Pubdate: Fri, 04 Feb 2000
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Orange County Register
Contact:  P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711
Fax: (714) 565-3657
Section: Local News,page 8


In an election year in which no major-party candidate seems interested in 
liberty and limited government as a major priority,it is all the more 
crucial to maintain and explain the importance of civil liberties,justice 
and respect by the government for the rights of citizens.Whether or not we 
have an impact on any of the candidates, the Register will continue to 
explain the importance of civil liberties to the building of a civil 
society, focusing on a few issues in 2000 that continue to demand 
attention, while being open to expansion of the agenda.

Three Strikes, Prison Reform: California's "Three Strikes" law remains the 
most punitive such law in America and continues to put people in jail for 
long periods with little or no justification. The injustice and expense to 
taxpayers will continue to mount.

An initiative campaign to change the law so it applies only to violent 
crimes is under way. We will report on it and on other reform efforts.

With the "strikes" law and other recent laws, California now imprisons a 
higher proportion of its population than any other jurisdiction on Earth. 
With the rapid expansion of the prison system and the growing political 
power of the prison guards' union, frequent abuses of prisoners have 
occurred, including inattention to medical problems.

We will continue to call for reform and put forward alternatives to 
incarceration as superior ways to carry out the ongoing struggle against 
crime and violence.

Medical Marijuana: Although California voters passed Prop. 215, allowing 
patients with recommendations from a doctor to possess, cultivate and use 
marijuana, implementation remains spotty.

Some police departments still ignore the new law, treating patients as they 
would treat recreational users. Gov. Davis' quiet opposition prevented the 
passage of legislation in Sacramento that, while less than perfect, would 
have created reasonably intelligible rules that would have protected most 
patients and given law enforcement officers some guidance.

Former gubernatorial candidate Steve Kubby, whose trial on marijuana 
charges is scheduled for February in Placer County, and other patients have 
tried to get Orange County officials to set protocols and guidelines. San 
Francisco has set up a ID-card system.

We'll follow the trials and compare and contrast various implementation plans.

We'll pay attention to initiatives in other states to medicalize marijuana 
for ill people.

And we'll follow efforts at the federal level to "reschedule" marijuana so 
it can be prescribed legally (as cocaine and morphine can) if a licensed 
doctor deems it efficacious.

The Drug War: Other aspects of the war on drugs will demand attention.

A major military commitment to the ongoing civil war in Colombia, justified 
in part by the supposed necessity of carrying the war on drugs to supplying 
countries, is likely this year. Congressional efforts to reform "asset 
forfeiture" laws, which allow authorities to seize property even if no 
criminal charges have been filed, are possible.

More examples of police corruption related to the war on drugs are 
virtually inevitable. Rumors abound that more elected officials, in the 
wake of New Mexico Republican Gov. Gary Johnson's bold questions about the 
war on drugs, are ready to go public.

Criminal Justice: The release of Dwayne McKinney after 19 years in custody 
for a murder he didn't commit and the ongoing release of prisoners wrongly 
imprisoned due to malfeasance and corruption in the LAPD's Rampart Division 
highlight an obvious fact: Our criminal justice system is less than 
perfect. We'll try to sort out which abuses are due to human error and 
which are the result of systemic problems and recommend solutions, pointing 
out that the proper goal of the system is justice, not successful 
prosecutions or convictions. Among the issues worthy of attention: the 
preponderance of former prosecutors among judges and the contributions the 
drug war makes to systemic 
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart