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March 2005



Rise Up

From Raise Your Voice:

Rep. Barney Frank (MA-4) and 55 other members of Congress introduced the
Removing Impediments to Students═ Education (RISE) Act, H.R. 1184. If
enacted, the bill will repeal the HEA Drug Provision, which, since taking
effect in 2000, has denied financial aid to over 160,500 students with prior
drug convictions. Over 200 organizations and 115 student governments from
across the country have called on Congress to repeal the law. With growing
concern regarding the effects of this failed policy, education advocates are
expected this year to push hard in both the House and the Senate to
reinstate aid to those who need it most.

It’s time to eliminate this offensive provision for good. Mark Souder’s going to try to save portions of it, but he should be ignored.

KCBA gets nice coverage at forum

Seattle Post Intelligencer: Drug war strategy assailed at forum:

Despite a variety of backgrounds — from attorneys to outreach workers to recovering drug users — most of those gathered yesterday at Seattle City Hall to discuss the war on drugs agreed that, as waged today, it is at best ineffective and at worst expensive and […]

A brave legislator

Via Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run, a Vermont leglislator has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana for up to an ounce for adults over 21. He thinks prohibition hasn’t worked and wants to spark a debate. Let’s hear it for Representative Winston Dowland!

King County Bar Association – one well-informed step at a time

I got a wonderful letter from Roger Goodman, Director of the Drug Policy Project of the King County Bar Association.
I was so impressed with the KCBA resolution calling upon the State of Washington to take over the regulation and dispensation of drugs currently under federal prohibition (I think it’s one of the most important documents ever created regarding drug policy reform), that I wrote with some questions about the future plans for the proposal.
Here’s part of Roger’s letter:

We plan to use the Resolution and the report underlying it as the intellectual platform for real legal reform — this isŠnot a mere academic exercise.Š Needless to say, for such a monumental change this is going to take time.Š

We’ve made progress with this approach already.Š In 2001 we published Is It Time to End the War on Drugs? (Our latest Resolution and both reports are available at ),Šwhich propelled the state legislature in 2002 to reduce prison time drastically and fund treatment for drug offenders.Š Now, obviously, we aren’t going to see the major culture shiftŠovernight in the present campaign, although we did get the Chair of theŠJudiciary Committee in the State Senate last week to introduce a bill and call a public hearing on creating a state commission to recommend concrete steps the legislature can take to move toward a regulatory framework for drug control.Š It was a great hearing, although the bill will move no further this session, which is what we expected.Š Significantly, however, the official public discussion was launched and we achieved our goal this time around.Š We basically did the courtesy of putting the legislature on notice that this is a MAJOR coming attraction.

Understanding that the legislature follows the people, so we’re focusing on our education-oriented mission, continuing numerous initiativesŠthrough our working groups (Stimulants Group, Race/Class Task Force, Prevention Working Group et al.)Šand our trained speakers’ bureau members will be spreading the messageŠto PTAs, churches, Rotaries, chambers of commerce, retirement centers, etc.

We’re getting lots of ink and air time at the moment, as our report’s recommendations are reverberating in the media, and today, Wednesday March 9,Šthe full Seattle City Council holds a special meeting on “Changing Drug Policy in Seattle,” which is being orchestrated to deliver very progressive messages – stop automatic arrest and booking, stop buy-bust operations, tell the mayor and police to focus on crimes against persons first, against property second and against drugs last, and even look at the horizon – safe consumption and prescription maintenance.

Thanks, Roger.
Smart approaches — and it appears that this group is in for the long haul of drug policy reform. If you’re in Washington State, consider offering to help them. Get someone from their speaker’s bureau invited to your Rotary club. Have your student group invite them to do a presentation on campus, or use their resolution as the basis for a class presentation or paper. Work in public relations? Offer your services to help them get the word out.
Tipping the Balance in Drug Policy Reform
We’ve had a bit of a discussion going on here regarding views as to what will be the event or point that turns things around in drug policy reform. It often seems discouraging with most of the political power structure pushing the drug war and yet I see encouraging signs every day. Some of that is in the desperation apparent in the tactics of pushers like Souder and Walters and Barthwell. The rest is in the determination and intelligence and reach of drug policy reformers.
I think it’ll be like the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You can identify the straw only after the fact, and there’s no way to jump ahead and go right to that straw. It takes all the other straws before it to be placed first.
KCBA is one of those straws. The medical marijuana movement in the states is one – a huge one. Reform efforts in Canada and the European Union are important straws that will eventually cause the U.S. to lose the cover of participating in an international effort. Organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition are critical — sending police officers to talk to communities has real power — and don’t forget to follow the amazing Howard Woolridge and his horse Misty in their ride across the country.
Every one of the organizations listed here are straws. This blog is a straw. Every time one of you does a persuasive speech on the drug war in class, or writes a letter to the editor, or convinces a friend to read about the drug war, or posts a link on an online discussion board — more straw.
The camel may still be pretty mean-looking, and straw doesn’t weigh much, but I see a lot of straw out there.