THIS JUST IN ( Top )
(1) LEGALIZING POPPIES NOT AN OPTION: EXPERT
Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jun 2007
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2007 The Gazette, a division of Southam Inc.
Author: Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service
There Would Still Be Much Illegal 'Leakage,' He Says
Many have touted it as a simple and compelling solution to Afghanistan's chronic poppy problem: legalize the world-leading opium trade to take it out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.
The controversial Senlis Council, the federal Liberal Party, a major Canadian foreign policy think tank, even a former Canadian NATO ambassador have all advocated some form of legal and controlled opium production. Doing so, they argue, would deprive drug dealers of massive profits while easing the pain of the world's sick and putting money into the pockets of poor Afghan farmers.
William says that's one big pipe dream. In terms of turning from illicit to licit production, it just seems like a non-starter," said Byrd, who until recently was the World Bank's senior economic adviser in Kabul. "It is not feasible for the foreseeable future."
Byrd developed the World Bank's reconstruction strategy for Afghanistan following the ouster of its Taliban rulers in late 2001. He was responsible for the first economic report on Afghanistan in a quarter century.
Byrd, who has a doctorate in economics from Harvard, has since become the bank's senior advisor on poverty reduction in Washington. He took part in a panel discussion in Ottawa yesterday on the economics of the Afghanistan narcotics industry.
In a succinct presentation, aided by a few slides, Byrd systematically and dispassionately attempted to debunk the legalization argument. Byrd identified the Senlis Council in his main slide on the issue, but he just as easily could have pointed a finger at the opposition Liberals, the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, or Gordon Smith, a distinguished retired public servant who served as Canada's NATO ambassador at the end of the Cold War, all of whom have endorsed some for of legalization of the Afghan poppy.
This week, the United Nation's Office of Drugs and Crime reported that Afghanistan's illicit poppy crop has increased by 59 per cent, and is now the source of 92 per cent of the world's heroin.
(2) A DREAM TO GIVE DRUG ADDICTS NEW HOPE ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Province
Author: John Bermingham
MLA Wants Former Army Barracks To Mimic Italian Success Story
Vancouver MLA Lorne Mayencourt wants to turn a former army barracks near Prince George into a cutting-edge community for drug addicts and alcoholics.
To be called New Hope, the 65-hectare community would house 100 people in a long-term-recovery program that could last years.
It's based on an Italian model that has treated more than 20,000 addicts and has a 72-per-cent success rate.
B.C.'s addicts usually get one week of detox and 28 days of treatment, then are back on the street. But 85 per cent relapse within the first 30 days.
The Italian model has a high success rate because people not only kick the habit but also turn their lives around.
"I'm not entirely satisfied with what we do now, and I think we can do much better," Mayencourt told The Province from Prince Rupert.
"The therapeutic community model that we're looking at in Italy has some real great opportunities here in B.C."
New Hope members would get addictions treatment, therapeutic support and learn new work skills to turn their lives around.
"You spend some time exploring who you are as a person," said Mayencourt, who has visited the San Patrignano community on the Adriatic. Its 2,200 recovering addicts live there for three to five years.
(3) STATE TO LET PATIENTS GROW THEIR OWN POT ( Top )
Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jun 2007
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2007 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Author: Diana Del Mauro, The New Mexican
When lobbyists rallied this year at the Roundhouse to legalize medical marijuana, they distinctly said patients wouldn't be growing this mind-altering herb. Rather, the state Health Department would create a secure production and distribution system - the first state to do so.
After years of failed attempts, the measure won approval, making New Mexico the 12th state with such a law. Now, as the law is about to go into effect Sunday, the message has changed. In a surprise move Thursday, the Health Department unveiled a provision that allows patients to grow a limited number of marijuana plants with protection from state prosecution.
That angered the law-enforcement community. Jim Burleson, director of the state sheriffs' and police association, said having individual growers in the state could be a big problem.
"If a person is growing their own (marijuana), there is no quality control and no quantity control - and it's absolutely contrary to what was discussed at the (legislative) session," he said.
Also, it "sets up" patients for a high amount of scrutiny from federal law-enforcement agencies, he added. Using or distributing marijuana is illegal under federal law, and state law cannot protect violators from federal prosecution.
The Health Department says qualified patients and caregivers may cultivate as many as four mature marijuana plants and three immature marijuana seedlings.
(4) VICTORIA MAYOR WANTS 'DRUG CONSUMPTION SITES' ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Vancouver Sun
VICTORIA -- Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe is applying for an exemption to Canada's drug laws to operate three supervised drug consumption sites, based on a report released Tuesday that the city's addicts need urgent help.
"We must do something to improve the current situation and we cannot wait any longer," lead researcher Benedikt Fischer, of the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C., said at a press conference. "It should have happened yesterday."
The city will submit an application to Health Canada by December to operate for three years, as a research project, multiple sites where addicts can under supervision not only shoot up, but possibly smoke and swallow drugs.
"We need to move forward with this to look at public order on the streets and see how we can reach those most vulnerable on the street," Lowe said.
The consumption sites are expected to prevent overdose deaths, slow the spread of infectious disease, and curtail hospital emergency visits. They would cost an estimated $1.2 million a year to operate.
WEEKLY NEWS IN REVIEW ( Top )
Domestic News- Policy
COMMENTS: ( Top )
While the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case was a free speech disappointment,
it seems to have stirred some prohibition-related memories for
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. While the case itself is
examined in this week's Cannabis Section below, the Washington Post
analyzed the dissent from the interesting perspective of Stevens's
personal history. A review of a new book shows that others are
making the connection between the failures of alcohol prohibition
and the failures of drug prohibition.
Also last week, drug tests for teachers are challenged in North
Carolina; a California mom offers unusual honesty about the fatal
drug overdose of her son; and more details about CIA drug
experiments are released.
While the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case was a free speech disappointment, it seems to have stirred some prohibition-related memories for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. While the case itself is examined in this week's Cannabis Section below, the Washington Post analyzed the dissent from the interesting perspective of Stevens's personal history. A review of a new book shows that others are making the connection between the failures of alcohol prohibition and the failures of drug prohibition.
Also last week, drug tests for teachers are challenged in North Carolina; a California mom offers unusual honesty about the fatal drug overdose of her son; and more details about CIA drug experiments are released.
(5) JUSTICE STEVENS CALLS ON HISTORY HE LIVED ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2007 The Washington Post Company
Author: Charles Lane, Washington Post Staff Writer
'Bong Hits' Dissent Points to Prohibition
Justice John Paul Stevens, the third-oldest person ever to sit on the Supreme Court, turned 87 on April 20. If he's still on the court 142 days from now, he'll overtake Roger B. Taney, who died as chief justice in 1864 at the age of 87 years 209 days.
Stevens still has a long way to go if he wants to catch Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who was 90 when he retired from the court in 1932. But he has already started invoking his considerable life experience to buttress his opinions.
On Monday, Stevens dissented in the case of the Alaska teenager who was suspended for displaying a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner at a school event. While a majority of the court said the Constitution does not protect pro-drug student speech, Stevens took the historic view.
Harking back to Prohibition, which began three months before Stevens's birth and ended a month before he turned 13 in 1933, Stevens compared the current marijuana ban to the abandoned alcohol ban and urged a respectful hearing for those who suggest "however inarticulately" that the ban is "futile" and that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated instead of prohibited:
"[T]he current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs."
Stevens knows something about Prohibition -- he was born and raised in Chicago, where Al Capone and other organized-crime figures controlled hundreds of speakeasies. And he knows something about the moral fervor of Prohibition's supporters, because one of them was his mother, Elizabeth Stevens, who used to say, "Lips that taste wine will never touch mine."
His father, Ernest Stevens, was a hotelier who carefully obeyed the alcohol ban in his establishments but who predicted in 1932 court testimony that his business would benefit from the end of Prohibition, because diners would abandon the speak-easies for legal restaurants like the ones in his hotels.
(6) UP FROM PROHIBITION ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2007
Source: New York Sun, The (NY)
Copyright: 2007 The New York Sun, One SL, LLC.
Author: John McWHORTER
You have to go to the history section of the bookstore to find Michael Lerner's new book recounting New York during Prohibition, "Dry Manhattan." It would be more usefully displayed in Current Affairs. Mr. Lerner has given us not a mere academic exhumation of a bygone New York, but an uncannily accurate description of New York last week and the city's fight against drugs.
Prohibition was, of course, a dismal failure. It didn't stop people from drinking, and, in fact, made many, attracted by the glamour of the illicit, drink more. But worst of all, it created an ongoing war between police forces and humble working people, bringing out the worst in everybody.
Public respect for the law plummeted. Mr. Lerner writes, "officers increasingly accused of using excessive force, planting evidence, and conducting illegal searches and seizures." I could have opened this oped with that sentence and pulled the journalist's rhetorical trick of writing, "Does that sound like something out of today's headlines? Well, in fact, it is a description of 1921 in Michael Lerner's new book ... "
And even honest agents and officers were "chased, bombarded with bowling pins, assaulted by women and children, and knocked unconscious" out of hostility to a frivolous and unfair policy. Nowadays officers attempting drug arrests encounter weapons more menacing than bowling pins, but the principle is the same.
Because the risk involved in trafficking liquor meant tempting money for those doing it, for too many poor people bootlegging became an alternative to legal work. Today, way too many inner city young people seek the easy score available from "working the corners" selling drugs. It is not that there are no jobs available for them -- check work by the Urban Institute, for example. The problem is the temptation of a trade where high risk spells big bucks -- and even if the underlings don't make much, they aspire to rise in the outfit and make more.
Finally, immigrants and blacks were hounded much more than native whites. They didn't like it. Fast forward to today, with the common resentment that the white middle manager caught with powdered cocaine in the glove compartment gets a slap on the hand while the black kid with some vials of crack goes to jail.
(7) FORMER CHEROKEE COUNTY TEACHER SUES OVER DRUG TEST POLICY FOR ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jun 2007
Source: Cherokee Sentinel (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Cherokee Sentinel
Author: Dwight Otwell
A former Cherokee County Spanish teacher has brought suit against the Graham County school system to prevent it from implementing random drug testing of all school employees.
The North Carolina Association of Educators filed the lawsuit on behalf of Susan Jones, who now teaches at Robbinsville High School. Jones previously taught Spanish at Hiwassee Dam High School in Cherokee County.
The suit states that the drug testing policy violates state constitutional principles against discrimination and searches without evidence.
Graham County Superintendent of Schools Rick Davis said the purpose of the policy, which will take effect July 1, is to ensure a drug free and safe work environment. He said he believes that Graham County would be the first school system in North Carolina to randomly drug test all school employees.
While private companies can drug test its employees, governments can only test employees suspected of drug use or those with safety sensitive jobs. School bus drivers' jobs are considered safety sensitive and bus drivers are drug tested across the United States.
In its new policy, the Graham County School Board classified all positions in the school system as "safety sensitive positions". The policy states that the classification was made "due to the fact that these positions require work where an inattention to duty or error in judgement will have the potential for significant risk or harm to those entrusted to their care, and the possibility or probability of contact with students and the influence employees have could cause irreparable damage to the health and well being of the students."
(8) COLUMN: MOTHER TELLS WORLD IN OBIT HOW SON DIED ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2007
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2007 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Scott Herhold, Mercury News
It was one of the most unusual obituaries: "David Alan Stewart of San Diego, 21, only child of Morgan Stewart of San Diego and Sander Greenland of Topanga, died May 31st of a heroin overdose." It asked mourners to give to organizations trying to end the war on drugs.
Having written many obituaries in my life, I like directness. But dying of a heroin overdose? Even in the liberated language of the Internet era, it feels brutally stark, a slap to the face.
So I called Morgan Stewart, David's mother, and asked why the obit that she paid to put in the Mercury News - her son grew up here - was, well, so blunt.
The answer wasn't what I expected. "It actually never occurred to me not to do it," she told me, explaining that she had been trained as an epidemiologist. "I've always been annoyed when I see an obituary and not a cause of death."
And giving to organizations that want to end the war on drugs? "I've always been a strong believer that drug policies are not just archaic, they're making the problem a lot worse than it needs to be," Stewart told me. "The illegal status of drugs is a tremendous boon to crime."
(9) EXPERIMENTING WITH THE MIND ( Top )
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2007
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2007 The Washington Post Company
Author: Thomas E. Ricks
The CIA was eager to examine the use of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs to modify the behavior of targeted individuals, and so it asked commercial drug manufacturers to pass along samples of medicines rejected for commercial sale "because of unfavorable side effects," according to an undated memorandum included in dozens of CIA documents released yesterday.
CIA scientists tested some of the drugs on monkeys and mice, the memo said. Drugs that showed promise, it said, "were then tested at Edgewood, using volunteer members of the Armed Forces." This appears to be a reference to an Army laboratory north of Baltimore now called the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. The memo doesn't discuss the reactions of those human subjects.
The three-paragraph memo reports that the late Carl Duckett, a senior CIA technologist, had said the testing program was not intended to find new techniques to be used offensively, but rather was an effort to be able to be able to detect if such drugs were being employed by others.
Duckett "emphasizes that the program was considered as defensive, in the sense that we would be able to recognize certain behavior if similar materials were used against Americans," it states. Duckett, who was the CIA's deputy director for science and technology, retired from the CIA in 1977 and died in 1992.
Law Enforcement & Prisons
COMMENTS: ( Top )
As the U.S. prison population continues to rise at an alarming pace,
at least some political leaders, like the Mayor of Newark, N.J. seem
to understand what's happening and how the drug war is involved.
Also last week, more perfidy from law enforcement with respect to
cannabis-related crime; more high-level drug corruption in North
Carolina; and a new "Wall of Shame" for meth convicts in Illinois.
As the U.S. prison population continues to rise at an alarming pace, at least some political leaders, like the Mayor of Newark, N.J. seem to understand what's happening and how the drug war is involved. Also last week, more perfidy from law enforcement with respect to cannabis-related crime; more high-level drug corruption in North Carolina; and a new "Wall of Shame" for meth convicts in Illinois.
(10) NUMBER OF U.S. PRISONERS HAS BIGGEST RISE IN 6 YEARS ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Copyright: 2007 Reuters Limited
Author: James Vicini
WASHINGTON ( Reuters ) - The United States, which has the most prisoners of any country in the world, last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000, the Justice Department reported on Wednesday.
It said the nation's prison and jail populations increased by more than 62,000 inmates, or 2.8 percent, to about 2,245,000 inmates in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2006. It was the biggest jump in numbers and percentage change in six years.
Criminal justice experts have attributed the record U.S. prison population to tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crimes rates.
State or federal prisons held two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population while local jails held the rest, according to the report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The number of inmates in state prisons rose by 3 percent, the report said. That growth mainly reflected rising prison admissions, which have been going up faster than the number of released prisoners. Also, more parole violators have returned to prison, the report said.
Forty-two states and the federal system all had more inmates in June last year than the previous year. The number of jail inmates increased by 2.5 percent during the same 12-month period, the report said.
The report on U.S. prison numbers is issued every six months.
Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, a group that seeks alternatives to incarceration, said the new numbers showed an "alarming growth" in an already overburdened prison system.
"Billions of public safety dollars are absorbed by prison expansion and limits the nation's ability to focus on more effective strategies to promote public safety," he said.
Officials at the Drug Policy Alliance, another group opposed to long prison sentences for drug offenders, said the drug policies of the past 30 years have been a major contributor to the U.S. prison population explosion.
(11) COLUMN: BOOKER REDIRECTS HIS ANGER AT THE WAR ON DRUGS ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jun 2007
Source: Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
Copyright: 2007 Newark Morning Ledger Co
Author: Tom Moran
The BlackBerry in Mayor Cory Booker's jacket pocket signals him every time the gunfire in Newark claims another victim. It happens almost every day.
A man shot in the neck while fending off a robber on Spruce Street at dusk. Two men shot in the face during an argument on 19th Street just after midnight. A man assassinated on Clinton Avenue by a gunman who fired several shots into his chest from close range.
That BlackBerry carries grim news.
"It's frustrating," Booker says, shaking his head. "I've said this is what I'm going to hang my hat on, the safety of my residents. That's how I want to be judged. That's my mandate."
For Booker, it has been a sobering first year as mayor. When he swore his oath last summer he was the whiz kid, the fast-talking Rhodes scholar with a million strategies to make the city safe. He pinned everything on that.
Now he is staring into this abyss, and it's leaving a mark on him. He is an angrier man now. And the focus of that anger is a public policy that he believes is ruining his city and threatening his hopes to change it.
The problem, he says, is New Jersey's tough tactics in the drug war. We are heavy on jail time and unforgiving even when prisoners finish their terms. At a time when even states like Texas are changing course, we are sticking with our failed strategy.
(12) COLUMN: DRUNK AND STONED ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2007
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcatia, CA)
Copyright: 2007 North Coast Journal
Author: Hank Sims
In case you missed it, there's been a fascinating little war of words over marijuana, prohibition and murder playing itself out in the pages of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat over the last few days.
On June 10, the Press Democrat carried a long feature by Ukiah-based reporter Glenda Anderson about a region-wide upswing in marijuana cultivation and marijuana busts. There was a sidebar accompanying the story; it was headlined "Marijuana industry blamed for jump in killings, robberies." In fact, this headline was misleading. Most of the article was about environmental damage wreaked by North Coast growers, the specter of foreign cartels and families "torn apart" by consumption of the demon weed.
Violence was cited only twice. Mention was made of a double murder near the eastern Mendocino town of Covelo last year. But the bulk of the story -- the only thing that served to justify the headline -- was an unsubstantiated quote from Humboldt County's own Sergeant Wayne Hanson, of the sheriff's Drug Enforcement Unit.
"If we average five homicides, four will be marijuana-related," Hanson told the reporter. "People are killing people because it's the same price as gold."
Really? Four out of five homicides in Humboldt County are marijuana related? To put it kindly, this seemed like utter nonsense to Ellen Komp of SoHum's Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, who responded with an understated yet fiery letter in Tuesday's PD. Hanson's statistics, Komp wrote, "...had no basis in fact." She added that she had spoken to County Coroner Frank Jager, and that Jager had reported that none of the three homicides the county has tallied so far this year had been marijuana-related in any way.
Reached Monday, Hanson said that his figures were off-the-cuff, but that he basically believed them to be correct. "That was just an approximate guesstimate," he said. "It may be lower. It's not an exact quote, because I have not studied all the stats in the last five years."
Well, to be fair to Hanson, it could be that he was thinking only of homicides in the county's unincorporated areas -- homicides handled by his department, the Sheriff's Office. Six of the eight homicides in Humboldt County last year occurred within the Eureka city limits; none of them had anything to do with weed. There's a couple of unsolved cases -- including the disappearance of SoHum marijuana advocate Chris Giauque -- that may well have had something to do with weed. But the last cut-and-dried case anyone can remember that definitely did have something to do with weed was the murder of Whitethorn teen Sean Akselsen in 2003.
So it's safe to say that countywide, at least, Hanson's off-the-cuff numbers were badly wrong. Considering the Sheriff's Office alone, they were probably wrong. That's what Jager thinks: "They may have a lot of crimes related to marijuana, but we don't have a lot of homicides related to marijuana," he said Tuesday.
The backdrop of all this, of course, is the recent move by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to call for the legalization of marijuana, a move that SoHum Supervisor Roger Rodoni has endorsed. Legalization would have two near-immediate consequences. It would all but put an end to any violence the illicit marijuana trade does engender, and it would see Sgt. Hanson assigned to other duties.
(13) FEDS JOINED RAVENEL COCAINE CASE IN APRIL ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2007
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2007 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Brian Hicks
The call came in to SLED in September 2005: Charleston police were working on a cocaine investigation, and it was a big one. They needed help. And from the start, Chief Robert Stewart, the veteran leader of the State Law Enforcement Division, saw a lot of promise in the case. "It was a good case with the potential of multiple defendants, pretty lengthy, a lot of undercover work," Stewart recalled Wednesday. Although federal officials suggest that Thomas Ravenel was a target early on -- up to six months before he became a candidate for state treasurer in March 2006 -- Stewart can't comment on when the high-profile Republican became a target. You have to follow an investigation through to its logical course, he said.
"When you've got an ongoing investigation, names come up," he said. "Some of them pan out, some don't."
By April 1, 2007, less than three months into Ravenel's term as state treasurer, Stewart made a call to the U.S. Attorney and the FBI. The state was investigating one of its own top officials.
"I didn't want any conflicts on political or ethical issues," he said. Less than a day after Ravenel, 44, was indicted on federal charges of cocaine possession and distribution, Gov. Mark Sanford has named an interim treasurer to replace him, the Legislature is already vetting potential permanent replacements, and, political analysts say, whether he is convicted or not, Ravenel's public service career is over.
Now, people are simply waiting on the details and Ravenel's July 9 arraignment in federal court in Columbia. Although Charleston police didn't return phone calls about the investigation, Stewart said more arrests in the general cocaine investigation, not necessarily Ravenel's case, could be on the way. The allegations against Ravenel have dealt a serious blow to one of South Carolina's best-known political families. Ravenel's father, Arthur Ravenel Jr., is a former U.S. Congressman and state senator, and currently serves on the Charleston County School Board.
(14) WEB HALL OF SHAME FOR DRUG CONVICTS ( Top )
Pubdate: Mon, 25 Jun 2007
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2007 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Andrew L. Wang, Tribune staff reporter
Authorities Posting Meth Makers' Names
To keep the public informed of methamphetamine makers in their midst, Illinois State Police and the governor's office Sunday unveiled an online database of convicted meth producers.
Like the state's online sex-offender registry, the new list -- dubbed the Methamphetamine Manufacturing Registry -- displays the name, date of birth, type of offense, conviction date and county where the offense took place, though it doesn't include where the offender lives or a physical description.
"This registry provides people statewide with a resource to identify those who have been convicted of manufacturing this drug and help them engage in the fight to stop production in their neighborhoods," said Gov. Rod Blagojevich in a statement.
Blagojevich signed a bill in June 2006 requiring the creation of the site. Illinois is one of a handful of states that have such databases, said Gerardo Cardenas, a Blagojevich spokesman.
Cannabis & Hemp-
COMMENTS: ( Top )
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case
was the big story of the week. A solid majority of the editorials
and columns in the press were critical of the decision. Syndicated
columnist Debra Saunders's analysis, which has been printed in a
number of newspapers, is typical. Students for Sensible Drug Policy
has a review of interest at http://www.ssdp.org/freespeech/
Ed Rosenthal is not one to give up in his battle with the federal
courts. U.S. farmers look with envy to the north, where the uses for
industrial hemp continue to grow.
With the exception of a few major cities like San Francisco, city
ordinances prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries continue to
multiply across the state. Articles like the one below are frequent,
sometimes several times a week. California law does allow for
cooperative efforts to supply marijuana to patients, but
unfortunately many dispensaries push well beyond the limits of the
state laws. While some cheer those efforts, there is little doubt
that the media stories about the excesses of some dispensaries is
providing negative publicity which impacts on efforts to provide for
the needs of patients in both the states which have medical
marijuana laws and those who are working towards that goal.
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case was the big story of the week. A solid majority of the editorials and columns in the press were critical of the decision. Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders's analysis, which has been printed in a number of newspapers, is typical. Students for Sensible Drug Policy has a review of interest at http://www.ssdp.org/freespeech/
Ed Rosenthal is not one to give up in his battle with the federal courts. U.S. farmers look with envy to the north, where the uses for industrial hemp continue to grow.
With the exception of a few major cities like San Francisco, city ordinances prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries continue to multiply across the state. Articles like the one below are frequent, sometimes several times a week. California law does allow for cooperative efforts to supply marijuana to patients, but unfortunately many dispensaries push well beyond the limits of the state laws. While some cheer those efforts, there is little doubt that the media stories about the excesses of some dispensaries is providing negative publicity which impacts on efforts to provide for the needs of patients in both the states which have medical marijuana laws and those who are working towards that goal.
(15) FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TAKES A BONG HIT ( Top )
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2007
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Debra J. Saunders
IN ITS 1969 Tinker decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an Iowa public school could not expel students who wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War because students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a muddled ruling -- with four justices agreeing, one partially agreeing and three dissenting -- that restricts those free-speech rights, even outside the schoolhouse gate.
The story begins in January 2002. An Alaska high school student attending a Winter Olympics Torch Relay on a Juneau sidewalk unfurled a banner that read, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Joseph Frederick hoped that prank would land him on TV news.
Because the school had sanctioned the event and school staff supervised the event, Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Deborah Morse saw fit to confiscate the banner and suspend Frederick.
So the court ruled that public schools have a right to censor opposition to the war on drugs, even as it has upheld the right of students to oppose military wars. Eric Sterling, a board member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, described the decision in the nutshell: "They're saying there's free speech in the schools, but you can't advocate drug use."
I understand why the big bench would want to side with Morse -- although it's news to me that unfurling a banner on a public sidewalk is a principal's business, even if the school did sanction student attendance. Morse was trying to do her job -- even if she was heavy-handed. Frederick comes across as a disrespectful cut-up, who lacked the spine to admit the banner was a pro-marijuana message.
But Supreme Court rulings are not supposed to be adjudicated like a popularity contest. Roberts wrote a pragmatic results-oriented decision likely to please many parents. But to rule that schools can suppress ideas officials don't like -- well, who knows where that will end?
In the war on drugs, common sense is the first casualty.
(16) MARIJUANA GROWER WANTS A NEW TRIAL ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jun 2007
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Henry K. Lee
Ed Rosenthal, twice convicted of violating federal drug laws by growing marijuana for medical patients, wants a new trial.
The 62-year-old Oakland man claims U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco wrongly barred him from telling jurors his goal was helping the sick.
In a motion filed earlier this month, Rosenthal's attorney argued Breyer should have allowed him to present evidence regarding "the scientific value of medical marijuana."
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan said Rosenthal's allegations are without merit, according to a motion he filed Wednesday.
(17) THE HOUSE THAT HEMP BUILT ( Top )
Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jun 2007
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 Calgary Herald
Author: Joanne Hatherly, CanWest News Service
Drew and Jaime Rokeby-Thomas had the property, builder, designer and finances lined up for construction of their straw-bale home on B.C.'s Saltspring Island.
They had everything they needed -- except straw.
Construction on the 1,760-square-foot house was to start in 2003, the same year Alberta's drought made headlines across the country. The couple found that Alberta farmers, unable to grow their own bedding for their livestock, had gone shopping in B.C. That meant regular straw-bale sources were sold out.
"We started calling family and friends in the Kootenays looking everywhere and anywhere for straw," says Drew, an inventor. They never found it, but they did find a rancher with 2,000 hemp bales and snapped them up.
Building an alternative-style house can be a large-scale experiment. Each house built of alternative materials, such as earth and straw, needs to be certified by an engineer to pass building inspection. The last-minute switch made by the Rokeby-Thomases threw new variables into their plans.
"Hemp was much harder to build with," says Drew. The difficulty was due to hemp's tougher fibre, making it harder to cut the bales. "I would never do a hemp house again."
But that minus has been compensated for by a big plus. While straw-bale homes can sometimes run into trouble with moisture when not properly designed, the in-wall moisture reader on the Rokeby-Thomas house showed the hemp dropped its moisture content faster than straw-bale homes.
Everest Reynolds of Elevation Design Studio provided the basic house design. Builder Nick Langford, a building technology and design graduate from B.C. Institute of Technology, worked with the couple to fashion the two-level low-energy home. Timber-frame construction bears the load of the house, while the hemp bale walls on the main floor provide an insulating value of R30. Large windows run along the south side of the house, helping it to gain solar heat throughout the day.
The house is well-sealed, not only against the climate, but also against sound. Jaime is a professional musician whose stage name is jaime rt. Her music studio occupies the north side of the house. There, the walls were built with double-offset studs and gasketed doors so that Jaime's creative output wouldn't resonate through the house and neighbourhood.
(18) MORE CITIES PUSH TO NIX MEDICAL POT SHOPS ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: San Bernardino Sun (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Author: Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
YUCAIPA - Another inland town moved closer to snuffing out medicinal marijuana Monday when the City Council approved staffers' plans to craft an ordinance prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries.
Yucaipa's not the only East Valley city addressing the marijuana issue this week. In Redlands on Tuesday the Planning Commission voted unanimously to pass along a recommendation to the City Council to put an anti-cannabis law on the books.
California cities face a contradiction between state and federal laws governing marijuana. The state's voters cast ballots to allow the use of medical cannabis when they passed Proposition 215 in 1996, but Uncle Sam has since maintained federal policy that classifies marijuana as an illegal, controlled substance.
John McMains, Yucaipa's community development director, recommended that Yucaipa adopt a policy that would require dispensaries to comply with both federal and state laws regarding medicinal marijuana, basically meaning that dispensaries could only be allowed in the city if federal law changes.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the federal government's power to enforce its marijuana laws despite state laws such as those in California. However, the court has never struck down Proposition 215.
Redlands Community Development Director Jeff Shaw said in a phone message that federal prohibitions against medical marijuana are a key reason officials in that city are also moving against dispensaries.
Medical cannabis advocates say the drug can be beneficial for patients with cancer and other serious diseases. The Drug Enforcement Administration argues that drug traffickers use California's medical marijuana law as a shield for law-breaking.
San Bernardino County cities Ontario, Grand Terrace, Upland and Montclair have banned marijuana dispensaries. Fontana planning commissioners recommended a ban earlier this month.
COMMENTS: ( Top )
It was the UN's International Propaganda Day Against Drug Abuse and
Illicit Trafficking last week, and the UN was ready to trumpet its
perceived successes. Only 200 million people worldwide ignore drug
laws, and use illegal drugs anyway. Drug problem? Admits the UN:
only a "small fraction" of these can be considered "problem drug
users". With the exception of Afghan opium, says the UN, drug use
has levelled off or is declining.
It is back to broken car-antennas for crack addicts in the Canadian
city of Nanaimo, as a public outcry over the distribution of crack
pipes halted the program. Given out by the Vancouver Island Health
Authority, the crack pipe kits were intended as a harm-reduction
measure to help stop the spread of diseases like Hepatitis. Nurses
had given out about 200 kits over five months before some Nanaimo
residents and city council objected. The Nanaimo crack pipe
harm-reduction scheme followed similar programs in Ontario,
Manitoba, and British Columbia.
Mexican President Calderon's escalated drug "war" in that country
took a new turn last week when some 280 federal police chiefs were
"purged" in a bid to circumvent prohibition-fueled corruption in the
ranks. While gung-ho prohibitionists have applauded the Calderon
regime's iron-fisted drug-fighting approach, there's nothing to show
for it. As the UK Independent newspaper put it, "there is so far no
evidence that the assault is slowing the distribution of drugs. Nor
has it quieted the violence." Added the Independent, "Critics doubt
whether the war can be won with so much money at stake." But when
has a drug prohibition ever succeeded?
In Canada this week, much ado about a Mexican mint (salvia
divinorum) authorities assert "can be another step to another drug."
In Edmonton Alberta, led by Ald. Dana Smith, the city council of
Leduc is asking Ottawa to make the hallucinatory herb illegal for
everyone, young or old. Even though use of the herb is miniscule
(few try it more than once), just knowing it is for sale irks some.
"As far as I am concerned that makes it a problem in Leduc in that
it is available, but it is not a problem in that it is rampant and
that sort of thing," said Smith. Smith did not specify which other
drugs to which salvia divinorum users might "step".
Did you think that the police "spinning" drug busts and seizure
numbers into impressive sounding press conferences was a purely
American phenomenon? It isn't. The UK's Serious Organised Crime
Agency (Soca) -- hailed by some as the "UK's answer to the FBI" --
was in hot water this week for fudging seizure stats, apparently a
popular pastime among drug warriors worldwide. "Soca can't have it
both ways and claim record seizures and then refuse to give a
breakdown," noted even Conservative MP David Burrowes. "Otherwise
the public will be right to suspect this is more spin than
substance." Too late, David. We already figured as much.
It was the UN's International Propaganda Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking last week, and the UN was ready to trumpet its perceived successes. Only 200 million people worldwide ignore drug laws, and use illegal drugs anyway. Drug problem? Admits the UN: only a "small fraction" of these can be considered "problem drug users". With the exception of Afghan opium, says the UN, drug use has levelled off or is declining.
It is back to broken car-antennas for crack addicts in the Canadian city of Nanaimo, as a public outcry over the distribution of crack pipes halted the program. Given out by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the crack pipe kits were intended as a harm-reduction measure to help stop the spread of diseases like Hepatitis. Nurses had given out about 200 kits over five months before some Nanaimo residents and city council objected. The Nanaimo crack pipe harm-reduction scheme followed similar programs in Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia.
Mexican President Calderon's escalated drug "war" in that country took a new turn last week when some 280 federal police chiefs were "purged" in a bid to circumvent prohibition-fueled corruption in the ranks. While gung-ho prohibitionists have applauded the Calderon regime's iron-fisted drug-fighting approach, there's nothing to show for it. As the UK Independent newspaper put it, "there is so far no evidence that the assault is slowing the distribution of drugs. Nor has it quieted the violence." Added the Independent, "Critics doubt whether the war can be won with so much money at stake." But when has a drug prohibition ever succeeded?
In Canada this week, much ado about a Mexican mint (salvia divinorum) authorities assert "can be another step to another drug." In Edmonton Alberta, led by Ald. Dana Smith, the city council of Leduc is asking Ottawa to make the hallucinatory herb illegal for everyone, young or old. Even though use of the herb is miniscule (few try it more than once), just knowing it is for sale irks some. "As far as I am concerned that makes it a problem in Leduc in that it is available, but it is not a problem in that it is rampant and that sort of thing," said Smith. Smith did not specify which other drugs to which salvia divinorum users might "step".
Did you think that the police "spinning" drug busts and seizure numbers into impressive sounding press conferences was a purely American phenomenon? It isn't. The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) -- hailed by some as the "UK's answer to the FBI" -- was in hot water this week for fudging seizure stats, apparently a popular pastime among drug warriors worldwide. "Soca can't have it both ways and claim record seizures and then refuse to give a breakdown," noted even Conservative MP David Burrowes. "Otherwise the public will be right to suspect this is more spin than substance." Too late, David. We already figured as much.
(19) 200 MILLION PEOPLE IN WORLD USE DRUGS: UN ( Top )
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2007
Source: Times of India, The (India)
Copyright: Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 2007
NEW DELHI: About 200 million people around the world consume drugs each year, with cocaine, opium and its derivatives - including heroin - topping the list of favourites, a United Nations report said on Tuesday.
"Though a large share of the world's population - about five per cent of the people between the ages of 15 and 64 - uses illicit drugs each year, only a small fraction of these can be considered 'problem drug users'," the report issued by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said.
According to the report, opium continued to be the prime drug in most of Europe and Asia. In South America victims queue up mostly for cocaine-abuse treatment and in Africa abuse is primarily confined to cannabis.
However, the UNODC stressed that the global drug problem was being contained. The production and consumption of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and Ecstasy have stabilised at the global level - with one exception.
"The exception is the continuing expansion of opium production in Afghanistan. This expansion continues to pose a threat - to the security of the country and to the global containment of opiate abuse."
(20) NANAIMO HALTS CRACK-PIPE HANDOUTS ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 21 Jun 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Jeff Rud
The Vancouver Island Health Authority has stopped issuing free crack pipes to addicts in downtown Nanaimo after city council and some residents expressed concerns about the harm-reduction approach.
VIHA chief executive officer Howard Waldner said yesterday that the authority realized "in hindsight" that it probably could have done a better job of communicating the pilot project to the public and politicians before implementing it more than five months ago.
Earlier this month, Waldner estimated that VIHA nurses had distributed about 200 of the kits.
Waldner said the practice of handing out the crack pipe kits was approved by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall and is happening in other Canadian cities including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg. It is not being done in Victoria.
(21) MEXICO PURGES TOP POLICE IN BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION ( Top )
Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jun 2007
Source: Independent (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: David Usborne
Mexico has launched an unprecedented purge of its top police officers as the latest step in its increasingly high-stakes campaign to combat the drugs cartels and end a gruesome wave of narcotics-related violence.
Summarily removed from their posts, at least for the time being, are 284 federal police chiefs spread across every state of the country. Each of them will be extensively vetted for corruption and possible ties to the cartels and their ruthless gangs of enforcers.
Since taking office in December, Felipe Calderon, Mexico's President, has taken increasingly bold measures to tackle one of his country's most intractable problems - the unabated activities of the drug lords and the corruption within law enforcement that protects them from arrest.
It is a crusade that has drawn wide applause from most Mexicans, who are tired of the bloodshed spawned by the drugs trade, as well as from the United States government. However, there is so far no evidence that the assault is slowing the distribution of drugs. Nor has it quieted the violence.
The death toll last year from drugs-related killings reached 2,000 and could be higher this year. Grisly discoveries in towns as far apart as Monterrey, Acapulco, Veracruz and Mexico City are reported almost daily.
Critics doubt whether the war can be won with so much money at stake. About 75 per cent of all the cocaine consumed in the U.S. is smuggled through Mexico, generating up to $24bn (UKP12bn) in profits for the traffickers, who spend $3bn a year corrupting officials.
Alex Sanchez, a Mexico analyst at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, said: "The problem is the way the cartels are structured. Taking out one guy... just leaves a vacuum that others fight to fill. There is a perpetual cycle of violence."
(22) LEDUC RIPS INACTION ON LSD-LIKE DRUG ( Top )
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Jun 2007
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Jeff Holubitsky
Council Wants Salvia Divinorum On Illegal List
EDMONTON - Leduc's city council is pushing Ottawa to remove a powerful hallucinogenic drug called salvia divinorum from the shelves of head shops and add it to the list of illegal substances.
"This is definitely a preventative measure and I want the federal government to be aware this is readily available," Ald. Dana Smith said Tuesday. "It's being used and it can be another step to another drug."
Smith, a member of the Leduc community drug action committee, said while the use of salvia divinorum in his city isn't believed to be widespread, it can be bought there legally.
"As far as I am concerned that makes it a problem in Leduc in that it is available, but it is not a problem in that it is rampant and that sort of thing," she said.
Chad Wentworth, owner of Chad's Smoke Shop, said sales of salvia have dropped off dramatically since he first stocked it about eight months ago, and he doesn't plan to order more once the small amount he has on hand is sold.
"Now that people have tried it, it's going down," he said. "I don't even know where you can get it because a lot of places don't sell it anymore."
Health Canada recently said it is monitoring the drug and that its long-term effects aren't known, but in the short term it has caused unconsciousness and memory loss.
But Smith wants Ottawa to speed up its procedures in controlling such substances.
The drug has been chewed or smoked for centuries by Mexico's Mazatec people, who use it for spiritual reasons.
(23) UK'S ANSWER TO FBI ACCUSED OF SPIN IN DRUG SEIZURES CLAIMS ( Top )
Pubdate: Sun, 24 Jun 2007
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Paul Lashmar
Headline-grabbing claims of record drugs seizures by Britain's answer to the FBI - the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) - have prompted calls for a parliamentary investigation amid suspicions that the organisation is "spinning" its success.
Soca's recent boast that it has seized a record 73 tons of cocaine in its first year was widely reported across the media. But the agency is refusing to provide any evidence to back up its dramatic claims.
According to Soca's chairman, Sir Stephen Lander, a former MI5 chief, the huge haul of cocaine had a street value of UKP3bn and equalled one-fifth of the annual supply to Europe. But when The Independent on Sunday asked the agency to provide a breakdown of its cocaine seizures it stalled for 11 days before saying it was "unwilling" to provide any details.
Conservative MP David Burrowes, secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group, said Soca's figures must be investigated. "Soca can't have it both ways and claim record seizures and then refuse to give a breakdown. Otherwise the public will be right to suspect this is more spin than substance."
A former senior drug investigator questioned this approach: "It is claiming success even where there is no reason to believe that any of the consignment seized was likely to be destined for the UK."
HOT OFF THE 'NET ( Top )
UN DRUG AGENCY REPORTS "SIGNIFICANT AND POSITIVE CHANGES" ( Top )
Countries urged to provide greater health care to drug addicts.
BONG HITS AND AD RUNS ( Top )
Two Supreme Court cases show the perils of making excuses for censorship.
By Jacob Sullum, June 27, 2007
STUDENTS FREE SPEECH RIGHTS GO UP IN SMOKE ( Top )
By Anthony Papa, June 25, 2007
On June 25th student free speech joined the panoply of endangered fundamental rights ready to be stripped away from us due to the tragedy of the drug war.
THE PURPLE BRAIN - AMERICA'S NEW REEFER MADNESS ( Top )
By Marsha Rosenbaum and Paul Armentano, AlterNet, June 23, 2007
The ONDCP's latest fearmongering ant-marijuana campaign, "The Purple Brain," makes absurd and unsubstantiated claims of "brain damage."
CULTURAL BAGGAGE RADIO SHOW ( Top )
Tonight: 06/29/07 - Presidential Candidate Ron Paul discusses the drug war (2003 rebroadcast) plus Drug War Facts
Last: 06/22/07 - Nora Callahan of November Coalition, Terry Evans and Bruce Mirken of MPP, Tinfoil Hat Award
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES MENTION DRUG POLICY IN DEBATE ( Top )
"And if I'm president, I will do away with the war on drugs, which does nothing but savage our inner cities and put our children at risk." -- Former Senator Mike Gravel (D-Ak)
"We need to make sure that we do deal with the distinction between crack and powder cocaine." -- Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)
"But it requires some political courage, because oftentimes you are accused of being soft on crime when you deal with these issues." -- Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
Transcript of the Third Democratic Primary Presidential Debate http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/28/us/politics/29transcript.html
WHAT YOU CAN DO THIS WEEK ( Top )
URGE THE DEA TO LICENSE MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRODUCTION ( Top )
Reps. John Olver (D-MA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) are co-sponsoring a Congressional Sign-On Letter urging the DEA to accept DEA Administrative Law Judge Bittner's Recommended Ruling to license Prof. Lyle Craker's proposed MAPS-sponsored medical marijuana production facility. MAPS needs you to help by contacting your Congressional Representative.
LETTER OF THE WEEK ( Top )
CENSORSHIP: NO EXCUSES ( Top )
By Robert Biezenski
A recent story reported that two students were suspended from Wawota Parkland School and threatened with police action for attempting to tell fellow students marijuana is safer than alcohol or tobacco. Yet this is a medical fact established by the Canadian Medical Association, by a recent study commissioned by the Canadian senate and by a number of international studies. It is also a fact of which I inform my own students when I cover the war on drugs in the criminology courses I teach at U of R. Does this mean I, too, am potentially subject to suspension and police action? Suspending a student ( or teacher ) for telling the truth is, quite literally, the ultimate condemnation of any education system.
Censorship always has its justifications, and they are always wrong.
The Wawota administration wants to keep the truth about marijuana away from students "for their own good". But the truth will win out; most students will eventually find out that the health risks of marijuana have been greatly exaggerated by school officials. And when they do, they will be far more likely to dismiss all official warnings about drugs, including those much more harmful than marijuana.
In the long run, censorship is always counterproductive, and it should have no place in our education system. The actions of the Wawota school administration are a public disgrace, and it should be formally reprimanded.
Dr. Robert Biezenski
Biezenski teaches in the U of R's sociology department.
CENSORSHIP: NO EXCUSES
Pubdate: Wed, 20 Jun 2007
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
FEATURE ARTICLE ( Top )
Bong-obsessed Court Just Says No To Jesus ( Top )
By Stephen Young
Understanding that some people will use almost anything as an excuse to celebrate, does the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" really tempt the abstinent to indulge? Can those three little words (and a single-digit numeral) threaten all the billions spent on anti-drug advertising by the federal government over the past decade?
According to a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision on Morse v. Frederick, the answer to both of those questions is yes.
The court's majority acknowledged that the phrase could be interpreted as nonsense (a claim made by the banner's creator Joseph Frederick), but the majority also said that the words could reasonably interpreted as encouraging illegal drug use. Therefore, the high school principal did not violate anyone's free speech rights when she took the banner down and punished Frederick. According to the court, the principal was doing her best to protect other students from a pro-drug message that cannot be interpreted as political.
Compared to all the seductive imagery used to sell legal drugs ( beer-inspired fun on the beach and Viagra-inspired intimacy at home ) through a variety of realistic media, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" hand-painted on a scruffy banner lacks something in the persuasive punch department.
Regardless of Frederick's motivation, the majority's tortured effort to justify their decision shows, quite to the contrary of their stated arguments, "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is truly political speech. From the perspective of prohibition's true believers, even ambiguous messages are seen as threatening enough to sanction censorship. The fact that the majority made an affected effort to treat the banner seriously shows that they unthinkingly accept the rigid political ideology of the drug war, and that they apply that rigid ideology to their decisions.
The banner simply cannot be perceived as a challenge to any individual's sobriety, but it did challenge an article of faith among prohibitionists: illegal drugs must not be associated with anything positive. To make such an association doesn't just undermine the war on drugs, somehow it actually encourages use ( at least in the convoluted logic of the drug war ). The opinion didn't have much to say about Jesus himself; the poor guy is all but ignored, his invocation not enough to give the banner religious weight.
He is, however, quietly present in the equation used by the majority to come to its conclusion. Though not explicitly stated, it appears to be given in the court's algebra that Jesus equals good, just as bong hit equals bad. Adding the two values together presents a difficult problem that can't be solved, only censored.
Fortunately, there was a dissenting minority opinion contained in the decision as well, and it clearly points out the faulty logic of the majority. The dissent not only challenges the narrow interpretation of the phrase, it places the banner within the boundaries of the political battle over the war on drugs, and even likens that political battle to the political battle over alcohol prohibition. Drug policy activists who wonder if anyone on the Supreme Court really "gets it," might want to take the time to read the dissent, as it appears our message is being heard at least by some in high places. The dissent is also grim, as it offers a stark assessment of the future of "drug speech" in schools.
"Although this case began with a silly, nonsensical banner, it ends with the Court inventing out of whole cloth a special First Amendment rule permitting the censorship of any student speech that mentions drugs, at least so long as someone could perceive that speech to contain a latent pro-drug message," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in the dissent.
Stevens seems to be right, which raises troubling questions not only about Free Speech, but about open education. Can this recent Supreme Court decision be discussed honestly in a high school classroom without fear of reprisal by administrators? After all, if the phrase "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a threat when printed on a banner, is it any less of a threat when it's said aloud? What about challenging the interpretation of the banner as a pro-drug message? Does merely voicing the argument equal treason in the drug war, and therefore make a student subject to punishment?
And what of further discussion of the slogan's actual meaning?
I'm not familiar with any evidence suggesting Jesus came close to a bong hit in his lifetime, though some biblical scholars suggest the anointing oil used by Jesus and his followers contained cannabis. It's a subject fit for debate, but if you're a student on school grounds, it's probably in your best interest to keep your mouth shut on the issue. You heard it straight from the Supreme Court - despite our long history of religious tolerance, even Jesus backed by the First Amendment won't save you from punishment if you mention drugs without proper denunciations.
Stephen Young is a freelance writer and an editor with DrugSense Weekly.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK ( Top )
"Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." - Potter Stewart
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