A Change In The Weather

A Change In The Weather
Posted by CN Staff on January 31, 2007 at 21:18:27 PT
By Dean Kuipers
Source: Los Angeles City Beat 
Washington, DC -- The Democratic sweep in the 2006 mid-term elections has done more than finally install a woman as speaker of the House. It has also put one of the most vocal critics of the ill-starred “War on Drugs” in a position to affect federal drug policy. On January 18, Ohio Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, one of the most progressive Democratic voices in the House, was appointed as chair of the new House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on domestic policy, causing drug reform organizations coast-to-coast to rejoice in hopes that a moment for significant change may have finally come.
This subcommittee replaces the now-defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources subcommittee, which was headed up by staunch drug warrior, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). Kucinich will assume many of his oversight duties, including policy oversight of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and appointed Drug Czar John Walters. One commentator on crowed that “the responsibility of overseeing the ONDCP has effectively been transferred from Congress’s most reckless drug warrior to its most outspoken drug policy reformer” [his emphasis].“He is certainly the polar opposite of his predecessor, Mark Souder,” says Allen St. Pierre, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML. “Since the time the [ONDCP] was created in 1988, there have always been friendly people in that subcommittee and the ONDCP has always been able to get what they want under the guise of protecting children and saving America from drugs. But Kucinich doesn’t believe any of that. Any of it!”For instance, St. Pierre notes, Kucinich is a supporter of industrial hemp, the non-psychoactive product of the cannabis sativa plant. He is also a supporter of medical marijuana and of the federal rescheduling of marijuana, where it is currently illegal as a Schedule I drug, classified as having “no medical value.” This classification clashes with states such as California, which have legalized medical use of marijuana, and leads directly to the current rash of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Kucinich is expected, St. Pierre says, to be a sponsor of a new bill to be introduced in March that would decriminalize pot.Washington insiders, however, are not holding their breath for great upheaval in federal drug policy overall. Sources close to the appointment, who asked not to be named, say that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Democratic leadership have effectively embargoed major crime or drug policy legislation for the next two years, to avoid looking soft on crime in the 2008 election.Kucinich, however, is promising a couple years of entertaining and edifying hearings.“We’re going to open up the discussion to new hearings,” says Kucinich, interviewed Sunday in Culver City, where he presented his bill for Universal Health Care, which is co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). “We want to explore the federal government’s policies and the Department of Justice’s policies on medical marijuana, for example. We need to also look at the drug laws that have brought about mandatory minimum sentences that have put people in jail for long periods of time. I think it’s an appropriate time to look at the proliferation of drugs in America, and how that fits in with our health care crisis, and how that fits in with law enforcement.”The ONDCP did not reply to several requests for comment. That office, however, which is a function of the executive branch, has been deeply involved in pushing heavy sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and resisting medical marijuana, buying big-money ad campaigns attacking marijuana in states trying to legalize at the state level. Controlling that ad money could be a key to reform. When asked if his subcommittee has any budget oversight or other muscle, Kucinich shook his head and added, “No, this committee does not have control of the budgets, but it does have control of the policy, and it can ask questions and get documents that others couldn’t get.”That can make a difference, says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, one of the nation’s biggest drug policy reform organizations. His group plans to push for incremental slices of legislation that can move a progressive agenda while not upsetting Democratic unity, adding that Kucinich can “hold hearings on some of the subjects that haven’t been addressed in, you know, decades. Like a hearing on America having the highest incarceration rate in the world. Or maybe a hearing on why the DEA has jurisdiction over medical issues.“One can obviously empathize with the democratic leadership’s desire to be cautious when it comes to supporting drug policy reforms and other sentencing reforms,” he adds. “But when you have a growing number of Republicans supporting sentencing reform, this might be a good time for the Democrats to show a little leadership.” In fact, several activists point out, the new Congress may be the most sympathetic to drug-law reform that America has ever seen. Progressives like Senator Richard Durbin and Reps. Pelosi, George Miller, Conyers, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, Kucinich, and Bobby Scott have all turned up in leadership positions.“If we had to pick out our 40 best friends in Congress, they’d be disproportionately in leadership positions,” says Nadelmann. He includes Sen. Patrick Leahy on that list, but cautions: “Mind you, seven years ago, Leahy said that sentencing reform was one of the top priorities, but now it’s not even a top-10 priority. Part of that’s because there’s so much other stuff to deal with.”Still, action on several fronts is expected. Sentencing reform should get some attention, with an aim of reducing the number of non-violent drug offenders currently getting long prison sentences, which has given the U.S. the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. One such change would be to make sentences involving crack cocaine equal to those given for powdered cocaine, as community activists have long contended these simply punish the black and poor who are more likely to use the drug in the form of crack. Hearings might also bring new media scrutiny to decades-long marijuana rescheduling motions and several Data Quality Act petitions, which force bodies like the Food and Drug Administration to make decisions based on science rather than ideology, and which have been roundly ignored by the Bush administration.St. Pierre points out another potential point of influence: High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, or HIDTAs. Congress funnels millions of dollars to local law enforcement for use in these areas, and activists have long argued they are wrongly prioritized.“That’s a very obscure acronym, but when it comes down to the billions of dollars that get channeled out to local governments and their law enforcement, HIDTA is the battleground. That’s where Dennis can come in and say, ‘Mr. Walters, we the Congress, and, clearly, your own constituents want methamphetamines as the number one priority, not marijuana, and certainly not in the states that have medical marijuana laws.’ A couple of weeks ago, Walters was out in Fresno giving awards away for busting buyers’ clubs. Dennis can clip those wings. It all depends on how he’s going to want to pull the trigger.” Note: Progressive Dennis Kucinich takes over a new House subcommittee, signaling changes in national drug policy.Source: Los Angeles City Beat (CA)Author: Dean KuipersPublished: February 1, 2007Copyright: 2007 Southland Publishing Inc.Contact: editor lacitybeat.comWebsite: Kucinich Policy Alliance Justice Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #26 posted by Hope on February 04, 2007 at 13:33:16 PT
Apparently, I have Ms. Bennett confused 
with another prohibitionist activist. I'll try to search it down. Bennett may not be the one responsible for the campaign that took place against one particular effort of legalization in the seventies. The woman I'm thinking of was a lawyer and noticed her kids smoking marijuana at a backyard party. It may have been a state level campaign against a state rep that had a bill to legalize an ounce of cannabis...and whoever I'm thinking about, orgainized a group of parents to make phone calls and send ounce bottles of an herb to the reps as an example of just how much an ounce was. They effectively squashed the efforts, and perhaps the career, of that particular congressman.Information I've found on Sandra Bennett indicates that she joined the anti-drug campaign when her son died of a cocaine overdose. It's someone else, apparently, that I have mixed up with S. Bennett. I am sorry about not getting my prohibitionist's names straight.My sincere apologies to Ms. S. Bennett...and I'm sorry about your horrible loss...but Ms. Bennett...prohibition didn't save your son...and I don't believe prohibition is going to save anyone. Harm reduction and true regulation can.About the Bourne/Stroup debacle. I'm aware of that and the harm it caused. Basically blew up the entire access highway to change with that one.A new day. No more mistakes...I hope.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #25 posted by FoM on February 03, 2007 at 11:56:00 PT
I used the tiny url because the link was so long. I found lower in the article about where I came up with the downfall of marijuana decriminalization was because of cocaine.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #24 posted by FoM on February 03, 2007 at 11:46:32 PT
What I remember about what happened back when we thought that marijuana would be decriminalized was cocaine. That turned off President Carter. I don't remember about Bennett though.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #23 posted by Hope on February 03, 2007 at 11:40:07 PT
Bottles of oregano
Maybe it was ounce bottles of parsley she had sent to legislators.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #22 posted by Hope on February 03, 2007 at 11:38:25 PT
S. Bennett
Please don't do it again. Think of all the lives lost because of your campaign in the seventies. Please don't kill and destroy any more people because of your unfounded and hysterical fears. have power. Please use it wisely. Please help prevent the horrors your "increased enforcement" has produced since your campaign with the bottles of oregano and hysterical pronouncements, you and your colleagues brought us last time.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #21 posted by FoM on February 02, 2007 at 18:04:40 PT
 John Tyler 
I agree with you and I remember it all too.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #20 posted by John Tyler on February 02, 2007 at 17:17:45 PT
Long ago
During the 70's in the early years of the Carter presidencty cannabis decrimilization was so close, but the forces of oppression were able to discredit it's chief advocate (I can't remember who it was.)and the whole campaign went down. Reagan was the next president and prohibitionists were in high gear. Our time has come again due to heroic perseverance. I hope we can make it happen this time. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by FoM on February 02, 2007 at 08:30:28 PT
C-Span Now
Dennis is on!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by Hope on February 02, 2007 at 08:16:24 PT
Did it happen in the seventies?
Or nearly...before prohibs like Ms. Bennett went to war and saw that many more people were destroyed, killed, had their families and lives torn apart by their "preventionist" efforts.It came close then...but was it ever actually presented as a bill by a congressman?If Kucinich actually does will be a milestone, surely.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #17 posted by FoM on February 02, 2007 at 06:43:11 PT
I am going to take a guess. Timothy Leary tried but I can't remember the details. I don't think that anyone in a position like Dennis has ever tried before. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by Hope on February 01, 2007 at 22:34:01 PT
A Question
Has a decriminalization bill ever been introduced in Congress before? Ever?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #15 posted by John Tyler on February 01, 2007 at 20:35:47 PT
some suggestions
It looks like the Dems have some people in the right places to make some significant changes. I can understand, to a point, how they make not want to really shake things up right now, but it would be nice to show us they can do something, like calling off the DEA raids in states that have legal medical cannabis laws for starters, and not throwing up “roadblocks” in the progress of other states moving in that direction medical cannabis and/or hemp farming.  
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by FoM on February 01, 2007 at 11:39:20 PT
Thank you. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by Hope on February 01, 2007 at 11:22:08 PT
Progress! Has this been done before?
"Kucinich is expected, St. Pierre says, to be a sponsor of a new bill to be introduced in March that would decriminalize pot."Bless Mr. Kucinich! Bless him!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by kaptinemo on February 01, 2007 at 11:19:43 PT:
Tell Pelosi to get off the stick!
As has been pointed out here, Dennis can't do this alone. The Dems are still gun-shy. They need to know that there are millions upon millions of people who are expecrting them to do the right thing. Call or write Pelosi's offices and tell her that inaction on the issue of medicinal cannabis for the sake of appearing 'soft on crime' is unacceptable, that the sick and dying have no time to wait until the Dems acquire a backbone and stand up for what's right, and that she wasn't installed where she was to sit on her hands to suit the Republicans. Couch it diplomatically, of course, but get the point across.It would also be a good opportunity to write both Dennis and Pelosi and inform them of the shenanigans that HHS has been engaged in these past 4 years regarding their failure to initiate the cannabis rescheduling they were supposed to do under the Data Quality Act.Dennis's Contact Page. Office number: Phone (216)228-8850
Parma Office number: (440)845-2707 
Congressional Office number: (202)225-5871 Pelosi's Home District office number: (415) 556-4862 Her Congressional Office number: (202) 225-4965 Page from her Website for email contact: 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by FoM on February 01, 2007 at 09:23:32 PT
Thank you for that very important news.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by ekim on February 01, 2007 at 08:53:49 PT
Dennis Needs You
Volunteers Needed for Washington DC Event Tomorrow! Dennis Kucinich will speak on Friday, February 2 at 11:50am at the 
Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting in Washington DC. This 
is the event that sparked the Howard Dean 2004 Campaign. If you are 
in the area and would like to come to that event, Dennis would like 
to invite you to come walk in the meeting with him. Please arrive at 
the Hilton Hotel at 9am and come to the Kucinich table in the lobby. 
You will be escorting Dennis through the door of the DNC Meeting 
holding Kucinich signs. All materials provided. Democratic National Committee MeetingWhere:
Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, District of Columbia, United 
States 20009
Tel: 1-202-483-3000 Fax: 1-202-232-0438 
Near DuPont Circle)When: Arrive at 9amPlease RSVP to Evan at (828)773-5338.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 01, 2007 at 08:33:18 PT
The GCW & FoM
LOL, Souder is a big turd, we might have to whip out the plunger.FoM I believe that the only way to get the politicians' attention, is to fire them for misrepresentation. I also believe that turn about is fair play. We can put the rabid prohibitionists under a microscope and bust them for any indescrepency. If they want to bust us for sitting at home and smoking a joint, they shouldn't mind when their lives get flushed down the toilet as The GCW suggests.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by FoM on February 01, 2007 at 08:21:48 PT
You're right. I get so angry because I see some Democrats really trying and now that I will register as a Democrat for the first time in my long life it is hard not to dislike what the Republicans have done to our country. There are a few really good Republicans like Ron Paul but the odds are against them as far as being progressive. I believe that any politician that gets what the whole marijuana issue is about also will have their eyes wide open when it comes to concerns for all the people in the USA.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by The GCW on February 01, 2007 at 08:14:52 PT
Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). 
It will take to flushes to get rid of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). That was one.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by OverwhelmSam on February 01, 2007 at 08:04:00 PT
Simple Acid Test
I honestly believe that the marijuana lobby in this country has become very powerful, and politicians should take heed if they value their carerrs.I have a simple acid test. If they move on marijuana decriminalization, I will vote for them. If they don't, I will vote to put somebody new in office. I say give someone else a chance to demonstrate intestinal fortitude (guts) about marijuana regulation.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 01, 2007 at 07:51:50 PT
nuevo mexican 
You know what I think about Democrats? I think that Republicans spin anything and everything to try to make a thinking and feeling Democrat look like a wuss. I personally have no use for Republicans and their spin. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by nuevo mexican on February 01, 2007 at 07:36:21 PT
A must-read for Dems and Progressives!
Dennis is healthy and mentally stable, very spiritually inclined, knowledgeable, articulate, and wise!
Something few in Washington have! No LOW SELF ESTEEM HERE!Here is a great article explaining how Democrats low self-esteem stop them from standing up to bush!Ask yourself, are you, or your friends in this category?
Send this far and wide, as it truly is our low self-esteem, symbolized by the so-called leaders of the Democratic Party, that keeps us from taking back our power, as they waffle and position themselves for re-election!Peter Michaelson Discusses His 'Little Self-Help Book' for Democracy  "Liberals are often codependent, and our so-called compassion becomes suspect when it is based on the desire to use others to prop up our self-worth."   -- Peter Michaelson, author, Democracy's Little Self-Help Book* * *Peter Michaelson is a therapist, author and contributor to We were intrigued with his latest tome, "Democracy's Little Self-Help Book," because it raises the issues of psychological hang-ups that many liberals have. We believe that we are doing good and making the world better, but many of us have inner psychological conflicts that prevent us from actualizing our goals effectively.BuzzFlash would specifically point to the ambivalence and confliction many progressives -- and certainly the Democratic leadership in Congress has -- about the use of power. The Cheney/Bush thugs have no compunction whatsoever about attaining unilateral power in any way possible: lie, cheat and steal.Liberals, on the other hand, often have a profound ambivalence about being aggressive and assertive with power. In many ways, we see this inner psychological conflict being played out again as the Dems in Congress pussyfoot around with a watered-down "bi-partisan rebuke" of Bush's mad death warrant on our GIs through an escalation of the war in Iraq.The Democrats are perennially afraid of appearing partisan, of being attacked for standing up for their principles, of grabbing onto power and asserting it. To want power and wield it without regret is often seen as being -- well -- so "like them."But if you don't achieve and utilize power to realize your principles, you end up being a victim and a patsy.When will the subpoenas start flying in Congress? When will the Dems say enough is enough? When will they screw "bi-partisanship" and stand up for sanity, democracy and the Constitution without compromising their principles?We have a rogue, runaway executive branch that is daffy with delusional behavior, allowing thousands upon thousands of Americans and Iraqis to be killed and wounded, wasting hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars -- and calling it a success.Yet, the Democrats on the Hill are talking compromise.Maybe, it is time to look at our inner selves and our feelings about power, passivity, and our internal obstacles to assuming authority without guilt."It is important that we evolve toward greater personal authority," Michaelson notes in his latest work. "It is the framework of our sovereignty and our democracy depends on us having it." 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on February 01, 2007 at 05:34:05 PT
"It's insanity"
The words of a lawyer who defends meth users who have been arrested and are to appear at a hearing."They can't even stay clean before they go to court"Lucky for Rush Limbaugh, he didn't even have to go to court.John Walter's would honor him for cutting back on his illegal legal medications.It's insanity.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by HempWorld on January 31, 2007 at 23:21:54 PT
Dear Honorable Mr. Kucinich,
I believe you are a great man. I sure hope that you are as great a (future) president as you will deal with the immediate future task set before you; reverse US Federal Drug Policies and muzzle Mr. Johnny Walters! (aka DEA and cronies)If you prove adequate in this you will earn the respect of a large constituency in this great country of the United States of America! Set free millions of political prisoners right here at home!
Nobody Can Stop This!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 31, 2007 at 21:21:10 PT
Go Dennis!
This article really does give me hope for a better day.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment