Editorial: Courage and Perseverance 6/6/03

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David Borden

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 6/6/03

One of the moral charges leveled by campaigners against New York state's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws is that the typically young, typically minority men and women whom the laws take, typically from New York City, are then sent up New York state's rivers to serve their years or decades in prisons located far from their families, providing government employment and economic activity to the typically white residents of those upstate communities. On a drive to a meeting near Albany last Monday, it was inevitable I would encounter highway signs offering directions to one or more of the state's many prisons that warehouse Rockefeller's victims. And so I did -- a sobering reminder of the reasons we in the drug reform movement do what we do.

It is fitting, then, that the other reason I came to New York was for Wednesday's historic "hip-hop" rally to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Promises of a celebrity-led event that would dramatically expand the coalition opposing the laws did not disappoint; it was exciting to see the reform stalwarts of New York Mothers of the Disappeared share the stage with literally dozens of famous and impressive allies from the worlds of entertainment and politics and civil rights.

But even this larger coalition has its work cut out for it. The upstate/downstate schism is not only one more morally repulsive aspect of the Rockefeller laws; it is also a principle difficulty the effort to repeal them faces. New York City-area politicians on their own are more than ready to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. But many of their colleagues upstate rely on the votes of constituents who have become economically dependent on the work that the prisons, and hence the prisoners, provide them. For an upstate legislator, a vote for repeal may be seen as a vote to lose his or her district jobs, at least in the short term -- and in politics the short term is what determines whether you keep your job or lose it.

But that doesn't mean it can't be done. Though in politics, right doesn't always equal might, the rightness of a cause can and will build political might, if its proponents show perseverance and courage and continue to speak the truth until they prevail. The movement to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws has succeeded in a huge way in bringing attention to a terrible injustice. Ultimately, no economic vested interest will stand against the knowledge of that awful reality.

The same holds true for the rest of drug policy reform. We who oppose not only the Rockefeller Drug Laws but the incarceration of half a million nonviolent drug offenders nationwide also have truth and right as our allies. So do we who oppose the drug war as a whole, and so do we who go the furthest and call for an end to drug prohibition itself. Our struggle may take longer, but if we have the courage to speak the truth, it will not be infinite. Truth and justice will prevail, if those who value them persevere.

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Issue #290, 6/6/03 Editorial: Courage and Perseverance | Thousands Rally in NYC to Demand Repeal of Rockefeller Drug Laws | Medical Marijuana Cultivator Rosenthal Sentenced to One Day, Plus Probation | DEA Uses RAVE Act Threats to Block Montana NORML/SSDP Benefit | Dems on Drugs: The Presidential Contenders and Their Drug Policies | In a Strong Reversal, Congress Prohibits Drug Czar from Running Ads Against Ballot Measures and Candidates | Newsbrief: Texas Governor Signs Bill Freeing Tulia 14 | Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform -- No in Oklahoma | Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform -- Yes in Missouri | Newsbrief: Feds Reject MPP Complaint Against Drug Czar | Newsbrief: The Next Prohibition? Surgeon General Supports Banning Tobacco | Newsbrief: Belgian Marijuana Decriminalization Now in Effect | Newsbrief: DEA Can't Kidnap People in Other Countries, Federal Court Rules | The Reformer's Calendar

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