Tuesday, December 02, 2003


He's back. The New Jersey Weedman, Ed Forchion will be finishing up his 20 months of parole on December 3 and plans to mark the occassion on December 6 by smoking marijuana with other activists in front of our national symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, as "a patriotic thing" and a religious demonstration.

Forchion is no stranger to demonstrations at government sites. He has been arrested for smoking marijuana inside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton and in front of the Burlington County Administration Building in Mount Holly.

He said he has more than one intention for his Dec. 6 visit to the Liberty Bell. While there, he will also officially launch a 2004 run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 3rd District, which is currently represented by Republican Jim Saxton of Mount Holly.

Ed is best known for his for the pro-marijuana TV ads he attempted to air in New Jersey. We wish him the best of luck on his campaign.


Congratulations to the Oregon chapters of NORML and the ACLU for successfully beating back a DEA attempt to suppress their right to assemble at the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards banquet was held last Saturday at the Lloyd Center DoubleTree Hotel. The DEA once again evoked the ill-conceived RAVE ACT to intimidate the Hotel into cancelling the event.

This conflict was underlined on Nov. 13, when Ken Magee of the Oregon office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration wrote a letter to the DoubleTree Hotel. Delivered in person by two DEA agents, the letter noted NORML's plans for a marijuana-judging event to be held at the banquet and asked an ominous question: Did the hotel intend to "knowingly permit...the illegal possession, conspiracy to possess or to aid and abet the possession of marijuana"?

Facing the possibility of having their hotel seized by the feds, DoubleTree officials promptly informed NORML it was canceling its contract to host the banquet.

Maybe the DEA was expecting the activists to cave in to the edict as they had in previous assaults on free speech in Montana.

Instead, NORML attorney Paul Loney contacted the Oregon ACLU. The group recruited Portland lawyer Michael Harting, who, in conjunction with the national ACLU's top-gun drug-policy lawyer, Graham Boyd, fired off letters to the hotel and the DEA threatening legal action for breach of contract and violation of the First Amendment.

In the end, NORML dropped its "Beautiful Bud Award," the DEA and hotel mellowed out, and the affair came off without a hitch.

These are dangerous times for activists my friends, but the only way we are going to win this war is by standing up to these violations of our civil liberties. Thanks to the Oregon crowd for showing us how it's done.


In a recent essay, Ted Galen Carpenter asks, is it Time to Reconsider the U.S. War On Drugs? I don't actually know who this guy is but he makes a lot of sense.

We have filled our prisons with drug offenders — and diverted criminal justice resources and personnel away from serious crimes to wage the drug war.

Washington’s supply-side campaign was meant to stem the flow of drugs into the United States. But — the evidence is glaringly clear — that campaign has not worked, is not working and, given economic realities, will not work.

He makes a good case for the detrimental effect the US drug market has on source countries, particularly in Latin America.

Yet, even if the governments of drug-source countries enact the most comprehensive and worthwhile economic reforms and even if Washington adopts unusually enlightened trade policies, one thing is for certain: Drug commerce will continue to play a disproportionate role in many Latin American countries — unless the United States ends its futile experiment in drug prohibition.

Without that action, drug trafficking still will carry a risk premium that drives up the price and the profit margin. Traffickers will still be able to pay farmers more than they can make from alternative crops or alternative occupations.

Galen also makes a good case for the benefits of legalization.

Drug legalization would mean to treat currently illicit drugs the same way as alcohol and tobacco are now treated. Such a shift would provide important benefits to the United States: It would eliminate a significant portion of the crime and violence that now plagues the streets of major U.S. cities.

It would also halt the downright clogging of the court system with charges against non-violent drug offenders — as well as the clogging of our prisons with such inmates. In addition, abandoning the drug war would stop the alarming erosion of civil liberties.

....Equally important, ending our latest fling with prohibition would free up thousands of personnel and billions of dollars for waging the war against terrorism.

Imagine if all the well-trained personnel working for the DEA (to say nothing of the talent being wasted in state and local anti-drug units) could he reassigned to antiterrorism missions.

Galen acknowledges that legalization is not without its pitfalls, but sums the situation up succinctly.

Legalization may not be a panacea — but it certainly beats the alternative

And that's the last word today.


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