Pubdate: Sat, 24 Mar 2001
Source: Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
Copyright: 2001 Ledger-Enquirer
Contact:  P.O. Box 711, Columbus, GA 31902-0711
Author: Allison Kennedy


Guthrie, Convicted On Drug-Related Charges, Will Speak At Church

If you go

What: Dr. John Guthrie presentation

Where: Columbus Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, 1442 Double Churches Road

When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday

Cost: Free

Books: Available for $20, with $8 from each sale going to the church

On the night of Sept. 3, 1996, Dr. John Guthrie was asleep in his South 
Carolina home. The doorbell rang.

The police, supported by Army National Guardsmen, arrested Guthrie. He put 
on an old shirt and pair of jeans.

"My first awareness of that long night was when I awoke from a deep slumber 
to realize that the cool thing against my ear was the barrel of a 9 mm 
semi-automatic pistol, in whose hands I did not know," writes Guthrie in 
his book, "Within the Dragon's Lair: A Doctor's Drug War Memoirs."

Guthrie, 59, speaks Sunday at a Columbus church. The book is his first, and 
it chronicles not only his experience and those of people he met, but 
vehemently criticizes the nation's war on drugs.

At the time of his arrest, Guthrie was practicing medicine at a 
Spartanburg, S.C., clinic. Today he lives in Mount Pleasant, S.C., near 
Charleston, with his wife Natasha and their 6-year-old son Alexi. He is no 
longer practicing medicine.

Guthrie spoke recently with the Ledger-Enquirer. Following is that 

First, talk about your sentencing and what you were charged with.

I was incarcerated one year and one day. I confessed to not keeping a 
separate record for the medication ephedrine, which you can buy at the 
health food store. It's called Ephedra, and it's a mild stimulant, like 
caffeine. Sometimes it's called "Mormon tea." You have to keep a separate 
notebook on who gets it; and I didn't do it. It was recorded in patients' 
charts but not separately. The complication is there is something called a 
Congressional Federal Rule, or CFR, which says you have to keep a separate 
log for this drug. Their justification is that substances like Ephedra can 
be transformed into meta-amphetamines. But so can a lot of other things.

It's bureaucratic foolishness. I got 100 guilty counts. Seventeen counts 
concerned dispensing ephedrine for no medical purpose. I was found "not 
guilty" for those.

While you were in prison, did you think you would eventually write about 
your experience?

Mainly I knew I wanted to survive, but I also knew I had a book in me. I 
have also just written my first novel, "A Novel of Love and Remembrance." A 
professor at the College of Charleston is editing it.

I feel like making any contribution (to society) I can. I volunteer with 
Meals on Wheels.

I love this country. But the nation's public drug policy has run amuck. Two 
million people are locked up in this country. Four million are in 
prison-related facilities. It's a horror story. Two-thirds of them are 
low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.

So, if they're nonviolent, why do you think they're in prison?

The drug war is a political ploy that has worked. I think there are better 
ways to deal with the problem, a more rational policy. First, we need to 
have basic honesty about drugs for young people, and good education and 
treatment programs that don't involve a badge and billy club and steel cage.

What kind of outside support did you have? How did you remain hopeful?

My family and friends wrote and came and visited and supported me. I 
resolved early on that I would survive and study. In the valley of despair, 
I was able to see hope.

Do you call yourself a religious person, or a spiritual person?

I have a friend who's Jewish but says he's only culturally Jewish. 
Culturally, I'm Southern Baptist but not theologically.

What's been the reaction to you since you were released?

The people who know me like me. Golly, we have such good friends and 
neighbors. I have a good life here.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager