By Nora Callahan, Executive Director, November Coalition
Battling for resources
At a breakfast meeting
in early November, Godfrey Sperling, Jr. of the Christian Science
Monitor asked Asa Hutchinson - the former Republican representative
from Arkansas now serving as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency - how the war on drugs had been affected by the events
of Sept 11th. Quickly, Hutchinson had to admit, "It is a
battle of resources."
The Coast Guard, formerly deployed on illegal drug interdiction
primarily in Caribbean waters, is now hard pressed to guard our
harbors against biological and conventional weapons threats.
Many of the National Guard personnel called from their home communities
had jobs in law enforcement, others as paramedics, fire fighters,
hospital workers and teachers. They now boost security in our
airports - large and small.
The FBI once devoted agents and overall resources to drug investigations
both home and abroad, but is now scrambling to follow wave after
wave of terrorist activity from the actual- crashing planes and
anthrax outbreaks - to the whispered possibilities of smallpox
and nuclear threat.
Meanwhile, Congress has passed numerous new laws restricting
more civil rights for the sake of a safer America, a safer world.
Asa Hutchinson promises us that even though there is a "battle
for federal resources," the DEA is "holding their own"
with regard to the war on drugs.
Part of that "holding their own" included war on the
terminally ill on October 25 when about 30 DEA agents spent six
hours raiding the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, closing
it down. Even as a legally authorized agency, the federal government
has stubbornly held to the notion that marijuana can't be medicine,
no matter what physicians and voters might say. Now LA County
has nearly a thousand patients looking for marijuana on street
corners, in the parks, anywhere they might find it for sale,
at street prices they probably can't afford to pay.
Locking up people for drugs and minor offenses hasn't proven
to have any measurable result in our crime rates, especially
with regard to drug arrest and incarceration. So, why do it?
Don't we have some bigger fish to fry?
Nationally, since our prisons are costing taxpayers in direct
expenses a whopping $46 billion annually - those who pay this
bill might reasonably expect a corresponding drop in crime and
drug availability, and an increase in purpose and benefit. Asa
Hutchinson says that all we've done is reach a "plateau,"
back in 1992, and it hasn't budged much since.
On the subject of the 'battle for resources,' November Coalition
is in the thick of the fray. Our mission is the same; our plans
to educate and organize our communities still guide our work,
but if you're reading this and haven't joined, we need your support
now more than ever. We will only strengthen this independent,
grassroots organization of volunteers if our base of small and
medium contributors grows, but there's no magic rabbit to pull
from the hat here, just a freely-given $6 from your envelopes
and letters of support from prisoners, at least $25 per year
if you aren't in prison. We have a student rate of $15 per year;
so pick a category of membership you fall into and send the membership
form you can find on page 5.
In the coming year we hope thousands of prisoners and their loved
ones will help sustain and accelerate this membership drive.
Please talk to your family and neighbors about becoming a member
of the November Coalition right away. We need to confidently
tell our lawmakers that we have a committed, invested membership
of tens of thousands of people who demand changes in drug laws.
The power base to demand these changes is a unity of many, many
active prisoner supporters who still have at least $6/year of
If you've read this far, I'm certain you will agree with this
grand strategy for satisfying our just demands. Tired of being
counted daily by your keepers? Please let us count on your financial
support that will count down the days until the drug war is over.
Louis Younger is "counted in," and wrote in response
to an appeal and update letter he received last month, "It
really upsets me to see these politicians stacking more laws
on top of this drug war. I've just about lost hope for a change.
I'm afraid that we are losing the fight we are fighting. This
terrible tragedy has just given them a shovel to add coals to
the fire. Even so, I'm still going to give you my support."
Jose Martinez, Chuck Armsbury, Nora Callahan
"Buddy" (far right) - Missoula Montana Sept. 16, 2001
|Louis, the terrible tragedies of September 11th
did indeed set back many progressive causes. Most nonprofits
are scrambling to cover expenses, and this means there is an
intense battle for scarce donations, too. New anti-terrorist
laws do threaten freedom, and some people are afraid to speak
out in tenuous times. Let me stress again, however, that we are
not giving up this long fight. We may be forced to do as much
or more with less money - but if we all pitch in with many small
contributions, we can 'ride out' this storm and remain effective
voices for drug law reform. Our message does not change. We remain
committed to justice, and demand the release of drug war prisoners,
an end to the drug war, and restoration of civil rights.
We encourage our members to thoroughly examine what it is to
be a responsible, patriotic citizen. Patriotism shouldn't be
something we practice only when we are under physical attack.
And what is patriotism anyhow? Isn't it caring about our country,
and the policies we adopt that affect our country and our world?
It's working to make our country better, encouraging our fellow
citizens to be active in their government.
Active members of the November Coalition have been practicing
their patriotism daily for some time now. Nothing within the
events of 9/11 or its aftermath suggests that our mission to
end the drug war is outside the bounds of true patriotism; it
is patriotism. And, Louis, thank you for your donation, and your
optimistic commitment to continue this fight for justice. There's
no giving up, and so please take hope -we can't work without