In November 2001, an undercover cop arrested seven teens in Winnipeg, Manitoba as part of a sting operation for selling pot and ecstasy at a local high school.
One of the students, charged with selling ecstasy, was given an unusual sentence at his July 2002 trial; Judge Cathy Everett told the 18-year-old student to write a 20-page essay explaining why ecstasy is bad, and then to go on a speaking tour of other high schools to deliver the message. Judge Everett demanded that he “do research” and write an accurate essay.
The teenager, who cannot be named because he wasn’t a legal adult when he was arrested, wrote a well-researched essay which explained that ecstasy is fairly safe when used properly, and included harm reduction tips on safe use.
“The message of abstinence does not work and never will work for one simple reason ? curiosity,” wrote the young man, to the judge’s horror. “That is why the message of harm reduction is oh so very important. We need to protect those who are curious.”
After reading the essay, Judge Everett gave it an “F”, cancelled the speaking tour, and ordered the teen to rewrite the essay. This created a media sensation that carried the message of harm reduction around the country. Letters to the editor complained that the court favored indoctrination and propaganda over truth and honesty.
The essay was rewritten and the judge accepted it in February 2003, noting that “the offending passages had been removed” ? meaning that the twelfth grader had dutifully dumbed down his personal beliefs under threat of further punishment.
If the youth learned any lesson, it was only that authority figures don’t often like to hear the truth.
Med-pot science project
The system doesn’t always wait for a law to be broken to muzzle a young person whose views threaten the drug war regime. In January 2003, 13-year-old eighth-grader Veronica Mouser was told that her science project ? “Mary Jane for Pain” ? would be barred from the science fair at her Intermediate School in Belmont, California, despite having the prior approval of her teacher.
Although Mouser says she disagrees with pot’s recreational use, she studied pot’s medical application by visiting the Oakland cannabis club, a med-pot grow room, three med-pot patients and several doctors. Her conclusion: pot helps people to relieve pain and nausea.
“I think they just didn’t like what I had to say, or talking about it, so they blocked it out, and that’s not science,” Mouser told reporters from the San Jose Mercury News. “I guess I learned not only about medical pot, but how people will try to control what you say.”
After a fight that gathered support from civil liberties organizations and med-pot activists, Mouser won the right to enter her project in her school’s science fair.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Dismayed and disgusted with similar miseducation, students at high schools, colleges and universities across the US networked to create Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a sprawling anti drug war organization that’s opened 200 chapters since its creation in 1999.
SSDP’s birth was largely incited by the Higher Education Act of 1998, US federal legislation that denies government financial aid to students with even minor past drug convictions. SSDP campaigns actively for the government to repeal the act. They are taking the initiative in changing some of the world’s most corrupt, unjust and hateful laws.
? Students for Sensible Drug Policy: 202-293-4414; www.ssdp.org