Pubdate: Sun, 16 Sep 2001
Source: The DrugSense Chat Room
Note: This is part of a series of chats being posted to the DrugNews 
clipping service as an exception to policy. All chats are edited into a 
basic question and answer format, leaving out the various side discussions 
in our fast moving chats.

Daniel Abrahamson, Director, Legal Affairs, The Lindesmith Center - Drug 
Policy Foundation was the special guest, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001 in the 
Drugsense Chat Room

Dan was at the United Nation's World Conference Against Racism, Durban, 
South Africa. August 28 - September 7, 2001 and will be discussing the 
conference. Lindesmith-DPF created and published an open letter, signed by 
hundreds, for the conference which is at

News clips about the conference are at

Our next guest will be Mike Gray, author of "DRUG CRAZY - How We Got INTO 

Mike will join the New York Times Drug Policy Forum Tuesday, 18 September 
at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific accessable from  There will be a 
followup chat in the DrugSense Chat Room on Sunday, 23 September at the 
same times.

Future guests in this continuing series are listed at


Dan Abrahamson: So, let me begin by saying that I returned from South 
Africa and the World Conference Against Racism the week before last.  I 
left the conference a bit early, and I have 6 of my folks still stranded in 
Cape Town due to the attacks.  So we should chat about the conference for a 

jo-d: Dan, were all world nations represented at the conf?

Dan Abrahamson: Most of the countries were represented, except for the US 
and Israel which prominently pulled out.

allan: Dan- So did the conference address the drugs issue?

Dan Abrahamson: The government conference did not address drug issues, but 
the NGO conference which preceded it did.

Dan Abrahamson: TLC-DPF took a high-powered delegation of 12 to South 
Africa to talk drugs and drug policy. WE made a lot of inroads 
internationally with NGOs

Dan Abrahamson: One of the remarkable things about South Africa is that 
despite intense pressure from the US to wage a war on drugs, pot smoking is 
quite prevalent in virtually every sector of society.

jo-d: Dan, were there any action items that came out of the conference? 
like what can we do about racism?

Dan Abrahamson: As for action items, the NGO subcommittees unanimously 
agreed to address in final documents the War on Drugs as a form of 
international racism.  Whether such a stance made it into the final 
documents, I don't know since the final sessions were delayed due to 
technical difficulties and general chaos.

kaptinemo: dagga's been around down there for decades

Dan Abrahamson: Dagga, indeed, has been in South Africa for hundreds of 
years, is an herbal medicine and sacramental weed for native South 
Africans, and was widely used as medicine by the Afrikaners for over 150 
years.  Marijuana is still an official entry in South Africa's pharmacopoeia.

jo-d: Dan, about how many people showed for the conference?

Dan Abrahamson: The NGO conference had about 12,000 participants, roughly 
4,000 of whom were from the U.S.

Dan Abrahamson: For 10 days, TLC-DPF folks spread out among the 
participants and handed out reams of literature about the WoD and the need 
for Drug Policy reform.  We also took out a full-page add in the local 
paper in the middle of the conference with an open letter to Secretary 
General Kofi Annan asking him to stop the Drug War.  The letter was signed 
by several hundred prominent individuals, including Danny Glover, Harry 
Belafonte, and many members of the Congress.

jo-d: Dan, was there any discussions about using the internet to keep conf 
attendees in touch after the conf was over?

Dan Abrahamson: Virtually every country was represented by at least 
someone.  You name it, they were there.  We created a website for the 

Dan Abrahamson: It is very much our intention to keep in touch with 
organizations from around the world by email after the conference and 
collected info to this end.

allan: Dan- Is there any hope that the US leadership will listen to any of 
the conferences findings?

Dan Abrahamson: There is little hope that the US will listen to the 
conference's findings - in part because the US officially withdrew from the 
conference. But there is real hope and decent chance that international 
momentum coming out of the conference for drug reform will help move the US 
in the future.

Dan Abrahamson: The example of the death penalty, and increasing 
international condemnation of it is instructive.  I think the War on Drugs 
in the next big international issue that will shame the US gov't.

Richard_Lake: Dan, any indication of the reaction of others to the open 
letter and your efforts?

Dan Abrahamson: The open letter was extremely well received by all NGOs, 
and it opened a lot of eyes of activists around the world who had not yet 
connected the dots between the drug war and other injustices, particularly 
racial ones.

Dan Abrahamson: It was inspiring to hear the heads of the NAACP, the 
Congressional Black Caucus, the Black Radical Congress, and others, listing 
the War on Drugs as an evil that needs to be changed.

Dean-Becker: Will similar conferences become the norm?

Dan Abrahamson: In light of our experience in South Africa, TLC-DPF is 
committed to putting on a conference focused on Racism and the WoD in the 
U.S. -- probably next year.

kaptinemo: DAN - certain elements within the US government - like the DEA - 
have openly been calling for a linkage between drug smuggling and 
terrorism, with the implication that anyone connected to the trade at all 
be treated as a terrorist. What implications do you see for this affecting 
the drug law reform movement?

Dan Abrahamson: I do not doubt that drug smuggling will increasingly be put 
in the category of terrorism -- particularly with respect to Latin 
America.  I think, in the end, the tactic will backfire, because as history 
shows, we almost never get the kingpins but only the small fry.  And it 
will be hard to call the little guys "terrorists"

Dan Abrahamson: I think judges and juries (particularly Canadian judges) 
are getting wise to the stupidity of US-type drug laws and enforcement.

chadman: has the Lindesmith DPF ever look into workman compensation laws 
and medical marijuana patient protection?

Dan Abrahamson: TLC-DPF has spoken with some state legislators about 
increasing protections for med mj users, through state legislation.  I 
think we will see some progress down the road, particularly in 
California.  The challenge is to allay fears about workers "stoned on the 
job", drivers "stoned on the streets," etc.

Dan Abrahamson: An important effort in upcoming months will be to set the 
record straight about how little the Oakland Cannabis Cooperative Decision 
changed the law and to encourage states to continue to undertake 
progressive med mj policies.

Dan Abrahamson: Forfeiture -- the main way the DEA strips people clean -- 
is also being reformed and the reform, a popular issue, will spread from 
Oregon and Utah to other states.

jo-d: Dan, when do you think that the CSA will be challenged at the supreme 
court level?

"g": Dan, how is the Oakland appeal coming?

Dan Abrahamson: The lawyers for Oakland will file something shortly raising 
new constitutional claims.  They have a sympathetic panel of judges in the 
9th Circuit, and who can tell with the Supremes.  It's like reading tea leaves.

kaptinemo: DAN- what I meant was how will this very transparent tactic of 
lumping drug users in with terrorists affect the reform movement? will we 
be attacked? Publicly? As 'supporters of terrorism'?

Dan Abrahamson: To 'nemo's question, I think the gov't will try to lump 
reformers into the category of terrorists.  But this is bound to fail, if 
only for the simple reason that the majority of citizens, according to 
polling, want drug reform and do not consider themselves or their family 
members who have been busted for drugs as terrorists.

Dan Abrahamson: Like all hot-button issues, our gov't tends to 
overreact.  One of the things the reform movement has done so successfully 
is to exploit these overreactions and talk sense and common sense to the 
gov'ts hysteria and hypocrisy.

chadman: what is up with the Ohio and Michigan initiatives like the 
California one

Dan Abrahamson: We are looking at possibly running California-like 
initiatives in Florida, Ohio, and Michigan.  The Florida initiative is 
currently being assessed for constitutionality by the FL Supreme 
Court.  The Ohio initiative is almost ready to be submitted for signature 
gathering.  We are still assessing the MI initiative to determine its 
likely impact.

jo-d: Dan, what's the best way to get a local attorney educated and 
interested in drug policy reform?

Dan Abrahamson: To juice attorneys on our issue, they should visit the 
TLC-DPF website as well as other reform websites so they can learn about 
the injustices of the drug war.  They should check out the video clips from 
the Shadow Conventions and the Albuquerque Conference.  And they are 
welcome to email me.

kaptinemo: At the risk of playing devil's advocate, we talk sense, but who 
listens? the USG has the stranglehold on the media courtesy of the FCC. and 
we all here know of what I call 'Barry-ola', the straight-arming of the 
media to covertly spew ONDCP propaganda in prime time TV. only serious 
scholars pay any heed to what we say. do you see this situation changing?

Dan Abrahamson: Believe me, lots of folks are listening! As of last Monday, 
before the world changed, we almost had a majority of the Senate Judiciary 
Committee ready to pummel John Walters, Bush's ONDCP nominee, precisely 
because he was so anti-reformist.  That was unthinkable 3 years ago! We 
have Jesse, as someone noted.  That was unthinkable 5 years ago.  We have 
Hutchison at DEA refusing to talk bellicose, because the public doesn't 
want that.  etc.

Dan Abrahamson: Continuing the theme -- virtually every major newspaper has 
challenged the WoD orthodoxy.  The people of 9 states have voted for drug 
policy reform thru state initiatives.  Lots of folks are listening.  But 
only when we get out a coherent message that doesn't scare people off.

jo-d: Dan, what did happen to Walter's hearing? it was due 9/11 - postponed?

Dan Abrahamson: The Walters hearing was postponed.  To when, I don't 
know.  But we need to be vigilant on that front and not let war hysteria 
spill over into drug war complacence in the Senate.

Dan Abrahamson: I honestly think that Asa H- is moderating his message 
nationally, not just in New Mexico. It's worth watching him closely.  He's 
no dummy and knows where his pitfalls lie.

Dan Abrahamson: Y'all have asked good questions.  Sorry that talking to 
lawyers is probably more boring than your usual chats, but so it goes.

Dean-Becker: Dan, is not the indiscriminate abuse of racial profiling a lot 
like terrorism?

Dan Abrahamson: I do think that racial profiling is a form of gov't 
terrorism, in that both deprive persons of civil and human rights and begin 
from a premise that the victims are something less than full human beings 
worthy of dignity.  Also, both terrorism and racial profiling desensitize 
the public and lead to other civil rights violations.

kaptinemo: DAN -, recently, somewhere in New England (Connecticut or RI, 
not sure which) a judge threw an unwarranted search came out and admonished 
the officer for not telling the motorist that he had a right to refuse an 
unwarranted search. heard anything about that?

Dan Abrahamson: Dear 'nemo -- I haven't heard about that particular case, 
but am noticing an increase in such types of rulings.  I think judges are 
beginning to toss more illegal searches because they are beginning to see 
the connection btw the WoD and gov't overreaching and loss of liberties.

Dan Abrahamson: As a case in point about judges, check out Justice Scalia's 
opinion in the heat sensor case (Kyllo) that the Court found illegal last 
term (cops used sensors to detect mj grows in a house).

Kkraig: Why can't you use a '"Writ of Mandamus"?

Dan Abrahamson: A Writ of Mandamus is a writ asking a court (often a state 
court) to order something.  They are quite useful tools in the appropriate 
circumstances -- e.g., asking the court to order the return of med mj 
wrongfully seized.

jo-d: Dan, what about asking the court to make our CA AG inform his rogue 
cops about not abusing med mj patients?

Richard_Lake: Could such a writ be used to have a court order local/state 
law enforcement to follow California law as required by the state 
constitution, Dan?

Dan Abrahamson: Regarding Jo-D's question, a court will likely rule that 
the separation of powers doctrine (and other principles) prevents a court 
from ordering the Attorney General to issue a directive about how to 
police.  The AG is assumed to follow the law.  The court will be reluctant 
to interfere absent a clear showing of systematic, sustained abuses by the 
AG in violation of state law.  A few rogue cops / DA's probably won't cut it.

Dan Abrahamson: Having said as much, it behooves all of us to make as 
powerful a record as possible of systemic abuses by cops and DA's.  A 
better approach, at this point, than a mandamus, is to convince the AG that 
it is politically feasible and desirable to issue such a directive.

Dan Abrahamson: Another approach is to get a group of senators to sponsor 
legislation that gives the AG more direction.  Also, getting local county 
boards of supervisors and city counsels to pass Ordinances or Resolutions 
directing cops and DAs to deal with med mj as a lowest priority and give 
them guidelines that we like.

ann: Does anyone know any more about that 11 yr old killed in Modesto 
during a drug raid

allan: last year- Alberto Sepulveda?

Dan Abrahamson: I am meeting this week with the lawyers for the parents of 
the deceased Modesto girl.  They have a strong case against the county and 
we will be looking to add our weight and resources to it.  I suspect y'all, 
and the rest of California, will be hearing a lot more about the Modesto 
case in upcoming months.  So fasten your seatbelts.

Dan Abrahamson: Dear all -- my wife is pulling me offline: have an 
engagement we have to get to.  It's been fun.  Keep up the good work! Look 
forward to chatting again down the road.  Adios.

allan: Thanks Dan!

jo-d: keep up the great work, Dan...THANX!

observer: Thank you Dan!

Dean-Becker: Bye Dan, thanks again!

Johnson: Thank you Dan

Richard_Lake: Thank you so much Dan. Stop in any time!!!

kaptinemo: take care Dan, and thanx
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake