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Author, Filmmaker, Drug Reformer Mike Gray Dies

We received word Wednesday that Mike Gray, probably best known in the drug reform community as the author of "Drug Crazy: How We Got in this Mess and How We Can Get Out," has died.

Mike Gray, RIP
A fixture at drug reform conferences for the last decade, Gray had been a staunch advocate of ending drug prohibition and had worked with Robert Field at Common Sense for Drug Policy to publicize the abuses of the drug war and assist local activists seeking reform. Among his many works at CSDP were the DVDs "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition," highlighting spokespersons of the group by the same name, and "Cops & Clergy Condemn the War on Drugs."

Born in 1935 in Darlington, Indiana, Gray received an engineering degree from Purdue University, but found his life's work in documenting political violence as a filmmaker. He was a cofounder of the Chicago-based Film Group, a pioneering collection of documentary filmmakers whose works included "The Murder of Fred Hampton," the Chicago Black Panther leader gunned down by police in 1969. Gray's iconic coverage of the police riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention were seen around the world.

Gray moved to Los Angeles in 1973, where he expanded his creative endeavors to include screenwriting credits for four-time Oscar nominated "The China Syndrome" and other films, for episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," as well as a number of books. His written work addressed issues such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the use of the death penalty, as well as drug reform. In addition to "Drug Crazy," Gray returned to the issue of drug policy with "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington’s War on Drugs."

Gray won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Drama and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and for the BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.

Your reporter conversed briefly with Gray at the California NORML conference in January. He didn't appear to be in ill health; his death comes as a shock, if not a surprise, given his age. He will be missed.

 
 
 

Perspectives on the Denver "420" Disruption

Denver 420 rally, while it lasted (facebook.com/pages/420-Rally/104447806260934)
Yesterday's historic "420" rally in Denver, the first since Colorado voted to legalize marijuana last fall, was marred and cut short by violence. Two unidentified gunmen shot and wounded three people -- two attendees were shot in the leg and were rushed to a nearby hospital with "non-life-threatening-injuries," and a teen was grazed by a bullet and walked there, according to the Denver Post. Attendees fled the scene, and the remainder of the event as well a smaller one planned for today were canceled.

It was not the kind of day those three people or their friends had planned, and that's the most important thing to keep in mind. It was also not the kind of day that thousands attending including many who traveled from afar had planned either. It's lucky there were no trampling injuries, at least no serious ones, apparently.

Without forgetting what's most important -- the people most directly affected -- it's also worth noting that this is obviously not the kind of headline that legalization advocates wanted. The story had the top spot on Google News for a time last night, and continues to hold front page placement as I write this. That's an unfortunate accomplishment, particularly after the grim and violent week we just lived through. But does it hurt the cause?

After looking through news reports, I don't think so. The only criticism of the idea of the rally was from a Colorado anti-marijuana group, appearing well toward the end of the article. Most of it was sympathetic reporting about the victims, about organizers cooperating with police, police looking for information on the suspects, who the musical acts were, how police even before Amendment 64 passed had focused on crowd safety rather than marijuana enforcement during Denver's 420 events. I have not yet seen any quotes suggesting that marijuana use had any connection to the violence, though I've not done an exhaustive search.

Of course there's an opportunity cost from this unfortunate story replacing the story we'd hoped for of legal marijuana becoming a mainstream, accepted reality. And it's hard to know whether the coverage reflects maturation on the part of the media's treatment of the marijuana issue, vs. the violence forcing things into perspective. But I lean toward the former, and there's some comfort from seeing marijuana reformers and public safety personnel so clearly on the same side. At least that's how it looks from a distance. Our movement is part of larger society, and we are vulnerable to all the same dangers.

Let's hope the victims' injuries are no worse than reported, and for their swift recovery.

The International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Denver, October 2013

vigil outside Albuquerque Convention Center, 2009 drug policy reform conference
The International Drug Policy Reform Conference is a biennial event that brings together people from around the world who believe that the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. It brings together over 1,000 attendees representing 30 different countries.

StoptheDrugWar.org is a partner in this year's conference, which will take place October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, as officials craft the state's implementation plan for legal marijuana under Amendment 64. Attendees will have the opportunity to spend three days interacting with people committed to finding alternatives to the war on drugs -- marijuana legalization and many other issues in drug policy -- while participating in sessions given by leading experts from around the world.

Here are what some attendees had to say about the 2011 conference:

  • "The International Drug Reform Conference was, by far, one of the most eye opening experiences of my life... It felt as if I were at the epicenter of the most conscious people on the planet."
  • "Every workshop that I attended had excellent presenters and panelists. I was extremely pleased to once again attend the 2011 Reform Conference. It was more diverse than ever and very inclusive of issues that I support. See you in Denver!"
  • "The Drug Policy Alliance conference is an educational opportunity that every responsible individual should experience -- regardless of your position on the issues."
  • "Every two years I look forward to the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, where I know I'll get a chance to hear from, and speak with some of the brightest minds in the drug policy reform movement."
  • "If you think the drug war has failed our country and harmed countries like Mexico and you want to do something about it, this is the conference to be at."

Visit http://www.reformconference.org for further information.

Denver, CO
United States

How People Are Using Drug War Chronicle

A few of the testimonials we received this year -- and reasons to support our work with a donation!

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/stopsign-200px.jpg
Drug War Chronicle is one of the first resources I suggest to new students getting involved in the drug policy reform movement. There's nothing else out there that covers a wider variety of drug war issues each week. SSDP loves Drug War Chronicle, keep up the great work!
-Stacia Cosner, Associate Director, Students for Sensible Drug Policy

As part of a small staff without any single staff member devoted to research and policy, the Drug War Chronicle is one of the most useful resources I have to stay on top of important developments across the country. I direct a nationwide speakers bureau, and whenever I receive a request from a state I'm not familiar with, one of the first things I do is search my Drug War Chronicle email folder to get a clear summary of the latest updates from that state. Then I am able to confidently bring the speaker up-to-date and help him/her prepare to do a talk that is not only persuasive and credible, but also informed on the current local context, thanks to the DWC. If I didn't have the DWC I'd have to do endless online research and still never be quite sure if what I have is up-to-date. We also encourage all of our speakers to subscribe to stay on top of the most important updates on a weekly basis.-Shaleen Title, Speakers Bureau Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Drug War Chronicle has, for years, provided a vital and unparalleled source of rational, fact based analysis on the US Drug War for readers in the UK and Europe. Congratulations to the team are fully deserved; when the Drug war ends, the role of the Chronicle in its downfall will not be forgotten.
- Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

On behalf of California NORML, I strongly recommend the Drug War Chronicle. DWC consistently provides the most comprehensive, reliable, in-depth coverage of drug issues for the reform community. When Phil Smith calls me, I know that he will accurately report what I have said. DWC is a valuable resource, and I often consult its archives for background research on issues of interest.
- Dale Gieringer, Director, California NORML

Oaksterdam University has long enjoyed sharing the information compiled by Drug War Chronicle with students of the History of Cannabis and Marijuana Prohibition. DWT excerpts are informative and helpful to our Legal, Politics & History classes, as well as Civics, Dispensary Management and Operations, and Advocacy courses. One of the most important services we provide is the ability to bridge to sources of good information, and I have long considered you one of our vital resources. It is simply one of the most comprehensive sources I direct my students towards. Your website and communications are a cornerstone of our Political Science department, and provide important lessons for anyone involved with Cannabusiness or drug policy reform.
- Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor, Oaksterdam University

The West Coast Leaf always looks to the Drug War Chronicle to help us determine the most important stories for our newspaper. Its in-depth coverage is top-notch, providing a well-rounded perspective on the news, along with quotes from drug policy's doers and shakers. At times, we use the stories as well (with all due credit) so the impact of the Chronicle is amplified in print edition. It's a vital resource in activating the masses with relevant information needed to make reform happen.
- Mikki Norris, Publisher and Managing Editor of the West Coast Leaf

History

About main | Cause | Mission | History | Staff | Board of Directors | Board of Advisors

StoptheDrugWar.org was founded by David Borden in 1993 as the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), the pioneer organization for online activism in drug policy reform during the early days of the commercial internet. Since its inception the organization has staked out a clear and unambiguous stance in favor of ending drug prohibition outright.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/stopsign-200px.jpg
In 1997, the organization launched a weekly newsletter, originally titled The Week Online with DRCNet and now known as Drug War Chronicle. The Chronicle is a high-quality, in-depth, widely-read and frequently cited educational report covering the full range of drug policy issues. The Chronicle is also a platform for the movement as a whole, highlighting the work of our allied organizations and providing a platform for their leaders.

In late 1998, the organization launched the Higher Education Act Reform (HEA) Campaign, opposing a law passed that year taking financial aid away from students because of drug convictions. Ten members of Congress participated in a press conference organized in 2002 by DRCNet under the umbrella of the Coalition for Higher Education Reform, a record still in place for a drug policy reform press conference. The coalition achieved a partial reform to the law in 2006, when it was limited to offenses committed while a student is in school and receiving federal aid -- one of only a few scale-backs to the federal drug war to date. A further reform that would have further limited the law's reach to sales convictions passed the House of Representatives, but the section of the education package that contained the language was removed when Democrats combined it with health care reform in 2010 as part of their strategy to pass both bills.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/chear-2002-baldwin-250px.jpg
Ten members of Congress spoke at a 2002 press conference we organized calling for repeal of a law denying college aid to students because of drug convictions. Pictures: Rep. (now Sen.) Tammy Baldwin at podium, with Reps. Barbara Lee, Bobby Rush, Elijah Cummings and Rob Andrews.
Through the HEA campaign, together with outreach on our email list and the work of our staff and student partners, we launched Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) into an independent national organization. Media outreach conducted jointly by the two organizations from 1999 through 2002 garnered coverage in most national media outlets. StoptheDrugWar.org also sponsored a scholarship fund supporting students losing aid under the law, the John W. Perry Fund, honoring a widely admired police officer who lost his life at the World Trade Center, who had been active in the drug policy reform movement.

In late 2001 StoptheDrugWar.org launched "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," a global campaign and conference series. The lead event took place in Mérida, Mexico, drawing 300 attendees including legislators from seven countries. At the time Out from the Shadows Mérida featured the most extensive high level political participation ever seen at a drug policy reform conference.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/sen-carlos-gaviria-diaz-out-from-the-shadows-2003.jpg
Sen. Carlos Gaviria Diaz at our 2003 Latin American drug legalization conference, discussing the ruling he authored as Chief Justice of Colombia's Constitutional Court legalizing personal drug possession.
In August 2006, we redesigned our web site and expanded our web site content model, incorporating a daily blog and other new content types, and shifting our newsletter itself from a weekly to a daily publishing model. Another site redesign was performed in 2010, and during that year StoptheDrugWar.org web site traffic first exceeded two million unique visitors. Today StoptheDrugWar.org content continues to be reprinted and widely made use of by organizations around the world. Site content is regularly cited or reprinted on top-read sites such as Alternet and Andrew Sullivan's "The Dish" blog.

In this time of scarcer funding, StoptheDrugWar.org has continued our primary focus on publishing and information, while also taking on areas of importance to drug policy reform in which we are in a position to make an impact through targeted efforts. Through our network of organizational contacts built in the HEA campaign, we play an important role in DC-based justice reform working groups, recruiting signatories for sign-on letters to Congress. In September 2012 we held our first in a series of member teleconferences, this one featuring representatives of the three legalization initiatives. We are currently in the process of developing a set of new content areas for our web site and social media that will focus new attention on the harms of drug prohibition and alternatives.

Live Video from Oakland Demo

Live video feed from the Oakland "Save Harborside" medical marijuana protest.

Obama is scheduled to arrive at the fundraiser at 4:30pm PST -- protest goes until 6:00pm PST.

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Rally at Obama Fundraiser, Oakland on Monday, to Save Harborside and Medical Marijuana

(Update: Live video feed from the protest.)

July 23rd, 3:30 PM OBAMA KEEP YOUR PROMISE!

Protest federal cannabis raids when the President visits Oakland, the target of DOJ raids on Harborside, Oaksterdam U., and other medical cannabis centers.

Gather at Oakland City Hall Plaza, 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza:

12 noon - Political Theater
3:00 pm - Protest
4:30 pm - President Obama arrives at Fox Theater

http://www.facebook.com/events/342631035818988/

http://stopthedrugwar.org/trenches/2012/jul/20/rally_monday_obama_fundraiser_oa

#SaveHarborside

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Date: 
Mon, 07/23/2012 - 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana

MEDIA ADVISORY

Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
July 20, 2012
Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes or ASA California Director Don Duncan

Medical Marijuana Patients to Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks
President Obama's visit to Oakland follows aggressive DOJ actions aimed at shutting down city-permitted dispensaries

Oakland, CA -- Hundreds of medical marijuana patients and advocates will stage a rally Monday in downtown Oakland at a fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign. The president's visit to Oakland follows a recent forfeiture action aimed at shutting down Harborside Health Center, a city-permitted dispensary that has operated since 2006 without incident. Earlier this year, the Obama Justice Department raided and shut down another of Oakland's permitted dispensaries, Blue Sky, leaving the city with a dwindling number of facilities to serve Oakland's patient population. On Monday, protesters will demand an end to federal interference and call for the firing of Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for northern California.

What: Rally and press conference to protest federal attacks on the medical marijuana community and on Oakland's dispensaries in particular
When: Monday, July 23rd Press Conference at 1:45pm (Rally Noon-5pm)
Where: Press conference at Oaksterdam University, 1600 Broadway, Oakland (Rally at City Hall Plaza)

"The Obama Administration's attacks on the medical marijuana community are unprecedented and out-of-control," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy organization and one of the groups organizing Monday's rally. "We're here to let the president know that there's a political, and not just a financial, cost to shutting down law-abiding dispensaries," continued Sherer. "Patients are demanding that the president take account for his administration's harmful actions and address medical marijuana like the public health issue that it is."

President Obama has been dogged for the actions of U.S. Attorneys over the past two years, as his administration engaged in an all-out attack in medical marijuana states. From thinly-veiled threats against public officials in several medical marijuana states to hundreds of SWAT-style raids and threats against property owners, resulting in the closure of hundreds of dispensaries in California and other states, Obama's Justice Department has expended millions of dollars to target state law-compliant businesses.

These attacks represent an about-face to President Obama's stated policy that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." Most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month that his Justice Department was only targeting medical marijuana businesses "out of conformity with state law." Four days later, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided El Camino Wellness, a legally permitted dispensary in Sacramento widely supported by City Council members and others in the community.

Just last week, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of Harborside Health Center, lauded as the most popular dispensary in the country, in an attempt to shut down its two facilities in Oakland and San Jose. The legal action by Haag elicited outrage from not just the medical marijuana community, but also from a number of supportive public officials, including Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and Betty Yee of the State Board of Equalization, which collects more than $100 million in annual sales tax revenue from California's dispensaries.

In May, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee unanimously adopted a resolution, decrying the federal raids as "a breach of promise and ill-directed use of taxpayer dollars," and calling on the federal government "to adhere to Administration promises about respecting state laws on medical marijuana by directing federal agencies to cease and desist from any further such action in California."

# # #

With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Dr. Bronner's Head Arrested in White House Hemp Civil Disobedience Action

protest cage with "Mr. President, Let U.S. Farmers Grow Hemp" sign
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which imports more than 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canadian farmers, was arrested by members of the DC Metropolitan Police Department after committing an act of civil disobedience within sight of the White House early Monday morning. Bronner and fellow hemp activists pulled up to 16th and H Streets NW, unloaded a jail cell-like structure (to prevent police from immediately interfering), which Bronner locked himself into with 12 hemp plants. He then proceeded to harvest the plants and press hemp oil from them. (Bronner was planning to spread the oil on slices of bread and share it with onlookers, but that was unconfirmed at press time.) [Ed: Read our accompanying interview with David Bronner here, and watch video footage here.]

Bronner said he was waging a "beer bet" with President Obama that the hemp plants are not marijuana and have no drug value. The plants were grown from Canadian hemp seed, and under Canadian regulations, hemp can have no more than 0.3% THC, meaning the plants have no use as a medicinal or recreational drug.

"The industrial hemp plants I am harvesting and processing into oil cannot produce a high of any kind, but according to the Obama administration I'm in possession of approximately 10 pounds of marijuana," said Bronner. "President Obama's US Attorney who handles drug cases in Washington, DC will not be able to prove my hemp has any more drug value than a poppy seed bagel.  The Obama position on hemp is not science-based or good for the US economy. We've lobbied and campaigned for over a decade and feel abandoned by our president, who as an Illinois state legislator voted twice for hemp cultivation."

Activists at Vote Hemp, with which Bronner is affiliated, held meetings with the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2010 to seek a change in hemp policy, but that effort went nowhere. They then took advantage of the White House's public online petition program to ask it to revise US drug policies to allow for domestic hemp production -- it took a federal court order several years ago to force the DEA to allow hemp products to be imported -- but after a seven month delay, all they got was a slap in the face.

That slap came in the form of a one-paragraph response from ONDCP head Gil Kerlikowske entitled "What We Have to Say About Marijuana and Hemp Production."

David Bronner at the White House, with media and supporters
"America's farmers deserve our Nation's help and support to ensure rural America's prosperity and vitality," Kerlikowske wrote. "Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety."

"I expected more from President Obama," Bronner said. "The president can simply direct the Department of Justice to respect industrial hemp grown pursuant to existing state hemp programs, such as North Dakota's. Everyone is sick and tired of America's bankrupt policy on hemp that forces our company to send well over a hundred thousand dollars every year to Canadian farmers. I had hoped that President Obama would not succumb to drug warriors' hysteria regarding hemp. I really don't know what else to do to get our 'Chief Law Enforcement Officer' to take a rational science-based approach to hemp policy in this country."

If the administration won't act, perhaps Congress will. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Department reauthorization bill. That amendment clarifies that hemp is an "agricultural crop" and should not be considered the same as marijuana.

While Bronner and other hemp activists support that effort, they argue that it's not the law but its deliberate misreading that is at the root of the problem.

"Senator Wyden's effort is truly commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law than the deliberate misinterpretation of existing law by regressive drug warriors entrenched in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other high level members of the Obama Administration," Bronner said.

Now, with civil disobedience within eyeshot of the White House, the hempsters are hoping to up the pressure on the White House to act.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington, DC
United States

Interview: David Bronner and the White House Hemp Civil Disobedience

David Bronner grinds hemp plants into oil, H St. outside Lafayette Park at the White House, 6/11/12
[This interview with David Bronner was conducted Sunday afternoon, prior to today's civil disobedience action. Read our accompanying news report on the action here, and watch video footage here.]

Drug War Chronicle: You have been making efforts to get the Obama administration to reassess its hemp policy. How has that been going?

David Bronner: It's been incredibly frustrating. It's been clear for some time that Obama is being incredibly lame on this. It took them seven months to answer our hemp petition, and when they did, it was with this Orwellian response calling hemp marijuana and opposing legalization. They also refused to meet with a North Dakota delegation, where everyone from the governor on down wants to grow hemp, so what are we going to do?

Chronicle: And now we have the Wyden-Paul amendment. What do you think of that and what are its chances?

Bronner: The introduction of the Wyden amendment is good news. Rand Paul came on board, too. The drug warriors will try to strip it out of the farm bill, of course, but maybe the energy out of this civil disobedience action will do the trick. The introduction of the amendment last week certainly sets up this action nicely.

Chronicle: You will be transporting hemp plants to the vicinity of the White House and processing them to produce hemp oil, but the federal government doesn't differentiate hemp from marijuana. You're going to have about 10 pounds of hemp. Aren't you worried about the possible legal consequences?

Bronner: I will be inside a steel cage to prevent police from getting to me while I prepare the hemp oil-

Chronicle: That's a switch.

Bronner: Yeah, although I do expect to eventually be arrested. I'll plead not guilty; this isn't marijuana. I'll fight them all the way, unless all they want to do is give me something like a traffic ticket. Medical marijuana has provided many opportunities for civil disobedience, but hemp is different. You're not going to have a farmer spending months growing a hundred acres for an act of civil disobedience, so I'm doing it.

Chronicle: But it's not just about hemp or what goes on in Washington, DC, for you, is it?

Bronner: We just gave $50,000 to the cannabis legalization campaign in Colorado. Although that initiative does direct the legislature to enact a hemp farming program, this is mainly about legalization. We'll give money to the Washington state effort, too, because once one or two states go, there will be a seismic shift, and the prohibition of hemp will become increasingly lame and untenable.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington
United States

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