DrugSense Weekly, August 18, 2000 #162

DrugSense Weekly, August 18, 2000 #162
Posted by FoM on August 18, 2000 at 15:40:26 PT
3 Overviews of the Los Angeles Shadow Convention
Source: DrugSense
An Important Day in History by Tom O'ConnellMost regulars have by now figured out that the Weekly tries to update its readers on the course of the drug war as reported by the main stream English-language media. We hardly ever report news ourselves; instead, we usually just comment on what media professionals have written in the previous week. With that in mind, it's a damn good thing Mark Greer, my wife Judy, and I all went to LA's Patriotic Hall last Tuesday; otherwise we'd have missed the first day of the beginning of the end of the drug war. 
This is particularly so because none of the reporters in the audience seem to have understood what they saw and heard; at least judging by what's been published to date (this is written on the afternoon of August 17 while I listen to as much as I can stand of Al Gore's speech with one ear.). The mainstream media's amazing incomprehension has placed me in the interesting position of breaking a major news story; there is no oblique or subtle way to put it: on Tuesday, August 15, key black members of the House of Representatives appearing separately at the Shadow Convention disavowed the drug war and pledged as individuals to do all they can to either undo or mitigate its punitive provisions. They all explained their statements- the first unfriendly to the drug war by elected federal officials in recent memory- as inspired by mounting credible evidence that the drug war is not only ineffective, but racist; falling far more heavily on blacks and Hispanics than on whites; even though many more whites use illegal drugs. They were delivered in separate short addresses by John Conyers of Michigan, Maxine Waters of California, and Charles Rangel of New York- each possibly without the others' knowledge. The three were seconded by Jesse Jackson, (who also spoke in Philadelphia) who delivered what was easily the day's most eloquent condemnation of the drug war; incidentally, Jackson's presence endows his rhetoric with an impact TV can only hint at. I use the word, "separate," because in the small intimate (and stifling) confines of Patriotic Hall, it was possible to observe that all entered and left separately and at different times, so they did not hear each other's remarks; if they had discussed them with each other beforehand, it had to have been down the street at the Staples Center. My own view is that these statements reflect the considerable political acumen of three highly successful politicians who are able to recognize a loser when they see one.As if this blockbuster news weren't enough (Conyers and Rangel weren't even on the program and said they'd responded to last minute urgings by Arianna Huffington), the day's other key development was that a cohesive and goal-directed political movement is finally emerging from the fragmented and contentious drug policy reform movement. Long a debating society for intellectuals, the "movement" has attracted some elected politicians at long last. It has also acquired a more clearly defined goal, repudiation of the drug war, which could be summed up by a chant taken up by the faithful when Representative Conyers suggested what to do with elected officials who continue to stand by the status quo: "Send them home!"How did all this happen so quickly and what does it mean? The answer to the first question also answers another one- originally pondered after the triumph of the first medical cannabis initiatives in '96 and debated after each subsequent success: how can an undisciplined and fragmented drug reform lobby take advantage of its victories and transform itself into a disciplined political movement? The answer proved amazingly simple: induce a savvy and courageous celebrity with respectable media credentials into becoming an ardent convert to the cause: as unlikely as it first seemed, Arianna Huffington has become a perfect catalyst; a few months after her conversion, the "Shadow Conventions" were planned and financed by George Soros.Even so, the original purpose of the Shadow Conventions was simply to steal media attention from the big boys; to discuss drug war and other issues (campaign finance reform and the deepening wealth gap) that major political parties stubbornly refuse to even mention. It must be said that this innovative strategy was pretty much a bust. Although the print media gave them some decent and intelligent coverage in the weeks leading up to them, TV coverage while the Shadows were in session can only be called abysmal (not even CNN); even worse: those print sources which had written about them earlier seemed to lose interest. That's precisely why most of the world has yet to know of the electrifying events of last Tuesday; in fact, I have to constantly remind myself I was really there and actually heard the words of Conyers, Waters, Jackson and Rangel with my own ears. Those activists who attended both conventions told me the atmospherics in Philly easily matched those of LA; what was different about LA was that three important Democrats were coaxed into going AWOL from the drug war's army.Thus, serendipity played a key role; a ploy undertaken to generate media coverage seems instead to have goaded some astute politicians into jumping ship, but let no one think it was spur of the moment.. Also,let there be no doubt; their words were not in the least equivocal; they were also uttered with conviction, to a live audience and recorded on video for posterity. For those with a memory long enough to recall how Rangel had destroyed Kurt Schmoke in front of a Congressional Committee in the late Eighties, there was almost a graceful mea culpa. And for additional emphasis, both Conyers and Rangel reminded us that if the Democrats recapture a majority in the House, they will become chairmen of the powerful Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees respectively.Heady business indeed.Other developments at the LA Shadow Convention- although pale compared to the defection of three ranking House members from the drug war- are nevertheless important. New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson remains a firm proponent of ending the drug war as we know it and has honed his rhetoric into a far more effective speech; he's been joined by an equally unlikely ally, Ross "Rocky" Anderson, the youthful and articulate Republican mayor of Salt Lake City (yes, Salt Lake City!). As if that weren't enough, Tom Campbell, who I wasn't able to hear on Sunday., will be in a very high profile Senate race against drug war hawk Diane Feinstein in California. That race will also give important additional exposure to the prison and drug policy issues since it will be conducted against the backdrop of yet another California initiative, Proposition 36; mandating treatment rather than prison for an estimated 37,000 drug users per year.The somewhat complex provisions of Proposition 36 were ably explained on Tuesday by Bill Zimmerman, one of its sponsors (also a prime mover of medical cannabis initiatives). Although not all most reformers would want if they could choose, it's a reasonable compromise for which polls show very strong voter support. That support could be the key to a Campbell victory of Feinstein, who, along with most law enforcement officials, will strongly favor the status quo. Finally, speaking of refining speeches, Ethan Nadelmann outdid himself; delivering his updated and more radical version in between shepherding events and introducing speakers from opening to close of this inspiring and historic day. Those who were there will tell their grandchildren: August 15, 2000 was the beginning of the end of America's misbegotten war on drugs.No doubt about it.Tom O'ConnellAugust 15, An Important Day in Historyby Tom O'Connell, Heat and Excitementby Mark Greer, and excitement! Those were the two words that best described the Los Angeles Shadow Convention in my view.After being refused entrance on opening day on Sunday due to lack of seating and being forced to mingle around the stifling halls and exhibit rooms, I arrived on Tuesday with a bit of an attitude. We arrived early and insured our seats despite a rather aggressive attempt to again coerce seating arrangements. The floor personnel seemed to get that they were flirting with a possible scene and left me to the seat I was not about to give up after Sundays fiasco. By far the most exciting development was that of a "pro reform black caucus" coming out for the first time at the L.A. Shadow. I almost had to pinch my self when a line up including Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, Rep. John Conyers, and almost unimaginably Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York all showed up and spoke in opposition to the drug war. Rangel has long been an outspoken drug warrior and his epiphany was a shockingly pleasant surprise.Unfortunately the media seemed to utterly miss this profound turn of events as the print media missed the point and the broadcast media simply failed to cover the Shadow Conventions in anything like the manner it deserved. The L.A. Shadow, and the Tuesday drug war focus was even more notable given that on the same stage and on the same day, Arianna Huffington, Rep Tom Campbell and Gov, Gary Johnson, all Republicans (all though Arianna refers to herself as a "recovering republican") also came out as opposed to the drug war.There were too many powerful speeches and heart wrenching stories to begin to cover here but all major issues were covered and extraordinarily well in my view. Even some of the people whose views I had previously questioned seemed articulate and knowledgeable on the subject of sensible reform.The location was probably as good as could be expected given that the Democratic convention had sucked up every decent locality for miles around. Patriotic Hall served nicely with the very notable exception that the building has no air conditioning. It appeared that a mobile unit had been shipped in making the hall itself liveable but the rest of the building was absolutely brutal in its heat and humidity. Air conditioning in LA in August is not considered optional by most folks. Long waiting lines and lack of seating both added to frustration and to the sense of urgency and excitement.Overall I would call the L.A. Shadow Convention a profound event. The fact that press utterly missed it in favor of a humdrum Democratic Convention and while eagerly hoping for some protestors to break a few windows reflects poorly on the media but very well indeed upon the burgeoning reform movement and in particular the organizers of the Shadow Conventions. This day may well be looked upon in days to come as the beginning of the end of our failed drug war.Star Struck!by Jo-D Dunbar, though I live in California I do not live in or spend much time in Hollywood. The number of 'stars' who flooded in and out of the Shadow Convention was incredible and a preview of times to come. As more famous people speak out against our failed drug war, more citizens will listen to our truthful message and understand that this war must end. I live within 2 miles of the ocean where it is always 70 degrees. My body totally rejected the LA heat so I spent much of my time near a huge fan in the corner of the lobby. This actually turned out to be a good thing as I quickly realized that this fan was situated between the green room where the speakers waited their turn and the entrance to the auditorium where they gave their speeches!I stood star struck as big names proceeded within arm's reach of my position all day. Politicians Judge James Gray, Governor Gary Johnson, Mayor Rocky Anderson, Maxine Waters, Rep. Tom Campbell and Tom Hayden broke the typical politicians' mold by speaking against our current drug policies. Movie stars Al Franken, Susan Saradon, Tim Robbins, Bill Maher and Tommy Smothers shunned political correctness by giving powerful speeches against throwing sick, addicted people in jail instead of giving them the treatment that they need and deserve. This is the beginning of the end! Additional actors will see that speaking out against the drug war hasn't harmed these actors' reputations. Other politicians will notice that these politicians will not be rejected during the next election. These people will then see that it is OK to speak with the truth when discussing our failed drug war. Citizens will hear that our drug policies are unjust and vote for the politicians who have the guts to say it.RELATED LINKS:   Shadow Conventions Homepage News Clippings DPF/TLC Shadow Conventions Page Huffington Online Raising Hell at the DNC DNC Page Click the link to read of DrugSense Weekly's Update News: MapInc. Archives: Convention 2000 News Board Articles On The Shadow Conventions: CannabisNews Articles On The Shadow Conventions: 
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on August 19, 2000 at 15:49:17 PT:
MikeEEEE, what I would really like to see is a hard hitting TV movie about the death of Peter McWilliams.In the early 90's the Oliver Stone movie 'JFK' kicked up so much fuss that it led to a re-opening of the Kennedy assassination hearings. Pols were inundated with letters and phone calls demanding that all the evidence that had been collected but never reviewed by the Warren Commission be considered. The pols mewled for a very short time about how much a waste of time it would be, but very quickly caved.A few years back, HBO did a series based on Randy Shilts's chronicle of the development of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's called "And The Band Played On". However flawed one might have viewed it, it had an impact, if only in one respect: to lay the blame for all the foot-dragging about developing a course of action for research and public health squarely at the feet of the ReaganBush administration and it's Moral Majority support base. (With Ronnie napping so much, I can only conclude ol' Jaw-jee was really running the show. So really, it was the Bush Administration all along. So the two are actually *one* and there's no point in delineating them.) What we need now is a documentary that starts with Anslinger and then flash-forwards to Peter McWilliams. Something that does what GRASS is supposed to be doing; pointing out the rabid nonsense that was propounded as fact, and then showing the depth of the lies that compose the core of the anti's prohibition. And then show what those lies are doing to this country in general and to MMJ users in particular. Something that hammers at the audience's sensibilities, makes them feel the same amount of fear, anger, astonishment at government intent to KILL McWilliams 'legally' that most us had. Something that makes them angry enough to do something about it.A film like that would be worth a thousand debates with antis, because its' effect is something they couldn't dodge.
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Comment #2 posted by MikeEEEEE on August 18, 2000 at 17:26:17 PT
Kap, I bet one day there will be a documentary about the events that have occured resulting from the war on drugs, or should I say prohibition #2. Police breaking down doors, children and employees being tested like rats, the list goes on. One documentary I'd like to see is Grass, I missed it when it was in my town.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on August 18, 2000 at 16:47:29 PT:
God, I sincerely hope so.
Like many historic events, quite a few of us can remember what we were doing when we heard about them. I was very little then, but I remember when the Kennedys and Martin Luther King were shot. Later on, the Vietnam War ending and (most!) of our POWS returning. Nixon leaving the White House in disgrace. Neil Armstrong on the Moon. The Challenger Disaster. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I learned of these events.And now, this.Never mind that "If a tree falls in the woods..." crap. Whether it was something the major networks covered or not is irrelevant. History doesn't always thunder its' way down your street, kicking up dust, knocking people over, and the whole thing captured on camera. Sometimes it sneaks up on you, quietly, with no fanfare, touches you, dances away and you hardly feel it. Until much, much later.The defections of the Black legislators and spiritual leaders, those who had previously been some of the worst cheerleaders for the WoSD, signals a sharp division within the ranks. It may be that the said leaders are only testing the wind with their finger, seeking to opportunistically position themselves at the forefront of a reform movement they perceive will (as the old saying goes) 'take the hindmost'.Or they may have finally realized the ugly truth of the origin of the Drugwar: that it was aimed almost exclusively at minorities. At THEM.Whatever their reason, they have crossed the political Rubicon; there's no going back, now.I said it would be a long hot summer. Judge Gray's dissent. Judge Breyer's decision. The Feds being rebuffed - twice! - over Oakland. The Ontario Court of Appeals. One after another. And now prominent members of the Black community shaking the dust of the antis from their feet and turning away. And it STILL isn't over yet. 
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