Drug War Opponents Hail Pardons of 2 Women

Drug War Opponents Hail Pardons of 2 Women
Posted by FoM on December 24, 2000 at 15:31:07 PT
By John Stucke - Staff Writer 
Source: Spokesman-Review 
Friday's presidential pardon of two women from the South led to cheers in Colville. That's where the November Coalition, a national nonprofit group championing drug law reforms, is headquartered.Founded by executive director Nora Callahan, the coalition gathered more than 30,000 signatures this year asking President Clinton to free Kemba Smith and Dorothy Gaines.
It was part of a wide effort -- including help from dogged lawyers -- to have the women pardoned.Smith, of Richmond, Va., had been sentenced to 24 years in prison. Gaines, of Mobile, Ala., was serving 19 years and 7 months.Both were convicted of being accessories to drug crimes. Clinton agreed to pardon them because they'd received long sentences for playing minor roles in drug distribution networks.For Callahan, the pardons were yet another step in what she hopes may eventually result in an emotional payoff: seeing her brother become a free man. He is imprisoned in Texas, serving a 27-year, six-month cocaine conspiracy sentence, she said.After years working to change drug-sentencing laws -- especially mandatory federal sentencing rules -- Callahan said it was the calls from mothers whose sons were in prison that prompted her to begin the November Coalition. The group has 7,000 members from all over the country, Callahan said."I began to get these calls. Mothers whose children were being sexually brutalized in prisons and county jails because of a drug conviction," she said.Her active work to discredit the country's "war on drugs" has made her a regular on national talk radio shows and a quoted government adversary on drug policy in national news magazines."If we have doctors telling us that drugs are an addiction and therefore a problem ... why do we have judges, police and jailers dispensing the cure?" she said. "It doesn't make sense."So she is on the front lines of the legalization movement that wants drugs regulated -- much like alcohol. This, she said, would be more just than imprisoning users.It's a tough fight, however.Drugs have had devastating effects on many American families and communities. And the country has spent billions of dollars trying to stem the flow of narcotics across the borders.Of the 2 million prisoners in the United States, about 500,000 are serving time for drug convictions.Few Democrats or Republicans run for office with a drug-law overhaul campaign plank.In 1997, Callahan was on the losing side of a state initiative that would have allowed doctors in Washington to recommend their patients take certain illegal drugs. Acquiring the drugs would have been up to the patients.An initiative legalizing medical marijuana use has since passed in Washington. However, the Legislature has not ordered hearings or passed regulations to implement the law.Besides her brother's prison troubles, Callahan watched her father die a painful death in 1992. He had bladder cancer, couldn't use morphine, and would have tried marijuana to numb the pain if it were legal.Now, from her office in Colville, Callahan takes solace in any decision she believes undermines the nation's drug war."We have children in trouble, and are we going to build them prison cells instead of hospital beds?" Callahan asked.Note: Colville group says prison not the answer.Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)Author: John Stucke - Staff Writer Published: Sunday, December 24, 2000 Copyright: 2000 Cowles Publishing CompanyAddress: P.O. Box 2160 Spokane, WA 99210Fax: (509) 459-5482Contact: editor spokesman.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:November Coalition Christmas Carol Gaines Wins Her Freedom Smith Granted The Gift Of Freedom 
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Comment #1 posted by Frank on December 25, 2000 at 19:23:52 PT
Who are The Criminals, Anyway?
"Since the Reagan era, the US government has been putting an increasing number of women in jail for carrying a harmless medicinal herb, but then subjecting them to conditions that the SPCA would consider inhumane for animals. Just who are the criminals, anyway?" A quote from an on line marijuana artical. The real criminal is the "Drug War" and the police that support it. It's time to stand up against these criminals. More men and women have died in prison on a marijuana sentence or have been shot to death by the police than this plant has ever harmed. The "Drug War Dead" = thousands, Marijuana poisoning deaths = zero. Who is zooming whom? The Drug War is not just a lie it's a god damn lie.
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