The Razor Wire is a quarterly published by The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform.


























































Vigil and Event Reports - Ideas for Activism

San Diego - Vigil against drug war
Colorado: Senator Allard receives draft proposal for increase in "good time" eligibility
Teresa Aviles named to NY Archdiocese Advisory Board

Hemp Taste-Test Demonstrations Target DEA Protests Held in 76 Cities!!

[Awesome Austin activists] [Pennsylvania NORML - Hemp Education Day]
[Tampa vigilers have fun with DEA]

SSDP "Souder Squad" Bushwhacks Congressman in home district
Christmas and activism from the Bronx
November Coalition in Las Vegas!
What I'm doing - By Larry Schulenberg, parent of drug war prisoner
The Drug War is Cold!

San Diego - Vigil against drug war
by Gardner Osbourne

This was the tenth vigil held in front of the federal and state courthouses at the intersection of Front and Broadway in downtown San Diego. These rallies are always held on the first Wednesday of each month from 3 to 7 p.m.

Even with the lack of advertising, there were four volunteers present holding signs and passing out literature and matchpacks. The security guards have stopped trying to intimidate or get us to leave the area, and the public seems to be increasingly receptive to our message.

Each rally has had one defining moment for me. The first rally featured the lies and harassment of the federal security guards, another the acknowledgement of a busload of sheriff's prisoners. This last special moment occurred when an 81-year-old grandmother approached me, wanting to know more about the Libertarian Party and how we we're going to end the drug war.

I told her that drugs are health and personal choice issues, not a law enforcement issue. The solution is family, education, and treatment if desired, not more laws, cops and prisons. Basic libertarian stuff. I know how hard it is to convince older people that the government attitude toward drugs is mistaken.

My own grandmother is 82 and won't listen to a word of it. The 81-year-old woman smiled and asked for some information on the Libertarian Party. She told me about the problems with her grandchild, how the stress of all the BS in the system had given her shingles and how sometimes it just seemed hopeless.

We spoke some more on other topics. She thanked me for being out there and said she was going to join the Party because she was not done trying to fix this country. I look forward to seeing her at the next End the Drug War rally or another Libertarian event. She made the few hours that I spent out there absolutely worthwhile.
Gardner Osborne welcomes emails.

Contact him at

A Citizen in action

Senator Allard receives draft proposal for increase in "good time" eligibility United States Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) accepts from Jack J. Woehr of the November Coalition a copy of a "Proposal to Amend Title 18 United States Code, Section 3624 ( c)," that would, if Congress were to review and enact it, significantly decrease the time drug prisoners would remain in prison.

Senator Allard and Mr. Woehr were attending the Jefferson County, Colorado annual Lincoln Day dinner at the Marriott Denver West Hotel in Golden, Colorado on February 23, 2002. The draft proposal to increase 'good time' eligibility was written by prisoner Jim Helms and brought to Mr. Woehr's attention by prisoner Glenn Early, both nonviolent prisoners of the drug war.

Teresa Aviles named to NY Archdiocese Advisory Board

Teresa Aviles of Bronx, NY has been asked to participate in the formation of a special advisory board. The Archdioceses of New York and Justice Works Community are currently collaborating on a criminal justice reform project in New York State, funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Teresa founded the Isidro Aviles Memorial Chapter of November Coalition to remember and honor her son who died mysteriously in prison while serving a first-time, nonviolent drug prisoner. This project will "educate citizens in New York State about problems in the criminal justice system and encourage them to take action to demand reform in criminal justice policy," wrote Teresa. One of the objectives of this initiative is the formation of an Advisory Board composed of ex-prisoners and their family members to oversee and administer the project jointly with the Archdiocese and Justice Works.

Hemp Taste-Test Demonstrations Target DEA Protests Held in 76 Cities

From The Week online with DRCNet, December 7, 2001

The hemp foods industry and drug reform activists staged coordinated hemp food taste tests at Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offices nationwide on December 4, 2001 to protest the agency's recently revised administrative rules effectively banning the sale and consumption of any ingestible hemp products.
Under the new rules, hemp bars, hemp pretzels, hemp ice cream and similar products will become illegal controlled substances effective February 6.

Hundreds of mild-mannered activists from Washington, DC, to West Palm Beach, Oakland to Orlando, Seattle to Syracuse, as well as at least 70 other cities, politely offered free hemp food samples to DEA employees on their lunch breaks and curious passersby, garnering considerable media coverage for the cause in the process. While in most cities, demonstrators confronted only the usual reflexive petty harassment the agency doles out to unwanted visitors - unlawful demands that no photos of agency buildings be taken, refusal to grant access to public spaces - in Syracuse, NY, local police arrested and charged three demonstrators for violating state marijuana possession laws, according to Syracuse University SSDP member and arrestee Patrik Head.

They were in possession of hemp bars, according to one of those arrested. At DEA national headquarters in Arlington, VA, just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington, hemp industry representatives including David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and president Eric Steenstra joined activists from the Marijuana Policy Project, Common Sense for Drug Policy, November Coalition, SSDP, DRCNet and Green and Libertarian Party members to encourage DEA agents to take a taste.

Met with barricades and uniformed Federal Protective Services officers on their arrival, demonstrators were initially forced completely off the property and even the bordering sidewalk, onto the street. Fortunately, an Arlington city police officer with traffic safety concerns prevailed upon the feds to allow demonstrators onto the sidewalk.

Most DEA employees averted their eyes and scurried past the proffered health treats, but not all. "Almost nobody from the DEA would speak to me," said Alexis Baden-Meyer of the Mintwood Media Collective, which was hired by VoteHemp to coordinate the quickly-organized effort. "Some claimed to know nothing about the hemp foods ban, others claimed to know everything about it and wouldn't comment. One older employee refused, but told me 'I'm going to wait until I'm 80 years old to try it, and then I'll probably regret not having done it years earlier,'" Baden-Mayer related. "With this rule, you won't be able to find it in a health food store," she replied.

Mintwood Media head Adam Eidinger told DRCNet local TV news coverage had reached nearly a million people, according to reports gathered so far. "It will be more by the time we get it all tallied," he said. "We got coverage in lots of smaller media markets, and some big ones too," Eidinger added. "We had three local stations cover us in Philadelphia, two in Los Angeles, one in the Bay Area. Tallahassee stations went wild, airing repeated stories about the local event," he said. (Washington DC's local ABC affiliate aired footage that included this author among others.)

While hemp industry representatives pronounced themselves satisfied with the demonstrations, they are not relying solely on public opinion to win their struggle to be able to sell hemp-based food products. "We have already filed a motion for a stay of the new DEA rules," Steenstra told DRCNet. "We hope for a ruling before Christmas, and if we do get a stay that will be a very positive indication of the direction this case is going," he said. "We are also working with several Canadian companies who are preparing to file claims that the new rules violate the NAFTA agreements."

Do these protests work: (You'll leave this page, but read this article in Eye on Congress: DEA's get tough on health food goes soft

Hemp Education Day Reports!

Awesome Austin activists

By Karen Heikkala, Drug Policy Forum of Texas and
Regional Leader of the November Coaliton

We had a great time marketing the hemp energy bars, telling people about the new law (criminalizing hemp products), and getting signatures. Yes, the DEA office was dead here in Austin.

It's in an obscure location in the same building as Corrections Software. I can only guess what they do there. In order to get to their front door it is necessary to ring a bell, and they then talk to you through a speaker and decide if they want to let you up.

We decided to go where there was more action and took it the health food stores. Four of us went in sets of two to do the deed. We got about 130 signatures for the 2-3 hours it took to pass out the samples.

Pennsylvania NORML - Hemp Education Day

We rallied at the William J. Green Federal Building, DEA field office in Philadelphia for this annual fall event. About 20 people showed up to help distribute samples and literature. There were no hassles by DEA or the police. People who took our samples and literature were very open minded.

It was around 60 degrees and sunny, a beautiful day for a protest. We handed out all of the energy bars, soft hemp pretzels, and a bunch of packaged Hempzels. It lasted about two hours.

It was interesting because it seemed very formal. No tie-dyes, posters, or chanting. Also everyone dressed well. If anything, dressing up for the occasion really helped to show that we were just ordinary folks exercising our right to assemble peaceably.

He freely took our pamphlets, literature and the latest issue of Cannabis Culture magazine. "That looks like my ex-wife," he said about the woman on the front cover. I'm sure he'll take it back to the precinct. I would have loved to see their faces after finding the seed catalog inside. As we were leaving we shook hands, and I thanked him for putting up with us. "No problem," he said. "It's you who are right."

As for the Media, I believe we must continue to make our own news, which means to keep holding events. More than ever before! Having national protests not only feels good while you are doing your part, but also shows how organized we have become.
Thanks to Diane Fornbacher and Daniel Klock for this summary.

Tampa vigilers have fun with DEA

By Anthony Lorenzo of the Florida Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Wow, what a fun December day. We stood out on Kennedy Street armed with signs and pamphlets. Some of the signs read:

Stop the Drug War
Hemp = fiber + food
Asa Hutchinson and George Bush Jr. = dope
Picture of Uncle Sam pointing that read, "I want you in prison."
Picture of Uncle Sam pointing saying, "I want your house, money, jewelry..."

We stood out front across from the mall and waved our signs. We attempted to give samples of hemp food and candy products to everyone who walked by. Around 1:30 p.m., we went up into the DEA's office on the fourth floor. I attempted to leave some informational brochures in the office, but they rudely declined my offer (Michael Moore would have been proud of us).

I wish we had brought a video camera because their reactions were too amusing. Mike, the executive director of FORML, asked why they did not wish to learn. He asked if the reason was that if they knew they were wrong, then they would have to do something about it. It was a lot of fun. There were only five of us, but we made a statement.

Radio 88.5 interviewed me, and I attempted to get a plug in on the Green Party. Since I could not say I officially represented the Greens, I added that I also did work with various other organizations. Also, I think TV News Channel 10 was there, and the reporters interviewed John Chase, the Florida Regional Leader of the November Coalition.

SSDP "Souder Squad" Bushwhacks Congressman in home district

Rep. Mark Souder, the Indiana Republican responsible for the anti-drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA), thought he would be safe from students angered by the provision if he held an event in his home district. He was wrong.

On February 22nd a delegation of Students for Sensible Drug Policy members from Indiana, Illinois and Washington, DC made the congressional drug warrior uncomfortably aware that his HEA anti-drug provision - which has barred 43,000 students from receiving financial aid so far this year - will make him the object of protests and outrage wherever he goes. With Souder facing a strong challenge in the Republican primary this spring, his authorship and continued support of the provision could well become a drag on his electoral chances.

The event in Fort Wayne was supposed to be a photo op time for Souder. Instead, it turned into a footrace and heated parking lot discussion between the fleeing congressman and students demanding he repeal the provision before the congressman leapt into his limousine and sped away into the night. Souder, along with Sallie Mae, a student financial aid assistance corporation, was cosponsor of "Paying For College," a forum for the public about receiving federal financial aid for college. What should have been a time for Souder to bask in his constituents' good will, instead saw the congressman heading for the exits rather than defend the HEA anti-drug provision.

"Souder had very little notice, but he knew we were coming," said SSDP media consultant Adam Eidinger. "We tipped off the local media, and all three local TV stations and both local papers showed up," he told DRCNet. "And we leafleted beforehand, making sure everyone in attendance knew he wrote the law denying aid to 43,000 students."

Although attendees expected a question and answer session, Souder strode into the room saying he couldn't stay. "He usually takes questions and answers," said SSDP national director Shawn Heller, who confronted the congressman outside the event. "But this time he only made a couple of brief comments. When I yelled out 'Congressman Souder, a quick question,' he bolted for the door," Heller said. "We followed him, and the TV cameras followed us."

What followed was a five-minute discussion between Heller and Souder as the cameras rolled, with the congressman growing increasingly angry as his assertions were challenged. "What really ticked off Souder was when Shawn started talking about how the bill had never even been debated," said Eidinger. "Souder got visibly angry then, shaking his hand beside Shawn's head, and then he took off."

SSDP is keeping an eye on Souder's events calendar and will be developing a strategy to have a greater presence in Souder's district, said Eidinger. "There is an SSDP regional conference in Chicago on April 12, and after that we will have a three-week window to work this issue before the May 7 primary," he said. "We're hoping to have students go into the district and we're hoping to get students in the district out to vote. This is an open primary, meaning anyone who is registered can vote, and a few hundred votes could decide it," he added. "If Souder's vote total drops by 2,000 votes, he could lose."

Souder is particularly vulnerable this year for a couple of reasons. First, his old congressional district has been redrawn this year; so he has largely lost the power of incumbency and is competing for a new 3rd District. As important, he is facing his strongest Republican challenger yet in former Fort Wayne mayor Paul Helmke who has emerged as potent competition for Souder.

"You shoot one monkey to scare a hundred," said Eidinger. "This is a campaign issue now, and Souder's opponents can use his HEA anti-drug provision against him. If Souder goes down, that will send a real message to other politicians who are considering similar approaches."

Carolyn Lunman, an SSDP member from George Washington University, was a member of the Souder Squad. "It was an exhilarating experience to see Souder make an ass of himself," she told DRCNet. "He had no response to anything we said because there is no good response." As for continuing to shadow the congressman? "He'd better watch his back," vowed Lunman. "We'll be there."

Source: The Week Online with DRCNet, Issue #226

Christmas and activism from the Bronx

By Teresa Aviles, founder of Isidro Aviles Chapter of November Coalition

The Christmas party went very well this year. I had a great crowd, including a schoolteacher who teaches special education in Harlem with several children in her class who have parents in prison. A few came with the parents and grandparent in one case. An actor who was on vacation visiting family in New York City also came by. He read Christmas stories to the children.

We were fortunate to find a church in mid-Manhattan at a modest price. A December meeting with the League of Women Voters went VERY well. Paul Bennett and I attended, and we both came away with the same feelings. It was the first of four meetings held in several places in NYC. There will be two more sessions, and then there will be a combined meeting of all of the smaller groups.

I think it is very important that the League has come out for this issue. The theme was balancing justice. We discussed fairness and justice, drug policy reform, the prison industrial complex and the fact that current drug policy was ineffective, expensive and cruel. In the next session we will address what should and could be done about this. If readers want to share ideas that I could bring to these meetings, please let me know. All in all I thought it was a giant step in the right direction.

Paul and I discussed some plans for our next couple events. We have scheduled the 3rd annual Isidro Aviles' picnic for July 13, 2002. We will have some t-shirts made, and use them as a fundraiser. Instead of doing the Mother's Day march this year, we are going to send inmates a copy of our "disappeared" poster, letting them know that we are out there doing what we can for them.

November Coalition in Las Vegas!

Regional leader, Debbie Dedmon has been a guest on a television talk show, speaking in public forums, organizing vigils and more! This recent article was written after Debbie and Judge Lehman were both guests on a local television show.

Vegas judge brings compassion to drug war

By Lewis Whitten, Reprinted from Rebel Yell - Features Issue: 03/11/02

America's so-called drug war is tearing families apart as sons and daughters are locked up far from home. Parents plead for relief because they don't understand America's reason for locking up their children for countless years due to a drug addiction.

Nonviolent victims of the drug war continue to receive ridiculous prison sentences, but at a courthouse in downtown Las Vegas, there is a glimmer of hope for a more compassionate policy towards drug users trapped in the criminal justice system.

Thanks to Jack Lehman, Clark County's Drug Court judge, many drug-law offenders now receive treatment instead of prison time.

"I became interested in the whole question of doing something about drugs shortly after I got on the bench," Lehman explained. "It disturbed me tremendously after I'd been on the bench for only two years that I was seeing the same defendants that I had already sentenced to prison or to probation. "More frequently than not, they would violate probation, be revoked and end up in Nevada State Prison," he said.

In 1990, Lehman attended a presentation by three officials from the Miami Drug Court concerning a study about the price fluctuation of cocaine in response to big drug busts. It was believed that a big drug bust would cause the price of cocaine to increase, but the study found that this wasn't the case.

"The price of cocaine didn't fluctuate five cents regardless of the size of the bust," Lehman said. "The war on drugs, which spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to prevent cocaine from coming into the country, didn't stop it at all." The result: Miami created the country's first drug court that focused on treatment for users instead of punishment.

"I really got excited about it because it seemed to me that if there was a solution to getting people off of drugs, it seemed that the Florida Drug Court had found it," Lehman said. "So I approached the Clark County Commission, told them about all of this and asked them to help me start a drug court here in Las Vegas." By 1992, Las Vegas was home to the United States' fifth drug court.

Treatment is available to all defendants and lasts one year. Participants must abstain from all drugs, including alcohol, and attend counseling sessions. Job counselors are also available for job training assistance, and most find employment by the end of the first month. "This program works," Lehman said. "If someone wants to get off drugs, this program will get them off drugs."

The rehabilitation center is located on South Valley View Boulevard, not too far from downtown Las Vegas. When I visited, one participant was yelling and swearing because she just failed a urine test. She drank the night before. Her behavior went unnoticed, disturbing almost no one. Business proceeded as usual. Another participant was quick to point out that Judge Lehman is very fair.

Many states have adopted this approach. Unfortunately, the federal government has not let up in their unique attempt to create a drug-free America. They continue to place stiff penalties on drug users, many with sentences longer than murderers and other violent criminals.

"I would rather see the federal government let the states handle it because I think the states are now doing a good job," Lehman said. "The destructive things the federal government has done is [instating] these mandatory minimum sentences. "If someone is caught three times with small amounts of pot or a small amount of any drug, putting them in prison for 20 years is a terrible thing, and it doesn't accomplish anything," he said.

Currently, there are more than 1,000 similar drug courts in the United States, and, according to Lehman, they appear to be working. "It restores people to their family, which I think is really important and gives the drug addict a new life," Lehman said.
Some critics of drug courts suggest that the program is flawed. In order for a drug user to get treatment, they have to get arrested. Lehman points out that outlets like the Salvation Army provide treatment on a voluntary basis, but suggests that some users need coercion to kick the habit.

"There's no great desire by many of them [to stop using drugs], unless they've been on drugs 20 or 25 years and finally come to their senses," Lehman said. "There's nothing that's telling them to quit using drugs." Debbie Dedmon, the November Coalition's Las Vegas coordinator, is critical about that attitude.

"Many users do have incentives outside of the courts. Drug addicts often lose contact with family and friends. They end up in the streets," Dedmon said. "They may lose their home, wife and kids. That's why the Salvation Army has waiting lists up to a year to get into their drug treatment program."

The November Coalition believes many drug users could be considered non-problematic and don't need treatment or prison. They may use an illicit drug recreationally, similar to how politicians might use alcohol. Judge Lehman doesn't buy that argument.

"I don't condone drug use because it's against the law and I'm a judge," he said.
Another concern suggests that by providing treatment for drug users, we are treating drug addiction as a disease, and we can't arrest people for having a disease. "I don't agree it's a disease at all," Lehman said. "It's a voluntary act by the individual."

Dedmon points out that "regardless of whether or not addiction is a disease, it is obvious that in the current political atmosphere drug courts are the best option for users caught up in the system."

What I'm doing

By Larry Schulenberg, parent of drug war prisoner

I remember wondering some time ago - after seeing and pondering the slogan "There is no justice in the war on drugs" on the backs of envelopes - how many people handle my mail. I usually drop my letters, bills, cards, and packages in the box outside the downtown post office before 5:00 p.m. when the mail is taken inside the Post Office. Between that drop off and the destination halfway across the country I would estimate that hundreds of United States postal employees have their hands on my mail.

That's in addition to the sorters at Sears and Visa and Mid-American Energy. And then there's the people who open it and send it to the appropriate clerk. Hundreds, maybe more. So I made a trip to Office Max or Office Depot or Wal-Mart, I can't remember which, and bought a package of 1 x 3-inch mailing labels.

On each label I typed, "Incarceration is not the way to fight the War on Drugs. We should fight the demand, not the supply, helping the victims, not punishing them." I printed a couple dozen labels. The next time I paid my monthly bills - the mortgage, a car loan, credit cards, utilities, my cable TV, and other payments - I stuck one of those labels on the envelope flap.

After two weeks of using that slogan, I decided that the mail clerks and secretaries at Firstsar and Principal must be tired of reading that "incarceration is not the way to fight the war on drugs." I then searched through information packets about the state of federal prisoners and created, "Mandatory minimum sentences not only ruin the lives of prisoners and their families, but they drain the taxpayers of billions of dollars." The following week, I revised that slogan to read, "Mandatory minimum sentences drain the taxpayers of billions of dollars that could be used to help homeless people, children, the ill and the elderly." Men in the prison camp where our son is confined saw the labels and remarked favorably to him.

I returned to my computer and wrote, "55% of all federal drug offenders are low-level offenders-not the drug lords for whom the mandatory minimum sentencing laws were intended." I found more information that I thought might inspire citizens to get involved with the cause. I learned that the National Association of Veteran Police Officers, American Bar Association, NAACP, ACLU, and NOW oppose mandatory minimum sentences.

Other labels included, "Mandatory minimum sentences treat first-time, nonviolent offenders the same as habitual criminals." One that I especially like is, "Drug Czar John Walters promised a review of the Mandatory Minimum Sentences. WHEN?"
I have no idea if Mr. Walters has read my label, but I am fairly certain that an aide in Senator Tom Harkin's office, an employee who works for Senator Charles Grassley, and someone in Representative Greg Ganske's office have. Weekly or every other week, I send email messages to those three legislators, and then I follow up with a snail mail. Of course, one or more labels are attached to the envelopes.

Maybe, just maybe, as I hope and pray, a person I probably don't know may read one of my labels and begin to question and ask, "What's going on with Mandatory Minimum Sentences?" I also use one of my messages as signature on my email messages.

Maybe one of those people might be inspired to learn more about the war on drugs, mandatory minimum sentencing, alternatives to incarcerating low-level offenders, and the billions of dollars in public costs to maintain these failed policies of social control.

Drug Czar John Walters' promised to review mandatory minimum sentences. As he rolls that first review, let another snowball of public dissent begin its journey, gathering names and calling roll. Soon after that roll call, we will see changes in the drug laws.

The Drug War is Cold!

Philadelphia, PA vigil - February 2002

Organizers Diane Fornbacher and Daniel Klock with volunteers.

Back to Top

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
282 West Astor - Colville, Washington 99114 - (509) 684-1550