-as-possible statistical breakdown of the American marijuana trade in the "industry" magazine High Times. Gettman cites a 1998 NORML report that estimated 1997 U.S. domestic pot production at nearly 5.5 million pounds. (According to 1997 Drug Enforcement Administration figures, California is the domestic leader in marijuana production, followed by Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, and Hawaii.) Using High Times's highly regarded market-quotations page as an index, the report guesstimated the weed's total retail value to be $15 billion at $2,765 a pound. (An ounce of pot currently retails for anywhere from $120 to $700, depending on the regional market and the quality of the drug, with the average price somewhere in the middle.) NORML compared these numbers to federal Agriculture Department figures and concluded that marijuana is now America's fourth-largest cash crop, behind corn, soybeans, and hay, and worth as much as wheat and cotton combined. Although domestic pot production has been rising steadily over the years, with increasing amounts being grown indoors under scrupulous conditions aimed at producing high-potency, high-priced weed, it is imported marijuana, primarily from Mexico, that remains the toker's mainstay, especially in locales where there is no pot-growing culture and high-quality strains are hard to find or afford. Debate rages over whether marijuana is stronger than it was 20 years ago. The antidrug warriors say yes, maintaining it's so much more potent that it's a different drug, thereby justifying their zero-tolerance tactics. To bolster their contention, they point to research done at the University of Mississippi, the home of the federal government's pot farm. The Potency Monitoring Project at Ole Miss has found that pot is stronger now than in the early seventies, though its average strength has been consistent since the early eighties. On the other hand, independent analyses have detected higher THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, pot's psychoactive cannabinoid) content in such seventies strains as Maui Wowie and Thai Stick than in most currently avail- able strains, bolstering the contention of pot advocates that today's weed presents no unique danger. Not content to attack marijuana alone, zero-tolerance zealots also target its "delivery systems." Most states have some form of antiparaphernalia laws on the books, and while there are no available statistics on how many candy-store owners get raided for carrying Bambu rolling papers, the paraphernalia laws come in handy when prosecutors want to "pile on" years to a drug offender's prison sentence. Furthermore, the paraphernalia laws are often used by the local police as a pretext for an assault in what is at its core a cultural war. Says NORML's deputy director Allen St. Pierre, "It's literally town by town by town. If a shop owner has things such as NORML information, or High Times or other countercultural magazines at hand, or if there are T-shirts or other cultural affectations in the store that would lead a reasonable person to believe that marijuana was part of the culture within, then that's the standard that one would probably use to arrest somebody for selling paraphernalia. That's why most prudent paraphernalia stores strew their displays with tobacco and insist on 18' and over, as they should, and have zero discussions beyond the obvious." From sea to shining sea, and contrary to popular perception, the war against marijuana is increasing in intensity. According to available data, pot busts have accelerated in the 1990s, most notably during the phony-liberal Clinton administration. F.B.I. statistics for 1998 record 682,885 marijuana arrests, 88 percent for mere possession, belying law enforcement's conventional spin that the enforcers are mainly concerned with large-scale growth and distribution rackets. These figures are slightly lower than those of the year before, when NORML noted that the Clinton administration had already outbusted the kinder, gentler George Bush by 30 percent on an average yearly basis. In fact, pot busts have more than doubled since 1990, while those for heroin and cocaine fell by more than 50 percent. In 1998, 44 percent of all drug arrests were for marijuana; one out of every 25 criminal arrests was for marijuana possession; and one in seven persons in prison for drugs had been convicted on marijuana charges. (Interestingly, the number of pot arrests has risen steadily while the estimated number of smokers has fallen off from a reported high in 1979.) Approximately 43,000 Americans are presently behind state or federal bars for marijuana, at an estimated social cost of $7.5 billion annually. More Americans get popped annually for marijuana (and many receive harsher sentences) than for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault combined. According to current federal mandatory minimum-sentencing law, you can be imprisoned for 15 to 21 months and fined $1 million for delivery or sale of a single joint, and slapped with five to 40 years and a $2 million fine for possessing more than 100 plants. Cultivating or selling more than 1,000 plants or 1,000 kilograms can earn you a life sentence in a federal penitentiary. What's more, nowadays there are fewer safe havens in hitherto lenient cities or states. In New York City, for example, cops used to issue a noncriminal summons for small-time pot possession (less than 25 grams). But under the rubric of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's "quality of life" program, the N.Y.P.D. now employs everything from undercover cops posing as dealers to surveillance cameras in Washington Square Park to entrap smokers. More than 40,000 pot arrests were made in New York City in 1998, seven times the figure for 1993, the year before Giuliani took office. Offenders are detained until arraignment, which means if you're caught smoking a joint on a Friday, you may spend your weekend in stir. Matters are far from laid-back for pot enthusiasts in California. Last October, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, an interagency eradication effort, announced that it had already seized 241,164 plants for the year 1999. The confiscated plants had an estimated value of $965 million, up 80 percent over the '98 tallies, and 40 percent higher than the previous record year of 1985. And while law-enforcement figures warned that the passage in 1996 of Proposition 215, the initiative that legalized medical marijuana in California, would tie their hands and create a de facto legalization of recreational marijuana use in the state, there were nearly 2,000 state pot prisoners in California is July of '99, an increase of ten percent since the proposition passed with the support of 56 percent of voters. In fact, while possession of less than an ounce is punishable by a relatively light $100 fine, the state's cops and prosecutors see red when it comes to anything greater than an ounce, especially where cultivation and/or distribution are concerned, with the possible exemption (thanks to Proposition 215, as we shall see) of some medical marijuana operations. New York State tops the United States for the greatest number of pot busts per 100,000 smokers (at 6,294 as of 1997), but regionally most take place in Mid-western states (for sales/manufacture) and the Midwest and South (for possession). Justice in some of these states is often wildly disproportionate to the alleged crime, even when compared with the national standard. Oklahoma, for example, has what are overall probably the harshest pot penalties in the United States. Possession of any amount (such as the residue of a joint) can bring up to a year in jail and a $500 fine. A second offense (a second bust for the residue of a joint) warrants two years to life and a $20,000 fine. Possession of paraphernalia (say, a single rolling paper) is punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Four years to life imprisonment is mandated for sale or delivery of under 25 pounds, and the minimum penalty increases with larger quantities. Punishments are doubled for sale to a minor or within 1,000 feet of a school. And, as in several other states, you can have your driver's license suspended as penalty even if you're not driving while nabbed. Will Foster is the most well-known victim of Oklahoma's zero-tolerance legislation. The 42-year-old Tulsa father of three was given a 93-year sentence in 1997 for 60 plants (said the prosecutor; 10 plants and 50 seedlings and clones, Foster maintained). Foster has advanced rheumatoid arthritis, precisely the kind of ailment for which pot has been shown to be an effective medicine in numerous studies, including six presented to the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C., in 1997. In the summer of 1998, Foster's sentence was reduced to 20 years, but Governor Frank Keating has ignored repeated pleas and declined to pardon him. In fact, Keating is pushing the Oklahoma legislature to toughen its marijuana laws. Latter-day frontier injustice is not limited to state law, however. Current federal mandatory-minimum (or "man-min") sentencing, codified by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, prevents judges from using their discretion and orders lopsided sentences disproportionate to the alleged crimes. A man-min sentence can be reduced only if the defendant cooperates with the prosecution and snitches others out in the pursuit of questionable conspiracy convictions. It's a quid pro qua deal: You give us the names of fellow travelers in order to notch our belts with more guilty verdicts, and you'll do less time or none at all. Often, far more culpable informants receive lighter sentences than the people they inform on. Throw in forfeiture laws, according to which, until recently, a drug offender -- or even anyone suspected prior to trial -- forfeits his or her assets to be divvied up among the law-enforcement agencies involved in the case, and the result is incentive for cops and prosecutors to use the Constitution as toilet paper.Consequently, the number of conspiracy prosecutions against Americans arrested for the sale or manufacture of weed has soared, wreaking havoc on thousands of lives. Take, for example, the horror visited upon the Tucker family of Georgia.Gary Tucker and his wife Joanne ran Southern Lights and Hydroponics, an indoor-outdoor gardening store in Norcross, near Atlanta. Gary's brother Steve worked part-time at the store while he held down another job. An indoor, soil-free method of growing plants, hydroponics is a favorite -- but hardly the sole domain -- among marijuana planters seeking a year-round growing season as well as high yield and privacy. During a 1993 sting dubbed Operation Green Merchant, the D.E.A. approached Gary Tucker. The feds had been investigating Tucker customers who the feds suspected to be pot growers, and leaned on Gary for permission to install surveillance cameras in his store. Citing privacy violations, and stead-fastly insisting they turned away any customer who mentioned marijuana, Gary refused. When some of the Tuckers' customers were later busted and faced man-min, they informed the feds that the Tuckers had given them advice on how to grow pot. These allegations made the Tuckers liable for conspiracy to manufacture. On June 27, 1993, the three Tuckers were arrested by the D.E.A. Subsequently, all three were indicted and convicted, even though they possessed no marijuana, and no buys or sales -- not even recorded evidence of "advice" -- were ever introduced. Despite inducements of leniency, none of the three would snitch or turn evidence, all maintaining their innocence throughout. On January 11, 1994, under man-min provisions, Gary Tucker was sentenced to 16 and a half years' imprisonment, and Steve and Joanne Tucker to ten years each. The Tuckers began serving their sentences in 1995, and all three are currently in federal correctional facilities. Under forfeiture laws, the Tuckers lost their homes, their cars, their bank ac- counts, a truck, and a boat. Gary and Joanne are childless, but Steve has a 14-year-old daughter and a 13- year-old son. In some cases, alleged marijuana transgressors face a far more deadly penalty than prison. Donald Scott, a 61-year-old wealthy Malibu rancher, was murdered in 1992 by a joint task force (comprised of members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, L.A.P.D., Park Service, D.E.A., Forest Service, California National Guard, and California Bureau of Narcotics) conducting an early-morning raid on the pretense that Scott was growing pot on his property. Responding to his wife's screams, a clueless Scott grabbed a gun and confronted the intruders. Two bullets were pumped into him. No pot was found. Ventura County District Attorney Michael D. Bradbury released a report criticizing the task force for using false information to secure a search warrant. Bradbury characterized the effort as an attempt to use forfeiture laws to slice up Scott's considerable assets between the participating agencies. "Clearly one of the primary purposes was a land grab by the Sheriff's Department," Bradbury wrote. While no law-enforcement agency or officer was ever charged with a crime, Los Angeles County and the feds tentatively agreed to pay $5 million to Scott's survivors earlier this year.More recently, Mario Paz, a 65-year-old father of six and grandfather of 14, was shot dead in his Compton, California, home last August by officers from the nearby El Monte Police Department who were engaged in an ongoing investigation. Again, it was an early-morning putsch on an uncomprehending victim. It turns out a suspected pot dealer had used Paz's address as a mail drop. And once again no marijuana was found, nor was any police officer charged with murder. In January, Q. J. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran filed a suit on behalf of Paz's survivors, accusing the cities of El Monte and Compton of wrongful death and conspiracy to violate Paz's civil rights.Pot smokers find themselves increasingly confronted with the indignity of mandatory drug testing, which, while certainly not as frightening as gun-wielding raiders, is insulting, and arguably unconstitutional as unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. One hopes that our airline pilots aren't flying whacked out on sinsemilla, but the piss testing of video-store clerks is absurd. What's more, testing can have terrible consequences.When 24-year-old Angela Jenkins of Houston, Texas, was in labor with her second child, Sylvan, last September she was given a drug test which came up positive for pot. (Her doctor, she says, explained that blood tests for drug use were standard procedure for expectant mothers lacking insurance or prenatal care.) Jenkins had admitted to using marijuana once during her pregnancy to relieve stomach cramps, two days before going into labor. Both Sylvan and his 15-month-old brother Bishop were taken from Jenkins and her common-law husband, Aaron Asher, 23, by Children's Protective Services. This was on the grounds of child abuse, based on the blood test. As of late February of this year, the children were still in the custody of Jenkins's mother. While Angela is permitted to see the kids, she's forbidden to be alone with them. Both parents are employed and, by the C.P.S. caseworker's own admission, kept a clean home, and there was no other mistreatment of the children. Jenkins has been forced by the court to take drug-education classes and continues to be drug-tested; she has consistently been found clean."I feel that the severity of [C.P.S.'s] actions does not fit the case," she says. The couple's lawyer, Phil Swisher, says he is planning to file a civil-rights complaint against the hospital that he claims seized the children without authorization from a court. While the millions of Americans who smoke, grow, or sell pot, or are suspected of doing so, continue to be subjected to the brutal whim of politics, the past half decade has seen one noteworthy suspension of reefer madness. Though the federal government steadfastly refuses to classify cannabis as medicine, American voters in state after state have expressed their support for medical marijuana. Indeed, no single drug- reform-related issue has resonated with the public like medical marijuana. "Med-mar," as advocates refer to it in shorthand, has consequently become a powerful weapon in exposing the intolerance of zero tolerance. "Most people who have a family member who is catastrophically ill or disabled know that they would do anything in their power to ease their loved one's suffering," says Scott Imler, coauthor of California's Proposition 215 and director of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center. "Given that people's underlying view of marijuana is relatively benign, it's not a big leap to say, 'I'll break this rather archaic law in order to help ease my loved one's suffering.' " As medicine, cannabis has a 3,000-year recorded history, and it was popular in many nineteenth-century over-the-counter cures. However, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which kicked off the national prohibition that exists today, effectively ended weed's beneficent role in America. This, despite the protests of the American Medical Association, which acknowledged that the future could hold "substantial medical uses for cannabis." By the sixties, it was common knowledge that cancer patients were smoking pot to quell the nausea of chemotherapy and stimulate the appetite, and in 1976 a glaucoma patient named Robert C. Randall became the first American in decades to gain access to licit marijuana by suing the federal government under the doctrine of medical necessity (marijuana helps relieve the internal eye pressure that causes glaucoma). It was the gay community, however, that propelled marijuana-as-medicine into the front pages when it discovered that pot was literally the difference between life and death in the treatment of AIDS. Those who have either the full-blown disease or are H.I.V.-positive are dependent on multiple medications to support their immune system and ward off both a variety of predatory illnesses and death. These medications often cause nausea and neuropathy and suppress appetite; cannabis, as it does with cancer, relieves these problems and allows patients to proceed with their all-important medical regimen. A kind of general medical palliative for those afflicted with AIDS, pot was also found to assist in abating the disastrous mix of physical pain from various opportunistic illnesses, along with the wasting syndrome of AIDS that causes the patient to lose muscle tissue.Americans understand that medical marijuana is an issue that transcends the cant and paranoia of the zero- tolerance militants. When the financial arm of the Proposition 215 movement (funded primarily by currency speculator George Soros) took a poll in California prior to the November 1996 election, it found an astounding one third of those surveyed in the state knew someone who had used pot medicinally. That November, voters in California and Arizona passed initiatives legalizing marijuana for sick people who had a doctor's recommendation. Since then, seven other med-mar initiatives have passed -- in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, and the District of Columbia. Interestingly, the District initiative provoked a notable episode of contemporary reefer madness when Congress, which administers the funding for the nation's capitol, refused to pay the dollar-and-change required to tally the vote. Led by Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, the antidrug warriors were not going to let democracy de-fang doobie demonization. The House finally allowed the vote to be tallied, and the initiative was shown to have passed by 69 percent. Undeterred, Barr tacked onto a spending bill an amendment nullifying the vote, a tactic that even pot-antagonist President Clinton threatened to veto for being "antidemocratic."The implementation of med-mar statutes in states where it's now law has been uneven. Oregon has instituted a statewide registry for med-mar patients so they can present a card to law enforcement if pinched with weed. In California, a task force led by Democratic State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and comprised of both cops and pot advocates spent more than six months last year devising a similar program. But freshly elected Democratic Governor Gray Davis basically told his own A.G. to go fuck himself, and let it be known that he would veto the task force's recommendations, leaving California in the county-by-county chaos that has existed since the passage of Proposition 215. With some perturbing exceptions, law enforcement in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland tends to honor Prop 215, while rural counties often don't even acknowledge there's a state law that protects med-mar patients, citing the fact that under federal statutes marijuana is not considered a medicine. The California cannabis clubs are fascinating sociological oases. They are autonomous zones of compassion, some of which are run as tightly as licensed pharmacies. Others are less stringent, and have been called to task for it by both the federal and state government as well as intramovement activists. The Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center in West Hollywood, which has been in operation since 1995, is the strictest club in California, and in many ways the most controversial. Director Imler, who smokes marijuana to control chronic seizures sustained after a skiing accident, advocates transparency in a movement that is often shrouded in secrecy and prideful of its outlaw status. He is openly critical of those pot advocates who use the medical issue as a smoke screen for broader agendas. In a 1997 sting, the D.E.A. sent narcs posing as patients into cannabis clubs, resulting in federal civil suits against six California clubs whose protocol was so lax that they disbursed pot to the agents. The L.A.C.R.C. was spared because it was the only club that wouldn't let the undercover narcs in. Admissions director (and AIDS patient) Jay Fritz had a policy of double verification of a doctor's letter and medical-license number, which revealed that the narc had fraudulent paperwork. The agent was politely shown the door.While the L.A.C.R.C. has the blessing of both the West Hollywood City Council and L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, matters have not always been copacetic between the club and law enforcement. Shortly before the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996, sheriffs acting on a "complaint" busted the center and arrested four employees. All charges were eventually dropped, however, and a post-election peace conference was convened between Imler and the sheriff's department, then headed by the late Sherman Block. For his part, Block's successor Baca recently described his department's arrangement with the L.A.C.R.C, as one based on "open communication" and respect for "the right of people to privately respond to their medical needs." Currently, both the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the L.A.P.D. honor the club's membership card and a doctor's letter as proof of med-mar legitimacy under state law. While this shows how far we've come, and hopefully where we're headed, the sick and dying elsewhere in California still face harassment and intimidation. Consider the case of Tim Weltz, a 38-year-old terminal-lymphoma patient I interviewed in June 1999. The previous week, local cops had shown up at his home in Alta Loma, California, in response to a domestic-dispute call. Weltz was hooked up to an intravenous morphine drip, and a home-health-care worker was present, when the police arrived and observed marijuana plants growing in and around the house. Despite Weltz's possession of a letter from his oncologist approving his use of med-mar, agents of the Marijuana Eradication Task Force of San Bernardino County were summoned and they uprooted 23 ready- to-harvest plants. Weltz was not charged with any crime, but his precious palliative was destroyed. When questioned about the cops' actions, Detective Michael Wirz of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department explained, "We're not able to interpret ... a law based on him giving us a note saying that it's okay." In fact, California law clearly states that med-mar patients "upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction." Weltz died of cancer November 1,1999. Such pigheaded intransigence is best personified by White House drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey. Following passage of the California and Arizona med-mar initiatives in '96, the retired four-star general announced, "There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed." Confronted by years of scientific and anecdotal evidence of marijuana's medical applications, McCaffrey then threw $896,000 at the nonprofit Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences to review all the shreds of scientific evidence and answer once and for all the burning question, if you will: Is marijuana medicine? The results, published last year, were somewhat startling in candor but at the same time not surprising. The I.O.M. reported that certain cannabinoids - -- the chemical compounds that make up cannabis -- have therapeutic value; that marijuana was effective in treating nausea, AIDS wasting, and pain management; and that Marinol, the legal prescribable pill that contains THC - -- as previously noted, marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient -- is not the most efficacious or desirable choice for certain conditions. In fact the study found that pot's antianxiety properties -- i.e., getting stoned - -- can be beneficial. Furthermore, the I.O,M. debunked pot's rep as an "addictive" and pharmacologic "gateway" drug, meaning that if you smoke pot, you're going to end up on crack. The only valid objection, said the I.O.M., was that smoking pot is a "crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances" (e.g., smoke), but even so there was no conclusive evidence that reefer is carcinogenic or immunosuppressive. "Until a non-smoked, rapid-onset cannabinoid-drug delivery system becomes available," read the conclusion, "we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic [the I.O.M.'s distinction] conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting."What did McCaffrey do in light of this clear repudiation of his policy? He blathered about endorsing such delivery systems as suppositories and transdermal patches, adamantly maintaining that smoked marijuana will never be available as medicine. Meanwhile, the sick and dying, like Tim Weltz, continue to suffer and face arrest and imprisonment. So what does the coming decade hold for marijuana and marijuana smokers? Despite General McCaffrey and his ilk's steadfast opposition to reform, the nine initiatives that have passed supporting medical marijuana (and a defeated one in Oregon that would have recriminalized pot) show support for, at the very least, compassion and common sense. And while no polls have yet indicated majority support for legalization as such, the numbers appear to be rising. Last August, the Campaign for New Drug Policies, an organization headquartered in Santa Monica, California, that is sponsoring several incremental state-by-state drug-reform measures, undertook a broad-issue poll of likely voters in California. The results were illuminating. Forty-two percent of the respondents favored regulating and taxing marijuana and allowing for people to grow small amounts, with 51 percent opposing and seven percent undecided. "To build a majority, you can rely on legalizers, but you need people who support moderate reforms," says Dave Fratello, the C.N.D.P.'s communications director, who notes that last year's poll numbers were "probably five or six points higher than I remember seeing in '96." What's more, adds Fratello, "Nevada had the same number, which is high for what is otherwise a very conservative state. We just drew the inference that people there have a lot of experience taxing and regulating vices. They wouldn't think twice about doing the same for marijuana."In yet another indication of how widespread the consensus is for at least a modicum of normalization, fire- breathing conservative Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Illinois) sponsored forfeiture-reform legislation last year that passed the House and Senate. Pro-pot advocates read these developments as signs that zero tolerance will no longer be tolerated. "The first decade of the twenty-first century is likely to see a renunciation of this policy -- finally," predicts Dale Gieringer, NORML's California coordinator. "What happened with alcohol prohibition in the 1930s is going to happen with respect to marijuana prohibition in the 2000s." Gieringer sees a domino theory at work, a step-by-step process of moderation and acceptance that's already in motion with medical marijuana and industrial hemp. Many reformers suggest the tide will turn when the herb's use loses its furtive taint. Author/activist Mikki Norris wrote (along with Chris Conrad and Virginia Resner) Shattered Lives: Portraits From America's Drug War (Creative Xpressions), the most compelling book to date on the effect the drug war has had on families who have been subject to arrest, forfeiture, mandatory minimums, etc. Norris believes the way to end pot prohibition is for takers to "emulate the Gay Pride model.... The fact is, everyone knows a pot smoker whether they realize it or not," she says. "When enough people get used to the fact that so many people they know -- friends, relatives, coworkers, employers, professional and business people they trust -- have been using pot responsibly and are still good, productive people, society will not tolerate the discrimination against pot smokers and come to accept that they should be treated like everyone else. But that's not going to happen until people start coming out of the closet." Still, diehard antidrug warriors are not prepared to surrender, and they continue their assaults on reason and rights. In Florida there are tentative plans to unleash a mutant fungus called Fusarium oxysporum that would kill marijuana. Some environmentalists have warned that this Frankenstein fungus may be mutagenic and kill tomatoes and other crops as well. In the Senate, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), two of the least civil libertarians from either side of the aisle, have sponsored and passed S.486, an anti- methamphetamine bill that makes it a felony to "teach, demonstrate, or distribute any information pertaining to the manufacture of a controlled substance." This would mean that everything from a diagram on how to roll a joint to, say, a gardening guide could be construed as felonious. But the bill has yet to pass the House and if it does, it will inevitably be tied up in the courts. We look back at certain periods of history and ask, "What could our fellow human beings have possibly been thinking?" Legal apartheid 35 years ago in the American South is one glaring example. One day we will look back on the mighty War on Drugs and find it inconceivable that there was a time when we had to piss in jars as part of our employment, that sick people were denied efficacious medication, that law enforcement paid for itself with the seized assets of pot farmers, that someone could simply be arrested for smoking a weed. Until that time, powerful men and women will exercise control over the populace by enacting and enforcing laws against this weed. Someday they will have to answer for their actions. On the cover: Special Report: Reefer Mindless - It's time to end the vicious, stupid, losing war on potNews Article Courtesy Of MapInc. August 1, 2000Copyright: 2000 General Media Communications, Inc.Related Article:N.M. Governor Says Marijuana Should be Legal MapInc. Archives:
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on June 27, 2000 at 11:06:06 PT:
The real danger of the Anti-Meth Bill
'Still, diehard antidrug warriors are not prepared to surrender, and they continue their assaults on reason and rights. In Florida there are tentative plans to unleash amutant fungus called Fusarium oxysporum that would kill marijuana. Some environmentalists have warned that this Frankenstein fungus may be mutagenic and killtomatoes and other crops as well. In the Senate, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dianne Feinstein (D-California), two of the least civil libertarians from either side of theaisle, have sponsored and passed S.486, an anti- methamphetamine bill that makes it a felony to "teach, demonstrate, or distribute any information pertaining to themanufacture of a controlled substance." This would mean that everything from a diagram on how to roll a joint to, say, a gardening guide could be construed as felonious. But the bill has yet to pass the House and if it does, it will inevitably be tied up in the courts. 'The problem with this is that every DrugWarrior who's alternately salivating and peeing their pants in anticipation of the law's passage will *not wait* for the case to rise to the Supremes. Like a bunch of anxious greyhounds, waiting for the mechanical rabbit, the goons will be watching the traditional signing in the Rose Garden (by Mr. I-did-not-inhale, Himself!) and as soon as the ink is dry, the roundups will begin. They know they will have to act quickly, as they will have to strike hard and fast before their efforts are stopped by some or other injunction while the case is reviewed. But they figure that enough damage will be done with their arrests and forfeitures that the movement will be set back another 20 years. And possibly kill it altogether. And the whole time it is happening, they will smilingly tell you as they apply their jackboots to your neck that they are operating under the law - which will be technically correct.This is why it is so important to stop this before it gets any further. It is in that in-between period between the passage and the challenge of the law that is of the greatest danger to us... and they know it. Don't count on somebody else to pick up the phone and call your Congresscritter for you. Don't count on someone else sitting down in front of the 'puter and emailing him or her office. Because average Americans really couldn't care less about the devastating impact this will have on civil liberties... at least, until they get bit by it. It's up to us, folks; it usually is.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on June 27, 2000 at 08:31:08 PT
That was good!
That was funny Morgan! Thanks! LOL!
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Comment #1 posted by Morgan on June 27, 2000 at 08:16:02 PT
The Naked Truth
Sorry, I couldn't resist. :-).............................
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