Shadowing The Shadow 

Shadowing The Shadow 
Posted by FoM on August 18, 2000 at 11:33:20 PT
By Alan W. Bock 
Source: WorldNetDaily 
I've spent the week at the Democratic National Convention and have even ventured inside the Staples Center for a few hours here and there of the official proceedings. It hasn't been quite as bland as the Republican confab in Philadelphia, but unless Al Gore unexpectedly delivers a spellbinding stem-winder of a speech before this is posted, it hasn't been especially stimulating. The real action has been on the streets and at the Shadow Convention. 
The Shadow Convention, convened by columnist and celebrity Arianna Huffington to address issues she and others say the major parties would refuse to address during the conventions, shrewdly limited itself to three major issues, so as to maintain some kind of focus. Two of those, campaign finance reform and the wealth-poverty gap, have received a good deal of attention both in the major parties and from the "mainstream" media, although neither party was likely to feature them during the conventions, which are pep rallies rather than issue forums after all. The third issue the Shadow Conventions highlighted really has been virtually absent from mainstream discussion, closer to a "third rail" of American politics than Social Security ever was -- the failed drug war. Perhaps ironically or perhaps for that very reason, the day the Shadows devoted to the topic drew the largest, most enthusiastic crowds, people who sounded and seemed deeply committed to bringing this issue out of the political shadows. And maybe, just maybe though reformers have felt this way before the time has come for reconsideration of this ill-considered policy. Certainly the program put together by Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Lindesmith Center/Drug Policy Foundation funded in large part by billionaire speculator George Soros, was comprehensive and authoritative. (Say what you like about George Soros -- and I disagree with him on most issues and thought his book was pretty silly -- he pushes causes that he actually believes in and puts his money where his mouth is; would that more billionaires spent to push causes, right or wrong, rather than to buy access, schmooze or get government to beat up on their competitors.) Most impressive to me was the number of elected officials from both parties willing to "come out" with a conviction other officials share but lack the political cover or intestinal fortitude to say: the drug war has not only failed to keep drugs from "our kids" and can't succeed, it has done immeasurable harm to the American social fabric and to millions of peoples' lives. I knew, for example, that Gary Johnson, the Republican governor of New Mexico, had questioned the drug war. I was not prepared for him to be so strong in his convictions, so well-informed, so willing to put himself on the line for what he thinks is right. Gov. Johnson is the kind of Republican any conservative would be proud to embrace. He's a self-made businessman, building a one-man handyman service in 1974 into a company that employed 1,000 people in 1994. He's a fiscal conservative and a "can-do" type who actually has made some modest common-sense reforms in the way New Mexico's government operates and is the first New Mexico governor to be re-elected to a second term. He's an athlete who works out every day and has run the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii three times, a happily married father of two daughters. He doesn't smoke, drink or do any kind of drugs. For whatever reason, however, he has developed a capacity to make intelligent distinctions. He urges everyone he knows not to use alcohol or tobacco, but doesn't think they should be illegal. He notes, however, that some 400,000 people die prematurely from using tobacco, several hundred thousand die prematurely from using alcohol -- and 5,000 people a year die from all the drugs the government has declared illegal. "We are willing to arrest 1.6 million people a year -- half for marijuana, half of those Hispanic and a disproportionate percentage of the rest African-American -- to fail to prevent those deaths," he says. "It doesn't make sense and it does a great deal of harm. A business that clung to such failed policies with such would have been bankrupt years ago." One of the more egregious side effects of the war on drugs, Gov. Johnson notes, is that it destroys the capacity to make distinctions. "About 95 percent of the people who use marijuana do so the way other Americans drink a cocktail, and everybody knows it," he says. "Yet law enforcement is forced to treat every one of those people as somebody with a serious problem who needs to be in forced rehabilitation. It's just not so, and a policy based on a lie is bound to fail." I have known Judge Jim Gray, the Orange County Superior Court judge who introduced Gov. Johnson, is as sterling a straight-arrow conservative as the governor and has a book on the drug war coming out in January, for a number of years. But I didn't know Mayor Ross "Rocky" Anderson of Salt Lake City not only ended city support for the DARE program but is using his position to call for rethinking the drug war. Mayor Anderson knows that it won't be easy to turn things around. "Politicians are much more terrified of a 30-second attack ad calling them soft on crime than of supporting an ineffective, wasteful, inhumane policy that destroys families," he says. The people will have to lead the politicians, give them some cover, on this issue. To expect leadership from political leaders is usually a fool's errand. But maybe that's changing. Rep. Tom Campbell, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in California spoke at both Shadow Conventions, and after a cautious beginning he has developed into a forceful drug war critic. On Tuesday he concentrated on two aspects of the drug war -- the disparate racial impact that results from the way the war is carried out and the likelihood that drug war enthusiasms will get is getting the United States involved in a Vietnam-like morass in Colombia. As Campbell pointed out, while most authorities agree that blacks constitute about 11 percent of drug users, 60 percent of those in state prisons for felony drug offenses are black. "We're jailing an entire young adult generation of black men, and by making them felons we're depriving them of the right to vote," he said. "What Jim Crow was not able to do to African-Americans the drug war may be doing." As for Colombia, we're sending advisers and helicopters, and relocating people into strategic hamlets where we're promising to teach them how to grow different crops, inserting ourselves into a long-term civil war in a jungle country. "The only thing missing is Robert McNamara's signature on the plan," said Rep. Campbell. The racial disparities that have surfaced in the way the drug war is prosecuted might account for the fact that many of the Democrats willing to be identified with drug law reform are black. Jesse Jackson, who was something of a gung-ho drug warrior himself in the 1980s, has come to believe that the side effects of prohibition are worse than the side effects of illegal drugs, and said so at the Shadow Convention. (Of course Jesse was everywhere at the convention; he spoke from the podium and at one of the street rallies the first day too.) Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California was on the program. Rep. John Conyers, the veteran Michigan Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, wasn't, but came by to lend support. Joanne Bowman, a state legislator in Oregon and a Democratic convention delegate, gave a fiery speech, urging people who don't like what their representatives do to "send them home." But it wasn't only black Democrats who are willing to speak out on this issue. California state Sen. Tom Hayden was there, sounding like a moderate compared to others. Los Angeles City Council member Jackie Goldberg welcomed the Shadow Convention and lent her vocal support to the drug law reform cause. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were unscheduled speakers. Comedians Bill Maher and Al Franken appeared. The statements from politicians, by and large, were not the most substantive speeches on the drug war. Ethan Nadelmann gave a masterly, scholarly overview of the malign effects the war on drugs has -- not only on those arrested but on law enforcement, the judicial system, the penal system, the political system and the ability of Americans to talk honestly with one another. Doctors and addiction specialists explored ways to implement a paradigm of harm reduction rather than punishment. Doctors and patients helped by the medicinal properties of marijuana told their stories. While those on the front lines had more substance, the fact that elected politicians of both parties are increasingly willing to touch this "third rail" was the most encouraging fact at this Shadow session. Perhaps in four years, or maybe eight, both party conventions will feature speeches about the ability of the political system to identify failed policies and change them. One can hope.Published: Friday, August 18, 2000Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)Copyright: 2000,, Inc.Contact: letters worldnetdaily.comAddress: PO Box 409, Cave Junction, OR 97523-0409Fax: (541) 597-1700Website: Related Articles & Web Sites:The Shadow Conventions Convention 2000 News Board Articles On The Shadow Conventions: CannabisNews Articles On The Shadow Conventions: 
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 18, 2000 at 18:09:21 PT
Friendly Fire: Rethinking the War on Drugs
Here is an article by Eric Sterling in PDF Format. I will post the article as soon as it is available on Cannabis News but you can view it now if you have the needed program.August 2000 A PDF copy is available of CJPF President Eric E. Sterling's article, "Friendly Fire: Rethinking the War on Drugs From a Quaker Perspective," in the Spring 2000 edition of the Haverford Alumni Magazine. 1, 2000 CJPF President Eric E. Sterling gave a speech at the Shadow Convention in Philadelphia.
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
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Comment #1 posted by observer on August 18, 2000 at 17:16:54 PT
Largest, Most Enthusiastic Crowds
The third issue the Shadow Conventions highlighted really has been virtually absent from mainstream discussion, closer to a "third rail" of American politics than Social Security ever was -- the failed drug war. Perhaps ironically or perhaps for that very reason, the day the Shadows devoted to the topic drew the largest, most enthusiastic crowds, people who sounded and seemed deeply committed to bringing this issue out of the political shadows.I had a feeling this might be the case! I wish I could have been there. Too bad the Republocrats won't get behind this issue, now, and start changing the laws back to the freedom we once had. This, as the Shadow proved, is the issue that is motivating people. (But then, many of Republocrats seem to have an emotional stake and a big vested interest in forever scapegoating adults who use cannabis.) 
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