MILLION MARIJUANA MARCH

by Julian Heicklen

May 6, 2000

It is immoral to arrest someone for owning a vegetable. It also is unconstitutional. The Ninth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be considered to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control one's own body. As U. S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it: "The right to be left alone." It required a Constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. Why doesn't the same apply for marijuana? The issue here is not marijuana. Marijuana is the messenger, not the message. The issue is whether we are going to live in freedom or under tyranny.

I. WAR ON DRUGS

In 1972, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. We have been fighting that war for 28 years. What are the results? In 1998, 1.4 million people were arrested for non-violent narcotic violations. One-half of these were for marijuana violations, of which 87% were for possession only.

February 15, 2000, was a historic day in U. S. history. Our incarcerated population reached two million (0.73% of our population). This compares with the incarcerated population of two hundred thousand in 1967—1972. One out of every three people entering state or federal prison is doing so for a non-violent narcotics violation. About 24% of the inmates in state prisons are there for non-violent narcotic violations. In federal prisons, the number is 60%. Keeping these prisoners costs a lot of money, my money. I object to supporting dopeheads in prison, when they should be out working to support me.

Drugs are just as easy to get today as then. In spite of the fact that 10 times as many "criminals" are incarcerated, the rate of homicide in 1998 was nearly identical to that in 1967. Reported robbery has increased from 148.4 per 100,000 in 1969 to 165.2 per 100,000 in 1998, according to the FBI Crime Report.

Today, with 4.6% of the world's population, the United States houses 25% of the world's inmates. We have the highest per capita inmate population of any country. The cost to keep these prisoners is about $50 billion per year. This does not include their lost wages (and taxes) and the reduced standard of living of their dependents. The true cost is closer to $100 billion per year. Add to this the costs of interdiction, police, the courts, and probation and parole.

About 7% of all adult males in the U. S. enter prison or jail each year. Their lives are altered or ruined. Nine percent of all males in the U. S. will be sentenced to at least one year in state or federal prison during their lifetimes. About 5% of the adult males in the U. S. currently are under supervision of the criminal justice system (prison, jail, probation, or parole).

A. Remarks of Eric Sterling

Eric Sterling was the counsel to Congress that wrote many of the federal drug laws in the 1980s. Now he is President, of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. Here are excerpts from his report to the House Committee on Appropriations, March 23, 2000:

General McCaffrey insists that "we are winning" our fight against drug abuse, but his scoreboard must be broken -- deaths are up, high school kids can get drugs more easily than ever, drug use by junior high kids has tripled, drug prices are at historic lows, drug purity is as high as ever, and we are still not treating most of the millions of addicts desperate for help.

I have been following closely our national anti-drug strategy since 1979 when I became the counsel to the House Judiciary Committee principally responsible for anti-drug matters. I set up for the Committee dozens of hearings on every aspect of our anti-drug effort, and accompanied the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Jamaica in 1983. I have heard almost every top Federal anti-drug official testify since Peter Bensinger headed the DEA. In 1986 and 1988, I was a principal aide in developing the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988 which created the source country certification requirement, the mandatory minimum sentences, the Federal crime of money laundering, and the drug czar's office, among hundreds of provisions. In 1989, I left the committee, and have continued to work extensively on narcotics control matters as President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

Mr. Chairman, sadly, I don't believe that General McCaffrey can be trusted to give you an accurate appraisal of our drug situation. Gen. McCaffrey is claiming progress with declines in coca production in Peru and Bolivia, just as he did when he unveiled the 1999 strategy a year ago. But when he testified before a House subcommittee on August 6, 1999, he confessed, "In Peru, the drug control situation is deteriorating. Peruvian coca prices have been rising since March 1998."

I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the indices that General McCaffrey are most proud of are the least important–the declines in casual use of cocaine and marijuana by adults. Casual drug users are not the cancer at the core of America's drug crisis. What is most important for our anti-drug policy to achieve? Saving lives, keeping drugs out of the hands of kids, and keeping as many people as healthy as possible.

What are the facts? Deaths from drugs have more than doubled since 1979, from 7,101 in 1979 to 15,973 in 1997 as reported in the latest strategy. Why aren't we more effective in saving lives? How can we be winning when more people die each year than the year before?

Our policy is not keeping drugs out of the hands of kids. High school seniors report that heroin and marijuana are more available now than at almost any point since 1975. Marijuana was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 90.4% of seniors in 1998, the highest point in history. Heroin was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 35.6% of seniors, compared to 24.2% in 1975, and 18.9% in 1979, at the height of the modern drug epidemic. Availability of heroin to high school students has increased by 1/3 since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, when it was 22.0%.

Ecstasy availability has almost doubled since 1989 from 21.7%, to 38.2% in 1998. LSD availability is greater than at any point in the 1970s or 80s, and at 48.8%, is easily available by half our high school seniors. PCP availability is near record highs, at 30.7%.

More kids in 8th grade–junior high school–report that they are using illegal drugs according to the Monitoring the Future Survey. Use in past 30 days of marijuana among 8th graders tripled from 1991 to 1997, from 3.2% to 10.2%. Cocaine use almost tripled from 0.5% in 1991 to 1.4% in 1998. Use of LSD by 8th graders almost tripled from 0.6% in 1991 to 1.5% in 1997.

How can General McCaffrey, with a straight face, tell you and the American people that we are winning? In the streets, our policy is a failure. As best we can reckon, the street prices of heroin and cocaine are near historic lows. A pure gram of cocaine was $44 in 1998, down from $191 in 1981. Heroin prices have fallen from $1200 per gram to $318 per gram over the same period. This means traffickers are discounting the risks they face. This means the traffickers are finding it easier to get drugs to our streets, not harder.

Purity of cocaine, even for the smallest quantities, has increased on average from 40% in 1981 to 71% in 1998. Heroin street purity has increased from 4.7% in 1981 to 24.5% in 1998. How can the "drug czar" tell the American public that "we are winning" when there has been a 500% increase in heroin purity? This high purity is sending more people to hospital emergency rooms–the 1998 number of drug-related ER admissions was the greatest recorded.

Despite repeated promises, we are failing to help the people who are most hurt by drugs–the addicts. The crudely estimated number of persons needing drug abuse treatment has grown from 8.9 million in 1991 to 9.3 million in 1996. The number of hard core addicts needing treatment has grown from 4.7 million in 1992 to 5.3 million in 1996. There are still 3 million untreated hard core addicts, more than in most of the 1990s. And it is the untreated drug addicts who are the core of our drug abuse problem. Their tragedies rip American families apart. Their desperation drives them to crime. Their demand finances the Mexican and Colombian cartels, and pays the farmers of coca and opium around the world.

Treating the addicts is not only the most humane thing we can do, it is the most effective. Our failure to adequately treat the drug addicts, independently of the criminal justice system, is a national disgrace.

That concludes Mr. Sterling's remarks. Another policy of the War on Drugs is Zero Tolerance. Let us see what this strategy has produced.

B. Zero Tolerance

1. During the first week in April 2000, the O.T. Bonner Middle School in Danville, Virginia, suspended eight students for one week after they were caught sniffing Kool-Aid. The seventh- and eighth-grade students were charged with "possession of contraband" because they were "using Kool-Aid in a way that imitated the use of illegal drugs," school officials explained. The students got off easy: They could have been suspended for a year on the charge of "using a look-alike drug."

2. But the "War on Kool-Aid" isn't the only example of zero-tolerance policies gone berserk. A school in New Jersey suspended two kindergarten students after they played "cops and robbers" on the playground, pointed their fingers at each other like guns, and shouted "bang bang!"

3. A school in Maryland suspended a student after he drew a crude picture of a gun on a piece of paper. The nine-year-old was charged with violating the school's anti-weapon policy.

4. A school in Kansas suspended a seventh-grader for three days after he drew a picture of a confederate flag. The flag, said officials, violated the school's policy against "racially divisive" material.

5. A school in Michigan flagged a sixth-grader as a potential violence risk -- and told his parents they had to meet with the school's "Hazard and Risk Assessment Team" -- after he suggested that one way to prevent school shootings would be to allow teachers to carry guns.

6. A school in Minnesota refused to allow a high school senior who had enlisted in the Army to pose for a yearbook picture sitting on top of a World War II howitzer at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The photo would violate the school's anti-weapon policy, said officials.

IV. MY LEGAL ODYSSEY

1. In January 1998, I started the Marijuana Smoke Outs in downtown State College. We have held demonstrations every single Thursday (with two exceptions) since then. I was arrested six times for publicly smoking pot. The last arrest was in July 1998. Since then, I regularly smoke pot every week and announce what I am doing on a bullhorn. The police no longer bother even to appear at these demonstrations. Eventually, defendants in marijuana trials will be acquitted because of selective enforcement.

2. My marijuana arrests were based on positive tests for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). According to Pennsylvania state law, THC is not a component of illicit marijuana. THC is a legal pharmaceutical drug, sold under the trade name of Marinol at local drug stores. I have filed suits against the police for false arrest.

3. In four of my cases, I was found guilty based on THC evidence. We asked the judge to read the law to the jury, but he refused. Based on this refusal, I have appealed these convictions.

4. In two of my marijuana arrest, I was held in prison in lieu of $10,000 and $50,000 straight bail, respectively. The usual bail is $500. I have filed law suits against the district magistrates for excessive bail.

5. Diane Fornbacher and I were arrested in February 1999, for using a bullhorn at a Marijuana smoke Out. We filed a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Thomas Kistler declared the municipal bullhorn ordinance to be in violation of the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution and dismissed the case against us.

6. Penn State University declared the Willard Building steps forbidden for public speech. The purpose was to drive away Gary Cattell, "The Willard Preacher," who had preached there for 17 years without incident. The University also prohibited demonstrations involving more than 9 people anywhere on campus without prior approval.

I placed an advertisement in the campus newspaper stating that I would debate Gary Cattell on the Willard Building steps and hold a parade in defiance of University regulations. On September 9, 1999, I did both of these things. About 150 people attended the debate, including campus police. The police did not interfere with the debate. Before and after the debate, about 15 of us marched around campus with placards protesting the drug war. Two campus police accompanied us, but did not interfere with the parade. Since then, I have held several more debates with Gary on the Willard Building steps without incident. Gary continues his daily preaching there.

7. I was arrested twice for campaigning in front of a Wal-Mart store. I filed a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Thomas Kistler declared that I had the right to campaign there, and dismissed the cases. I now have a case in the third U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which I am asking for a permanent injunction against Wal-Mart to prevent it from interfering with my campaigning in front of its stores.

8. The Centre County Board of Elections refused to permit vote-count watchers at the unofficial vote count on election night. I filed two law suits against the Board of Elections and won both. In the first lawsuit, Judge Kistler ordered that political parties and candidates be allowed to watch the vote count. In the second lawsuit, Judge Kistler outlined the conditions for the vote-count watch.

9. One of our poll watchers was denied permission to watch the vote in the November 2, 1999, election. I filed suit against the Board of Elections for $5000, but the suit was dismissed, because there was no provision in state law for restitution.

10. In the election of November 2, 1999, one of our candidates received more than 5% of the total votes cast in Centre County. According to state law, this entitles us to run a primary in the April 4, 2000, election. The Pennsylvania Board of Elections refused to allow a primary for us. I have sued the PA Board of Elections to force it to run a primary for the Libertarian Party. I lost this case in Commonwealth Court. I appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and lost again. I have filed a complaint in the U. S. District Court for violations of my 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

I have been involved in 29 law suits in the last two years; fourteen as a criminal defendant and fifteen as the plaintiff in civil actions. I am planning to file at least 8 more law suits this year.

I have been arrested 15 times and incarcerated five times in the last two years. Based on frequency of arrest, I am the number one criminal in the United States. Do you know why I am so dangerous? Because I own a vegetable! Well, let me tell you something. I am the most dangerous man in the United States, because, with your help, I mean to restore the Bill of Rights, stop prosecutions of consensual acts involving mentally competent adults, reform our prisons, and reduce the prison population. This year, I am the Libertarian Party Candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Third party candidates need to get 22,000 signatures to get on the ballot. I hope that those of you in the audience from Pennsylvania will sign my petitions to get on the ballot.

XI. MESSAGE TO OUR CHILDREN

We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. It is wrong for the government to lie to us about the war on drugs. It is wrong for teachers to lie to our children about the dangers of drugs. It is against God's commandment for children to inform on their parents. It is unconscionable to torture the sick. It is immoral to arrest anyone for owning a vegetable. It is a sin against God to take babies away from their mothers.

The lighted marijuana weed is the torch of freedom. Now I am going to light that torch. If you wish to join me, please do so. But no minors, please. We appreciate your support, but you would only be hurting our cause.