DrugSense FOCUS Alert #189 October 25, 2000

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #189 October 25, 2000
Posted by FoM on October 25, 2000 at 16:36:58 PT
Boston Globe Questions Initiative
Source: MapInc.
On election day, Massachusetts voters will be able to cast a ballot on an initiative that would push some people convicted of drug possession to treatment instead of jail. The Boston Globe reported on the initiative this week by seeking out professionals from the criminal justice system who are against the initiative. A considerable portion of the article questions the motives of initiative supporters. 
But readers need to reach the very tail end of the story before questions are raised about the motives of opponents in law enforcement, who will lose access to asset forfeiture funds seized through drug investigations if the initiative succeeds. The article also tries to give a mistaken impression about the resources available from philanthropists who support the ballot measure. The author states that George Soros has given $1 billion to "causes such as this one." While George Soros has been generous to the drug policy reform movement, he supports a number of other causes that have nothing to do with drug policy reform. A recent article from the Copley News Service stated that Soros had spent close to $6 million supporting political movements involving drug reform. A great deal of money, yes; but it's a mere fraction of billions spent by government every year to support drug prohibition. Please write a letter to the Boston Globe to let editors know that painting the drug warriors as helpless underdogs and drug policy reformers as the ones with the real financial power is a total inversion of reality. WRITE A LETTER TODAY It's not what others do it's what YOU do  PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.) Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list: sentlte if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to: MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness. CONTACT INFO: Source: Boston Globe (MA) Contact: letter EXTRA CREDIT:Los Angeles Times on California's Proposition 36 California has a similar initiative to Massachusetts Proposition 8. Proposition 36 will be on the ballot in California and many of the same Soros issues have been raised there. Please consider sending a slightly revised version of your letter to the Los Angeles Times, who opposed this measure in the article at: Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Contact: letters AND/OR please write any other California news paper you like regarding your views on Proposition 36. Email addresses for nearly any newspaper can be found at:  ARTICLE Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2000 Source: Boston Globe (MA) Author: Tina Cassidy Published: October 24, 2000Copyright: 2000 Globe Newspaper Company. Address: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378 Contact: letter Website: Feedback: Bookmark: For Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act items: QUESTION 8 For Police, Drug War Extends To Ballot Box The state's district attorneys and police chiefs may know how to fight crime, but they are finding it tough to fight Question 8, the ballot initiative that seeks to replace prison time for some drug offenders with addiction treatment. Local law enforcement officials say their first problem is public relations, because the measure, when summarized, sounds appealing: Send the drug-addicted to treatment, a cheaper alternative to prison. However, opponents say some of the question's details, which are difficult to explain to voters, could wreak havoc with drug prosecutions. The measure's foes face another problem: They don't have any money to help them get across their point of view. The initiative would allow judges to send those charged with a first or second offense of drug possession, manufacturing, distribution, or drug trafficking between 14 and 28 grams of cocaine to treatment if the court finds them "drug-dependent." It also would make it harder for law enforcement officials to seize drug offenders' assets, and those assets seized would pay for addiction programs instead of law enforcement's and prosecutors' antidrug efforts. Question 8 is supported by a few people with big checkbooks, including George Soros, the famous hedge fund manager, who has made the nation's top philanthropy list for contributing about $1 billion to causes such as this one. Soros has a soft spot for changing drug laws to allow, for example, medical marijuana use. So far, most of the donations for Question 8 have come from three men: Soros, of New York, who has given $290,000 over the last month; Cleveland Peter Lewis, chief executive officer of the Progressive Group insurance company, who has contributed $315,000 in the same time period; and John Sperling of Phoenix, chief executive officer of the Apollo Group, who has given the campaign $45,000 since September, according to filings with the state Office of Political and Campaign Finance for the period that ended Oct. 15. Sperling, a millionaire, found marijuana eased his prostate cancer pain. And Lewis has been arrested for using marijuana for circulatory problems. Those opposing the measure, mostly law enforcement officials, do not even have an account to collect donations. "We have not really made much of an effort to raise money," said Plymouth District Attorney Michael J. Sullivan. "It's difficult with our full-time commitments. We don't have access to billionaires who look at this as a major-cause issue. But the message is on our side. We believe a grass-roots effort will go a long way toward defeating ballot Question 8." While it may appear that local law enforcement is against Question 8, the initiative was written by Tom Kiley, a former first assistant attorney general and former assistant district attorney in Norfolk County who has donated about $40,000 to the cause. Like the question's financial backers, Kiley's interest in the issue is personal. A heroin addiction killed his 50-year-old brother, Scott, two years ago. "I think of him every day," Kiley said, adding that his brother's life might have been saved by rehabilitation. Despite the fact that the question centers on using seized assets and fines from drug cases to fund treatment for addicts, the controversy is not about the money. It's about whether the ballot question would make it easier for drug dealers to avoid prison time by claiming they are at risk of becoming addicts. Kiley said someone carrying 28 grams, or about 1 ounce, of cocaine is likely a user and someone who could benefit from treatment. The district attorneys say a dealer is a dealer and most users could not hold on to that quantity of drugs long enough to sell them. "There's nobody who opposes treatment for the addicts," Sullivan said, "but there's already treatment for addicts. Ballot Question 8 is all about allowing the drug dealers to escape punishment." Just look at the question's financial backers and their reasons for giving, Sullivan said. Although Kiley does not say it, others working to pass Question 8 argue that the real issue for the district attorneys is that they do not want to lose the millions of dollars a year their departments receive from property forfeiture related to drug cases. Both sides have wildly different estimates on how much law enforcement receives from seizures; the range was $4 million to $9 million. The initiative also requires public records to be kept detailing all forfeitures. Kiley estimates that it costs about $5,000 to treat one addict, meaning that even if only $4 million a year were diverted to treatment, 800 people could be helped. SAMPLE LETTER To the editor: I was disappointed by the story "For Police, Drug War Extends To Ballot Box" (Oct. 24), particularly in the way it portrayed the supporters of Question 8 as having unlimited resources, while opponents are fighting the good fight on a shoestring budget. "Question 8 is supported by a few people with big checkbooks, including George Soros, the famous hedge fund manager, who has made the nation's top philanthropy list for contributing about $1 billion to causes such as this one. Soros has a soft spot for changing drug laws to allow, for example, medical marijuana use," according to the article. While George Soros has been generous to the drug policy reform movement, to suggest that he has given a billion bucks to "causes such as this one," is greatly overstating the case. A recent article from Copley News Service put a more precise figure on Soros's support for political campaigns involving drug policy reform: $5 million to $6 million. It's a lot of money, but nothing compared to the billions spent each year by government to maintain the destructive policy of drug prohibition. If editors were trying to make this into a David and Goliath story, they've got the main characters mixed up. Stephen Young IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts 3 Tips for Letter Writers: Letter Writers Style Guide: TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen Young Focus Alert Specialist Focus Alert Archives: MapInc. Archives:
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