These Laws Are So Stupid

These Laws Are So Stupid
Posted by CN Staff on January 05, 2005 at 08:36:44 PT
By Paul McMorrow
Source: Boston Weekly Dig 
Though it took Joe White four years and two rounds of litigation to force a stubborn MBTA into posting his advertisements advocating marijuana reform, White, a Greenfield, MA, resident who heads the marijuana advocacy group Change the Climate, knew the region's transportation agency was fighting a losing battle as soon as its lawyers deposed him.
“They knew this was a clear-cut free speech case, and they knew they were going to lose,” White boasts. “They were just milking the T for money-I mean, their lawyers were pot smokers!” Last month, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit confirmed what White knew all along, ruling that the T had violated White's First Amendment rights when it refused to run three Change the Climate ads in 2000. The appellate court soundly rejected the T's argument that the ads encouraged minors to smoke marijuana, instead finding that the T had unconstitutionally silenced Change the Climate for criticizing government drug policy. Soon, White promises, Change the Climate will parlay its win against the T into a provocative, high-profile ad campaign. The victory over the T is just the latest in a series for White, who runs Change the Climate almost single-handedly (and on top of a full-time job, to boot.) Over the last four years, Change the Climate has defied the Bush administration's offensive against marijuana, recording a string of otherwise rare victories for drug reform, while drawing the ire of state and federal authorities. And in the process, he has redefined how pot activists do business.At first blush, Greenfield would seem an ideal place to launch a marijuana advocacy group-that is, if Greenfield did indeed live up to its name's narcotic connotation, with rolling fields of marijuana swaying in the breezes of Western Mass. As it is, though, Greenfield is remarkable only in its unremarkable nature. It's a wholesome-looking old mill town in the middle of nowhere, boasting a main drag-Main Street, if you believe it-that's lined with banks, bakeries, war memorials and small-time department stores. From Boston, it's reached by running a gauntlet of auto parts stores and farmers' co-ops. When I stumbled into the local Dunkin' Donuts, I was greeted by a group of local youths, cutting school to sing Christmas carols, of all things. But in that same Dunkin' Donuts parking lot, I also spied the first and Human Rights Campaign stickers I'd seen in an hour. Despite the aw-shucks veneer, Greenfield is represented-in the State House and in Congress-by strident liberals. The town's paradoxes shine in Joe White. White doesn't cavort around town in a three-piece hemp suit and a marijuana leaf crown, nor did he found Change the Climate as a way to promote the Ideology of Freedom, man. But, as the MBTA and the Bush administration have discovered, he is shrewd, sophisticated and relentlessly dedicated to his cause. “It's amazing how large this issue has become in my personal and professional life,” White explained from his home office recently. “And it's amazing how unashamed I am of that fact.” White is also unashamed of how markedly he stands out among marijuana activists. He readily confesses to projecting “a certain conservative, preppy look,” to not listening to the Grateful Dead “as much as I should” and to staying far away from High Times - “I'm not in that part of the consumer movement,” he explains. And, although both he and his 16-year-old son attended this year's rain-soaked Freedom Rally, neither smoked. “I've been more of a non-activist over the years,” White said. “I got involved with this issue partially as a business endeavor, but really in response to my teenager, who's now 23, asking me why adults lie to kids about marijuana. He's part of the DARE generation, the generation that's been bombarded by ads that make marijuana out to be the most dangerous substance on the planet. He told me that he didn't smoke, but his friends did, and if we weren't telling them the truth about marijuana, maybe we weren't telling them the truth about other drugs, more dangerous drugs. “And once I started learning how much money is spent on arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana-how much money is spent disseminating inaccurate information about marijuana-the more obsessed I became about telling people the truth and educating the public about what a huge fiasco this is. It costs us billions of dollars a year. Plus, it's easy for me - I smoke pot. I'm fighting against stupid laws that go against my self-interest. Nobody ever died from smoking marijuana - that's why these laws are so fucking stupid.”Whatever steep odds marijuana reform faced when White founded Change the Climate in 2000 have swelled exponentially under George W. Bush, who has made what White calls the “demonization” of marijuana the centerpiece of his administration's drug policy. White House Drug Czar John Walters has called marijuana the most dangerous drug in America; Bush's anti-drug ad campaign focuses almost exclusively on marijuana, rather than OxyContin or heroin; and John Ashcroft's Justice Department has sunk considerable resources into very publicly persecuting the cultivators and users of medicinal marijuana. Most recently, the Drug Enforcement Administration forcefully blocked a UMass-Amherst professor's bid to study the medicinal effects of marijuana, essentially stymieing any FDA approval of medical marijuana while the Justice Department extinguishes medical users and suppliers at the state level. In the face of all this, Joe White has enjoyed a series of high profile victories against the marijuana clampdown. White has not done this by orchestrating public showings of mass dissatisfaction, nor by pounding his head against the Capitol's walls; instead, Change the Climate fights for change by funding visible advertisements that weigh the costs of marijuana laws and then baiting government officials into highly public confrontations that expose the flaccid rationale behind those laws. “We are flexible and entrepreneurial enough to pick and choose our battles,” White explains.In the first of those chosen battles, Change the Climate-with the ACLU's legal support-celebrated George W. Bush's inauguration by placing 560 pro-marijuana reform ads on Washington Metro buses and subway stations. Initially, the Metro rejected Change the Climate's submission, “but they backed down when we threatened to sue, and they realized they'd lose in court.” All of which was according to plan, White says. “At first, we approached billboard companies, and they politely declined. But transportation systems are publicly funded, so they're subject to the free speech provisions of the Constitution.” White not only won a forum for criticizing government drug policy, but he also garnered national attention for sticking his thumb in Bush's eye as soon as the boy president arrived in Washington. Several rounds of advertisements touting drug policy reform followed Change the Climate's initial Metro salvo. One featured a business executive rhetorically asking if it's his choice to smoke pot after his chemotherapy and then being told, “Wrong.” Another argued that "Police are too important ... too valuable ... too good ... to waste on arresting people for marijuana when real criminals are on the loose"; and a third asked, "Why do kids go to jail for doing what politicians did when they were young? Tell us the truth." A fourth tried to hit Georgetown yuppies in their wallets: “5.2 million marijuana arrests since 1992. It cost you $4.5 billion. Is it really worth it?”Then, in December 2003, congressmen who had been chafing at Change the Climate's DC-area advertisements suffered a full-blown conniption when they were greeted with Metro ads saying, “Enjoy better sex! Legalize and tax marijuana.” “That ad actually came from a conversation I had with one of the executives who fund our campaigns,” White recounts. “He told me marijuana works much better than Viagra, that people should really try it.”Ernest Istook, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma, declined this suggestion, instead labeling the ad “shocking” and pushing legislation that stripped $92,500 in federal appropriations from the Metro "as a warning to other transit agencies." “I must assure [sic] that [the Metro] will learn the proper lessons from this experience and will only accept appropriate ads in the future," Istook cautioned. The congressman subsequently authored legislation that barred any federally subsidized transit authority from becoming “involved directly or indirectly in any activity that promotes the legalization or medical use of any substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act,” meaning any transit authority that ran ads from Change the Climate would lose its federal funding. “This is a right-wing nut in Congress who probably wants unmarried women to wear chastity belts,” White says of Istook. “He was foaming at the mouth-sex and marijuana! That was one high point in Change the Climate's efforts-to successfully bait a member of Congress, who had the audacity to ban all ads from transit agencies around the country that expressed a different viewpoint than the government's. It was quite a surprise, and a great opportunity for marijuana reform. I did not imagine that I'd ever be personally targeted by the Congress, that I'd sue Bush over free speech. I don't think our messages are too radical.” Radical or not, Istook's attack on Change the Climate garnered national attention, allowing White to ridicule Istook in The Washington Post while pushing his case for marijuana reform-for free. Change the Climate then teamed with the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU to challenge the constitutionality of Istook's anti-drug stance, suing the Bush administration and its transportation secretary, Norman Mineta. Last June, a federal judge overturned the Istook amendment in a strongly worded opinion, finding that the legislation did “not express Congress' desire to shield the nation's youth from all conversation regarding controlled substances but rather eliminates only dialogue regarding legislative reform of the narcotics laws, and the prohibition applies to minors and adults alike ... The government has articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason.”It was a remarkable victory, even more so considering it took place in the midst of a four-year period that could safely be called a rout of the marijuana reform movement. After initially rejecting three Change the Climate ads in 2000, the MBTA assumed the rising national anti-marijuana wave would pound White into oblivion. And it nearly did.In August 2003, a federal judge ruled that the MBTA had not violated Change the Climate's constitutional rights when it rejected three pro-marijuana ads; instead, the judge argued that Change the Climate's ads misled the public, encouraged illegality and targeted children. But Change the Climate, again with the help of the ACLU (“Probably the most important organization in America,” White argues), appealed, and in late November, a three-judge panel ruled in Change the Climate's favor, striking down the T's stance as unconstitutional. During that appeal, T officials argued that Change the Climate's ads encouraged teens to use marijuana-arguments similar to the ones employed by the Transportation Department during the Istook trial. In one ad, a teenage girl with a baseball cap on backwards declares, "Smoking pot is not cool, but we're not stupid, ya know. Marijuana is NOT cocaine or heroin. Tell us the truth ...." In another, a woman says, "I've got three great kids. I love them more than anything. I don't want them to smoke pot. But I know jail is a lot more dangerous than smoking pot." In the December 24, 2003 issue of the Dig, MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo wrote a letter justifying the T's years-long battle with Change the Climate by citing both concern for our children and the not-yet-unconstitutional Istook amendment. “In defending its decision to reject ads from Change the Climate, the T's legal fees have totaled less than 1 percent of the amount Viacom pays the T for exclusive rights to the system's advertising space,” Pesaturo argued. “It's a very small price to pay to protect children and others from harmful and irresponsible messages that encourage, promote and glamorize illegal drug activity. Two judges, including a federal one, have sided with the T. Now, with Congress approving a measure that penalizes transit agencies that accept pro-drug ads, the T doesn't have to worry about losing millions in federal dollars.” Five months after Pesaturo's letter, the Istook amendment was declared unconstitutional; six months after that, Pesaturo's other plank, defense of our children, was similarly dismissed by a federal appellate panel that ruled, “The ads do not advocate illegal drug use. Rather, these two ads make a sophisticated argument that the criminalization of marijuana imposes worse consequences on society than would alternatives.” “I'm glad the judges have good taste,” White says, “but I'm not happy that this suit enabled the Commonwealth to squander $1 million, money that could be better spent on the average T rider. That's a shitload of money, especially in a losing cause. If the T were smart, they would've just put the ads up. We would've gotten one day of press, and then in 30 days, the ad would be gone. But they gave us the opportunity to talk about the case for marijuana reform for four years-and we're not done yet.”While White is careful to credit his peers for the work they do, pointing to collaborations with the Marijuana Policy Project, the Drug Policy Alliance and MASS CANN, and saying, “This issue won't be won by a single organization or message,” it's clear that Change the Climate has established its own hyper-successful niche in the marijuana reform movement. That's why it's no accident that, in spite of vehement federal opposition, Change the Climate has been able to advance its reformist cause against the Washington Metro, the MBTA and the Bush administration. Joe White's success stems from taking marijuana reform to a place it hasn't been in a while-the average American.“I can't think of many organizations that are talking directly to citizens about marijuana issues, so we decided to be that voice,” White explains. “We focus more on popular culture, more on the way that people get their information-through advertising. We don't have lobbyists; we don't do publications. One business executive told me, 'I love Change the Climate, because you're on the streets, talking to the people.' We don't hide our ads in glossy magazines for policy wonks; our ads are in front of average citizens who know that we're speaking the truth. We want to communicate information and get people thinking. And that hopefully motivates people to talk to their political representatives. “That's the whole notion behind Change the Climate-in order for there to be legislative change, politicians need to feel comfortable voting for change, instead of being chickenshit. If our advertising gets people talking more, politicians will feel more comfortable voting, or even advocating, for change. The climate around marijuana needs to change. We need to de-demonize it. We're looking at the preconditions for change, not at the change itself, because we need a broader discussion before there can be any legislative change. Asking for money to knock on more politicians' doors isn't going to initiate change.”Note: Fresh off a Masterfully Played Rout of the T, Change the Climate's Joe White is Continuing to Change the Way Joe Sixpack Thinks About Weed Reform in America.Complete Title: These Laws Are So Fucking StupidSource: Boston Weekly Dig (MA)Author: Paul McMorrowPublished: January 05, 2005Copyright: 2005 Boston Weekly DigContact: letters weeklydig.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Change The Climate Takes a Hit in Court on Marijuana Ads Case Says T Can't Bar Ad by Pro-MJ Group Rules Against Ban on Pot Group's Ad 
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Comment #9 posted by global_warming on January 05, 2005 at 16:17:53 PT
No Cures No Change
This bloated sytem that we call our civilization is just bursting at the seams of indecency."The 12-step program is an outdated 20th-century concept," says Clifford Bernstein, an assistant clinical professor of anesthesiology at UC Irvine and medical director of the Waismann Institute, the nation's leading rapid detox center. "For 70 years, thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous, addicts have been told they're suffering from a spiritual problem. AA assumes that you can talk someone out of their addiction - which is ridiculous. Addiction is a medical problem. If somebody has cancer, you don't try to talk them out of their disease."Docs not Cops
Instant Detox 
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Comment #8 posted by Sukoi on January 05, 2005 at 15:36:25 PT
No doubt
This is indeed an absolutely excellent article and I truly love the way that Joe White thinks.Here is another outstanding article; although not quite as colorful, it is well written, researched and rational:ALCOHOL PROHIBITION AND DRUG PROHIBITIONLessons from Alcohol Policy for Drug Policy
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Comment #7 posted by global_warming on January 05, 2005 at 15:17:14 PT
Not one more damn dime for war.1/20/05
Dollars against BushON JAN. 20, hide your wallets and your credit cards. –According to an e-mail that's circulating these days, if you care about what our country is doing in Iraq in your name, you shouldn't spend a dime that day. It's when President George W. Bush will be sworn into office for a second term. Massive antiwar marches will take place that day in several cities, including Washington, D.C., and of course San Francisco (5 p.m., gather at the Civic Center).Other folks are calling for doing more than just taking to the streets. Not one damn dime should go into the U.S. economy that day to protest the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, these activists say. Don't even purchase food or gasoline. We're being asked to put our money where our politics are.It's a great idea. I'm not convinced that a single no-shopping day will have much of an effect, particularly since there's been little publicity or organizing. But that's not to say we should nix the concept altogether.A movement based on harnessing the power of U.S. consumers with a conscience is long overdue in this country. It's time to shift some of the peace movement's energy from street protests to long-term boycotts. Bush and company don't care how much shoe leather we wear out marching in the same streets over and over again, but they might take notice if suddenly our dollars are being used to send a message, an economic Morse code: No more war, stupid!Boycotts have been effective in the past. How well I remember the boycott of Florida orange juice. It was in 1976, right after born-again Christian singer Anita Bryant led a successful campaign to repeal Dade County, Florida's gay rights bill. Our national effort ultimately resulted in Bryant losing her position as the spokesperson for Florida orange juice. It also mobilized millions in support of gay rights and made our fight a household word.A movement to use our spending power to send a message to the leaders giving the orders to kill innocent people in Iraq (not to mention orders that result in the deaths of U.S. service members) will take a while to have any effect. The American people aren't easy to convince when some are waving flags and invoking the same mindless patriotism used to justify throwing Japanese Americans into detention camps six decades ago and slaughtering Vietnamese in another unjust war. Unfortunately, we have all the time in the world. The war in Iraq won't be over any time soon. Even if it is, there's sure to be another one in Iran. The Bush crew won't be happy until they control all the oil in the Middle East to feed the profits of their corporate pals and fuel all our gas-guzzling cars.Boycott targets will have to be chosen carefully. Having a really obvious bad guy helps. It shouldn't be hard. There are plenty out there just begging to be chosen. The word can easily be spread via the Internet and by the antiwar movement at future mass mobilizations. For organizations with money, ads can be taken out in newspapers and magazines.On a personal level, each one of us can help by not giving money to any organization or individual that supports the war or hasn't taken a stand against it. That includes churches, synagogues, schools, civic organizations, political candidates, et cetera. Let everyone know that, for you, it's not business as usual. Force the issue everywhere. War is the most immoral act humans commit. It's time that every one of us take a stand every day and in every way we can, no matter how small.Not one more damn dime for war. 
Not one more damn dime for war. 
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Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on January 05, 2005 at 15:15:55 PT:
Breaking the glass box
There's been a kind of glass box, like a museum exhibit, surrounding the public discussion of cannabis law reform. That box was alarmed so that any approaching it would set loose the DrugWarrior guard dogs, who would snarl and snap at anyone that dared even make a peep about touching their gravy train. People like Mr. White are the much needed sledgehammers that break the box, call out the dogs...and then muzzle them, using their own barking and snarling as proof of how dangerous this has gotten to have public servants forgetting their roles as such...and seeking to be public masters.It's said that "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." I think Mr. Istook and his ilk will be much more cautious in their future (they never seem to learn) attempts to throttle First Amendment rights regarding a (for them) unpleasent subject. An unpleasent subject which heretofore they've been able to dodge, but nonetheless will eventually be debated in earnest as the economy worsens. Count on it.
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Comment #5 posted by global_warming on January 05, 2005 at 12:47:35 PT
Great Article..Go Joe White!
.."Change the Climate fights for change by funding visible advertisements that weigh the costs of marijuana laws and then baiting government officials into highly public confrontations that expose the flaccid rationale behind those laws."I hope that grandma Joyce has a chance to read this article, she is going to love it. Why when I hear the word flaccid does a picture of John P come up in my mind, maybe I didn't get enough sleep last night.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on January 05, 2005 at 11:51:58 PT
I just didn't want to see the title on the front page since articles stay there for a while during our slow time. I never remove anything from an article because that is a serious no no. Words don't offend me but I do know they can offend those we are trying to win over to our understanding. Drug Policy Reform has been a male dominated area but now we have women from all different lifestyles and different ages involved so I try to look at the big picture. The headache is starting to subside but it was one that I could have gotten really sick to my stomach. I am using essential oils and that helps. Thank you.
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Comment #3 posted by Dankhank on January 05, 2005 at 11:42:58 PT
I was under the weather a bit when I wrote my comment, mucho typos, sorry, but I think you still get what I meant."Definition of the word F==k" can be found online. Truly funny and right on target. Replace the == with appropriate letters ... :-)As a retired soldier I am very familiar with that word and can see that at times it's use is warranted.Sorry if it offends some, it is only a word.Hope you get to feeling better, soon, FoM.
Words ...
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on January 05, 2005 at 11:06:39 PT
I woke up with a really bad sinus headache and saw this article. I actually haven't read it because my head still hurts. I couldn't bring myself to post the complete title in the subject line and I hope you all understand. I didn't want to see it. It made my head hurt worse then it already does.
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Comment #1 posted by Dankhank on January 05, 2005 at 10:59:13 PT
I love this story. I love the comments from Mr. Joe White, including the appropriate stridemt use of profanity. It is truly profane what Americans do to other Americans while trying to "save the children" from the Cannabis plant and all it's miraculous properties.Joe has found a perfest way to stick ot to the legislators, baiting Istook was classic.Eat it Istook ...
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