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February 9, 1995

COMBINED HEADLINE: Conservatives And Liberals Agree On The Excess Of The 'Drug War'

USA Today Editorial In Step With The National Review

I.)  February 8, USA Today ran an editorial in response to the Clinton administration's request for an increase in "drug warring" funds.  Selected excerpts from the editorial follow:

        -Something just doesn't make sense about the USA's drug war.  It's like no one wants to win.  Tuesday, the Clinton administration paraded out a new drug fighting plan for 1996.  It proposes spending a record $14.6 billion -- $1.3 billion more than this year.
        -Federal and state governments have spent $250 billion trying to "control drugs" in the past 15 years, with the bulk of the money going to law enforcement.
        -And still, Congress appears dissatisfied.  Preening for his presidential bid, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, says the Clinton administration drug policy "is still based on the blame-the-society-first approach to crime and punishment."

        That's a great sound bite.  But it ignores the facts.
        And as long as politicians continue to do that, the nation will continue to lose the war on drugs.  [emphasis added -ed.]

II.)  February 20, The National Review's "The Week" editorial section observed:

        After campaigning as a tough-on-crime conservative, New York Governor George Pataki wants to cut sentences for drug dealers.  There is no contradiction here.  To fulfill his promise of keeping violent criminals locked up longer, Governor Pataki needs to free up prison space increasingly occupied by non-violent drug offenders.
        ... Resources that could be used to incapacitate robbers, rapists, and murderers are instead used to imprison small-time drug dealers [and individuals who simply possessed small amounts of contraband --ed.].  Pataki has recognized the recklessness of this policy.  Will Congress?  [emphasis added -ed.]
        [For more information about what actions New York state and Gov. Pataki might take on criminal justice matters, please correspond with either NORML Board member, State Senator Joseph Galiber, 518-455-2061 or The Partnership for Responsible Drug Information, Inc., David Crockett, 718-392-5036.] A Baltimore Grand Jury's Assignment: Study The Drug War And Make
-- The Jury's in -- Their Recommendation:
Decriminalize Marijuana!

        February 9, The following are selected excerpts from the Baltimore Sun's front page article:

        -In a report meant to rekindle debate over drug policy, a Baltimore grand jury suggests that marijuana be "decriminalized"...
        -"It is time to take a very serious look at the drug problem in Baltimore City.  Removing the profit from the drug trade maybe the only way to resolve it," says the report from the grand jury, which was assigned by a judge to study drug legalization.
        The grand jury says striking down laws against possessing small amounts of marijuana is an "honest response" to a finding that authorities seldom enforce such laws.
        -The report was hailed by Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who since 1988 has advocated a national debate on alternative approaches to fighting drugs.  "I was pleased they came down on the side of making the war on drugs more of a public health war rather than a criminal justice war."
        -When the grand jury was sworn in for a four-month term on Sept. 12, Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph P. McCurdy Jr. told it to look into the issue of drug decriminalization.  "Many of us feel that the war on drugs has not succeeded, that we are losing ground with each passing day, that we are wasting resources and that we have to look at this problem anew," he said.  [Amen. -ed.]
        David C. Condliffe, executive director of the Drug Policy Foundation, praised Baltimore as a city on the cutting edge of a "sane" drug policy.
        He noted that the Clinton administration yesterday announced a policy that shifts a larger percentage of drug fighting money away from treatment and prevention, and toward law enforcement.  Pointing to the grand jury report, he said, "Washington is simply out of step with the citizens."  [NORML concurs -ed.]
        [For more information on the Baltimore grand jury's 20-page report, please contact David Fratello, Drug Policy Foundation, 202-537-5005.]

French Commission Narrowly Votes To "Decriminalize" Marijuana

        February 4, Le Monde reports that members of the Henrion commission, appointed in March by Simone Veil, Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Cities, to study a 1970 law concerning the criminal penalties for drug possession in France, have made some remarkable observations and recommendations.
        The commission was asked whether the distinction between hard and soft drugs should be upheld.  According, to Le Monde "the commission judged that 'one can simply state that drugs are more or less dangerous,' cannabis and its derivatives (marijuana, hash, hash oil) being classified among the least dangerous.  By a close vote (9 out of 17), a majority favorable to the decriminalization of the use and possession of small amounts of quantities emerged."
        Le Monde reports that there are varying estimates of how many French citizens consume marijuana.  The government estimates 1 to 3 million users, while Sofres estimates a range of 4 to 5 million marijuana consumers.
        The nine members supporting marijuana decriminalization purposed:

        -Prohibiting the consumption of marijuana prior to the age of 16.
        -Prohibiting the consumption of marijuana in public places.
        -Strengthening the laws against driving while intoxicated on marijuana.
        -Creating misdemeanor laws dealing with individuals under the influence of marijuana.
        -Strictly banning the use of marijuana by public safety professionals (e.g.: flight controllers, high speed train operators, airline pilots, etc...)
        The nine members of the commission that favor changing the laws went on to further state "If there is no deterioration in the situation over the next two years, one could then envisage true, regulated commerce under strict control of the State," according to Le Monde.  [emphasis added -ed.]



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