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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #137, 5/12/00

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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  1. New York Assembly Legalizes Over the Counter Sale of Syringes
  2. Woman Whose Daughter Turned Her In Gets One Year
  3. Justice Department Reports Seventy Percent of Jail Inmates Drug-Involved
  4. Mexico City Police Commissioner Calls for Dutch Approach to Drug Policy
  5. Q and A on Dutch Drug Policy
  6. Report Calls on the UN Biodiversity Convention to Stop Dangerous US Fungus Experiments
  7. Student Senate Overturns Presidential Veto of HEA Reform Resolution
  8. Green Harvest Eradication Program Denied Funding in Hawaii
  9. No Helicopters to Colombia: Act Now Before May 16th Vote
  10. Stop "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" -- Action Update
  11. RAISE YOUR VOICE: Action Needed Against Higher Education Act Drug Provision
  12. MORE ALERTS: New York and Washington State
  13. EVENTS: District of Columbia, Toronto, New York, San Francisco
  14. EDITORIAL: Family Devalued
(visit the last Week Online)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. New York Assembly Legalizes Over the Counter Sale of Syringes

In an effort to fight the spread the AIDS and further buttress the success of existing needle exchange programs, New York lawmakers have passed a bill to make hypodermic needles available in drug stores without a prescription.

Beginning January 1, 2001 needles will be potentially available in every pharmacy throughout New York State without a prescription. It will be up to the pharmacist at each drug store whether he or she will make up to ten syringes per customer available. The syringes will only be sold from behind the counter.

The legislation was initiated by Governor George Pataki, a Republican. "This is essentially a deregulation bill," Glenn Backes of the Lindesmith Center, which supported the legislation, told The Week Online. "There is no appropriation. What the Governor has essentially done is spent zero dollars and saved thousands of lives. This is in an example of how government can do the right thing by getting out of the way. I think Republicans can relate to that." Backes said the Governor was instrumental in getting the bill through the Senate and Assembly.

Currently, drug users can get syringes without a prescription from needle exchange programs, but because there are only 14 such clinics statewide, Backes said there are not currently enough clean needles being distributed to prevent the spread of AIDS, Hepatits C and other blood borne diseases. Onerous regulations have made it difficult for new programs to open.

Backes said the new law will work with existing needle exchange programs to further halt the spread of AIDS. "The basis of an AIDS prevention plan should be treatment on demand and wide syringe availability," he said. "Commercial access through pharmacies will not address the needs of all people, particularly people whose lives are really screwed up: homeless, poor and the mentally ill. These people will need the social delivery model that is needle exchange. This legislation will serve people in small cities and towns where the need to be anonymous as a drug user overrides other concerns. There will never be needle exchanges in small towns."

Even with existing needle exchanges, the need isn't being met in New York City either. According to the New York Academy of Medicine, if each injection drug user in the city were to have a clean needle every time they injected, needle exchanges are only providing two percent of needle needs for the city.

Backes said the legislation could only increase the percentage of clean needles being used by IV drug users. "In New York City there are a lot more Rite Aids than needle exchanges."

While they won't be offering the kind of counseling and treatment that is usually found at the needle exchange, pharmacies will be required to provide a safety packet with the needles warning users about sharing needles and the proper use and disposal of syringes.

New York was only one of a few remaining states that still require prescriptions for needles. The same legislation approved in New York just passed in New Hampshire this week, and is being considered in Illinois. States in which IV drug users still need prescriptions include Massachusetts, California, Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.

New Jersey is the only one of those states that does not allow needle exchange programs either. Backes said it's no coincidence that New Jersey has the highest rates of HIV infection among IV drug users in the country. "It's because they have the most rigid and ridiculous policy," he said.

The rate of the spread of AIDS in New York is a sixth of what it was five years ago, and much of that decrease can be attributed to existing needle exchange programs, according to Backes. Making more clean needles available to more people can only help.

For more information about syringe exchange, visit DRCNet's Project Sero web site at The Lindesmith Center web site also contains fact sheets and other information about syringe exchange; check it out at The North American Syringe Exchange Network is online at

]2. Woman Whose Daughter Turned Her In Gets One Year

Linda Sue Martin of Medina, OH, was sentenced this week (5/8) to one year in prison for "attempted manufacture of drugs." Martin came to the attention of authorities after her daughter, then 14, brought a crack pipe -- which she had found among her mother's belongings, in to school and showed it to her counselor in an effort to get help for her mother.

The counselor alerted school authorities, who in turn alerted the police. Police raided the home and turned up no drugs, but did find paraphernalia. Martin was not charged with the most serious possible offense, manufacture of illicit drugs, because, according to prosecutors, she "cooperated" in the investigation against herself. That cooperation reportedly consisted of admitting that she had "cooked" cocaine into crack, its smokeable form. That process involves adding baking soda and water to cocaine and heating the mixture, often over a cigarette lighter.

Martin's daughter, who is now 15 and living with her father in Cleveland, did not attend her mother's sentencing. She told police during the investigation that had she known that her mother might go to prison, she would never have come to her counselor for help.

Sandee Burbank is the Director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, a non-profit organization which focuses on drug education regarding all substances, both licit and illicit, says that the Martin case highlights much of what's wrong in our nation's current approach.

"Is the drug war about protecting the health of families? Is it about protecting children? Who was protected here? The devastation that has been brought upon this family is unimaginable. A mother, who needed help, instead gets prison. That result costs society far more in tax dollars than if she had been offered treatment and family counseling."

"Furthermore," said Burbank, "we have a young person whose trust in society and its institutions has been permanently damaged. This case indicates that our drug policies are alienating those among us who most need help. In looking at this case we ought to ask: 'who was helped here?' The mother? The daughter? The taxpayers? And if no one was helped by the intervention of the state, isn't it time that we looked seriously at our response to the issues of substance use and substance abuse?"

(NOTE: Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse (MAMA) is currently seeking funding for its next three-week tour, during which they will speak with parents, educators and the media about family-focused drug education. To donate, or to learn more about MAMA and their publications, visit their web site at, write them at 2255 State Road, Mosier, OR 97040, or call (541) 298-1031.)

3. Justice Department Reports Seventy Percent of Jail Inmates Drug-Involved

A report issued this week by the Department of Justice indicates that 70% of inmates held in the nation's jails are either serving time for drug offenses or were regular users prior to incarceration. Jails, as opposed to prisons, are locally run institutions used primarily to house people waiting for trial and those serving sentences of less than one year.

The study, which analyzed data from 1998, also found that 26% of inmates had been jailed at least once before for a drug offense, and that 17% of inmates were intravenous drug users.

Seven out of ten jails have policies in place to test employees and inmates, but inmate testing, at $10-15 per, is often seen as "too expensive" to carry out. About 75% of jails offer some form of substance-abuse treatment or program for inmates.

In a story regarding Vice President Gore's call for drug testing and treating inmates, covered last week by The Week Online, Dr. Peter Beilenson of the Baltimore Health Department told the Week Online that while treatment availability is important in jails and prisons, non-coerced treatment is an even more glaring need.

"There needs to be a significant increase in funding for treatment on request. We don't provide enough of that," said Dr. Beilenson. "I don't believe that we should have to arrest people in order to provide them with treatment."

4. Mexico City Police Commissioner Calls for Dutch Approach to Drug Policy

On Wednesday (5/10), Mexico City Police Commissioner Alejandro Gertz Manero decried the failure of his country's drug war policies and said Mexico should look to Holland for solutions to the drug problem.

In "A Three-Part Solution Against Drugs," a column published in El Universal and translated by the Narco News Bulletin, Gertz argued for a balanced approach to drugs that discourages street level drug activity, educates the public, and treats drug use as a public health rather than a criminal justice problem. The Dutch approach, Gertz wrote, is necessary for its focus on "the fundamental idea of ending the economic interest in drug trafficking, recognizing that addicts are sick and that they require a controlled dose of drugs, that lessens over time, and medical assistance so they can recover."

Narco News Bulletin editor Al Giordano told the Week Online that Gertz's column could represent a turning point in the drug policy debate. "It came from somebody so highly respected and so untarnished, in a country where almost every politician and cop is tarnished by something," Giordano said. "And that he reached toward Holland so strongly is something that could change the direction of the drug debate not only in Mexico but also in Latin America and in all of the Americas as a whole."

Gertz is widely respected in Mexico. Under his tenure as Mexico City's police commissioner, almost every crime index has fallen.

"Not since 1993, when Gustavo de Greiff, the Attorney General of Colombia, came to Boston and said it's time to legalize drugs, has a Latin American official been so well positioned and had such an impeccably clean record himself to be able to speak out on this as what has happened this week with Alejandro Gertz," Giordano said.

Giordano said Gertz's statements are particularly bold, in that he has made them only ten weeks before the national elections. "Already there is an intense amount of world attention on this," he said. "I suspect he has created a space for more people to come out of hiding on this."

You can read the full text of Gertz's column in English at the Narco News Bulletin web site,

5. Q and A on Dutch Drug Policy

Translated by Jan van der Tas, provided to DRCNet by Freek Polak

Parliamentary written questions by Member of Parliament Van der Vlies of the SGP-Dutch reformed political party (Protestant, conservative). Answers by Mrs. E. Borst-Eilers, Minister of Health, Welfare And Sports, also on behalf of the Minister of Justice, regarding Netherlands Drug Policies.

The Hague, April 6, 2000

Q: Has the Minister taken note of the article published in the German newspaper Die Welt on March 13, 2000, containing a report on a TV program broadcast by Netwerk on March 12, 2000, under the title "Drug Policy in the Netherlands Unsuccessful. Devastating results after a 25-year field trial -- Holland is a major trade center"?

How does the Minister assess the statement made in this Netwerk program by the American drugs researcher Larry Collins, according to which the Netherlands at the moment is supposed to be the largest producer of Ecstasy. How does this relate to the present policy with regard to Ecstasy?

A: Already the Government Memorandum on Drugs policy of 1995 ("Continuity and Change") mentions the fact that the Netherlands are seen as an important production country for Ecstasy and Ecstasy-like substances. Recent reports of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) contain indications of a worldwide growth in production and trade of synthetic drugs and in this context also the Netherlands are mentioned frequently.

The Netherlands Government considers this development with concern. Therefore in the last few years the Netherlands policies with regard to the fight against drug-related crime have been concentrated on combating trade in and production of synthetic drugs. In the government's interim Progress Reports on Drug Policy 1997-1999, Parliament was informed about developments in this field.

The INCB is also fully informed about this approach. In its latest annual report, the INCB gives a balanced appreciation of the situation in the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands are still seen as one of the countries where most Ecstasy and amphetamines are produced, the INCB shows esteem for the energy with which the Netherlands' police and judiciary have proceeded to dismantle laboratories as well as for the precision with which the Netherlands supplies INCB with statistical data and information about exports of substances that can be used in the production of synthetic drugs (so-called "precursors").

Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with Italy to further the fight against international trade in synthetic drugs and precursors. With France, earlier arrangements had been made already in this sector of the fight against drugs.

Q: Is the Minister aware of recently published results of research done by the Trimbos Institute, according to which at least one percent of the Netherlands' youngsters consume heroin, four percent cocaine and eight percent regularly swallow amphetamine- and Ecstasy-pills? By what measures does the minister intend to force back these horrific figures in the near future?

Is it possible -- on the basis of the data mentioned above -- to come to the conclusion that the use of hard drugs among Dutch youngsters of secondary school age is only exceeded by hard drug consumption of that age group in the United States? What is the Minister's answer to the allegations, according to which the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports "systematically ignore" these figures, as not fitting in with present drug policies, and that data emanating from independent research regarding the harmfulness of cannabis have been repeatedly swept under the carpet?

A: Die Welt and Netwerk have wrongly given the impression, as if these percentages refer to regular (i.e., last 30 days) use of drugs among Dutch juveniles. As a matter of fact, however, these figures refer to the so-called life-time prevalence of use of certain drugs among 15/16 year olds, which means it includes all those who have at least one time in their whole life experimented with a particular drug. Evidently, data which reflect actual, last 30 days consumption, point at a considerably lower level of use.

With regard to countries outside the EU, in the United States and Australia for instance, higher percentages are measured for the consumption of heroin, cocaine and amphetamines than in the Netherlands. The Netherlands are, however, front runner in the EU regarding lifetime prevalence of cocaine use among 15/16 year old secondary school pupils.

Regarding Ecstasy, in Ireland and the UK higher or comparable figures are measured in comparison with the Netherlands, and for amphetamines also the UK percentages are considerably higher.

Finally, it should be noted that these figures demonstrate that it is particularly difficult to prove a relationship from cause to effect between drug use (both in the sense of lifetime prevalence and in the sense of last month prevalence) and drug policies, like the Netwerk program pretends to have established.

The allegation according to which the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sports should repeatedly have swept independent research data about the harmfulness of cannabis under the carpet, can not be commented upon, for lack of any specification. The Minister is aware of no evidence that could substantiate such accusations.

As for the policies pursued, reference can be made to the recently presented Progress Report on Drug Policy 1997-1999, in which among other things the prevention-strategy of the Government is described. Use of drugs among school-going age groups is discouraged by information and orientation specifically targeted at these groups. A good example is the project developed by the Trimbos Institute called "The healthy school and stimulants," which is applied in many schools and has met with considerable interest in other EU-countries.

Q: What is your answer to the judgment put forward in the Netwerk program, according to which the Netherlands, in spite of the drug policies pursued, has no fewer hard drug users than other countries and has become a prominent trading center for drugs. How does the minister evaluate the finding by Netwerk that nobody in the world takes the Netherlands' "drugs experiment" seriously?

A: The fight against trade and production enjoys a high priority in Dutch drug policies, and, judging from the results obtained (among other things the large quantities of drugs confiscated), is effective. On the basis of the data presented by Netwerk with regard to life-time prevalence of drug use among 15/16 year old secondary school pupils, no verdict is possible about the level of regular (for instance, last month prevalence) drug use among the total population.

Furthermore, correct data about the number of addicts or problematic users respectively in the EU, indicate that the Netherlands have fewer addicts than Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Italy, Luxemburg and the United Kingdom (EMCDDA, Annual Report 1999).

The finding that nobody in the world takes the Netherlands' "drugs experiment" seriously must be contradicted. More and more member-states of the EU are taking measures in the field of harm reduction. This concept, ever since the seventies, has been at the root of Netherlands' drug policies. In practice this leads to measures like needle exchange, methadone treatment and low threshold care facilities. Only a few years ago, the Netherlands were fiercely criticized by many countries, for pursuing these policies.

Where cannabis is concerned, the recent annual report of the EMCDDA shows clearly that more and more countries de facto apply a tolerance regime with regard to the individual user.

Besides, from the many bilateral contacts between Dutch and foreign experts and policymakers, it becomes evident that Dutch policies now meet with a high degree of appreciation. It therefore remains obscure on what factual data the Netwerk findings are based.

6. Report Calls on the UN Biodiversity Convention to Stop Dangerous US Fungus Experiments

(The following is an abridged press release from The Sunshine Project. DRCNet's own coverage of this issue can be found at:
In a report released on May 2nd, the Sunshine Project, a new international nonprofit dedicated to exposing abuses of biotechnology, has called upon on the upcoming Nairobi meeting of the UN Biodiversity Convention to halt the United States' experiments with fungi designed to kill narcotic crops.

Intended to kill opium poppy, coca, and cannabis plants, the microbes present risks to human health and biodiversity. There is imminent danger that a highly infectious fungus will be deliberately released in Andean and Amazonian centers of diversity. The US-backed fungi have already been used experimentally on opium poppy and cannabis in the US and in Central Asia.

The Sunshine Project, which sent its report to 500 government delegates from 100 countries, is suggesting several options for government action during the May 15-26 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nairobi. Delegates should adopt a resolution calling for a halt of the US program and condemning the use of any microbe for the purpose of eradicating cultivated crops. Such a resolution is not a statement on drug policy, but instead a reiteration of fundamental objectives of the Convention. The CBD cannot remain quiet while agents are developed by a non-party to deliberately obliterate biodiversity, especially plants with legitimate medicinal and traditional uses.

The CBD may also consider studying the fungus under its Agriculture Program, because of the fungi's impacts on pollinators and soil diversity -- both specific responsibilities of the Convention. Governments may also request the CBD Executive Secretary to urgently convey the CBD's views to the United National Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), which has been -- sometimes reluctantly -- helping implementation of the US program.

The Sunshine Project is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing information to light on harmful abuses of biotechnology. For a copy of the report and more information, visit

7. Student Senate Overturns Presidential Veto of HEA Reform Resolution

On April 27, The George Washington University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) introduced a resolution at the last Senate meeting condemning the Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA) drug provision, which delays or denies financial aid to any student with a drug conviction. The resolution had received widespread student support and passed by a vote of more than 20-to-1. Former Student Association President Caity Leu vetoed the resolution several days later.

Following Leu's veto, GWU SSDP lobbied student Senators to call an emergency meeting to override the veto. On May 5th, the Student Association reconvened during final exams for an emergency Senate meeting. The veto was overridden by a two-thirds vote.

GWU SSDP President Kristy Gomes said, "This sends a message that students care deeply about this issue. The student Senators called for an emergency meeting solely to condemn this law. Congress should take note and repeal the HEA drug provision."

Former President Caity Leu told the Week Online, "The democratic process was followed and the Senate decided it was an important enough issue to override my veto." David Burt, former Senator and incoming president of the Student Association, called President Leu's veto "unjust and unwarranted."

(See our HEA action alert below.)

8. Green Harvest Eradication Program Denied Funding in Hawaii

(courtesy NORML Foundation,

Hilo, HI: Last week, the Hawaii County Council declined $265,000 in federal grant money for the state's marijuana eradication program called Operation Green Harvest.

The council voted 6-3 to temporarily suspend the grant money, leaving funding for the helicopter intensive surveillance program in limbo. The council cited growing concerns by citizens who say the helicopter flights are not only an invasion of privacy, but also a noise nuisance disturbing farm animals and citizens.

This Monday, state Senator Andy Levin (D-3rd District) introduced an amendment to the state appropriations bill stating that "no state funds shall be expended... for Operation Green Harvest or other marijuana eradication programs that involve the use of helicopters unless the Board of Land and Natural Resources holds a public hearing... and adopts procedures for the use of the helicopters that address the concerns of those living in the areas over which the helicopters fly."

"I don't believe there should be a continuing Green Harvest," Levin said. "But I am hoping to start a dialogue where the community can voice concerns and officials will be in a position to listen."

9. No Helicopters to Colombia: Act Now Before May 16th Vote

On May 9th, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill to provide more than a billion dollars of drug war funding, much of it directly to the abusive Colombian military. Colombia's armed forces have been implicated in gross human rights abuses through their covert association with Colombia's underground paramilitary forces -- also known as the "death squads" -- but through the dishonesty of drug czar Barry McCaffrey and some members of Congress, the bill is being put through nonetheless. Opposition is much stiffer than expected, however: 11 out of 26 Senators, five of them Republicans, voted for an amendment to reduce the package by $800 million, and the total size of the package is hundreds of millions of dollars less than originally proposed.

The package could come to a vote in the full Senate as soon as this coming Tuesday, May 15th. Please take two minutes and visit to send a free e-mail or fax to your two Senators. While you are doing that, write down their phone numbers and call them up, or reach them through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. And most of all, please use the "tell a friend" form to spread the word and help mobilize public opposition to this destructive legislation.

Funding this drug war bill will make American taxpayers complicit in the torture and murder of peace and human rights activists, labor organizers, anyone who stands up for the basic rights of all human beings in the troubled nation of Colombia. Yet it will have no impact on the availability of drugs in the US, anymore than the wasted billions spent over the last two decades.

So please take two minutes today and visit to help stop this bill in its tracks!

10. Stop "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" -- Action Update

Last week, DRCNet alerted our California supporters that the State Assembly Public Safety Committee, under pressure from Gov. Gray Davis, had approved AB 2295, a bill to mandate an automatic six month driver's license suspension for any drug offense. The Assembly Appropriations Committee vote on the bill, originally scheduled for this week, has been delayed -- leaving more time to write and call the legislature but no time to lose!

Please call or fax Gov. Davis to express your opposition to his support for Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License, and please visit to tell your legislators to "just say no" to this expensive, thoughtless law. Call the governor at (916) 445-2841, (213) 897-0322 or (415) 703-2218, or fax (916)445-4633 or (213)897-0319. And please use our "tell a friend" form at to spread the word at this crucial time for California's drug policy.

EXTRA CREDIT: Call or fax the members of the Appropriations Committee -- see for a complete listing.

(Special thanks to those of you who helped spread the word and forward the first alert to your friends. New people have responded to your appeals, in a terrific way, so please keep it going!)

AB 2295 is opposed by California NORML, who provided the information for this alert, and by the ACLU, California AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the California School Employees Association, the Service Employees International Union and other labor groups. 32 states, including every state west of Texas, have passed "opt-out" legislation, and a California poll by David Binder found that voters oppose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" by 2-1.

Visit California NORML at Visit and for ongoing legislative information.

11. RAISE YOUR VOICE: Action Needed Against Higher Education Act Drug Provision

Hundreds of thousands of students are potentially affected, and thousands already known to have been affected, by a provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) passed in 1998 that delays or denies federal financial aid to any drug offender, a law going into effect July 1. Several things are needed to help get this destructive law repealed:

  1. We urgently need to hear from students who have been affected by this law, especially students who are willing to go public.
  2. Educators are needed to endorse our sign-on letter to Congress. If you teach or are otherwise involved in education, or are in a position to talk to educators, please write to us at [email protected] to request a copy of our educators letter and accompanying activist packet -- available by US mail or by e-mail.
  3. We need students at more campuses to take the reform resolution to their student governments. Campuses recently endorsing it include University of Michigan, Yale University, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, the Association of Big Ten Schools, Douglass College at Rutgers University and many more. Visit for information on the student campaign and how to get involved.
  4. All US voters are asked to visit to send a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 1053, a bill to repeal the HEA drug provision. Tell your friends and other like-minded people to visit this web site. Follow up your e-mail and faxes with phone calls; our system will provide you with the phone numbers to reach your US Representative and your two US Senators.
  5. Please contact us if you are involved with organizations that have mainstream credibility that might endorse a similar organizational sign-on letter -- organizations endorsing already include the NAACP, American Public Health Association, ACLU, United States Student Association, NOW, and a range of social, religious and other groups.
Visit and make your voice heard!

12. MORE ALERTS: New York and Washington State

Washington state residents, please support the legislators' call for a medical marijuana research program! Visit for information and to contact your state representative and senator, asking them to sign-on to Sen. Kohl-Welles' sign-on letter.

Please visit to send a fax or e-mail to your state legislators calling for repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws, and please forward this alert to other concerned parties, or use the "tell-a-friend" form on our web site. Read Wednesday's New York Times article about Monday's Albany rally against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, online at


13. EVENTS: District of Columbia, Toronto, New York, San Francisco

May 10-13, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 9th International Conference on Penal Abolition. At Ryerson Polytechnic Metropolitan United Church, $200 CND (agency), $140 CND (individual), $40 low-income, negotiable. Visit for information.

May 12, Brooklyn, NY, noon, "Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis," rally at Columbus Park for alternatives to prison as the sentencing norm for nonviolent women with dependent children. Call (718) 499-6704 for further information, or visit Columbus Park is in downtown Brooklyn at the intersection of Court and Johnson streets, near the Borough Hall subway stop.

May 17-20, Washington, DC, the 13th International Conference on Drug Policy Reform, sponsored by the Drug Policy Foundation. Visit, e-mail [email protected] or call (202) 537-5005 for further information.

May 22, New York, NY, 7:00pm, Gala Premiere of "GRASS" to benefit NORML. Preview screening of documentary by Ron Mann, at the AMC Empire, 25 Theatres, 234 W. 42nd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues). Party following at Bar Code, 1540 Broadway (between 45th and 46th Streets), 9:00-11:00pm. Tickets $50 each, call 1-888-67-NORML, seating limited.

August 10-13, San Francisco, CA, "Fourth Annual Hepatitis C Conference," sponsored by the HCV Global Foundation. For information or to register, visit or contact Krebs Convention Management Services, 657 Carolina Street, San Francisco, CA 94107-2725, (415) 920-7000, fax (415) 920-7001, [email protected].

14. EDITORIAL: Family Devalued

Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]

This week, forty-one year-old Linda Sue Martin of Medina, Ohio was sentenced to a year in prison on drug charges. No drugs were found in her home during a police search. The evidence against her consisted primarily of some paraphernalia and her admission to police, not that she had ever sold drugs, but simply that she had used them and that she had "cooked" some cocaine into crack. What is disturbing about her case, however, is how Ms. Martin came to the attention of the police. It seems that the police were alerted by local school authorities, who were themselves alerted by a school counselor. And how did the counselor find out about Ms. Martin's drug use? She was told by Ms. Martin's 14 year-old daughter who confided in the counselor, seeking help for her mother.

Based upon the daughter's subsequent statements to the police, we know that a prison term was not the "help" that she had in mind.

Programs like DARE, in which police officers teach a drug-related curriculum to more than 70% of all public high school students, have been widely criticized. In part, that criticism has sprung from stories of DARE officers urging students -- often elementary school students -- to turn in anyone they knew who uses drugs so they could be "helped." Family members included. But it is now becoming apparent that representatives of all kinds of societal institutions -- and not just those with guns and police powers, have been enlisted as informants for the American prison state.

Was no one empowered to call in a social worker? Was no one able to bring the mother in to talk to her about counseling, or to offer a referral to drug treatment? Was drug treatment even available? We don't know. What we do know is that prison space, perhaps in one of those brand-spanking new private prisons -- the ones being built around the country on spec, so sure is the gulag industry that our thirst for punishment will not soon be slaked -- was ready and waiting for Linda Sue Martin.

Now consider her daughter, and the thousands of other sons and daughters of drug users both occasional and chronic who, bombarded with anti-drug information -- often bordering on hysteria -- decide to take matters into their own hands to seek help for a parent or loved one. What happens to these children when their "tip" leads to the arrest and incarceration of the person they were trying to help? Would the child be better off seeing their parent get help, the family offered counseling and a process of healing begun within the family unit? Or do we truly believe that the child is better off having the police burst down the door, being held at gunpoint, the home ransacked and the parent carted away in handcuffs to return no time soon?

What must such an experience do to that child's view of society and its institutions? What lesson have we taught that child about our society's respect for and impact on the family? What does this scenario, and the policies that mandate such an outcome, say about the veracity of politicians who call for more aggressive prosecution of the drug war in the name of children and family values?

The truth is that the drug war is antithetical to family values, and to the well-being of children, to respect for the law and to the health and welfare of Americans. What it is about is feeding the ravenous prison-industrial complex, and turning unwitting children into snitches. It is about the expansion of the criminal justice system into what were once helping professions. It is about punishment and hysteria and the diminution of long-cherished rights. The drug war is fast turning the United States of America into the kind of place where a fourteen year-old girl, trying to get help for her mother, instead finds agents of the state lying in wait, eager and ready to destroy them both.

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