Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marijuana: Gateway to the White House

Indiana's Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, has recently been named a possible contender in the GOP presidential primary. Perhaps realizing that the Oval Office's three most recent occupants were marijuana users, the governor decided that it couldn't hurt to expand on his own bust story from May 1970.

The Daily Princetonian reported in a recent interview with Daniels that, "Officers found enough marijuana in his room to fill two size 12 shoe boxes, reports of the incident say. He and the other inhabitants of the room were also charged with possession of LSD and prescription drugs without a prescription." Of the incident, Daniels says “I had used marijuana and I was fined for that, and that was appropriate."

I applaud Governor Daniels for telling his story, and I'm truly glad his arrest didn't devastate his life as it does with so many others. But I will point out that Daniels was arrested with a relatively significant amount of marijuana. Two large shoeboxes is enough volume that it's hard to conceive of any modern hard-charging prosecutor not seeking an indictment for possession with intent to distribute in such a case. Daniels was also busted about six months prior to President Nixon signing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (on October 27). If that law had been on books in May 1970, Daniels could have faced an array of charges, including several felonies. And if he had been busted after 1998 when the Higher Education Act's Aid Elimination Penalty took effect, he could have lost any federal financial aid as the result of a drug conviction.

I hope that when Daniels says fining him was an "appropriate" punishment he means that a fine should be the maximum penalty for possessing several pounds of marijuana and LSD. If not, does he believe it's right to punish drug arrestees more harshly than he was treated?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SSDP at the International Students for Liberty Conference 2011

I was invited to speak at this weekend's 2011 International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington D.C. This was my first experience as a speaker at a conference over 500. I found out fairly early on that nearly every state in the U.S. had registered, and that 25 countries were also registered. I met people from Romania, Australia, UK, Nigeria, and others that I am not currently remembering. The level of intellect of those in attendance was nothing short of stunning.

Students for Liberty is not at all what I thought it was; I figured it would be a bunch of Libertarians spouting off about how terrible government and bureaucracy is, and while there were some people that held these beliefs, this conference struck me as very similar to that of an SSDP conference. The political beliefs ranged from unsure independent to ultra libertarian, and everything in between. While many people debated politics for long periods of time, there tended to be one thing in common with everyone: everyone felt as though our liberties were being infringed upon.

Students for Liberty is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which is what makes it so different from other Libertarian groups. They don't support any specific policies, nor do they support Libertarian groups that are not non-profit. From my perspective, this is what makes SFL so important.

Alexander McCobin and Sloane Frost, two co-founders of Students for Liberty, did nothing but impress me with their level of commitment to the organization they founded. Both were top notch speakers that seem to have mastered the process of organizing and delegating, and in three years successfully turned their organization into the largest student-run, liberty-promoting group in existence.

The Stossel Show was filmed at the conference, where John Stossel made it clear that he had never seen a group of politically minded students similar to SFL in his years in the media. The energy in the crowd was nothing short of electric as students from around the world lined up to ask questions during the taping. Gary Johnson spoke about his perspective of politics which blew everyone away (apparently he vetoed more bills than anyone else in the country when he was in office). While he probably will not be President of the United States anytime soon, he is still running in 2012, which continues to garner more and more media attention.

In a nutshell, and in my opinion, Students for Liberty is the future of politics. There is not another group of such incredibly intelligent students in existence, and there is absolutely no way to stigmatize the organization. SSDP and SFL will continue to foster a collaborative relationship so that we can work together to help end the failed War on Drugs and advance the ideals of Liberty across the world.

Thanks to all those that took the time to get to know me; it was an honor for me to have the opportunity to share my story. I sincerely hope that it encourages more chapters of SSDP to start up, and more people to get involved in their local chapters. Only time can tell what will happen, but if anyone from Students for Liberty has any questions about SSDP or wants to get one started, I'd be happy to help where I can. My co-presenter, Stacia Cosner, is the Associate Director of SSDP and it is her job to help students start chapters. Her e-mail address is Check out the slides from our presentation on "Drug Policy Activism" here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Staggering Cases of Injustice Resulting from the Drug War

The drug war continues to wreak havoc on the lives of U.S. citizens. It continues to wreak havoc on the lives of non-U.S. citizens, too. But we just heard of this case of an Oklahoma woman being sent to prison for a decade for dealing marijuana in front of her children; the grandmother has received a non-custodial sentence, but still has to submit to regular drug testing. You can read just how bloody-minded and unforgiving the prosecutors in the case were. The article doesn't even explain how non-existent or awful the defense team was, even though there are clear problems for the women the moment they were arrested.

The case is from Taft, OK, and the full story may be found here.

There are different dynamics in other cases of unjust imprisonment, but should you want examples which would embolden your understanding of systematic injustice, appraise yourself of the story of Tulia, Texas. And when you finish with Tulia, take a look at Hearne, TX. And when you are done with those stories, why not take a look at LA's Ramparts Division and the crisis that unit endured regarding corruption charges. And even if that doesn't explain to you how wrong this situation is, just look up Gary Webb on Wikipedia and have a look at his "Dark Alliance" series. If you don't know about Webb, then you really don't understand the fatal dynamics of anti-drug war commentary and fact finding. You don't understand how the drug wars systematize oppression.

And if you want to thank anything or anybody for this situation, then why not ask the architects, proponents, and sustainers of the drug wars -- for instance, the presidents in the Americas who coyly suggest a debate on drug legalization, but then back away from that debate -- as to how and why they can put their fellow citizens and human beings through such misery? And at such cost to the public purse.

In any event, one woman in Oklahoma just began a decade-long custodial sentence for less than $50.00 of pot. If this were Denmark, and I were Shakespeare, I would be screaming that this state is rotten. And it may be rotten to the core...