South Dakota - Industrial
hemp viable crop
By Adrian Pratt, Publisher of the American News in Aberdeen, SD
A petition is currently circulating in South Dakota to put the issue of whether growing industrial hemp should be legal onto the November 2002 ballot. As the absurdity of the current laws banning hemp become more and more apparent, this debate will arise more frequently until logic - and new laws - prevail. Before I explain myself and any of you accuse me of being a hippy, or worse, let me throw a few facts your way.
While it is part of the same family as marijuana, industrial hemp usually contains less than one percent of the hallucinogen tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There is no getting high off it, in other words. But because it does belong to the same family, under a federal law hemp cannot be grown commercially in the United States.
During World War II the U.S. government launched a campaign called Hemp for Victory, promoting the need for farmers to grow hemp to help with the war effort. This program chronicled some of the thousand-year history of how hemp had been used. It covered the prairie schooners and made the riggings for the gunship Old Ironsides - and how tough and versatile it was. With the import of cheaper fibers, much of the U.S. production of industrial hemp was curtailed.
During the war, however, these imports were cut off, and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture had to put out a plea to 'patriotic'
farmers to grow this indispensable crop.
Many countries in Europe - led by Germany - are beginning to put materials from plants like hemp into their vehicles. As the European countries pass more laws protecting the environment, such use of hemp will increase, driving up the demand. So, not only is industrial hemp useless as a mind-altering drug, but it was once legal in this country and the U.S. government actively promoted its growth.
There is another issue brewing that highlights the contradictory nature of the U.S. stance. This concerns the Lakota people, especially those on Pine Ridge. In 1868, America entered into a treaty with the sovereign nation of the Lakota Sioux. That treaty, according to Bob Newland, who is pushing the petition drive, "provides that members of the tribe may produce food and fiber on the various reservations."
The topic of hemp came up a lot during a recent visit of mine to Pine Ridge, where Alex White Plume has twice had his industrial hemp crop leveled by agents from the DEA. Once they came at sunrise by helicopter - no reports whether it was a black one or not. Many on the reservations view this issue as an economic issue as well as an issue of sovereignty. For starters, growing hemp is fairly easy, even on some of the poor-quality land on the reservations.
The bottom line for many on Pine Ridge, which is living under a sentence of brutal poverty, is that growing hemp could provide a cash crop that could help tremendously. It is seen by some as one way out of the terrible dependence on federal funds and of becoming more self-sustaining. And yet, to them, it appears as if the federal government is bent on not allowing them this opportunity. For the record, Alex White Plume has not been charged with any crime in connection with the two federal raids on his hemp crop.
Drug enforcement agencies say their jobs would be complicated because industrial hemp looks so similar to marijuana. But with a little bit of paperwork, industrial hemp growing could be easily regulated.
Changing the law in South Dakota wouldn't supersede the federal law, but it certainly would put more pressure on the federal government to review its nonsensical stance. Will they want to continue to force an issue that could spiral into matters of sovereign rights on the reservation over a crop that they once used to promote?
Farmers from Canada and some of the other 32 countries where hemp is legal have an alternative and lucrative crop denied to the American farmer already wrestling with low commodity prices. As of the end of November, Newland had more than a quarter of the signatures he needs to get this issue onto the ballot next year. He deserves all the help he can get.
Adrian Pratt can be reached by telephone at (605) 622-2200
or by e-mail at email@example.com. Editorial republished
here with Mr. Pratt's permission.
More South Dakota
A bill to remove educational restrictions on individuals in South Dakota who are convicted of marijuana offenses is moving quickly through the State Senate. Senate Bill 63 was introduced in mid-January with 25 total sponsors. On January 22nd the bill received a hearing, received a positive amendment, and was passed by the Education Committee, 4-3. The bill now awaits action from the full Senate in the brief legislative session that concludes on February 28.
Under current law, an individual convicted of a marijuana offense is barred for one year from participating in extracurricular high school activities. At the collegiate level, an individual is ineligible to receive state-supported scholarships or participate in intercollegiate extracurricular competitions, if he or she is convicted of a felony marijuana offense. Possession of just two ounces of marijuana is a felony offense in South Dakota.
Senate Bill 63 would eliminate these provisions and restores
educational opportunities for marijuana offenders. It is a sensible
bill that allows students to participate in after-school activities
and receive financial support in their work towards a degree.
Thanks to Richard Schmitz, Marijuana Policy Project legislative
analyst, for this summary. Please visit MPP's South Dakota Web
site - www.mpp.org/SD - where you can directly e-mail your state
legislators. Tell them to support Senate Bill 63.
A federal appeals court in California has ruled that life in prison for stealing three video tapes and an auto alarm in two separate cases is cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional. The decision is expected to overturn the sentences of 340 prisoners serving life terms in the state for shoplifting. The majority of the approximate 50,000 California felons who received lengthy prison sentences for second or third strikes committed nonviolent property or drug crimes.
California's three strikes law was approved by voters after 12-year-old Polly Klass of Petaluma was kidnapped and murdered in 1993 by Richard Allen Davis who was on parole after a previous kidnapping conviction. Davis was sentenced to death by lethal injection or gas and the ensuing three-strikes' law in 1994 has summarily sentenced thousands of nonviolent, petty lawbreakers to death by prison. California law requires sentences of 25 years to life for a third nonviolent felony charge.
Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. "Our decision does not hold the California three strikes law unconstitutional, only its application to mandate a 25-year-to-life sentence for petty theft offenses."
Last November another three-judge panel from the same circuit ruled the three-strikes law could produce unconstitutionally cruel and unusual sentences. That ruling overturned a 50-year-to-life term of a San Bernardino shoplifter, but the court was silent on whether all defendants sentenced to life for shoplifting could be affected. The appeals court in February, however, clarified that question, ruling that shoplifters could not get a life term under the statute.
Prosecutors in the case argue their logic of spending about $1 million to lock up a petty thief for life in an overcrowded prison amid serious state budget deficits. Punishing nonviolent thieves and drug users as harshly as murderers and rapists and making no punitive distinction between the severity of the crimes is a principle of justice too lofty for most to comprehend. But not for Deputy Attorney General Stephanie A. Miyoshi who argued that the three-strikes law enacted after public outrage over a kidnap-murder should also be applied to shoplifters who steal video tapes and auto alarms worth less than $50.
Persuaded by her own constitutional acumen she predicts the
cases will be appealed to U.S. Supreme Court. Erwin Chemerinsky,
the University of Southern California legal scholar who represented
the shoplifters, said in an AP report, "I think what we'll
see from the defense bar are more lawyers arguing that other
nonviolent crimes used to support a life sentence is generally
unconstitutional in scope and purpose. The punishment has to
fit the crime."
By Mike Smithson of ReconsiDer
In 1973, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller wore an unwanted "liberal" label in the Republican Party and saw a way in which he could show voters a new 'tough on crime image.' The previous year, President Nixon had declared a war on drugs, and the governor could ride along with his new 'law and order' image. In response to what the public saw as inconsistent sentencing by judges, Rockefeller wrote and sent a new set of laws to the legislature. The laws were passed quickly by the compliant legislators, and the Rockefeller Drug Laws were born.
New York adopted the harshest mandatory minimum drug sentencing in the country; laws that would take judicial discretion away from judges and assign sentences based on the amount of drugs involved in the arrest, minimizing or ignoring any social circumstances surrounding it. Prosecutors with new powers took control over courtrooms when New York had 13,000 felons in prison. Today that number is more than 70,000. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone to prison, and in 25 years New York constructed dozens of prisons, building a whole new industry. As the budget for corrections soared, the money to support the State University system declined and continues to fall.
In the past 18 months, NY newspapers polls were running one hundred to one for reform or repeal of the Rocky Drug Laws, but the DAs and key legislators stood their ground, however loose it was. Like the spoiled child with the expensive toy, no one else was going to take away this power.
In the 1970s, reform advocates began complaining publicly, and many letters to the editors were written. Years passed. The industrial prison complex churned and grew. People began coalescing into groups. One of the first groups formed as the families of the prisoners, and under the direction of the Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, most notably Randy Credico and Al "Grampa" Lewis of TV's 'Munster's' fame. It was their weekly vigils at the Rockefeller Center that began to bring victims together-today there is a mighty movement coming together in our state.
"These early drug war vigils are what inspired November members to take the concept to victims nationwide," Nora Callahan, Director of the November Coalition told me when we discussed this article. "New York State may have given birth to what our federal government would soon adopt, but they must also take credit in the long run for giving birth to the broad-opposition coalitions that one day will spread-just as their vigils have."
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) worked in our state to highlight the problems of mandatory sentencing, and organize legislative visits with family members. By 1999, the November Coalition began networking with other groups of victims, holding marches and vigils. For five years, student groups have made criminal justice reform an issue they pursue, and church congregations began to take the injustice of the Rocky Drug Laws and weave it into sermons and special study courses.
Last year, the League of Women Voters of NY State chose criminal justice as a focal point for discussion. Their overwhelming findings were absolute: drug laws, specifically the Rockefeller Drug Laws, were the driving force behind NY's prison building movement. Also within the last year, the Correctional Association of NY and CURE worked together to lead a new campaign called "Drop The Rock." More and more groups began to join the coalition. They held more vigils and co-sponsored a special day in Albany that drew thousands.
Two of the organizers, Tamar Kraft-Solar and Rudy Cypser,
worked to show others that more people across the state needed
to be involved. Groups already existed who, like them, were opposed
to the RDLs. Tamar and Rudy had a big challenge on their hands,
but they believed that a commonality could be found in all of
the organizations to support one focus in the gargantuan collective
of drug policy reform issues.
After numerous emails, phone calls and a couple of teleconferences, an agenda was organized and events planned. Groups from Buffalo and Rochester began organizing a nine-day prison pilgrimage in April across Upstate NY, home to all of the new prisons. A strategy conference was held on February 16th in Menands, NY (just outside of Albany) to help coordinate events, educate reformers about dealing with the media, and to teach attendees how to rebut the misconceptions promoted by the drug warriors.
In Albany on March 26th, Drop The Rock Rally and Education Day is expected to draw the largest crowds yet. We have scheduled visits with all of the legislators, with a public march and a full day of activities also planned. In April, the Faith Communities Call for Justice, a group of religious leaders will meet.
Finally, as we move into the summer, we are setting our sights
on the NY State Fair. We understand that we won't change any
laws by always preaching to each other at our gatherings, which
is why we are going to the State Fair to meet different opinions.
Will the DAs and their allied legislators fold after this
assault? Frankly, I expect them to dig their feet in and argue
against us at every turn. We will work in more public places,
educating about the failures of this insane policy and encouraging
citizens to vote for legislators who call for change. As everyone
knows, the reform effort has made great strides out west with
hardly any movement east of the Mississippi.
For those of you near New York State, please get involved in the Coalition. Like all organizations, money is needed, but the missing energy that usually holds us back is the number of people involved. Please join with us.
Call Mike Smithson, co-chair of the Upstate-Downstate Coalition for the Drop The Rock Campaign, at (315) 488-3630.
Web sites with information:
According to Denver's Rocky Mountain News in a December 10th story, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters is taking his war against drugs on the road. "America's drug policy is a failure. We need to admit that and switch to a system of careful control," Masters told writer Deborah Frazier for the News. Masters, a Republican turned Libertarian, was elected in 1979 in a county that includes Telluride.
"The plan is not to have heroin stores everywhere, but a system where people can clearly see all the drugs and know they don't need them," the Sheriff reportedly told Frazier. "The police and the politicians need to admit they've failed," insisted Sheriff Masters. That's also the message in his book, "Drug War Addiction: Notes From the Front Lines of America's No. 1 Policy Disaster," published by Accurate Press of St. Louis and due out this month, according to the News.
The drug war, which reportedly costs every citizen $200 a year, has failed to curb gang warfare, drug-related murders and robberies, although half the inmates in federal prison are serving terms for drug offenses, Masters told Frazier. "We are a drug culture. It's encouraged by ads for Prozac, Ritalin and Viagra," admitted Masters, who tries to avoid all drugs but occasionally takes ibuprofen. "I know that when I take something, it affects me."
Some drugs should be available, he said. "Take medical marijuana. You have to be deathly ill from chemotherapy, suffering from cancer and lying on the bathroom floor vomiting and crying," he reportedly said. "How can we be so cruel?"
For all the millions of dollars spent and thousands of people jailed, the same percentage of the population (1%) is addicted to heroin and morphine today as were in 1900, Masters continued. "If people like drug killings, meth labs, overdoses, police corruption and drug-related crimes, then we have the perfect drug policy."
"Thirty years ago, we had a little tiny drug problem. Now the quantity and quality are better, and it's all over the place," lamented Sheriff Masters. At his talks on the subject in western Colorado, wrote Frazier, "the public has been supportive," Masters said. "I've had people in their 80s drive hundreds of miles to my office after they heard me speak just to tell me they agree," Masters said.
Razor Wire editors hope someone will read and evaluate Masters'
new book for a published review in our Arts section. For more
details see http://www.mapinc.org/media/371
Grassroots organizations were denied comment as the Utah Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended a bill that labels peaceful protesters "commercial terrorists" and seriously curtails freedom of speech.
On February 6th Utah's Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended Bill 100 to the full Senate after denying opponents of the Bill an opportunity to testify. Already passed by the Utah House of Representatives, the bill defines the crime of "commercial terrorism," which can be a felony offense. The Bill reads, "a person is guilty of commercial terrorism if he enters or remains unlawfully on the premises or in a building of any business with the intent to interfere with the employees, customers, personnel, or operations of a business."
The Bill seriously undermines First Amendment Rights. In its current form, historical leaders such as Sam Adams, Rosa Parks, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be considered terrorists. Members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and JEDI for Women attended the Utah Senate Committee's deliberations over Bill 100. The Senator submitting the Bill spoke in its favor. Then, the Chair of the Advisory Committee asked, "Who would like to speak against this bill?"
When several people raised hands, he said that there were too many people wanting to speak against the Bill. Saying there wasn't time, he decreed that no one would be allowed to speak against the Bill and called for a vote. The committee voted unanimously to send the Bill to the full Senate.
Denied any public comment, activists held up signs that featured historical figures who would be labeled "terrorists" by this bill. The Chair informed the group that they would be arrested unless they put their signs down. After leaving the Senate chambers, the police threatened to arrest the activists because they were still carrying the signs. They left the building without further protest.
The Kensington Welfare Rights Union is a previous recipient of the Letelier/Moffitt human rights' award, the same award given to November Coalition in 2000. Go to KWRU's website (www.kwru.org) for more information and continuing updates.
The State of Arizona in 1999 avoided millions of dollars in prison costs. Through a 1996 law, some drug offenders are placed on probation and given treatment rather than locked up, according to press reports in late-November 2001 of a study by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The state spent $1 million in 1999 on treatment and supervision for 390 inmates kept out of prison because of a voter-approved law. Imprisonment would have cost $7.7 million, the study said.
The law was intended to divert nonviolent drug offenders out
of the prison system and into community treatment programs. It
There were victories and disappointments in the most recent Washington State legislative session. The good news is that for two, consecutive years the Washington Legislature refused to include "Education Governor" Locke's proposal to build a new prison (Coyote Ridge expansion). The requested $9 million for pre-design costs was not included in the latest budget. The ultimate cost of the facility is estimated to be $250 million.
Another step forward is the passage of the drug-sentencing bill (HB 2338) on March 14th, 2002. While not all that many hoped for, it does provide hope that there will be many more changes ahead. There has been a major shift in the attitude of most of the legislators over the past year, including a lot of Republicans. The current budget crisis causes and encourages continuing discussion around cost-effective ways to deal with these issues. Moving that conversation around what is fair and just remains our mission.
House Bill 2338 was supported by a strong coalition of the following individuals and groups:
Norm Maleng, King County Prosecutor; Dave Boerner, Sentencing Guidelines Commission; Washington Assn. of Prosecuting Attorneys; Washington Assn. of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs; Governor's Council on Substance Abuse; Washington Assn. of Drug Court Professionals; Washington State Superior Court Judges Assn.; Washington Defender Assn.; Washington State Bar Assn.; King County Bar Assn.; Washington State Catholic Conference; Washington State Assn. of Counties; The Friends Public Policy Committee [Quakers]; Department of Corrections; WA State Council of Police and Sheriffs; WA State Assn. of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Assn. of Alcoholism and Addiction Programs of Wash. State; Department of Social and Health Services/ Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse; American Civil Liberties Union
The major focus of the drug reform bill is to reduce incarceration for those with substance abuse problems and to divert savings into court-supervised treatment. Non-violent drug offenders committing crimes after July 2004 would be directed to drug court, in preference to in-prison drug treatment or doing traditional prison time. By shortening prison time for non-violent drug offenders an average of six months, from 24 months to 18 months, millions of dollars are saved in future prison beds not built. The savings, up to $8.25 million a year, is to be redirected into a new Criminal Justice Treatment Fund, administered by DSHS, with input from a broad-based committee of concerned groups.
Most unfortunately, Governor Locke and the Legislature were not willing to apply the shorter sentences' philosophy to those currently serving drug-related sentences. A willingness to do so would have released about 2,000 people and significantly reduced the population in many of the facilities. Releasing nonviolent, drug law violators, in turn, would have reduced the need to add a large number of DOC employees that were included in the budget.
Another missed opportunity for reformers was failure to weaken legislative support for construction of another intensive management and segregation facility (Monroe). The new budget includes $6 million for this facility. The construction contract has not been entered into yet; so there is still an opportunity to stop this project.
More information about the Washington State budget is at www.ofm.wa.gov/budget.
For further information on the above issues, please check www.reformnetwork.org.
While some states are taking steps to reduce the impact of repressive drug laws, Virginia lawmakers seem bent on 'ratcheting up' the pressure on drug law violators. Roy B. Scherer sent a brief summary of pending and planned laws for his state. Scherer says many of the new bills planned are not yet submitted, and the following list of filings is current through mid-January only.
The Virginia House Courts of Justice subcommittee on Criminal Law is reviewing these initial submissions by lawmakers (last names in parentheses following bill's number). A reasonable mind might conclude from this list alone that Virginia politicians remain obsessed with drug issues above most other criminal justice questions.
HB269 - Landes - Delivering drugs to prisoner (make stricter)
The Senate Committee on Courts of Justice met January 16th, as well. The Committee has a number of important and interesting bills, including cross burning, hate crimes, infant abandonment, terrorism and weapons, but none are specifically drug-related. Remember that Virginians can get (relatively) up-to-date information on all bills and issues online at: http://www.leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm
Roy B. Scherer, also a vigil leader, can be contacted by telephone
at (804) 355-7612
The State of New Mexico legislative session ended recently
with progress made towards more compassionate and sensible drug
policy-three out of six of the bills supported by the New Mexico
Drug Policy Project were approved. Legislators voted to protect
civil rights and individual property rights by reforming the
civil asset forfeiture process in the state (SB5). HB 26 reforms
habitual offender laws to allow judicial discretion rather than
mandatory sentencing in certain cases. HB 11 waives the federal
ban that excludes ex-drug offenders from applying for federal
All of these reforms contribute to the momentum that continues to build around drug policy reform in the state. The progress made this year will help us to continue making even more gains next year, especially on refining the types of policies that were proposed but did not complete the process through the legislative session. These stalled measures include medical marijuana for seriously ill patients (SB 5), treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent drug possession offenders (SB331); and civil fines instead of jail for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana (HB 25)
Razor Wire readers from New Mexico should take a moment to make a few final telephone calls to the sponsors of all of these bills, thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them to continue their support of drug policy reform next year.
Finally, the informational website www.improvenewmexico.org, will be updated soon to provide information about drug policy reform in New Mexico beyond the legislative session. The information about particular legislative topics will continue to be available there, plus more-so please continue to visit the site!
Thank you to everyone for all your work this session. The citizens of New Mexico really made the difference-you are the real heroes here! We will send a follow-up email with information about how you can continue to be involved in drug policy reform during the coming year!
For more information contact:
New Mexico Drug Policy Project/Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy
Foundation, 1227 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM 87501; phone:
(505) 983-3277, fax: (505) 983-3278.
In the wake of the Rainbow Farm Labor Day killings reported in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2001 Razor Wire, on Wednesday, March 13, the lawsuit brought by Bill McMasters of Taxpayers United, et.al., will be heard in the Michigan State Court of Claims in Lansing. The suit charges Cass County Prosecutor, Scott Teter, Medical Examiner Robert Knox, State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, and the entire seven-member Cass County Board of Commissioners with multiple violations of the Freedom of Information Act and the Michigan Open Meetings Act.
Supporters of the slain Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm will be there, if only to hear how Teter explains how he came to be in unauthorized possession of all copies of the State Police report. "That should truly be a creative moment for Teter," wrote Melody Karr from Michigan about the developing legal challenges.
Karr added, "I know that there have been a lot of very mixed things said about this lawsuit throughout the activist community. Personally, I truly believe anything that keeps Teter and his ilk on the defensive, seeks to hold them accountable in any way, and/or puts the story out in the public eye, is good activism. Although visual demonstrations with the small numbers who've been willing to stand up for this particular cause sometimes seem like futile gestures, I believe they have value. They plant seeds of awareness in those who don't know the issues; they demonstrate to the fence sitters and the willing-but-timid that ordinary people can and do exercise the right to free speech in any number of ways. They give notice to the "governmonsters" that we are watching, and we won't just sit down and shut up."
Yet, the main reason Karr and a few others keep standing out in the cold with their signs is the true obligation felt to Tom and Rollie and all those who've fallen to the cause - whether to the bullet or the cage or the foster care system. "Tom's heart was so obviously broken in that long sad summer of 2001; every time I saw him I felt seared by the bleakness in his eyes. Before one court hearing, Jacob and I stopped at the mansion and made signs to hold on the corner," continued Karr.
"Tom walked from room to room while we worked, stopping to read the slogans as we colored them in: 'The War On Drugs Destroys Families,' my son wrote, while my sign said, "Speak Out for Rainbow Farm. You Could Be Next.' A lot of people we thought were our friends, we haven't seen since the bust," Tom said then, almost choking on the words. "We don't even really know you people, but here you are, like angels."
"We're not angels. We're just people who came to Rainbow Farm and found a community, a family, and a haven," concluded Karr. "Tom and Rollie gave us that experience that changed our lives, and they paid the ultimate price. How could we do less than stand up and be counted?"
For information contact Melody Karr by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
282 West Astor - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550