Pubdate: Thu, 02 Jan 2003
Source: Racine Journal Times, The (WI)
Copyright: 2003, The Racine Journal Times
Author: Gary Storck


Your Dec. 27 editorial, "Bush's executive pardons strike a different 
chord", said George W. Bush's holiday pardons spoke volumes, and indeed 
they did.

While President Clinton did issue some very questionable pardons in his 
waning days in office, he also took a very minor stab at doing the right 
thing by pardoning a handful of nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to long 
mandatory minimum sentences for minor involvement with illegal drugs.

In addition, in a Rolling Stone magazine interview released as he left 
office, Clinton called for decriminalizing possession of small amounts of 
marijuana, and acknowledged that many drug sentences "are too long for 
nonviolent offenders".

Clinton certainly was no leader on drug policy, but his policies were a 
"velvet fist" in comparison to the iron-fisted drug policies George W. Bush 
has embraced. Bush has ratcheted up the drug war, with Attorney General 
Ashcroft sending militarized Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents 
into California medical marijuana dispensaries, handcuffing and arresting 
seriously ill Americans and stealing their medicine. In addition, the White 
House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has launched a massive 
disinformation campaign trying to paint marijuana as a substance more 
dangerous than cocaine or heroin, and the office's head, drug czar John 
Walters, illegally campaigned against state drug policy reform ballot 
initiatives on the taxpayer's dime. Meanwhile, virtually every Western 
government is running headlong 180 degrees in the opposite direction and 
treating substance use as the public health problem it is.

Bush's stingy use of the pardon process is just another example of the 
emptiness of his "compassionate conservative" agenda. There are many 
thousands of prisoners who merit pardons, including medical marijuana 
patients and people of conscience who cultivated marijuana for patients in 
states which have legalized it, like a 70-year old couple in California who 
are serving 30-month sentences in federal prisons, who also lost their 
property and social security benefits for their humanitarian efforts.

Another Californian, Bryan Epis, a patient himself, was recently sentenced 
to a 10-year mandatory minimum for growing marijuana for sick and dying 
Californians. It says a lot about Bush's priorities that he is entirely 
comfortable with the fact that people like Epis are taking up jail space 
better used for violent offenders or some of the corporate criminals who 
stole from Americans who are getting a pass because they gave big donations 
to Bush and other GOP candidates.

Gary Storck Madison
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