Time Magazine Says We Move Fast. Let’s Show Them How Fast!

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2002
Subject: Time Magazine Says We Move Fast. Let’s Show Them How Fast!

Time Magazine Says We Move Fast. Let’s Show Them How Fast!

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #257 Oct. 28, 2002

“Pot people, surprisingly, can move pretty fast when they want to” was
just one of many snide remarks and drug war distortions in the Time
Magazine cover story below.

If you resent the rampant stereotypes and distortions in this article,
we ask you to respond with a Letter to the Editor of Time. There are
so many examples of bias and inaccuracy in this article that could be
addressed that we decided not to provide a sample letter in this Focus
Alert. Please pick any target issue that you like from the article
below and write a short letter in reply.

The key to getting published in Time is writing a very _short_ letters
focusing on a single point. Time seldom prints letters over 70 words.
But we have previously had five sharp short letters printed in single
issue, so the more they have to pick from, the better.

With a total circulation of over FOUR MILLION copies, and a 44% market
share of the weekly news magazine market, Time is a very important
target for letters. If you write only one letter a year this should
probably be it. A single short letter published in Time has an
equivalent advertising value of more than $25,000 so please follow the
MAP motto and _Just DO it_.

Thanks for your effort and support.

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


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Pubdate: Mon, 4 Nov 2002
Source: Time Magazine (US)
Copyright 2002 Time Inc.
Author: Joel Stein
Note: With reporting by Matt Baron/ Chicago, Laura A. Locke/San Francisco,
Viveca Novak/Washington and Sean Scully/Los Angeles
This is the Time cover story, with a cover headline “IS AMERICA GOING TO POT”


Can It Go Legit? How the People Who Brought You Medical Marijuana Have
Set Their Sights on Lifting the Ban for Everyone

The drug czar is ready for pro wrestling. He already has the name, and
now he’s got the prefight talk down cold. In every speech he makes in
Nevada, where Bush appointee John Walters has traveled to fight an
initiative that would legalize marijuana, he calls out his three sworn
enemies as if he were Tupac Shakur. The czar has a problem with
billionaire philanthropists George Soros, Peter Lewis and John
Sperling, who have bankrolled the pro-pot movement, and he wants
everyone to know he’s ready for battle. At an Elks lodge meeting in
Las Vegas, he ticks off their names and says, “These people use
ignorance and their overwhelming amount of money to influence the
electorate. You don’t hide behind money and refuse to talk and hire
underlings and not stand up and speak for yourself,” he says. By the
end of a similar speech at a drug-treatment center in Reno, he says,
“Let’s stop hiding. I’m here. Where are you?” The czar is bringing it

Before the new czar was appointed in December, it was the government’s
preference not to address the legalizers. But the pro-pot movement has
gained so much ground they can’t be ignored as a fringe element.
Americans, it turns out, aren’t conflicted in their attitude toward
marijuana. They want it illegal but not really enforced. A Time/cnn
poll last week found that only 34% want pot to be totally legalized
(the percentage has almost doubled since 1986). But a vast majority
have become mellow about official loopholes 80% think it’s O.K. to
dispense pot for medical purposes, and 72% think people caught with it
for recreational use should get off with only a fine. That seeming
paradox has left a huge opening for pro-pot people to exploit. Eight
states allow medical marijuana, and a handful of states have reduced
the sentences for pot smokers to almost nothing.

The midterm election Nov. 5 has lighted up the issue even more. While
control of the House hangs in the balance and the race for the Senate
is a dead heat, the political trend for marijuana is clear support is
gaining. The most interesting battles on the November ballot are over
pot initiatives to allow the city of San Francisco to grow and
distribute medical marijuana, to replace jail with rehab in Ohio and
decriminalize marijuana use in Arizona. Many of these proposals are
relatively modest, but the pro-pot forces are also raising the stakes.
In spite of the electorate’s contentment with the paradox of loose
enforcement, some particularly powerful people on both sides have
taken extreme viewpoints in an effort to end the political stalemate
and force Americans to choose. Either pot is not so bad and should be
legal, or people should be arrested for smoking it. The battlefield
for the showdown is Nevada, where Question 9 would allow adults to
possess up to 3 oz. of pot for personal use. In fact, the state
government would set up a legal market for buying and selling pot. To
almost everyone’s surprise, the race is too close to call.

While the pro-pot forces have pushed their agenda at the polls,
opponents have tried to use legal muscle to fight back. After a
Supreme Court decision last year reiterating that federal drug laws
trumped state ones, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent federal
agents to California to bust medical-marijuana growers, a move that
tended to outrage California voters who had approved this use. In
fact, as the Administration pushes harder against the pro-pot forces,
pot supporters seem to gain ground.

Among the biggest pro-pot players, medical marijuana was actually kind
of a ruse. Sure, there are sick people who really feel they need
marijuana to numb pain, relieve the eye pressure of glaucoma, calm
muscle spasms or get the munchies to help with aids wasting. But they
are not the people who put the debate into high gear. A few years ago,
the Drug Policy Alliance–an organization founded by billionaire
philanthropist Soros, who wants to legalize marijuana and reform drug
laws by replacing jail time with rehab–decided it would fund only
those initiatives that could be won. So the group ran a bunch of polls
to find out how America feels about the drug wars, and the reformers
came up way short on everything but three policies people preferred
treatment over incarceration in some cases, people hated property
forfeiture, and an overwhelming majority felt medical marijuana should
be legal.

So Soros & Co. set out to get medical-marijuana legislation. The fight
has done quite well, especially when, to their surprise, the Federal
Government took the bait and started arresting little old ladies and
storming peaceful pot-growing cooperatives. In fact, the pro-pot
people have done well enough that some of them feel it is time to drop
the ruse and fight for full legalization. Plus, with Britain
experimenting with a “seize and warn” policy instead of arresting pot
smokers and Canada flirting with doing the same, the blunt-friendly
were ready to take off the camouflage and fight. And where else to try
this but in Nevada?

That’s why the czar is in Vegas, sitting in a room at the Venetian
Hotel guarded by U.S. marshals. The czar, a smart, likable, earnest
man who believes he can help Americans by fighting the drug war, is
derided by the opposition as “Bill Bennett’s Mini-Me.” Indeed, he
worked for Bennett under Reagan in the Department of Education and
then as Bennett’s deputy drug czar in the first Bush Administration.
When George W. appointed him, the President told the czar to watch the
movie Traffic as a way to understand the problem. The czar, who told
Time he has never smoked pot, believes marijuana to be not only a
gateway drug but also incredibly detrimental in its own right–causing
driving accidents, domestic violence, health risks and crippling
addiction. He thinks the legalization argument is absurd, especially
when proposed by libertarian Republicans who are so doctrinaire he
finds them to be outside his party. “This is great talk at 2 a.m. in a
dorm room, that all laws should be consistent. But the real world
isn’t consistent. It’s ludicrous to say we have a great deal of
problems from the use of alcohol so we should multiply that with
marijuana,” he says. It doesn’t take long for him to get back to the
three billionaires “It’s unprecedented, the amount of money put in by
such a small amount of people over one issue.”

The marijuana legalizers, including the billionaires Walters vilifies,
don’t have much kinder things to say about him. In fact, for old rich
men, they can sound a lot like Tupac. One of them, Sperling, 81, is
founder of the highly profitable nationwide chain the University of
Phoenix. He has spent $13 million on drug-reform campaigns and lots of
other money on other pet projects, including cloning his cat. “Mr.
Walters is a pathetic drug-war soul who is defending a whole catalog
of horrors he’s indifferent to,” Sperling says from his office in
Phoenix, Ariz. “The government’s drug-reform policy is driven by a
Fundamentalist Christian sense of morality that sees any of these
illegal substances used as evil.” Sperling says he smoked pot to
combat pain associated with the cancer he fought in the 1960s.

Lewis, 68, former ceo of Progressive, an insurance company, doesn’t
despise the czar quite as much, but he has been battling him even
harder. The reasons for Lewis are more straightforward. He has been
referred to by colleagues as a “functional pothead.” He spends half
the year on a $16.5 million, 255-ft. yacht, where he smokes pot
regularly; he even got arrested in New Zealand on drug charges a few
years ago, he told the Plain Dealer. He is one of the main backers of
the radical Nevada proposal, having given heaps of money to the
Marijuana Policy Project, which is running Question 9 there. “The
absurdity of its illegality has been clear to me for some time. I
learned about pot from my kids and realized it was a lot better than
Scotch, and I loved the Scotch. Then I went to my doctor, and he said,
‘I’m thrilled. You’re drinking too much. You’re much better off doing
pot than drinking.'”

Soros (who has smoked pot but no longer does) declined to be
interviewed, and like the rest of the troika, he won’t debate Walters.
They are probably refusing for two reasons 1) they would likely lose,
since none of them are politicians; and 2) if you were going around
the world on a 255-ft. yacht, would you list “Drug Czar” as one of
your ports of call?

So instead they fight federal policy with initiative after initiative,
while also defending local pro-pot laws. Their side got a major media
boost in California in September, when federal agents busted Santa
Cruz’s Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana in an early-morning
raid. The feds dragged the farm’s owners, who were legally growing pot
under California law, to a federal building in San Jose for breaking
federal law and held a paraplegic resident at the farm for hours. “I
opened my eyes to see five federal agents pointing assault rifles at
my head. ‘Get your hands over your head. Get up. Get up.’ I took the
respirator off my face, and I explained to them that I’m paralyzed,”
said Suzanne Pheil, 44, who is disabled by the effects of postpolio
syndrome. Her story was broadcast everywhere, since the pro-pot people
had basically been waiting for her to be harassed, punching every
phone number on their media list minutes after the raid. Pot people,
surprisingly, can move pretty fast when they want to.

The bust couldn’t have gone better for the pot folks. California
attorney general Bill Lockyer fired off an angry letter to DEA chief
Asa Hutchinson, who wrote back saying that federal law allows the feds
to seize pot. “During the Clinton years they didn’t do this,” says
Lockyer. “It disappointed me that they would be using precious
resources to act like a bunch of bullies.” San Jose police chief
William Lansdowne was so annoyed by the raid that he withdrew his
officers from the local dea task force, ending 15 years of close work.
Even Governor Gray Davis, who has been quiet on the marijuana issue,
expressed concern over the feds’ bust. A week after the raid, Santa
Cruz officials gathered at city hall to supervise public distribution
of marijuana to members of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana
in front of TV crews, a way of giving Washington the finger.

To many Republicans, this looks like bad politics for Bush. “It seems
to me about as far from Compassionate Conservatism as you can get,”
says former Nixon and Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger. “There are an awful
lot of people in their 50s and younger who smoked pot when they were
younger and don’t look on it as something that destroyed their lives.
I think there is a lot more open-mindedness toward pot than there used
to be.”

In Nevada, popular Republican Governor Kenny Guinn refuses to take a
stand on Question 9, the pot-legalization amendment to the state
constitution, saying he’ll go with whatever the people vote for. And
he won’t really have to worry about it for a while, since the
constitutional amendment will go into effect only if Nevadans vote yes
on Nov. 5 and again in 2004. So Guinn may be smart to stay out of the
debate, because the rhetoric from both sides has gone out of control.
The drug czar’s latest commercial, which was actually focus-grouped
with teens and their parents, shows two teens getting stoned in their
father’s study, talking apathetically about a bunch of stuff. One
pulls out a gun from his dad’s drawer, the other asks lazily if it’s
loaded, and the gun-toting teen shrugs and shoots the other kid. “The
suggestion is not to say too many children are being shot in their
dens who are marijuana users,” Walters said. “It’s meant to show that
marijuana alters your ability to use judgment.” In the other camp,
many of the workers lied to voters in the course of gathering
signatures to get Question 9 on the ballot, saying it was a
medical-marijuana proposition, according to several pro-pot Nevadans.
The two camps even fight regularly about how many joints can be made
from 3 oz. of pot, the proposed legal maximum. The pro-pot people
claim 80, while the anti-pot people carry around bags of 250 joints to
illustrate their case. Yes, moms across the state are spending large
parts of their nights rolling parsley and oregano.

The Marijuana Policy Project in Nevada has a chance partly because it
is far better organized than its scattered opposition. The project
made a smart move in hiring Billy Rogers, a Democratic political
consultant from Texas, to run the Nevada campaign. Rogers sends people
door to door daily to target supporters he can call on Election Day
and bus to voting booths. This could make the difference in what the
polls show is an almost evenly split electorate. Rogers’ office is
situated in a Vegas strip mall, just above an Asian massage parlor,
which is right next to a children’s tutoring center, which is all you
need to know to understand why the project is staging this fight in
Nevada. The office looks more like a sorority fund drive than a ’60s
dorm room. Posters drawn by children depict images like a teddy bear
with a heart labeled vote yes on 9. Rogers, wearing a collarless white
shirt, is still at work at 1 a.m., editing a commercial. “In college
we’d sit around and talk about this–that when we grew up we were
going to change these laws. And now we’re doing it,” he says. Rogers,
who says he hasn’t smoked pot in 15 years, doesn’t have a personal
connection to the fight, but it’s pretty easy to get him into a James
Carville mood. When he talks about Walters’ oft repeated claim (an
assertion shared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) that
marijuana has much higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (thc) than it
used to, that, in Walters’ words, “it’s not your father’s marijuana,”
Rogers goes ballistic. “It’s a plant. What–it’s not your father’s
broccoli? Its genetic structure hasn’t changed in 30 years,” he says,
eating steak for a late-night meal. “These guys will say anything. If
I had a billion-dollar budget, I’d say anything to stay in business.”

That’s one of the major conspiracy theories of the pro-legalization
movement–a rant right out of the Eisenhower era, that the government
is keeping pot illegal so it can maintain its giant drug-war
bureaucracy. Its advocates also believe–as put forth directly in the
pro-medical marijuana commercials of billionaire independent New York
gubernatorial candidate Tom Golisano–that politicians are in the
pocket of the pharmaceutical companies, who fear marijuana is such
good medicine that their own products will suffer.

The pro-legalization forces also believe, more convincingly, that the
right wing of the Republican Party connects drug use with sin and
radicalism and the failure of the family. “I’ve known John Walters for
about 10 years, and I don’t think this is about drugs for him,” says
Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance. “John is a
reactionary ideologue. It’s the broader battle about what we tell kids
about life. It’s a vehicle for promoting a tougher, meaner approach to
life and government.” Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of
Massachusetts claims the war on drugs is really a war against the
Other. “Alcohol does more damage in many areas of society than drugs,
particularly marijuana, but we treat marijuana as much worse, and
that’s because it’s associated with the counterculture.”

Some Republicans, however, are ready to legalize medical marijuana.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a doctor and onetime Libertarian Party
presidential candidate, has been fighting for medical marijuana. “From
a humanitarian standpoint, people should never be denied this kind of
help,” says Paul. But fellow Republican Hutchinson stands behind the
decision to prosecute. “Why would they want to authorize behavior
under state law that is still a violation of federal law?” he says.
“It endangers a population, to me. It gives the green light on the one
hand and a go-to-jail ticket on the other.”

Among cops and other law enforcers, there are sharp divisions too.
Some, like Joseph D. McNamara, a former San Jose police chief and now
a Hoover Institution fellow, call for an end to the criminalization of
marijuana. “Most of the police officers I hired during the 15 years I
was police chief had tried it,” says McNamara. Like many pot
legalizers, he believes the system, which he says arrests more people
for marijuana than for any other drug, is racist. “Ninety million
Americans have tried marijuana. When you look at who’s going to jail,
it is overwhelmingly disproportionate–it’s Latinos and blacks.” Not
surprisingly, the topic is radioactive in the police profession. Andy
Anderson, who was head of his state’s largest cop organization, the
Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs, announced that his board
members unanimously supported the pro-pot initiative so they could
focus on more serious crimes. A few days later, Anderson was forced to
resign. The voice for Nevada cops then became Gary Booker, deputy
district attorney in charge of the vehicular-crimes unit, until he
told members of the press he believed the wild claims of political
extremist Lyndon LaRouche that Soros is pro-legalization because he
bankrolls drug cartels. When talking to Time at the Elks lodge where
he introduced the drug czar, Booker awkwardly tried to explain away
his statement “The word cartel was used, not drug. A cartel is a group
of businessmen who control price, and that’s what we’ve got here.
Three or four guys are controlling the thing.” He too stepped out of
the role of Nevada police spokesman.

The pro-pot people feel that victory–even if it comes not this year
and not in Nevada–is inevitable. Each year there are fewer members of
the pre-boomer generation, who tend not to distinguish between heroin
and pot. In 1983, only 31% of Americans surveyed had tried pot; the
new Time/cnn poll puts the figure at 47%. And though pot use among
teens is down from its ’70s highs, parents sneaking joints when their
kids are asleep is a fresh phenomenon. But the polls show that
Americans still cling to pot’s forbidden status, which is why the
pro-pot people are working so hard. “You would think you would get a
change, but you’re not going to,” says Charles Whitebread, a law
professor at the University of Southern California who has written
extensively on marijuana law. “Even though it did nothing to them, the
fear that it will somehow pollute their children has made some of the
people who used marijuana extremely freely now say, ‘Oh, gee, I
wouldn’t be in favor of the change in the legal status of marijuana.'”
It may be that the major dividing line between the pro- and
anti-legalizers is not party affiliation but parental status. And even
among parents, moms see more against pot than dads.

So, barring another wave of ’60s-like radicalism or a lot more poorly
thought-out co-op busts by the feds, Americans’ complicated feelings
about pot aren’t going to be reconciled overnight. And recent studies
showing that marijuana can have addictive properties, though in a
small percentage of cases, is going to make some parents more nervous
about their kids turning into potheads. While alcohol and cigarettes
may be more dangerous, a lot of parents would rather smell beer on
their kid’s breath than have a 29-year-old living at home, eating
Cheetos and watching SpongeBob.



Help Get the Nevada Initiative Passed!

Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement’s ballot initiative folks are
asking for your help! Folks in Nevada can vote at the polls right now,
as stated at the website http://www.nrle.org/ The results, either way,
will likely depend on less than a thousand votes. Please help by:

(1) Calling everyone you know in Nevada and asking them to vote

(2) If you can, the Las Vegas office needs volunteers to work the get
out the vote phone banks between today and election day. Folks have
driven in to help from as far away as Nebraska, but more volunteers
are still needed. With rooms available nearby with rates as low as $10
per person for three per a room, and good breakfasts as low as 99
cents it does not cost much to stay there and help out. If you are
interested please call Sarah Jaffa, volunteer coordinator for “Yes on
9” at (702) 253-9511 sarah@nrle.org


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