Friday, June 29, 2007
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Has the recent "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case confused you about the current state of free speech rights in public high schools?
As we informed you earlier this week, the Morse v. Frederick Supreme Court ruling was a mixed bag for students -- giving high school principals permission to punish students for speech that encourages illegal drug use, while at the same time protecting speech that promotes drug policy reform.
To help you sort out which speech is protected and which is not in this post-Bong Hits 4 Jesus world, we've teamed up with our friends at RedAphid.com to create "Bong Hits 4 Jesus - The Game!"
Will you be a permissive principal, who allows all speech no matter how much it encourages drug use? Or will you seek to restrict all speech that the Court has deemed punishable under the Constitution? It's up to you, but watch out who you suspend -- you might get sued!
If you support students' rights to free speech, check out SSDP's new line of "Free Speech 4 Students" apparel. Your purchase helps us to protect young peoples' ability to speak out against destructive drug policies.
And don't forget to share this game with your friends by clicking "Get The Code" in the game screen and pasting the code into your Myspace profile or blog!
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Gratuitous stoner joke: "But officer, we were BAKING! (barely suppressed giggles)"
The Senate is one thing, but repealing or changing the law also requires action in the House of Representatives. According to SSDP's Angell, the prospects look very good there indeed.
"We fully expect the HEA reauthorization bill in the House will include full repeal," he said, citing the support of key committee members who support it led by House Education and Labor Committee chairman Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and including Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ).
"We think the Senate HELP committee has expressed its intent to not see this penalty enforced anymore, so with full repeal language in the House, we'll be in a good position to really, finally achieve repeal."
But that's getting a little bit ahead of the game. While chances are good for HEA drug provision repeal this year, it isn't a done deal yet, and there is always Souder lurking in the wings. "There is still a lot of work to be done," said Angell. "We have to make sure there are no hostile amendments on the floor, and Souder is still on the committee. He's sure to offer an amendment, and we need to be arming our allies in Congress with the information they need to defeat that amendment.
I propose that if we are indeed successful in finally repealing the penalty, everyone in the national office change their last name to Souderbane. We can have a cool King Arthur-esque name changing ceremony. "Tom Angell, kneel. I dub thee SIR Thomas Souderbane, Knight of the Drug Policy Reform Movement. Please rise." Because that would be my idea of a rockin' celebration and, for that matter, a funny joke. (sigh)
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
D.A.R.E. Executive Director Glenn Levant once quipped, "Scientists will tell you bumblebees can't fly, but we know they can."
Haha! I can just imagine the scene in which that was quipped:
Levant: (sitting at cluttered desk, poring over volumes of researchers' findings) What the hell! Freakin' scientists! For the last time, everyone KNOWS that bumblebees can fly! Just say NO damnit!
Anyway, my new favorite quote comes from this article that Irina sent me. It's a lengthy (I like to call it "thorough"), but good essay about drug education in elementary school. It also provides a nice hilarious recap of many classic anti-drug ads (have you done the action alert yet? Look to the right, we're lighting money on fire, people).
Monday, June 25, 2007
SSDP filed an amicus brief in this case because we were concerned that a negative ruling would curtail students' abilities to discuss drug policy reform in public schools, or even allow schools to prevent students from forming SSDP chapters. The school district had argued that any speech that could be "reasonably gleaned" to express a positive sentiment about drugs (including promoting the legalization of marijuana), or is contrary to the school's "anti-drug" mission (like criticizing drug testing or locker search policies), could be a punishable offense.
Thankfully the Supreme Court agreed with the arguments SSDP set forth in our brief, limiting punishable speech to that which expressly promotes drug use. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts states: "[T]his is plainly not a case about political debate over the criminalization of drug use or possession." In a concurring opinion, Justices Alito and Kennedy joined with the majority, with the understanding that the ruling "provides no support for any restriction of speech that can plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue, including speech on issues such as 'the wisdom of the war on drugs or of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.'"
Clearly, the arguments put forth in SSDP's brief, and those of our allies like the Drug Policy Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union, played a role in ensuring that the justices drew a line between speech that promotes drug use and that which promotes drug policy reform. However, we are concerned that the Supreme Court's decision could cause confusion among school administrators, who may overreach and punish students for speech about drug policy despite the Court's ruling today. Rest assured, SSDP and our allies will continue to ensure that students maintain the right to discuss important drug policy issues in school, and we will fight any efforts to scale back that right.
If you support the work that SSDP does to protect students’ right to criticize harmful drug policies, please make a financial contribution today at http://www.ssdp.org/donate/
While SSDP's legal work may have helped shape the outcome of this ruling, we undoubtedly influenced media's portrayal of the case. During the oral arguments, SSDP flew in high school students from across the country to demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court, holding up "Free Speech 4 Students" banners. Our rally became the lasting visual image of the case, being featured on CNN.com, CBS.com, MSNBC.com, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and every major TV news outlet. You can view press coverage, including a montage of video news clips, at http://www.ssdp.org/freespeech/#media
Today's decision is a mixed bag for the free speech rights of students, but we are thankful that the Court had the wisdom to protect our right to debate drug policy issues in schools. Perhaps most inspiring are the words of Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg, in their dissent, which provides hope for anyone who believes that the War on Drugs has failed our society. They addressed the issue eloquently and directly, stating:
"Reaching back still further, the current dominant opinion supporting the war on drugs in general, and our anti-marijuana laws in particular, is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student. While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs. The ensuing change in public opinion occurred much more slowly than the relatively rapid shift in Americans' views on the Vietnam War, and progressed on a state-by-state basis over a period of many years. But just as prohibition in the 1920's and early 1930's was secretly questioned by thousands of otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies, today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana, and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product, lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority is silencing opponents of the war on drugs. Surely our national experience with alcohol should make us wary of dampening speech suggesting - however inarticulately - that it would be better to tax and regulate marijuana than to persevere in a futile effort to ban its use entirely.Justice Stevens, Students for Sensible Drug Policy respectfully concurs.
"Even in high school, a rule that permits only one point of view to be expressed is less likely to produce correct answers than the open discussion of countervailing views ... In the national debate about a serious issue, it is the expression of the minority's viewpoint that most demands the protection of the First Amendment. Whatever the better policy may be, a full and frank discussion of the costs and benefits of the attempt to prohibit the use of marijuana is far wiser than suppression of speech because it is unpopular."
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We hear so much from the left about how war and security policies are destructive to social freedom, and so much from the right about how economic depression is used as an excuse to curtail the economic liberties once enjoyed by US citizens, but far too little, in my estimation, about the extent to which the 'war on drugs' has served as a wrecking ball to nearly all of the first ten amendments to the Constitution - 3 being the only one arguably left untainted.
Yet a good part of our citizenry, including the few charged with guarding our liberties, are quite willing to let them be whisked away in the hopes that they can be traded for other societal amenities - security, equality, or most misguidedly, a 'drug free' nation.
Today, for example, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in the ridiculously publicized "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, that speech that could encourage drug use is so bad - and the control of it so fundamental - that it is more important than the protections guaranteed by the first amendment, at least in school.
We must wonder - will there be the creation of a list of content-based bans on speech? Which topics will be offered the mitigated version of freedom of speech, if any? First drugs, then sex, then religion, and soon and inevitably: dissent or radical topics of any kind.
There are few things that the founding thinkers of our nation agreed upon - and even fewer which contemporary historians agree that they agreed upon. One item that had the broadest support - if not near consensus - at the constitutional convention, in the public dialog that followed, and especially in the state proceedings to ratify the Constitution - was the simple idea that government was to be limited to the specific authority granted it.
The words "congress shall make no law," the very first words of the bill of rights, do not say, "congress shall make no law except where drugs are being discussed." They do not say, "Congress shall make no law except when school administrators think they should." They do not have an 'except' at all, and they were not meant to be interpreted as if they did.
Madison wrote (albeit not without a bit of consternation) that Congress shall make NO LAW abridging free speech. Any reasonable reading of the plain language leaves no room for consideration of the speech in question or the type of abrigement that Congress is asking it to endure.
Granted, none of the founders, at least in the forums I have mentioned, advocated applying the provisions of the first amendment to the states, which is the situation here. However, that was not an issue in this case. None of the Justices in the majority advocate returning to the state of free speech doctrine prior to incorporation of the protections of the 1st amendment to the states.
Rather, the issue here was the simple question of speech in school, and the Supreme Court did exactly what they tried to prevent an entire generation from doing: Let their judgment be clouded by drugs.
So, what is the purple brain?
According to Cheryl Nason of http://www.thepurplebrain.com/,
A Purple Brain is:
• A brain that is given useful, positive ideas
• A brain that is able to problem solve creatively
• A brain that experiences elevated job satisfaction
• A brain that successfully manages job stress
• A brain with a more useful attitude
• A brain with improved effectiveness leading to enhanced chances for success
Oooh, I like the sound of that. But hold on a minute... That doesn't sound anything like reefer madness to me! What gives, propaganda folks? Let's peruse the article.
The plot [of The Purple Brain] is as follows: Sure, the pot you and your 40 something peers once enjoyed may have been innocuous, but that's only because it bears no resemblance to the super-potent weed of today-- strains with such foreboding names as "Train wreck," "AK-47," and "The Purple." As proclaimed by Drug Czar John Walters recently, "[W]e are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s -- this is [in computer parlance] Pot 2.0."
Ohhh. That's more like it. Hey John Walters, if you and the propaganda squad are so great with computer parlance, then why couldn't you reserve a domain name? (Ooh, burn.) Also, I think Pot 4.2.0 would sell better than 2.0. Just sayin'.
To top off this frightening message, unsubstantiated claims of "brain damage" resulting from the use of this super-pot are new buzzwords in today's Prevention circles.
Brain damage?! I know you are, but what am I? Yeah.