#189 Boston Globe Questions Initiative, But Not Opponents

Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000
Subject: #189 Boston Globe Questions Initiative, But Not Opponents

Boston Globe Questions Initiative, But Not Opponents


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #189 Wednesday October 25, 2000

On election day, Massachusetts voters will be able to cast a ballot on
an initiative that would push some people convicted of drug possession
to treatment instead of jail. The Boston Globe reported on the
initiative this week by seeking out professionals from the criminal
justice system who are against the initiative. A considerable portion
of the article questions the motives of initiative supporters. But
readers need to reach the very tail end of the story before questions
are raised about the motives of opponents in law enforcement, who will
lose access to asset forfeiture funds seized through drug
investigations if the initiative succeeds.

The article also tries to give a mistaken impression about the
resources available from philanthropists who support the ballot
measure. The author states that George Soros has given $1 billion to
“causes such as this one.” While George Soros has been generous to the
drug policy reform movement, he supports a number of other causes that
have nothing to do with drug policy reform. A recent article from the
Copley News Service stated that Soros had spent close to $6 million
supporting political movements involving drug reform. A great deal of
money, yes; but it’s a mere fraction of billions spent by government
every year to support drug prohibition.

Please write a letter to the Boston Globe to let editors know that
painting the drug warriors as helpless underdogs and drug policy
reformers as the ones with the real financial power is a total
inversion of reality.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Phone, fax etc.)

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This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.



Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Contact: letter@globe.com

EXTRA CREDIT Los Angeles Times on California’s Proposition

California has a similar initiative to Massachusetts Proposition 8.
Proposition 36 will be on the ballot in California and many of the
same Soros issues have been raised there. Please consider sending a
slightly revised version of your letter to the Los Angeles Times, who
opposed this measure in the article at: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v00/n1601/a07.html

Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Contact: letters@latimes.com

AND/OR please write any other California news paper you like regarding
your views on Proposition 36. Email addresses for nearly any newspaper
can be found at http://www.mapinc.org/resource/email.htm



Pubdate: Tue, 24 Oct 2000
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.
Contact: letter@globe.com
Address: P.O. Box 2378, Boston, MA 02107-2378
Feedback: http://extranet.globe.com/LettersEditor/default.asp
Website: http://www.boston.com/globe/
Author: Tina Cassidy
Bookmark: For Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act items:


For Police, Drug War Extends To Ballot Box

The state’s district attorneys and police chiefs may know how to fight
crime, but they are finding it tough to fight Question 8, the ballot
initiative that seeks to replace prison time for some drug offenders
with addiction treatment.

Local law enforcement officials say their first problem is public
relations, because the measure, when summarized, sounds appealing:
Send the drug-addicted to treatment, a cheaper alternative to prison.
However, opponents say some of the question’s details, which are
difficult to explain to voters, could wreak havoc with drug

The measure’s foes face another problem: They don’t have any money to
help them get across their point of view.

The initiative would allow judges to send those charged with a first
or second offense of drug possession, manufacturing, distribution, or
drug trafficking between 14 and 28 grams of cocaine to treatment if
the court finds them “drug-dependent.” It also would make it harder
for law enforcement officials to seize drug offenders’ assets, and
those assets seized would pay for addiction programs instead of law
enforcement’s and prosecutors’ antidrug efforts.

Question 8 is supported by a few people with big checkbooks, including
George Soros, the famous hedge fund manager, who has made the nation’s
top philanthropy list for contributing about $1 billion to causes such
as this one. Soros has a soft spot for changing drug laws to allow,
for example, medical marijuana use.

So far, most of the donations for Question 8 have come from three men:
Soros, of New York, who has given $290,000 over the last month;
Cleveland Peter Lewis, chief executive officer of the Progressive
Group insurance company, who has contributed $315,000 in the same time
period; and John Sperling of Phoenix, chief executive officer of the
Apollo Group, who has given the campaign $45,000 since September,
according to filings with the state Office of Political and Campaign
Finance for the period that ended Oct. 15.

Sperling, a millionaire, found marijuana eased his prostate cancer
pain. And Lewis has been arrested for using marijuana for circulatory

Those opposing the measure, mostly law enforcement officials, do not
even have an account to collect donations.

“We have not really made much of an effort to raise money,” said
Plymouth District Attorney Michael J. Sullivan. “It’s difficult with
our full-time commitments. We don’t have access to billionaires who
look at this as a major-cause issue. But the message is on our side.
We believe a grass-roots effort will go a long way toward defeating
ballot Question 8.”

While it may appear that local law enforcement is against Question 8,
the initiative was written by Tom Kiley, a former first assistant
attorney general and former assistant district attorney in Norfolk
County who has donated about $40,000 to the cause. Like the question’s
financial backers, Kiley’s interest in the issue is personal. A heroin
addiction killed his 50-year-old brother, Scott, two years ago.

“I think of him every day,” Kiley said, adding that his brother’s life
might have been saved by rehabilitation.

Despite the fact that the question centers on using seized assets and
fines from drug cases to fund treatment for addicts, the controversy
is not about the money. It’s about whether the ballot question would
make it easier for drug dealers to avoid prison time by claiming they
are at risk of becoming addicts.

Kiley said someone carrying 28 grams, or about 1 ounce, of cocaine is
likely a user and someone who could benefit from treatment.

The district attorneys say a dealer is a dealer and most users could
not hold on to that quantity of drugs long enough to sell them.

“There’s nobody who opposes treatment for the addicts,” Sullivan said,
“but there’s already treatment for addicts. Ballot Question 8 is all
about allowing the drug dealers to escape punishment.”

Just look at the question’s financial backers and their reasons for
giving, Sullivan said.

Although Kiley does not say it, others working to pass Question 8
argue that the real issue for the district attorneys is that they do
not want to lose the millions of dollars a year their departments
receive from property forfeiture related to drug cases. Both sides
have wildly different estimates on how much law enforcement receives
from seizures; the range was $4 million to $9 million.

The initiative also requires public records to be kept detailing all

Kiley estimates that it costs about $5,000 to treat one addict,
meaning that even if only $4 million a year were diverted to
treatment, 800 people could be helped.


To the editor:

I was disappointed by the story “For Police, Drug War Extends To
Ballot Box” (Oct. 24), particularly in the way it portrayed the
supporters of Question 8 as having unlimited resources, while
opponents are fighting the good fight on a shoestring budget.

“Question 8 is supported by a few people with big checkbooks,
including George Soros, the famous hedge fund manager, who has made
the nation’s top philanthropy list for contributing about $1 billion
to causes such as this one. Soros has a soft spot for changing drug
laws to allow, for example, medical marijuana use,” according to the
article. While George Soros has been generous to the drug policy
reform movement, to suggest that he has given a billion bucks to
“causes such as this one,” is greatly overstating the case. A recent
article from Copley News Service put a more precise figure on Soros’s
support for political campaigns involving drug policy reform: $5
million to $6 million. It’s a lot of money, but nothing compared to
the billions spent each year by government to maintain the destructive
policy of drug prohibition.

If editors were trying to make this into a David and Goliath story,
they’ve got the main characters mixed up.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://home.att.net/~theyoungfamily Focus
Alert Specialist