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February 2004



Gay Sex Ruling may help Drug Policy Reform

Now that I’ve got your attention… A post by Randy Barnett at the Volokh Conspiracy led me to his fascinating paper in the Cato Supreme Court Review: Justice Kennedy’s Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence v. Texas (pdf) In it, Barnett posits that Lawrence v. Texas, as Justice Kennedy wrote the ruling, is not so much about […]

Go Chicago Sun Times!

Powerful editorial yesterdayl: NOTHING CRIMINAL IN HEALING HERBS

Should patients suffering from severe ailments — AIDS, cancer, glaucoma — have access to medical marijuana which, often alone among available medicines, can alleviate their suffering? Or should they be liable to arrest and prosecution like any other drug user?

Few issues cut so wide a gulf between the federal government and the states. The feds are anti-pot, period. Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have passed laws exempting the very ill, often terminally ill, from facing jail. Now Illinois may join them. A medical marijuana bill introduced into the General Assembly would exempt patients who have a doctor’s prescription from prosecution. It deserves full debate and then swift passage.

Use of medical marijuana is only controversial to the feds — responsible medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Nurses Association support it, as do countless doctors. “It is pointless and cruel,” said one Chicago physician, “to threaten the sick with arrest and jail simply for trying to feel better.” The sufferings of thousands of sick Illinois citizens demand that we cast off punitive and wrong-headed notions about marijuana and pass this bill without delay.

Kind of makes you wonder if this might actually be possible in Illinois. After all, Illinois legislature passed industrial hemp legislation 3 or 4 years ago, which only failed because then Governor Ryan vetoed it under pressure from then Drug Czar McCaffrey. And Illinois already has a medical marijuana law on the books since 1978 – it just never had the legal authority to be implemented.
Will Illinois be the next medical marijuana state?

Illinois Action Alert

As I mentioned yesterday, Illinois is looking at Medical Marijuana. Companion bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate. If you live in Illinois, go now and contact your representative.

HEA Action Alert

From the good folks at Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

As you know, since its inception, SSDP has campaigned against a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act that denies federal financial aid to anyone convicted of a drug-related offense, no matter how minor. This provision is counter-productive and causes enormous harm, […]

Illinois testing the medical marijuana waters

Reported in the Quad-City Times:

Cancer and AIDS sufferers as well as Illinoisans suffering from glaucoma, would be able to grow, possess and use marijuana without fear of arrest or jail under legislation just introduced in the General Assembly.

But House Bill 4868’s sponsor, Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano, R-River Grove, said his motivation in offering the measure is only to educate his fellow lawmakers.

“I’m approaching this with the idea of seeing where everybody lines up on it – law enforcement, the medical community – to see if this would be something feasible or palatable,” he said.

As a practical matter, he said the measure probably will not make it to the electronic tote board in the House chamber that records the “ayes” and “nays.”

Yes, it’s timid (providing political cover), but it’s also a good sign and a good start for Illinois. The synopsis of the bill is:

Creates the Medical Cannabis Act. Provides that a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition and the person’s primary caregiver may be issued a registry identification card by the Department of Human Services that permits the person or the person’s primary caregiver to legally possess no more than 6 Cannabis Sativa plants and one ounce of usable cannabis. Provides that a person who possesses a registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for the medical use of cannabis; provided that the qualifying patient or primary caregiver possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 6 Cannabis Sativa plants and one ounce of usable cannabis. Amends the Cannabis Control Act to make conforming changes consistent with the Medical Cannabis Act. Effective immediately.

More information available at IDEAL – Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform.

Can Kucinich Count Cause Candid Kerry Communication?

LastOneSpeaks has another outstanding post on the Kucinich/Kerry question for drug policy reformers.

There’s plenty of time to close ranks behind the nominee when the fight is against Bush. For now backing this losing candidate [Kucinich] could win some respect for a progressive agenda and drug policy reform.

When it comes to Kerry, she also notes:

Now that it seems apparent that Kerry’s got the nomination sewn up, it’s more important than ever to support Kucinich in order to get the DNC’s attention. Kerry is not taking the issue nor the reformers seriously as evidenced by such conduct as consigning the most active thread on his Internet Forum, a discussion on drug policy, to the limbo of the “other” category instead of giving it a prominent place on the first page and he has ignored the request for his written position on agricultural hemp made by Vote Hemp, unconcerned that it cost him a good rating from the organization . We addressed his Beers problem earlier.

To that I’ll add that Kerry not only ignored the request from Vote-hemp, but actually publicly promised to respond and then failed to do so. While some would prefer to have seen an “Incomplete” than an “F” by Vote-Hemp, as someone who teaches in college I know there is a point in a student’s neglect when an incomplete grade defaults to an “F.” However, Senator, there’s always the appeal for a grade change. I’d really like to see what you have to say. (Just don’t tell my students that I’m easy.)
When it comes to surveys, Kerry seems to be keeping his views close. For years, Project Vote-Smart has been putting together the National Political Awareness Test for candidates at all levels. This is a survey that candidates can use with specific choices, or avoid pre-programmed choices and put in their own issue statements.
This year’s survey has some excellent questions regarding the drug war (among many other areas the survey covers)
Candidates are asked whether they would support the following policy initiatives (or they can propose their own):

Support mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs.
Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to their patients for medicinal purposes.
Increase border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.
Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”
Other or expanded principles

Unfortunately Kerry (along with Dean and Bush) has not responded (see my chart comparing candidate responses).
According to Vote-Smart:

Senator John Forbes Kerry refused to provide any responses to citizens on issues through the National Political Awareness Test. Senator John Forbes Kerry refused to provide this information when asked to do so on 23 separate occasions by: MSNBC; CBS News; Cox Newspapers; Knight Ridder; National Journal; MTV; New Hampshire Public Broadcasting; Tucson Citizen; St. Paul Pioneer Press; Portsmouth Herald; Nashua Telegraph; Iowa Public Radio; Ames Daily Tribune; Cedar Rapids Gazette; Iowa City Press; The State (SC); WYY Philadelphia; San Jose Mercury News; Geraldine Ferraro, Former Democratic Congresswoman; Michael Dukakis, Fomer Democratic Congressman; Bill Frenzel, Former Republican Congressman; Jim Leach, Republican Congressman; Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart Presiden

There’s still time. Kerry can speak up. But we need to continue to apply the pressure. And one of the ways is by continuing to support Kucinich.
Oh, and don’t forget. Republicans should go to the primaries as well and write in Blake Ashby. You should at least make Karl Rove have to go look him up.

Odds and Ends

“bullet” For an excellent overview of the recent 9th Circuit decision to slap down the DEA’s attempt to control hemp foods, see this release from Vote Hemp. “bullet” Dallas News has a feature today on the special prosecutor who has been tapped to take on the fake-drugs scandal that involved police and drug dealers […]

Nashville event worth checking out…

“bullet” If you’re in the Nashville area, there’s something you should check out next week — two days of workshops at the library and a public forum at American Baptist College.

In the 1960s the Rev. James Lawson and the Rev. C.T. Vivian provoked and inspired Nashville and the nation as they took part in […]

Kucinich on the Drug War – a reminder

“Drug War / Marijuana Decriminalization” Animation Kucinich on the Drug War Kucinich on Medical Marijuana Kucinich on Marijuana decriminalization Kucinich on the Patriot Act

What to do in the Primaries…

A lot of states with primaries fast approaching. Tough decisions to make. All sorts of reasons to look at different candidates on different issues. Well, I’m here to make it easy for you.

If you’re voting in a Democratic Primary, vote for Dennis Kucinich If you’re voting in a Republican Primary, write in Blake […]