It's Just a Book

It's Just a Book
Posted by CN Staff on February 28, 2005 at 16:11:45 PT
By Jamie Pietras
Source: Village Voice
The debate over American marijuana-control policy has always been framed around the minds of the young. From the campy anti-pot educational films of the 1950s to the in-school visits from police officers affiliated with the 22-year-old D.A.R.E. program, federal officials have consistently funded or endorsed persuasive approaches to education that critics say put a premium on scare tactics at the expense of scientific objectivity.
In the 1930s and 1940s, pot was said to lead to blood-splattering violence and insanity, a claim perpetuated, in part, by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Treasury Department agency that was the forerunner to today's Drug Enforcement Administration. This gave way to the slightly less sensational assertion that marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs like cocaine or heroin, a charge still in vogue among marijuana prohibitionists today, despite compelling evidence to the contrary (the federally funded 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine found no causative connection between the use of marijuana and the use of harder drugs). Few would argue they want kids smoking pot. The challenge is in dissuading kids from doing so without resorting to potentially counterproductive myths and hyperbole. Enter Ricardo Cortes. Two years ago, the former high school D.A.R.E. officer and Prospect Heights-based T-shirt and skateboard designer began working on an entirely different approach. He wrote and illustrated a 48-page picture book he hoped would be taken as a welcome dose of "reality-based education." Cortes says the book, It's Just a Plant, is intended for "six to 12-year-olds." His book still encourages kids to say "No," but it stops short of condemning responsible adult use. The story begins when eight-year-old "Jackie" walks into her parents bedroom, a den of Peter Max-style, Day-Glo decorum, and catches her parents smoking a joint. It ends—after an odyssey involving a gentle pot farmer, progressive-thinking doctor, and a primer on marijuana prohibition history from an officer making a bust—with Jackie proclaiming she's going to grow up and vote, "so I can make all the laws fair." Cortes was certain a major publisher wouldn't touch his project, so he shopped it around to a few independent presses before deciding last month to publish an initial run of 3,000 copies himself. Orders have been processed primarily through the website of his company, Magic Propaganda Mill. As a single-title publisher, he decided not to approach the major retailer Barnes and Noble, which would have required him to shoulder distribution costs. Small Canadian retail conglomerate McNally Robinson told Cortes his book wouldn't fit the store's demographic; one Borders in North Carolina has decided to stock it. Brooklyn Public Library declined to carry the book after requesting a copy, and two libraries in other states have yet to respond after being sent the book. Indie bookstores in San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, Maryland, and New York are selling the title. Reviews were expectedly mixed. The most pointed came, unsurprisingly, from an elected official out to politicize the book. During a February 16 House Drug Policy Subcommittee hearing on "harm reduction" approaches to intravenous drug use, the committee's chairman, Indiana Representative Mark Souder, held a copy of the book in front of him and denounced it as a "pro-marijuana children's book." The representative then read excerpts into the Congressional Record. Cortes says he has already e-mailed a rebuttal to Souder's office, in the hopes will also be included in the Congressional Record. Souder's office hadn't yet seen it when contacted by the Voice. Why would Souder go out of his way to publicize a self-published title of relatively little influence during a hearing unrelated to marijuana or educational policy? Two words: George Soros. The Hungarian-born investor is the chief financier of the drug reform movement and its most prominent advocacy group, the Drug Policy Alliance. The alliance is a key player in the world of drug reform—the go-to place for activists, journalists, and politicians interested in passing medical marijuana measures, decriminalizing marijuana, or starting needle exchange or methadone-maintenance programs. The DPA is the ideological thorn in the side of Souder and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the agency on behalf of which Souder introduces drug-related legislation to Congress. Souder repeatedly attacked Soros and the DPA for its support of Cortes's book, which the DPA currently sells in the "drug education" section of its online library. DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann provided Cortes with a promotional blurb, while Marsha Rosenbaum, the director of the DPA's San Francisco office, wrote the book's epilogue. Rosenbaum told The Village Voice she knew her epilogue was "somewhat of a risky proposition" but she never anticipated the extent of the negative backlash. "It confirms all of my worst fears that the government, in the human form of Souder, would hold up this book and claim with a straight face that it advocates marijuana use for kids." Souder, who is currently out of the country, couldn't be reached for comment. Never mind adults—can a six-year-old differentiate how something could be against the law yet morally justifiable? "I don't think there's a magic age where it becomes OK to start talking about these things," Cortes says. "I think it's very similar to sex. A five-year-old is ready to talk about sex in some way. You don't need to break down the protein content of sperm to a five-year-old." (He and Rosenbaum are careful to say that they don't intend for kids to read the book on their own, but with an adult.) Just a week after Souder's performance, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America announced the results of a new survey on parental attitudes. Most parents valued talking to their kids about drugs, the survey said, yet only one in three teens claimed to have learned a lot about drug risks at home. In fact, the number of parents who never talked to their kids about drugs doubled from 6 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2004. It's an ironic dynamic, since parents today are more likely to have used drugs than parents in previous generations. As for Cortes, he may find the biggest market for his book isn't his intended audience. Cortes has already agreed to ship about half of his original run of books to Urban Outfitters, a national retail chain where consumers are more likely to see the book as ironic satire. That's cool, Cortes says. The point the book makes—pointing out the absurdity of marijuana laws—is one that is equally relevant to grown-ups. "Sometimes you have to talk to adults like they are children."Note: How a 'pro-marijuana' children's story found its way to Congress.Source: Village Voice (NY)Author: Jamie PietrasPublished: February 28th, 2005Copyright: 2005 Village Voice Media, Inc.Contact: editor villagevoice.comWebsite:'s Just a Plant Policy Alliance Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on February 28, 2005 at 20:46:38 PT
The GCW 
Good job! 
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Comment #11 posted by AOLBites on February 28, 2005 at 20:29:16 PT
getting a book on amazon
from boing boingHOWTO get a CD, DVD or book listed on AmazonKevin Kelly has posted a detailed explanation of the process by which you can get your self-published DVD, CD or book listed on Amazon. It's a great idea for those evangelical, get-the-message-out micro-publishing projects that have more than 10 or 20 potential customers -- you can print a couple hundred media objects at your local print-shop for a fraction of what a vanity press will charge, and then turn over all the post-office and payment crap to Amazon.  
1 Get an ISBN (for a book), or a UPC (for a CD or DVD). For one book it costs $125, for one CD, $55, for one DVD, $89.  
2 Get a bar code based on the ISBN or UPC. Costs $10, or may be included in UPC.  
3 Sign up with Amazon, $30 per year.  
4 Duplicate your stuff; include the bar code on the outside.  
5 Ship two copies to Amazon  
6 Send cover scan  
7 Track sales  
8 Resgister it (optional)Link (via Paul Boutin) Jim Cowling sez, "Canadian publishers, including self-publishers, can get ISBNs for free by going to the Library and Archives Canada website."
How to Sell Your Book, CD, or DVD on Amazon
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Comment #10 posted by The GCW on February 28, 2005 at 20:04:25 PT
D.A.R.E. supports evil.
US MA: Edu: LTE: Cannabis not evil
Pubdate: Feb. 28, 2005
Source: Daily Free Press (Boston U, MA Edu)
Contact: dfpletters
Viewed at:
Cannabis not evilPublished: Monday, February 28, 2005 
Nearly every North American study - including government studies - indicate even the revamped model of D.A.R.E. ("Parents Vital In Drug Lessons," Feb. 23, p. 6), is a failure and may be doing more harm than good. D.A.R.E. teaches lies about cannabis claiming medical use of cannabis is a hoax and D.A.R.E. supports caging adult humans for using cannabis. It is commendable to help youth resist drugs, alcohol, cannabis, coffee and cigarettes until they are older and responsible for their choices, but caging responsible adult cannabis users is not the correct way to do it. As an obedient Christian, I resist government teaching my children that the plant cannabis is evil when we are taught God created all the seed bearing plants, saying they are all good on literally the very first page of the Bible. Money used for D.A.R.E. should be applied toward programs that work and have support from citizens. (Coming soon to MAP)
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on February 28, 2005 at 19:05:00 PT:
I'd never thought I'd ever say this
But "Thank you, Mark Souder!"As you DrugWarriors know, there's nothing like free publicity. Well, it's not *exactly* free; your salary is paid by the taxpayers whose intelligence you continually insult. This time, though, the joke's on you. Yepper, nothing like a little word of mouth advertisement. I expect the book sales will pick up shortly. Mark, me somewhat 'slow' lad, the general public would NEVER have heard about that book had it not been for your easily baited self waving it around and quoting passages from it into Congressional record. (I wish you could see my face split in a sardonic grin from end to end as I shake my head in wondering disbelief.) Are you truly *that* guileless?As Mark Twain once said: "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but then I repeat myself."I rest my case... 
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 28, 2005 at 18:20:46 PT
Oh Fox
That's what they would say. I'm glad that was clarified. Soros did a great job trying to get Bush out so Fox naturally wouldn't like him. I sure appreciate all Soros put into trying to change how this country is currently run. 
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Comment #7 posted by Taylor121 on February 28, 2005 at 18:12:21 PT
On Soros
"Soros doesn't advocate abolishing private property. He's totally anti-communist, pretty much a devout capitalist. He's a big follower of Karl Popper and his "Open Society" ideas. He hates communism."Sorry, it wasn't meant to be literal. I should have said that more clearly. This is how he is portrayed though by conservatives on Fox though.I have nothing against Soros, in fact I like him for promoting a rational drug policy.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on February 28, 2005 at 18:09:47 PT
Thank you for clarifying what Soros believes. That concerned me because I thought that was communism. 
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Comment #5 posted by Commonsense on February 28, 2005 at 18:05:59 PT
Soros doesn't advocate abolishing private property. He's totally anti-communist, pretty much a devout capitalist. He's a big follower of Karl Popper and his "Open Society" ideas. He hates communism.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on February 28, 2005 at 16:32:55 PT
What does the abolishment of private property mean? We've worked our whole married life to have our home. It doesn't mean that does it? 
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Comment #3 posted by Taylor121 on February 28, 2005 at 16:25:39 PT
Btw on the george soros
They really should stop preaching about how bad this guy is and his entire agenda. The bottom line is this:The Drug Policy Alliance is something conservatives/libertarians/liberals can all get behind, not just far left liberals. Soros's agenda overall does not mesh together with the DPA, rather he creates seperate organizations.So as a moderate Libertarian, I may not support the abolishment of private property, but I wholeheartedly support the Drug Policy Alliance, and I'm extremely pleased that Soros helps to fund this organization!
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Comment #2 posted by Taylor121 on February 28, 2005 at 16:21:56 PT
The Drug Policy Alliance 
This organization always puts a smile on my face just acknowledging its existance. I'm glad itsjustplant is being sold! It's about time parents have a book that actually educates children instead of lies to them. Last webchat Ethan announced that the Drug Policy Alliance has nearly 30,000 members! This is incredible to say the least. http://www.drugpolicy.orgIf you aren't a member of any other reform organization and have some money to throw, join up :)
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on February 28, 2005 at 16:15:48 PT
He's everywhere. Doesn't he ever get tired of complaining?
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