Welcome to the Medical Cannabis Resource Center News pages
In this issue: |  (1) Save the Music >   Save the Music!  | (2) Save the Watchdogs >   Bush League Censors  |   NORML Reaction  |   MoveOn.org Efforts  |   Examples  |   Briefly  |   Talking Points  | (3) Drugged Driving Bill >   another Bad Law  |   Taking action  |   Opinions  |

Bad Law(s) Alert!

Please forward to any person - or list where there may be folks who may respond.

  1. Save the Music! This Law an Attack on Biz Who Support the "wrong" Cause, Venues & Bands Beware!
  2. While Moving to Gag Our Ability to Report It! Save the Watchdogs
  3. And Other Bad Laws! Drugged Driving Bill Just More Reefer Madness

Even in cases where deadlines have passed, use the tools provided to continously hammer legislators and media with L.T.E's, e-mails, phone calls, and, yes, visits! See references to "Lobby Days" Action Items. See how they voted and you (1) vote accordingly and, more importantly!, you (2) get EVERYONE you know to Register and Vote also. This process works best in numbers.

(1) ALERT! War Being Planned for Biz Who Support the "wrong" Cause - Venues & Bands Beware! The true motvation nehind this law is to give the prohibitionists (and such) the power to shut down drug law reform fundraisers and activities. Lovers of freedom should take Action TODAY, TOMORROW and the NEXT.

Protect Live Music on April 24! (and Beyond!!)

Dear Reader,

(DPA Alert #1) Thanks to your help, the Drug Policy Alliance is making this Saturday, April 24, a day and night of outrage. The end of live music as we know it could be on its way, with a devastating impact on the music industry. Congress is considering legislation to hold bands, DJs, bartenders, promoters, venue owners, radio stations and others liable if a patron uses drugs at a nightclub or concert.

We asked our supporters around the country to plan actions for this day -- and the results far exceeded our expectations! Events are taking place in dozens of cities, from Billings, Montana to New York City. These actions include circulating petitions at nightclubs and festivals, holding protests and raising money for the campaign to protect live music.

If you take part in an action on or after April 24th, e-mail organizer Bill Piper afterwards (bpiper@drugpolicy.org) to let us know how it went (how many people signed the petitions, how many flyers were distributed, how much money was raised, etc). If you're planning an action and haven't given them the specifics yet, please do so today.

If you're not working on an event or action, read on to find out what you can do this Saturday or over the next couple of months to protect live music.

Protect Your Rights

The Campaign

On April 24th the revolution begins.

Our goals on this day are to educate the public, raise money, bring national media attention to Congress's assault on civil liberties, identify our allies, and build a grassroots movement to protect live music.

Thanks to your help there are lots of actions taking place across the country during the Day and Night of Outrage on April 24th. We are still trying to get specifics on each event, but you can get information on some of the biggest actions (protests, benefits, etc.) at: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=31099&l=30230

Additionally, there are dozens of smaller actions (petitioning at local clubs, flyering at festivals, etc.) that are not listed on our site. If you are planning something major and have not told us the specifics, please do so: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=31099&l=30168

Please let us know how your action and events go. Again, you can contact organizer Bill Piper at bpiper@drugpolicy.org. Thanks for your help!

During the week after April 24th we will begin forming action teams in cities across the country to lobby members of Congress, raise awareness, and organize concerned citizens. These action teams, composed of freedom fighters like you, will design action campaigns in their areas. Subscribe to the list and they'll send you an e-mail later this month with all the information you need to start something in your area.

In May, June, and July, the Alliance will work with musicians, promoters, and venue owners to hold a series of fundraisers to raise money to finance the campaign. Meanwhile, action teams around the country will turn up the heat on Congress and grab media attention.

In late summer, ROAR: The National Dance and Music Rights Alliance will bring the fight to Congress's backyard with a protest and concert on the lawn of the U.S Capitol. This will be the third year in a row ROAR holds such an event and each year they get bigger and bigger.

We have much work ahead, but all of us at the Drug Policy Alliance believe the goal of defeating this absurd legislation is within our reach. Many thanks for your concern, help and support.


Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance
Washington, DC


Contact the Drug Policy Alliance:

Drug Policy Alliance
70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10018

Learn more at: http://www.protectlivemusic.org/rave_act.htm

[ Back to Top ]


(2) Save the Watchdawgs! FEC and Congress move to gag non-profits political speech. Coincidentally picks on those critical of Bush League policies, including the failed Drug War.

Act Now! Stand Up! Speak Out!


Government Moving to Gag Ability of The People to Report Bad Effects of Laws to Others!

*!* EMERGENCY: Oppose the FEC Proposal to Crack Down on the Alliance's Right to Communicate with You and Fellow Reformers *!* Do Not Wait! Contact the FEC TODAY!!

(DPA Alert #2) More than 4,200 Drug Policy Alliance members and fellow reformers responded to our February 6th Action Alert demanding that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reject a proposal to restrict the free speech of nonprofits. Though the thousands of faxes that flooded Congress helped stall the government's plans, a new proposal, much broader and harsher than the earlier one, is now under consideration by the FEC.

Send a free email message via the tool at: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1876&l=26844 by April 9 to the FEC telling them you oppose their assault on free speech!!

The Alliance thanks the thousands of you who wrote to Congress criticizing previous FEC and IRS attempts to abolish our free-speech rights. But we need your help now more than ever!!

Under the FEC's Political Committee Status Rule, the Drug Policy Alliance and other advocacy groups could be barred from communicating with you and other fellow reformers about the political actions of federal officials up for re-election. This is one of the worst proposed assaults on the freedom of speech and association ever considered in the United States! Communications just like this one could be banned!

Public comments http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1876&l=26844 are due by April 9!!! (But keep hammering anyway! Remember how they voted, etc.)

The FEC rule http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1876&l=26853 would prevent the Drug Policy Alliance and other advocacy groups from contacting our supporters about the political actions of federal officials who are up for re-election. It could provide members of Congress with a green light to introduce and pass harmful drug policies while they are up for re-election and make it against the law for the Alliance to run advertisements in a newspaper or send out email alerts like this one. The chilling effect of the FEC proposal on free speech cannot be overstated. It is an unacceptable and unconstitutional intrusion upon the free-speech rights of nonprofits and the general public.

1) Email the Federal Election Commission. http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1876&l=26844 Use our pre-written form to tell them that you oppose to the Federal Election Commission's ("FEC") Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") with regard to Political Committee Status. DO IT TODAY!! If you do not respond to this urgent alert, the controversial proposals will likely be adopted, endangering the future of the Alliance and all other nonprofit organizations working for freedom in America.

2) Forward this alert to friends and family.

3) To read comments submitted to the FEC yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance, click here: http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/ctt.asp?u=1876&l=26799.

4) More information about the current and former proposals can be found at:






(Subscribing to DPA Alerts) Please visit http://actioncenter.drugpolicy.org/profileeditor/ to manage your subscriptions, including removing yourself from one or all lists, changing your email preference to HTML only, and giving us more information about yourself so we can better provide you content. Please consider joining the Drug Policy Alliance: https://secure3.ctsg.com/dpa/donation/index.asp?Item=8&MS=email

Fight for Your Rights, It's the NORML Thing To Do!

This particular posting undoubtedly relates to NORMLs ability to express our disdain for the current Administration. Though NORML is non-partisan, we are currently free to express our disdain for particular decisions made by the Administration - i.e. the decision to raid cannabis buyers' cooperatives in California. For another great example of NORML pointing out the faults of the Bush Administration please see the NORML Truth Report - You're Government is Lying to You (Again) About Marijuana at http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5513

In this report, NORML is clearly ridiculing administration policy. Though Move On may in fact be more partisan than NORML, this action is not. All non-profits concerned about Free Speech and effective advocacy should care about these changes. This directly relates to our ability to tell the Truth; and the Truth is, the Bush Administration is quite deserving of criticism related to their marijuana policies and drug war priorities.

Help Us to Help You!


Christopher S. Mulligan
Development Coordinator
(202)483-5500 x 106

...working to reform marijuana laws

Join online today at www.norml.org

Get A Move On!
Act Now, Stand Up, Speak Out!

-----Original Message-----
From: Wes Boyd, MoveOn.org

Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 7:51 PM
Subject: Republicans trying to gag nonprofits

Dear Reader,

Are you involved in a local or national non-profit or public interest organization? As a leader or board director? Or a Member or even just a Citizen concerned over your right to know? Please read this message carefully, because your organization, if not our basic rights in general, are facing a serious threat.

The Republican National Committee is pressing the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") to issue new rules that would cripple groups that dare to communicate with the public in any way critical of President Bush or members of Congress. Incredibly, the FEC has just issued -- for public comment -- proposed rules that would do just that. Any kind of non-profit -- conservative, progressive, labor, religious, secular, social service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented, large, and small -- could be affected by these rules.

By the way, one thing FEC's proposed rules do not affect is the donations you may have made in the past or may make now to MoveOn.org or to the MoveOn.org Voter Fund. They are aimed at activist non-profit groups, not donors.

Operatives in Washington are displaying a terrifying disregard for the values of free speech and openness which underlie our democracy. Essentially, they are willing to pay any price to stop criticism of Bush administration policy.

We've attached materials below to help you make a public comment to the FEC before the comment period ends on APRIL 9th. Your comment could be very important, because normally the FEC doesn't get much public feedback.

Public comments to the FEC are encouraged by email at


Comments should be addressed to Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant General Counsel, and must include the full name, electronic mail address, and postal service address of the commenter.

More details can be found at:


We'd love to see a copy of your public comment. Please email us a copy at FECcomment@moveon.org.

Whether or not you're with a non-profit, we also suggest you ask your representatives to write a letter to the FEC opposing the rule change.

Some key points:

- Campaign finance reform was not meant to gag public interest organizations.

- Political operatives are trying to silence opposition to Bush policy.

- The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has no legal right to treat non-profit interest groups as political committees. Congress and the courts have specifically considered and rejected such regulation.

You can reach these "representatives" (of special interests) at:

Senator Richard G. Lugar
Phone: 202-224-4814

Senator B. Evan Bayh
Phone: 202-224-5623

Congresswoman Julia Carson
Phone: 202-225-4011

Please let us know you're calling by visiting:


In a non-election year, this kind of administrative overreach would never find support. It goes far beyond any existing law or precedent. It is a serious threat to the fundamental checks and balances in our system. But because of an unholy alliance between a few campaign reform groups and GOP partisans, this rule change could actually happen if we don't act now.

I've attached more details below, prepared by our attorneys and by the FEC Working Group -- a group of more than 500 respected non-profit organizations.

If you run a non-profit, don't assume this change doesn't apply to you. First check out the EXAMPLES OF SPECIFIC CONSEQUENCES FOR NONPROFIT GROUPS section below. It's outrageous.

Thanks for all you do,


--Wes Boyd
March 30th, 2004


Under the proposed rules, nonprofit organizations that advocate for cancer research, gun and abortion restrictions or rights, fiscal discipline, tax reform, poverty issues, immigration reform, the environment, or civil rights or liberties - all these organizations could be transformed into political committees if they criticize or commend members of Congress or the President based on their official actions or policy positions.

Such changes would cripple the ability of groups to raise and spend funds in pursuit of their mission and could be so ruinous that organizations would be forced to back away from meaningful conversations about public policies that affect millions of Americans.

If the proposed rules were adopted, the following organizations would be treated as federal political committees and therefore could not receive grants from any corporation, even an incorporated nonprofit foundation, from any union, or from any individual in excess of $5,000 per year:

- A 501(c)(4) gun rights organization that spends $50,000 on ads at any time during this election year criticizing any legislator, who also happens to be a federal candidate, for his or her position on gun control measures.

- A "good government" organization [501(c)(3)] that spends more than $50,000 to research and publish a report criticizing several members of the House of Representatives for taking an all-expense trip to the Bahamas as guests of the hotel industry.

- A fund [527] created by a tax reform organization to provide information to the public regarding federal candidates' voting records on budget issues.

- A civil rights organization [501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4)] that spends more than $50,000 to conduct non-partisan voter registration activities in Hispanic and African-American communities after July 5, 2004.

- An organization devoted to the environment that spends more than $50,000 on communications opposing oil drilling in the Arctic and identifying specific Members of Congress as supporters of the legislation, if those Members are running for re-election.

- A civic organization [501(c)(6)] that spends $50,000 during 2004 to send letters to all registered voters in the community urging them to vote on November 2, 2004 because "it is your civic duty."

Other potential ramifications include the following situations:

- A religious organization that publishes an election-year legislative report card covering all members of Congress on a broad range of issues would be unable to accept more than $5,000 from any individual donor if the report indicated whether specific votes were good or bad.

- A 501(c)(3) organization that primarily encourages voter registration and voting among young people will be required to re-create itself as a federal PAC.

- A 501(c)(4) pro-life group that accepts contributions from local businesses would break the law by using its general funds to pay for any communications critical of an incumbent Senator's position on abortion rights after the Senator had officially declared himself for reelection more than a year before the next election.

- A 501(c)(3) civil rights group that has been designated as a political committee can no longer hold its annual fundraiser at a corporate-donated facility, and it must refuse donations or grants from donors that have already given $5,000 for that year.


Under federal campaign finance laws, federal "political committees" must register and file reports with the FEC and can accept contributions only from individual persons (and other federal committees), and only up to $5,000 per year from any one donor ("hard money"). The FEC is now proposing to redefine "political committee" to include any group that:

1. Spends more than $1,000 this year on nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote activity or on any ad, mailing or phone bank that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate; and

2. Supposedly has a "major purpose" of election of a federal candidate as shown by:

(a) Saying anything in its press releases, materials, website, etc. that might lead regulators (guess who!) to conclude that the group's "major purpose" is to influence the election of any federal candidate; or

(b) Spending more than $50,000 this year or in any of the last 4 years for any nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote program, or on any public communication that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate.

What's more, any group that gets turned into a federal "political committee" under these new rules has to shut down all its communications critical of President Bush (or any other federal candidate) until it sets up "federal" and "non-federal" accounts; and raises enough hard money contributions to "repay" the federal account for the amounts spent on all those communications since the beginning of 2003.

These proposed rules would apply to all types of groups: 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations, labor unions, trade associations and non-federal political committees and organizations (so-called "527" groups, as well as state PACs, local political clubs, etc.).

The new rules, including those that apply to voter engagement, cover all types of communications -- not just broadcast TV or radio ads -- but messages in any form, such as print ads, mailings, phone banks, email alerts like this one, websites, leaflets, speeches, posters, tabling, even knocking on doors.

The FEC will hold a public hearing on April 14 & 15. Written comments are due by April 5 if the group wants to testify at that hearing; otherwise, by April 9. The FEC plans to make its final decision on these proposed rules by mid-May and they could go into effect as early as July, right in the middle of the election year, potentially retroactive to January 2003.

It's clear that these rules would immediately silence thousands of groups, of all types, who have raised questions and criticisms of any kind about the Bush Administration, its record and its policies.


- The FEC should not change the rules for nonprofit advocacy in the middle of an election year, especially in ways that Congress already considered and rejected. Implementing these changes now would go far beyond what Congress decided and the Supreme Court upheld.

- These rules would shut down the legitimate activities of nonprofit organizations of all kinds that the FEC has no authority at all to regulate.

- Nothing in the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law or the Supreme Court's decision upholding it provides any basis for these rules. That law is only about banning federal candidates from using unregulated contributions ("soft money"), and banning political parties from doing so, because of their close relationship to those candidates. It's clear that, with one exception relating to running broadcast ads close to an election, the new law wasn't supposed to change what independent nonprofit interest groups can do, including political organizations (527's) that have never before been subject to regulation by the FEC.

- The FEC can't fix the problems with these proposed rules just by imposing new burdens on section 527 groups that do important issue education and advocacy as well as voter mobilization. And Congress clearly decided to require those groups to fully and publicly disclose their finances, through the IRS and state agencies, not to restrict their independent activities and speech. The FEC has no authority to go further.

- In the McConnell opinion upholding McCain-Feingold, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that the law's limits on unregulated corporate, union and large individual contributions apply to political parties and not interest groups. Congress specifically considered regulating 527 organization three times in the last several years - twice through the Internal Revenue Code and once during the BCRA debate - and did not subject them to McCain-Feingold.

- The FEC should not, in a few weeks, tear up the fabric of tax-exempt law that has existed for decades and under which thousands of nonprofit groups have structured their activities and their governance. The Internal Revenue Code already prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from intervening in political candidate campaigns, and IRS rules for other 501(c) groups prohibit them from ever having a primary purpose to influence any candidate elections -- federal, state, or local.

- As an example of how seriously the new FEC rules contradict the IRS political and lobbying rules for nonprofits, consider this: Under the 1976 public charity lobbying law, a 501(c)(3) group with a $1.5 million annual budget can spend $56,250 on grassroots lobbying, including criticism of a federal incumbent candidate in the course of lobbying on a specific bill. That same action under the new FEC rules would cause the charity to be regulated as a federal political committee, with devastating impact on its finances and perhaps even loss of its tax-exempt status.

- The chilling effect of the proposed rules on free speech cannot be overstated. Merely expressing an opinion about an officeholder's policies could turn a nonprofit group OVERNIGHT into a federally regulated political committee with crippling fund-raising restrictions.

- Under the most draconian proposal, the FEC could "look back" at a nonprofit group's activities over the past four years - before McCain-Feingold was ever passed and the FEC ever proposed these rules - to determine whether a group's activities qualify it as a federal political committee. If so, the FEC would require a group to raise hard money to repay prior expenses that are now subject to the new rules. Further work would be halted until debts to the "old" organization were repaid. This rule would jeopardize the survival of many groups.

- The 4 year "look back" rule would cause a nonprofit group that criticized or praised the policies of Bush, Cheney, McCain, or Gore in 2000, or any Congressional incumbent candidate in 2000 or 2002, to be classified as a political committee now, even though the group has not done so since then. This severely violates our constitutional guarantees of due process.

- These changes would impoverish political debate and could act as a de facto "gag rule" on public policy advocacy. They would insulate public officials from substantive criticism for their positions on policy issues. They would actually diminish civic participation in government rather than strengthen it. This would be exactly the opposite result intended by most supporters of campaign finance reform.

- The FEC's proposed rule changes would dramatically impair vigorous debate about important national issues. It would hurt nonprofit groups across the political spectrum and restrict First Amendment freedoms in ways that are unhealthy for our democracy.

- Any kind of nonprofit -- conservative, liberal, labor, religious, secular, social service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented, large, and small -- could be affected by these rules. A vast number would be essentially silenced on the issues that define them, whether they are organized as 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 527 organizations.

- Already, more than five hundred nonprofit organizations - including many that supported McCain-Feingold like ourselves - have voiced their opposition to the FEC's efforts to restrict advocacy in the name of campaign finance reform.


"Resources on FEC Proposed Rule Changes Threatening Nonprofit Advocacy", by FEC Working Group

and, From two prominent reform organizations:

"Soft Money and the FEC", by Common Cause

"Public Campaign Statement regarding FEC Draft Advisory Opinion 2003-37", by Public Campaign

[ Back to Top ]

The above measures are simply attempts by our current rulers to insure they keep ruling. Suppression of freedom of speech of their opposition, along with control of the media to blindly generate their propaganda is just all part of the plan.

The Bad Laws being resisted here are worthy targets by themselves, but we hope you, the people, will also work on the long-term, stop the introduction of these bills and fire the people who proposed them. Our leaders should be fixing problems, not being part of them. Fix the System! Register, Vote, and Get EVERYONE You Know to Do So Also!!

(3) basic Bad Law Alert!
Drugged Driving Bill Just More Reefer Madness


*********************PLEASE COPY AND DISTRIBUTE*************************

NOTE: This alert is also on line at http://www.mapinc.org/alert/0288.html

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #288 Wednesday, 21 April 2004

Yesterday the Cincinnati Post published an OPED and an Editorial, below, about a new bill before Congress. The NORML website describes the bill as follows:

H.R. 3922, sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of legislators including Reps. Robert Portman (R-OH), Sander Levin (D-MI), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), Mark Souder (R-IN) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), seeks to impose so-called "model" DUID legislation upon all 50 states - demanding they enact statutes sanctioning anyone who operates a motor vehicle "while any detectable amount of a controlled substance is present in the person's body, as measured in the person's blood, urine, saliva, or other bodily substance." And another is a bill aimed at the same target, also as described by NORML: H.R. 3907, sponsored by Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV), demands that state legislatures amend their DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) to enact mandatory minimum penalties for anyone convicted of driving under the influence of illegal drugs. Under the proposal, states have until 2006 to pass and enforce DUID laws "approved by the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration," or lose portions of their federal highway funding.

The OPEDs below clearly points out the problem with these bills, and the Editorial gives additional reasons for taking action.

Need More Facts? See:

Cannabis and Driving http://www.drugwardistortions.org/distortion12.htm


References on Drugs and Driving


Related news clippings may be found at



http://www.mapinc.org/find?224 (Cannabis and Driving)



Write a LTEs to the papers in your state about this issue. This is a good example of a topic that may result in a printed letter without the need to tie it to any other specific item the papers may have printed.

To find your state/local newspapers, go to MAP's media links page at:


Using the 'List by Area" dropdown find and bring up the list of newspapers in your state and their LTE contact. Note those with the higher numbers of Clippings or Excerpts as this tends to indicate a higher interest by the paper in our issues, and thus should be your first targets.

Also consider sending them both the OPED and the Editorial. Ask your papers to please print similar editorial page items about these bills.

And last, but not least, let your members of congress know about how you feel about this issue. If you can, visit with the members, or visit their state/local offices as telling them or their staff directly always shows a deep concern, stronger than any other message.

You can use NORML's Take Action page to send your concern to your Member of Congress. Just go to this link, personalize the message with your own thoughts and facts, and send. It is easy and fast: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=5384696

Thanks for your effort and support.

It's not what others do it's what YOU do



(Letter, email messages, etc.)

Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlte@mapinc.org) if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer@mapinc.org if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit.

This is VERY Important as it is one very effective way of gauging our impact and effectiveness.

Subscribing to the Sent LTE list (sentlte@mapinc.org) will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts.

To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm and/or http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form


Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2004 The Cincinnati Post

A NEW FRONTIER (in Stupidity)

U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, who has established himself as a national leader in the war on drugs, recently opened a new frontier. He and several others in the U.S. House introduced legislation aimed at boosting state enforcement of laws against drug impaired driving.

The broad goal of getting drug-impaired drivers off the road is obviously one that should command broad support. And this is a generally restrained push in that direction.

But there are legitimate objections to certain of the bill's assumptions -- and every reason in the world to suspect that what's being touted today as a carrot to help states will eventually turn into a stick used to punish those that don't climb onto the wagon.

Proponents of the bill cites statistics by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which suggest that illegal drugs (often in conjunction with alcohol) are used by between 10 percent and 22 percent of drivers involved in crashes. Portman says that nearly 11 million people drove under the influence of illegal drugs in 2002. And there is no shortage of horrific local examples about what can happen when motorists drive under the influence of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.

In nine states, the mere presence of illegal drug residues in the body is regarded as evidence of drug-impaired driving, regardless of concentration or whether there's evidence the motorists ability to control a vehicle really was compromised. The bill acknowledges, however, that the technology for identifying illegal drugs in the body is inadequate, and authorizes federal grants to develop it.

The bill would also:

. Authorize grants to train police officers and prosecutors about drug impaired driving.

. Require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to develop model legislation for use by states.

. Support research into impaired driving -- and the dissemination of results to judges, prosecutors, policymakers and others.

. Require annual reports to Congress on what states are doing about drug-impaired driving.

The bill proposes a modest boost in funding for such purposes, to $2 million annually from the $1.2 million being spent now.

Some advocacy groups (see the guest column on the opposite page) complain the bill promotes a double standard by criminalizing trace amounts that can stay in the body for days after any incapacitating effect has worn off.

The bigger concern, we submit, is Washington's intention over the long haul. State motor vehicle laws are not properly a federal issue. You don't see federal prosecutors handling drunken driving cases before federal judges, and Washington isn't picking up the cost to incarcerate or treat folks convicted of DUI. But that didn't stop Congress from threatening to withhold federal highway funds from states that refused to lower their DUI blood-alcohol levels to .08 percent. Nor has Washington seen fit to reimburse state and local governments for the costs of what was functionally a mandate.

There is every reason to expect the same pattern will eventually play out with drug-impaired driving. At a time when most states, for financial and policy reasons, have decided that drug abusers don't belong in prison, and when casual marijuana use has effectively been decriminalized, we might well see Congress turning the screws to get more people into the criminal justice system via driving laws -- and sticking state and local governments with the tab.

If the states want to put drunken and drug-impaired driving on equal footing -- genuinely equal footing -- fine. Punish behavior -- that is, those who drive while impaired -- and direct most resources at the alcoholics and addicts who are by far the greatest risk to the motoring public. But the federal role here ought to be quite limited. Besides, a government as hideously indebted as this one doesn't need to be looking for new spending agendas.


ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts, Please See: Writer's Resources at: http://www.mapinc.org/resource/

Prepared by: Richard Lake, Focus Alert Specialist



Pubdate: Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2004 The Cincinnati Post
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC.

PORTMAN BILL IS EXCESSIVE (even for extremists)

Imagine if it was against the law to drive home after consuming a single glass of wine at dinner. Now imagine it was against the law to do so after having consumed a single glass of wine two weeks ago.

Sound absurd? No more so than newly proposed Congressional legislation by Ohio Rep. Rob Portman mandating that each state enact laws sanctioning anyone who operates a motor vehicle "while any detectable amount of a controlled substance is present in the person's body, as measured in the person's blood, urine, saliva, or other bodily substance.''

While the expressed purpose of this legislation, the "Drug Impaired Driving Enforcement Act of 2004,'' is to target and remove drug-impaired drivers from our nation's roadways, the reality is that this poorly worded proposal would do little to improve public safety. Rather, it would falsely categorize sober drivers as "intoxicated'' simply if they had consumed an illicit substance, particularly marijuana, some days or weeks earlier.

A case in point. John and Jane Doe attend a party. John enjoys a glass of wine while Jane takes a puff from a marijuana cigarette. The next day, John and Jane are pulled over. John is given a breathalyzer test and tests negative for alcohol. Jane is asked to submit to a urine test and tests positive for marijuana. Jane is then arrested for "driving under the influence of drugs,'' despite the fact that any impairment she experienced from smoking marijuana would have worn off hours earlier.

That's because Portman's proposal, so-called "zero tolerance'' per se legislation, presumes individuals guilty of driving while intoxicated simply if trace levels of a controlled substances or even drug metabolites (inactive compounds indicative of past drug use) are detected in their bodily fluids -- even if the individual is neither under the influence nor impaired to drive. For anyone who enjoys an occasional toke from a marijuana cigarette, this news ought to be especially unsettling, as marijuana metabolites are often detectable in a person's urine for days or even weeks after the drug is consumed.

Aside from being poorly drafted, this unfunded federal mandate from Congress is unnecessary. All states already have DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) statutes on the books. Most are "effect-based'' laws that forbid drivers to operate a motor vehicle if they are either "under the influence'' of a controlled substance, or if they have been rendered "incapable of driving safely'' because of their use of an illicit drug. This is a multidisciplinary standard that focuses on the totality of circumstances and rightly punishes motorists who drive while impaired from having recently used illicit drugs.

There is no need for additional legislation, especially from the federal government.

While driving under the influence of illicit and licit substances is obviously a serious issue, Portman's proposal neither addresses the problem nor offers a legitimate solution. "Zero tolerance'' laws are neither a safe nor sensible way to identify impaired drivers; they are an attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws in order to identify and prosecute recreational drug users.

At a minimum, laws targeting drug drivers should identify "parent drugs'' (in other words, cocaine or THC), not simply inactive drug metabolites. Further, these laws must have scientifically sound cut-off levels that correlate drug concentration to impairment of performance, similar to the 0.08 BAC standard that now exists for drunk driving. There must also be assurances that the laws mandate any and all drug testing to be performed and confirmed by accredited state labs using uniform procedures and standards.

Until these measures are in place, it is premature and illogical for Congress to strong-arm states to adopt this unnecessary and unsound "zero tolerance" drugged driving policy.

Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation in Washington, DC. For more information, Visit: http://www.cincypost.com/2004/04/20/guest042004.html

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