Wednesday, May 31, 2006

THC makes you smarter: Episode 2

As promised, here's another episode of Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way - an excellent documentary being aired by The History Channel (THC). This episode focuses on the history of marijuana and methamphetamine, while the one I posted on Sunday focuses on cocaine.

You won't learn this stuff in DARE, kiddos:

Note: This clip is 44 minutes long. Get comfortable.

Stay tuned for the episode on heroin and other opiates.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

EZ-Bake madness

The latest victory in our nation's War on Terror...
Students Face 10 to 20-Year Jail Sentences For Pot Pastry Prank:
DALLAS — The honor student who delivered marijuana-spiked muffins to the teachers lounge at a friend's high school said Friday that it was all just a senior prank, one he never imagined would trigger an FBI and terrorism investigation.

However, authorities and some of the 18 people hospitalized after snacking on the drugged pastries say the crime is no laughing matter. The two teens arrested in the case face felony charges that carry up to 10 years in prison.
TEN YEARS!?!?! For giving people the munchies?Now, of course, it's a bad idea to drug ANYONE without their consent. It was clearly a stupid stunt that shouldn't be repeated by anyone. But... come on! Spiking the punch at the high school dance has been an age-old prank that I'm sure has never landed a student behind bars for a decade. And injesting alcohol actually presents a real risk of injury or death, while the biggest risk presented here was that Ms. Mitchell would start playing Bob Marley for her history class or Mr. Stern would take his biology class on a spontaneous field trip to the woods.

As expected, the district attorney's office is working long hours to ensure that these hardened criminals will be wearing orange jumpsuits for a long time.
Because of the presence of illegal drugs, the Dallas County district attorney's office is seeking to upgrade the charges to second-degree felonies, which could mean up to 20 years in prison, spokeswoman Rachel Raya said.
Twenty years. For marijuana muffins. The justification?
Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist and terrorism expert at the University of Baltimore, said the serious approach is a sign of the times.

"A decade ago, chances are these kids would be probably charged with mischief or something," he said. "What is happening right now is, the public is very scared about the possibility of bioterrorism."
Right. So... muffins laced with a substance that has never killed anyone is equated with BIOTERRORISM. Meanwhile, our favorite Congresscritter is pushing for the government to release a malignant fungus on other countries where coca is grown.


I kicked a vice principal's ass

The most recent issue of American Teacher, the official newspaper of the American Federation of Teachers, includes a debate between myself and a school vice principal on the issue of random student drug testing.

I tailored my pitch to the educators who read the publication:
President Bush recently requested $15 million for random student drug testing. School officials interested in the money are rightly concerned with keeping young people safe. But drug testing is an ineffective, invasive and costly procedure that can make existing drug problems worse.

Drug testing isn’t just contrary to common sense; science confirms it doesn’t work. A federally funded study of 90,000 students at 900 schools found no difference in drug use between schools that test and those that don’t.


In a time when school districts are cutting programs and teacher salaries just to keep the lights on, flushing money down the toilet on drug testing is unconscionable. Limited drug-prevention resources should go toward implementing education and counseling programs that provide students with the support they need to make responsible choices.
Not bad appealing to the audience, eh?

Vice Principal Alanna R. Huck, on the other hand, took the opportunity to criticize the federal student drug testing grant program that funds the testing of her students, claiming it doesn't go far enough.
Sensible implementation of drug testing is a key concern, of course. If Congress is to appropriate more money for drug testing, I believe that drug testing should be used for all students and not just for the extracurricular student population, as the current policy dictates. Drug use knows no boundaries and all students should be subjected to the test in order for a program to truly work. All students must realize that drugs have an adverse effect on physical, mental and emotional health.
Sorry, Vice Principal Huck, but you lose the debate. You didn't say anything in your piece that refutes the scientific study I cited, nor did you address the important concerns I raised about trust issues between students and school officials.

At the risk of sounding cocky (I don't care what you think anyway - I'm the shit!), I'm going to proclaim absolute victory. I simply kicked her ass. I hope my showboating doesn't get me called to the vice principal's office...

Drug War: Job security for law enforcement

This cartoon appeared in The Buffalo News on May 25.

As the wise Cliff Thornton always says: the Drug War is meant to be waged, not won.


Nicotine harm reduction

There's a fantastic Op-Ed in today's Washington Post about the failure of the abstinence-only approach many anti-smoking advocates take. Some good parallels can be drawn to the larger anti-drug effort.
Cigarette smoke is a deadly delivery device for a benign but habit-forming product: nicotine. Nicotine isn't especially dangerous -- about like caffeine. Good policy toward tobacco use would reduce the grave harm of smoking by replacing cigarettes with non-smoked forms of nicotine for the addicts. They might use nicotine safely forever, if harmless delivery systems were widely available.Instead, nicotine abstinence is the policymakers' only approach to tobacco. Like other abstinence campaigns (alcohol prohibition, sexual abstinence before marriage, just saying "no" to drugs), this one is both moralistic and ineffective.


Obviously, nicotine use is a popular and tenacious habit. Equally obviously, tobacco policy is a failure. Surveys show that a majority of current smokers would like good alternatives to smoking as ways of getting nicotine. But we will not tell nicotine users that there are safe ways to continue to use the legal drug they crave. Apparently, our policymakers would rather see those people get sick and die.
This approach is eerily similar to the way that the drug warriors would apparently rather see injection drug users die from AIDS than have access to clean needles. Unfortunately, drug control policy in the U.S. is dominated by ideology and moralism rather than by science and reason. The drug warriors keep sticking their heads in the sand and hoping for a drug-free America while real solvable problems go unaddressed because public resources are tied up in ineffective abstinence-only programs.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Government tries to kick SSDP out of court

CONTACT: Tom Angell – (202) 293-4414 or tom//at//
Dan Berger – (831) 471-9000 or dberger//at//

Department of Education Tries to Dismiss Student Lawsuit

Students, ACLU Move for Injunction on Anti-Education Drug Law

ABERDEEN, SD – The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) moved on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a student group and the ACLU that seeks to overturn a penalty that has stripped college financial aid from nearly 200,000 students with drug convictions. Also on Friday, students and the ACLU filed an unrelated motion for a preliminary injunction, hoping to bar DoE from further denying aid to students with drug convictions while the lawsuit moves forward.

“As usual, the federal government wants to silence students’ voices and prevent us from challenging Drug War policies that hurt our generation,” said Kris Krane, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the group that filed the lawsuit against DoE. “We will have our day in court, we will win, and we will make sure that no student ever again has to worry about losing his or her access to education because of a minor drug conviction.”

The SSDP and ACLU suit claims the Higher Education Act’s Aid Elimination Penalty unconstitutionally punishes people twice for the same offense, violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. The penalty also irrationally designates a class of people, low- to middle-income students with drug convictions, as unworthy of educational aid, violating the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

“All students deserve an education,” said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. “The court should suspend enforcement of the Aid Elimination Penalty until it has carefully and thoroughly considered the constitutional issues.”

The case is SSDP v. Spellings, filed on March 22 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota. The complaint and related motions may be viewed online at

Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a national organization with college and high school chapters, is committed to providing education on harms caused by the War on Drugs, working to involve youth in the political process, and promoting an open, honest, and rational discussion of alternative solutions to our nation's drug problems.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

SSDP at summer festivals - Will you be there?

I hope you are all having a great summer so far. For many of us, the beginning of summer is not only exciting because of beach days and flip-flops, but also because it's an opportunity to combine two of our favorite things: music & activism.


There are a number of fun festivals happening around the country this summer, and these present an excellent opportunity for SSDPers to spread the word about our organization, while also having a great time listening to good music. I've listed some of the major festivals at the bottom of this post, so if you see one that is in your area and you think you might want to go, contact me and I can get SSDP materials out to you. By volunteering just a few hours of your time at a festival, you could help SSDP reach out to many people who could potentially start chapters on their campuses or donate to SSDP.

By far, the largest summer festival is Bonnaroo, which is taking place on the weekend of June 15-18 in Manchester, TN. I will be heading down to Bonnaroo for my third year, and will be setting up an SSDP booth close to the main stage area. At the booth, we will be distributing materials, collecting e-mail addresses, selling merchandise, and encouraging students to start chapters. The area behind the booth will function as a "base camp" for any SSDPers who are at the festival. It will be a place where we can hang out and get to know eachother between sets, while helping to staff the table.

If you are planning on attending Bonnaroo, contact me so that we can make plans to meet up in Tennessee. If you not sure if you are going yet, take it from me, it's well worth the pricey ticket. Go to Bonnaroo's website and check out the line-up. There's literally something for everyone.


WAKARUSA: June 8-11 Lawrence, KS $119.00
BONNAROO: June 16-18 Manchester, TN $184.50
HIGH SIERRA: June 29 - July 3 Quincy, CA $145.00
10,000 LAKES: July 19-22 Detroit Lakes, MN $120.00
LOLLAPALOOZA: August 4-6 Chicago, IL
BURNING MAN: August 28 - Sept 4 Black Rock Desert, NV $250
AUSTIN CITY LIMITS: September 15-17 Austin, TX

For smaller, local festivals happening around your area, go to JamBase.

As Neil Young says, "Keep on rockin' in the free world!"

THC makes you smarter

The History Channel (THC), has been running a program called Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way for several months now. Though I haven't seen all of the series, I've been incredibly impressed with what I have seen so far.

If you still think that drugs were made illegal in order to protect Americans from drug abuse, then you must watch this documentary. As the historian, Cliff Schaffer, puts it: "All of our drug laws have been originally based on racism."

You can find that quote and more in the following episode from the series, which focuses on cocaine:

Warning: This video is 43 minutes long. Grab yourself a snack.

Update: I just found two of the other episodes (one focuses on opium & heroin, while the other focuses on marijuana & methamphetamine). But, so as not to overwhelm you with too many videos at once (and to keep you coming back for more), I'll be posting the other videos in installments on Wednesday and Saturday. Stay tuned...