If you’ve been paying attention to Cannabis Culture news and you’re a cannabis user, you know to watch out for police, DEA and other government agents.
You watch out for vigilante groups such as the Minuteman Project, who say they will be patrolling the US-Canadian border this summer, hoping to interdict drugs and “terrorists.”
Government spooks get paid to harm you. It’s their job. Minutemen border vigilantes are doing in it for fun, “patriotism,” and power, but the Minutemen border boys aren’t the only private citizens you have to watch out for. Take the case of Steven Steiner, a New Yorker who got “damned mad” when his son Steven, Jr. died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on January 29, 2001.
Steiner used his anger and grief about his son’s death to create an anti-drug vigilante organization called DAMMADD, which stands for “Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers.” The acronym is a take-off of another organization that was started by grieving parents, MADD, otherwise known as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
DAMMADD is a privatized version of a tool police have long used. It’s a civilian snitch outfit that encourages people to narc on each other. The organization’s website, www.dammadd.org, features a convenient online form through which private citizens give information about anybody they want to hurt using allegations of drug abuse or dealing. The site makes it clear: you can nark, and get paid for it.
The organization runs a lobbying and media advocacy effort that mostly tries to derail marijuana law reforms, especially medical marijuana. DAMMADD is a vocal opponent of liberalizing New York’s draconian marijuana laws and allowing medical pot there.
Recently, DAMMADD said cannabis extract medicine Sativex should be tested and used in the US, instead of allowing laws like California’s Prop. 215 and other state medical marijuana laws to authorize the use of smoked whole marijuana by patients. In the view of DAMMADD, medical marijuana is a hoax designed to legalize all marijuana use.
From the website, you can buy “wanted posters” that encourage people to use DAMMADD’s snitch service. You can also buy home drug-testing kits.
Like other private citizens who rise to public prominence as civilian crusaders, Steiner’s back-story raises serious questions about his motivations and demeanor.
For example, Steiner’s website includes lots of information about Steven Jr. and how he died. A lot of this information is less than flattering to the young man, his father, and his family, and makes clear that Steiner’s son did not die “because” of drug dealers or other drug users, so why the crusade?
In an article written in 2001 that Steiner posted on his site, a journalist outlines how Steve Jr.’s half-brother discovered 19-year-old Stevie dead on the floor of their bachelor pad in South Florida.
A coroner’s report said the youth died from oxycodone, a dangerous prescription painkiller often administered as OxyContin. Even though the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office finished its investigation of the youngster’s death without filing charges against anyone, Steiner cast aspersions on his son’s half-brother and others who knew the boy in Florida. He said his son was a good kid who may have sometimes used alcohol and marijuana, but would not have used more dangerous drugs or engaged in such deadly behavior.
And yet, the same article says Stevie had a history of risky, criminal behavior. At age 16, the article says, he stole his father’s credit cards and used them to check into motels. Steiner Sr. forced his son to spend three months in New Jersey’s Youth Detention Center. This action is reminiscent of parents who force their children into the notorious Straight, Incorporated drug treatment centers, and anti-drug boot camps.
“I didn’t see him for a month while he was in there,” Steiner says. “When I visited him for the first time, his eyes watered up, and he hugged me. It was a learning experience he never forgot.”
In the 24 hours preceding Stevie’s death, if conflicting accounts provided by witnesses can be interpreted, the young man may have used Ecstasy and took two OxyContin tablets. Where the prescription OxyContin came from is a minor point of interest. Various testimonies about that were offered to police. Some testimony indicated Stevie and his half-brother got it from a street dealer. Other testimony says one of them stole it from Stevie’s mother, who lived near the boys in Florida and had a legal prescription for the painkiller. Where did the Ecstasy come from? Nobody knows, but there are few reports that anybody has ever woken up dead after taking one tablet of E.
An investigator who scrutinized the case implied that Steiner had unwarranted suspicions about his son’s death. The investigator said Stevie’s mother told him her son had “seriously abused drugs, including heroin.”
Regarding Dad Steiner, the investigator said: “He’s grieving; he’s hurting; his son is dead. I wish there were more we could do for him, but the facts don’t allow it, and I’m not going to create facts to make him happy.”
Steiner created DAMMADD as a response to his son’s death.
“I’m not in denial,” Steiner told a journalist. “My son’s dead, and I’m friggin’ pissed.”
Being “friggin pissed” (in other words, being angry, vicious and vengeful), is the overarching emotional character of civilian anti-drug campaigners, anti-immigrant vigilantes, and other crusaders. Their anger leads campaigners to do things unseemly, over the top, and macabre. Steiner even has photos of his son, dead on the floor in Florida, posted on the DAMMADD site.
“We need to institute a zero tolerance policy for drug activity in our communities,” Steiner writes in the caption accompanying the depressing death shots. “Some say drug trafficking is not a violent crime to look at my son laying on the floor would seem pretty violent to me. As I speak with parents across our state and the country, it is time for all of us to wake up and stand up against the pro drug movement and those Legislators.”
Also on Steiner’s website, one of his supporters posted an article about a gunman who forced his way into a Santa Rosa, California medical marijuana club in April. The person who posted the article, an anti-drug law and order advocate, backed the gunman, saying, “Personally, I hope the robber gets away with it.”
The DAMMADD site contains a revealing essay by California drug warrior Roger Morgan, who warns that legalizing medical marijuana is a clever ploy by rich legalizers like George Soros, Peter Lewis and John Sperling. Morgan alleges that if marijuana is made more available, tens of thousands of people will abuse it, costing the US billions of dollars in health problems and lost wages.
Morgan’s solution: drug testing.
“Preventing the problem of substance abuse requires that we do it before it starts, which in almost all cases is with kids 11 to 17 years old. We know what works: random drug testing. It cut drug use in the work place and military by 67% to over 90%. Even half those results with students could lead to down stream tax savings of $7 to $8 billion per annum, and save a lot of lives. The cost of $2.50 to $3.00 per student is nothing, compared to the $7,000 to $12,000 per student per annum it costs for education. Further, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) all diminish one’s ability to learn,” Morgan says. “Given the current level of ATOD use by students, it is impossible to optimize academic achievement. Purportedly, more kids now smoke marijuana in San Diego than cigarettes, because Soros and his cronies convinced the unsuspecting voters of California that smoked marijuana has medicinal values, which it does not.”
Some of Morgan’s ideas are almost rational, but his motivations for being an anti-cannabis crusader, like Steiner’s, almost certainly derive from unresolved personal issues that would be better dealt with in counseling than by externalizing the personal problems into public crusades.
Morgan, a founder or partner in several anti-drug organizations, suffers from the same “Dad angry at druggie children” syndrome that Steiner is afflicted with. Morgan admits in his DAMMADD biography that he was “armed and repulsed by his experience with two step-children who became drug addicted at age 12 and 14 roughly 25 years ago, and two nephews who died of drug related causes?”
DAMMADD isn’t shy about its goals of being a civilian-police interface service. The site has a special private section for law enforcement agencies. Cops can use secret passwords to work with Steiner to bust evil druggies.
And America isn’t the only place where citizens have geared up to demand vengeance against drug users.
In Indonesia, where 27-year-old Australian surfer Schapelle Corby is facing a death sentence or life imprisonment for allegedly bringing a few pounds of cannabis into Bali, Indonesian anti-drug campaigners are publicly advocating that judges order Corby to be killed, even though prosecutors are “only” seeking life imprisonment.
“It is best if they give her the death sentence or life imprisonment,” said Anak Agung Semara Adhyana, an official representing Bali’s GRANAT anti-drug organization. “We want her death. It is impossible for her to be set free. It would be a bad precedent for the Indonesian justice system.”
A panel of judges are expected to announce Corby’s sentence on May 27. If Agung gets her way, Corby will be executed by firing squad.
Agung and GRANAT are part of an umbrella anti-drug organization in Indonesia, known as YCAB. As with Steiner and Morgan, many of YCAB’s supporters are people who’ve had problems with drug use themselves, or whose children have had problems. They advocate harsh penalties for drug users and dealers.
Where does all this lead to? As I was writing this article, sad word arrives from Singapore: 38-year-old father Shanmugam Murugesu was put to death by hanging early this morning in Changi prison.
“The casket company is already at the prison preparing to take his body home for the funeral,” his lawyer said.
Shanmugam was arrested at the Malaysian border in August, 2003. He was carrying 2.27 pounds of cannabis into Singapore, a country with laws that demand hanging death for anyone caught with more than 17.6 ounces of cannabis.
The demonization of people who alter their consciouness by organizations like DAMMADD and GRANAT is a sign of how deeply the deadly drug war mentality has pervaded the world.
When people demand the death penalty for a woman accused only of bringing “forbidden plants” from one country to another, serious harm results. When parents who probably haven’t done a very good job of loving their children blame others for their children’s problems, and then launch public campaigns demanding get-tough policies and snitches against illegal drug users, serious harm results.
Schapelle Corby is somebody’s child. Shanmugam Murugesu’s twin 14-year-old sons are fatherless orphans. All because some people, and some governments, have a hatred of entheogenic plants and the people who love those plants.
That’s the legacy of people like Steven Steiner.