------------------------------------------------------------------- Raid Scours Gay Youth Club, Owner's Home (The Oregonian notes Portland police are continuing their search for some way to pin an illegal-drug charge on the producer of Cannabis Common Sense for local cable television. A secret federal search warrant supposedly targeting associates of Lanny Swerdlow who are thought to be involved in child pornography allowed cops to batter down doors to Swerdlow's Portland home and nightclub, the Rage, and haul off two vehicles full of computers, videos, cameras and folders, without arresting him or charging him with anything.) The Oregonian letters to editor: email@example.com 1320 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97201 Web: http://www.oregonlive.com/ 5-1-98 Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home * A child pornography investigation concentrates on The Rage and Lanny Swerdlow's houseboat By Jennifer Bjorhus and Osker Spicer of The Oregonian staff Child pornography investigators hauled away a truckload of computer equipment and videotapes Thursday as they raided The Rage, a popular gay youth dance club, and the bright blue houseboat of the club's owner, Lanny Swerdlow. No one was arrested. Swerdlow said the club would open as scheduled tonight, and he decried the raids as an attempt to shut down his video shows. Although controversy again swirls around Swerdlow, whose previous club, The City Nightclub, was shut down because of drug activity, he is not the target of this ongoing investigation, said sources familiar with the case. Associates of Swerdlow, not Swerdlow himself, are the targets of the search warrants, the sources said, emphasizing that who might be arrested isn't clear. Gordon Compton, an FBI special agent, said he could not discuss the contents of the two federal search warrants and the supporting affidavits because they were under court seal. John Deits, an assistant U.S. attorney, would confirm only that "the subject matter of the raid was essentially child pornography." The Interagency Sexual Exploitation Pro-active Enforcement Team (INTERSEPT) is investigating, Deits said. The group is made up of agents from the FBI, Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau, the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Customs Service. The raids began at 8:30 a.m. For more than six hours, investigators combed through belongings at The Rage, 333 S.W. Park Ave, and Swerdlow's houseboat moored off Hayden Island at 11670 North Island Cove Lane. The raid surprised Swerdlow's neighbors. "They hollered a few times, and no one answered the door," said Rollin Woodruff, who lives next door. "Then they brought their battering ram out and busted through the front door." Swerdlow, who was in his bathrobe, was home with his roommate. About 4 p.m., agents hauled out computers, three yellow bags of videos, videocassette recorders, a small television and boxes of folders. They piled evidence into two wheelbarrows and carted them away. Neighbors said Swerdlow kept to himself but was "nocturnal" and occasionally threw late-night parties. "You'd see some guys sitting in the hot tubs," said Patti Marcellus, who lives in a nearby houseboat. "When you'd walk by, they'd stand up and flash you sometimes. He'd always have young kids in there, too." While investigators took over the houseboat, the scene repeated itself downtown at The Rage. By midafternoon, investigators there had stuffed a small sport-utility vehicle with boxes of computer and video equipment, computer software and videotapes. Swerdlow, who was at The Rage on Thursday afternoon, said the raids were an unjustified attempt to halt production of his four raucous cable TV shows, all shot at the club. "I think this is the government trying to shut down my programs that they disapprove of," said Swerdlow, wearing a T-shirt that read: "Here Comes Trouble . . . I'm Baack!" The message was oddly appropriate. For more than 20 years, Swerdlow has fought critics who suspected his no-alcohol teen clubs were drug dens and a convenient place for older gay men to meet gay teens. Swerdlow has argued that The City Nightclub, Evolution and The Rage offer havens for gay teens who otherwise end up vulnerable and unsupported on the street. He has blamed his problems on police homophobia. His strongest defenders have been young club patrons, straight and gay, who praised the former City Nightclub as an enjoyable nightspot and one of the few places Oregon's gay teens felt comfortable. Swerdlow's weekly programs, too, have stirred concern. Shows explicit Aired on local public-access channels and broadcast over the World Wide Web, the shows are shot at The Rage. They include "Outrageous," "Night Scene," "Cannabis Common Sense" and "Bunk Busters: Local Atheists." Some of the videos contain teen-agers acting out violence, drug use or simulated sex, he said. Some videos, for example, show 16-year-old boys kissing men or teen-agers in lewd positions, he said. Swerdlow said that he considers the programs spontaneous art and that from 50 to 100 young people are involved in producing them. "It's like a catharsis for them," he said. "They're the kids' own creations. I don't tell them what to do or what not to do. "Some people may look at these shows and say that this is out of line, but I don't. Young people are up there acting out fantasies. There are a lot of guys in dresses, girls kissing guys and guys kissing guys. . . . But people don't appear nude on our stage." Swerdlow acknowledged that he's not always present when the shows are being shot and doesn't always know what goes on. He explained that many of the show's producers and performers offer dramatic interpretations of significant issues and concerns of the day, including murder, drugs, rape and similar controversial themes. "We produce a show about atheism, and a lot of people get very upset about it," he said. The Rage is in the same four-story building that housed the Alternative Health Center, a medical marijuana club that police raided in September. The building's owner, Robert N. Magid, said that Swerdlow always has conducted his business with integrity and that there was no connection between the marijuana club and Swerdlow's operations. News of Thursday's raids shook two club regulars who insisted that for gay youth statewide, The Rage is much more than a dance club. "I can be myself" "The surroundings make me feel like I can be myself," said Seth Robins, a 19-year-old from Ashland who lives at the Street Light Youth Shelter in Portland. Robins and his friend Chris, 20, who wouldn't give his last name, described the club as a social ritual. It's a place they could go without being hassled, hear good music and get a quarter-pound burger, fries and a coke for $1.50. The two said they stay at the club every Friday night until the 4 a.m. closing. Robins and Chris described Swerdlow as a type of father figure, a friendly man in jeans and flannel shirts who was always there and showed an interest in their lives. Although Swerdlow often made sexual remarks to them, he never propositioned or threatened them in any way, they said. They were both shocked that he or the club might be involved in child pornography. "He's an old pervert," Chris said. "Nobody's threatened by him." The two said The Rage had much better security and was more orderly than its previous manifestations as Evolution and The City Nightclub. They estimated that four guards were on duty Friday nights and that the bathrooms were checked as often as every five minutes. They saw no evidence of child pornography and did not hear talk about it, they said. Drunk "trolls" -- street lingo for older men seeking much younger sex partners -- strayed in occasionally, but security guards quickly swept them out, they said. The thought of The Rage closing upset Robins and Chris. "I'm nervous," Chris said. "I don't want to see this club close." Staff writers Ashbel S. Green, Maxine Bernstein and Peter Farrell and researcher Gail Hulden contributed to this story. *** Date: Sat, 2 May 1998 13:35:32 -0700 (PDT) From: Terry Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: Phil Smith (email@example.com) cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: ART: Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home Phil, What is additionally of interest is Officer James Hudson (Marijuana Task Force, shot at the Don's raid) was also involved and identified in one TV story as "Vice Division". TD [Portland NORML Director] *** Sender: email@example.com Date: Sat, 02 May 1998 14:53:20 -0700 To: Phil Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org), email@example.com From: "D. Paul Stanford" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Re: ART: Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home We have a local TV news video on this available in video streaming format with the Real Player or Microsoft's NetShow at http://www.crrh.org/KPTV-TheRage4-98.html *** Date: Sat, 2 May 1998 18:10:11 -0700 (PDT) To: Phil Smith (email@example.com) From: Paul Loney (firstname.lastname@example.org, Belmont Law Center) Subject: Re: ART: Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home Phil, please note the number of reporters (and a researcher) the Oregonian put on this "story". >Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home > >* A child pornography investigation concentrates on The Rage and Lanny >Swerdlow's houseboat > >By Jennifer Bjorhus >and Osker Spicer >of The Oregonian staff > >Staff writers Ashbel S. Green, Maxine Bernstein and Peter Farrell and >researcher Gail Hulden contributed to this story. *** Sender: email@example.com Date: Sat, 02 May 1998 15:42:13 -0700 To: Terry Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org), email@example.com From: "D. Paul Stanford" (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: Re: HEMP BC & ART: Raid scours gay youth club, owner's home Call it coincidence, but this raid in Portland upon Lanny Swerdlow (the video producer for CRRH, our political committee) and his nightclub, The Rage, coincided with the most recent raid on the exact same day on Hemp BC in Vancouver, British Columbia. This month, our show, "Cannabis Common Sense," also just happens, coincidentally, to feature Mark Emery, Hemp BC, Cannabis Canada and crew in Vancouver. The police seized these Hemp BC interviews, which we need for several more CCS shows and a 90 minute documentary we are producing about Hemp BC and Cannabis Canada. CRRH's attorney, chief petitioner, treasurer and co-host of CCS, Paul Loney, is reviewing various legal actions to have this material and our show's equipment returned. Over the past year and a half I have come to know Lanny Swerdlow very well. He has not been arrested or charged with anything, though the federal and state authorities have seized all of his video production equipment. I believe he is completely innocent of any crimes alluded to in this incident. We have a 2 minute, 20 second local news story concerning the Portland raid on the web in video streaming format. This story includes comments from the head of the Portland Marijuana Task Force, Portland Police Sgt. Jim Hudson, who just happened to be the only spokesperson for the FBI on this raid. To see this, point your web browser to: http://www.crrh.org/KPTV-TheRage4-98.html To see the three, 30 minute interviews with Marc Emery and Hemp BC, filmed last month and currently showing on Oregon cable access TV systems, go to 1. http://www.crrh.org/ccs-49.html 2. http://www.crrh.org/ccs-50.html 3. http://www.crrh.org/ccs-51.html To see the interview with the new owner and long-time manager of Hemp BC, Sister Icee, go to: http://www.crrh.org/ccs-52.html Our web video page also has a local TV news story on U.S. Senator Gordon Smith's rally in Portland opposing medical marijuana, and our CRRH counter news conference debunking the Oregon republican Senator's mindless rhetoric: http://www.crrh.org/KGW-TVmedmj4-98.html You can view William F. Buckley's show "Firing Line" on marijuana from April 1998, with Dr. Ethan Nadelmann and Dr. Lynn Zimmer at: http://www.crrh.org/FiringLine4-98.html Our home video page with the complete index of 76 videos is at http://www.crrh.org/video.html
------------------------------------------------------------------- Drug War Prison Bonanza (An analysis of the war on some drug users, in the Bellingham, Washington, Every Other Weekly, notes the battle fought in the name of the children has left one of every nine American school-age children with one or both parents in jail, a figure soon expected to increase to one of every four children.) Date: Sun, 03 May 1998 10:58:14 -0700 From: Kevin Nelson (email@example.com) Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org To: email@example.com Subject: HT: Drug War Prison Bonanza Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Printed in the Every Other Weekly Bellingham, WA Circulation ~30,000 May 1, 1998 Drug War Prison Bonanza Before his arrest, Will Foster was an ordinary man. A self-employed Oklahoma computer analyst, taxpayer, father of three, and Army retiree, Will was an asset to his community who'd never had a run-in with the law in his 39 years. But Will was technically a criminal. An anonymous tip led police to raid his home, and in the process discover a basement marijuana garden that Will raised to generate a supply of medicine for his crippling rheumatoid arthritis. After his arrest, Will became one of the few people in his county to reject a guilty plea for his offense and opt instead for a jury trial. From that moment on the police seemed to want to make an example out of him. Despite a number of Constitutional rights violations during his trial the jury succumbed to the intense pressure of the prosecution and sentenced Will Foster to 93 years in prison for his first offense. Will's case is by no means unique. Since the massive upscaling of the War on Drugs under the Reagan and Bush administrations, America has placed tremendous emphasis upon trying to arrest its way out of the drug problem. Reaching fever pitch under the Clinton administration, this focus on wanton imprisonment of drug users has led to a host of horrific statistics: * America has the highest rate of incarceration of its citizens of any nation in the world. There are currently 1.7 million Americans behind bars. * One in every three African-American men is in jail or on some form of supervised release. That's four times higher than the rate of incarceration for African men of color during the height of apartheid in South Africa. * One in every nine American school-age children has one or both parents in jail. This figure is soon anticipated to reach down to one in every four children. * In 1995, California, for the first time, appropriated more money for its corrections institutions than for its educational system. * According to the Bureau of Prisons' statistics, over 60% of federal prisoners are in for "drug offenses," 2.8% are in for "violent offenses," and 0.7% are incarcerated for "white collar crimes." * The average sentence for a first-time non-violent drug offense is longer than the average sentence for rape, child molestation, manslaughter, or bank robbery. Since many non-violent drug offenses receive mandatory "no parole" sentences, the problem of overcrowded prisons is increasingly diffused by releasing violent criminals back into American communities. * Over 11 million Americans have been arrested since 1965 for marijuana-related offenses. A record 642,000 arrests occurred in 1996 alone, with 85% of those for simple possession. That's one arrest every 49 seconds. Drug war 1998 The past two years have seen some desperate scrambling as the first foundational cracks have begun to appear in the fašade of America's War on Drugs. What once was considered heretical or extremist has now become acceptable- the discussion of alternatives to a one-size-fits-all policy of absolute prohibition. But as more people begin to consider and discuss drug addiction as a medical rather than a criminal issue, new legislation is coming down the pipeline designed to further upscale the war. In January 1998, Representative Bobby Moak (R-MS) proposed House Bill 192 dubbed "Smoke a Joint, Lose a Limb." Section One states: "In lieu of any other penalty prescribed by law, the court may allow any person who is convicted for a violation of the Controlled Substances Law to have a body part removed. The convicted person and the court must agree on which body part shall be removed." In Kansas, a coalition of 38 Republican state legislators has proposed that growing marijuana should be punishable by life without parole. First degree murderers in Kansas are eligible for parole after 25 years. Newt Gingrich, who in 1982 wrote an impassioned letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association in defense of legal access to medical marijuana, has twice in the past year proposed The Drug Importer Death Penalty Act (HR 41) as his most impressive gambit for punishing drug kingpins. Operationally, however, anyone caught crossing the border with a personal possession amount of two ounces of marijuana would be subject to either life in prison without chance of parole or the death penalty. California Since the passage of Proposition 215 in California, which renewed pubic debate for the recognition of marijuana as medicine, the issues and definitions of drug abuse and drug policy have started to be reevaluated. Many politicians have claimed that medical access to marijuana is being used as a wedge issue to initiate the onset of drug legalization. Members of the anti-prohibitionist movement have indeed claimed that marijuana is the cornerstone of the War on Drugs. Removing America's most popular illicit substance from the realm of illegality would certainly make it harder to justify a $17 billion annual Drug War budget. Without marijuana smokers to pursue, the "enemy" pool would be reduced to 2 million hard-core heroin and cocaine addicts, many struggling in abject poverty. The drug war would potentially be seen as a race war, operating without a clue as to the mechanics of addiction. The domestic paramilitary approach would inevitably give way to maintenance programs and community outreach. For the War on Drugs to remain a viable policy for the many key players profiting immensely from prohibition, marijuana must therefore remain illegal. States' rights showdown As the federal government continues to apply pressure to close the Cannabis Buyer's Clubs in California, city and state officials there have responded with equal pressure to back off. On March 16, 1998, in a dramatic showdown, Mayor Willie Brown and District Attorney Terence Hallinan of San Francisco went public with a plan to have local police distribute marijuana to seriously ill patients should the local buyer's clubs be forced to close. State Attorney General Dan Lungren counter-threatened to prosecute city officials engaged in breaking federally established marijuana laws. The tension forming could yield insights into the hierarchy of power in America. After years of leading the charge to de-evolve federal power to the states, the Republican-led Congress is balking on the medical marijuana issue and have cast themselves in the "big government" role they'd railed against while in the minority party. The vision of filling scarce prison space with hordes of elderly, critically ill, and wheelchair-bound citizens, along with consenting doctors, and now local city officials, though distasteful in itself, has not slowed down the charge coming out of Washington, D.C. China Blues Once in prison, the value of life drops off dramatically. The trend in American correctional institutions in the past twenty years has shifted emphasis away from rehabilitation and education to efficient, inexpensive warehousing of bodies. America's prison population, now largely composed of non-violent drug offenders, is increasingly viewed as an exploitable resource for entrepreneurial benefit. Prison labor, though condemned as regards China, is alive and well in America. In many parts of the U.S., prison building and prison labor are the chief growth industries, giving rise to prison industry journals that publish glowing projections of a continued increase in the population of incarcerated American citizens. On a more grisly note, under a bill filed in the Missouri State legislature, inmates on death row may soon be given the option of having their sentence commuted to life without parole in exchange for a healthy, transplantable internal organ. Chinese prisons have a long record of utilizing death row prisoners as involuntary organ "donors." The Chinese prisoner, however, is then executed and the organ is sold to the highest bidder. As with many Drug War-inspired laws, the Missouri bill could soon lead to spin-off interpretations where prisoners will simply "owe" society their healthy organs prior to their execution. Gladiator Fights As the prison industry continues to expand at unprecedented rates, the reports of abuses have similarly grown. On February 26, 1998, eight Corcoran State Prison guards in California were indicted by the FBI for staging "gladiator fights" among inmates for entertainment, then shooting one or more of them to death when they failed to stop fighting on command. One of the guards referred to the practice as "duck hunting season." According to an FBI official, the indictments came "despite intentional efforts on the part of corrections officials to stymie, delay and obstruct our inquiry." Forty prisoners have been shot in similar circumstances in the past ten years at the facility. Attorney General Dan Lungren conducted a ten-month investigation of the reported violence at Corcoran and filed no criminal charges. The Department of Corrections similarly investigated but found no evidence of wrongdoing, opting instead to defend the actions of the guards. Forfeiture Another offspring of the drug war is the rise in civil forfeiture laws. Initially conceived as a monetary enticement for local police departments to place increased emphasis on upholding drug laws, civil forfeiture has since expanded by leaps and bounds. By allowing law enforcement to seize the homes, vehicles, cash and other belongings of even 'suspected' drug offenders, then pocket the proceedings, civil forfeiture encourages a corrupting influence throughout many of our nation's police departments. US Representative Henry Hyde (R-IL) has come out strongly against this drug war tactic. According to Hyde, "Civil asset forfeiture laws are being used in terribly unjust ways, are depriving innocent victims of their property, with nothing that can be called due process. ...You never have to be convicted of any crime to lose your property. You never have to be charged with any crime. In fact, even if you are acquitted by a jury on criminal charges, your property can be seized." Since 1985, the federal government through the Departments of Justice and Treasury has seized over $4 billion in cash and property from US citizens under forfeiture laws. In over 80% of these cases, the person owning the property was never charged with a crime. Conclusion It is difficult to conceive what it will take for the American public to insist upon a broad reevaluation of the drug policies that have accelerated our current social predicament. Monetary arguments comparing the 7:1 savings associated with treating drug addiction as a medical "disease" versus a moral "crime" get very little media attention. Though many areas of the country are being forced to reroute money earmarked for schools to pay for the increasing costs of imprisonment, it may take the bankrupting of local economies to elicit enough moral outrage to sponsor change. And while many European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have had tremendous success with inexpensive "harm reduction" policies in approaching drug issues, there is a virtual media blackout regarding any meaningful discussion of these alternatives. As with any war the "enemy" must be demonized through propaganda to allow for its elimination by any means necessary. "Drugs," "addicts," and "dealers" are terms now charged to elicit a response far removed from their original meaning. Though the War on Drugs has yet to accomplish any of its avowed aims, the battle is seen as an end unto itself. According to Dr. Thomas Szasz of the Dept. of Psychology at Syracuse University, the drug warrior's victory is never in question because "Since he wages war on evil, his very effort is synonymous with success." As long as the American public can be kept from personally identifying with the millions of people arrested, bankrupted, imprisoned, orphaned, and killed by the War on Drugs, the devastation will continue unabated. And, according to those orchestrating current American drug policy, in language reminiscent of the Vietnam War, the light at the end of the tunnel will (forever) be just around the corner. Kevin Nelson is a freelance writer living in Bow, WA For more information on how to get involved in drug war issues, check out The November Coalition at www.november.org, Families Against Mandatory Minimums at www.famm.org, and the Media Awareness Project at www.mapinc.org/ For daily drug war updates, check out www.marijuananews.com
------------------------------------------------------------------- Prop. 215 Delays Marijuana Trial (The Modesto Bee says the marijuana cultivation trial of Robert Galambos in San Andreas, California, was put on hold Wednesday so defense attorney Tony Serra could appeal Judge John Martin's ruling that Galambos's cultivation of more than 300 cannabis plants couldn't be defended even under California's "Defense Of Necessity" statutes.) Date: Tue, 05 May 1998 01:17:27 -0400 To: email@example.com From: Melodi Cornett (firstname.lastname@example.org) Subject: MN: US CA: Prop. 215 Delays Marijuana Trial Sender: email@example.com Newshawk: firstname.lastname@example.org Pubdate: Fri, 01 May 1998 Source: Modesto Bee (CA) Contact: http://www.modbee.com/man/help/contact.html Website: http://www.modbee.com/ Author: Ron DeLacy PROP. 215 DELAYS MARIJUANA TRIAL SAN ANDREAS -- A marijuana-cultivation trial was delayed by at least a week and maybe for several months Wednesday over issues related to Proposition 215, the medical-marijuana law, and a common-law concept of "a defense of necessity." Robert Galambos, arrested in a raid last summer when officers said they found him tending a garden with more than 300 pot plants, is charged with felony cultivation. He claims he has a doctor's permission to use marijuana but that most of his plantation was intended for use at Bay Area cannabis clubs that sell to patients who can't grow it themselves. Judge John Martin made several pretrial rulings Wednesday, and two of them limited the Proposition 215 defense and disallowed the necessity defense. But he agreed to a continuance to allow Tony Serra, Galambos' San Francisco attorney, to challenge the rulings in a writ to the state Court of Appeal in Sacramento. In a press conference two weeks ago, Serra said the necessity defense was a principle that could apply to medical marijuana users even without regard to Proposition 215. It is the concept that a crime should be excused if it was done to avoid a greater evil. Example: Trespassing into a private lake to save a child from drowning. Serra said Galambos had an "oral contract" with the cannabis clubs, and that it was later put into writing. A prewritten contract obviously would be easier to sell to a jury under Proposition 215, but a necessity defense could argue that if cancer or AIDS patients were going to get the marijuana, then alleviating their suffering avoids a greater evil than the crime of growing pot.
------------------------------------------------------------------- New Marijuana Club Allowed To Operate (An Associated Press item in the Los Angeles Times notes Superior Court Judge William Cahill on Wednesday scheduled a June 4 hearing to determine if any drug laws are being broken at San Francisco's new Cannabis Healing Center.) Date: Fri, 01 May 1998 19:30:13 -0400 To: email@example.com From: Mike Gogulski
Subject: MN: US CA: New Marijuana Club Allowed To Operate Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Newshawk: Jim Rosenfield Source: Los Angeles Times (CA) Contact: email@example.com Website: http://www.latimes.com/ Pubdate: 1 May 1998 Author: Associated Press NEW MARIJUANA CLUB ALLOWED TO OPERATE SAN FRANCISCO--A judge has refused to order the immediate shutdown of a medical marijuana club that opened a day after the Cannabis Cultivators Club, on the same site, was closed by court order. Superior Court Judge William Cahill instead told the new Cannabis Healing Center this week to curb drug sales within 150 feet of its premises. He set a June 4 hearing to determine if drug laws are being broken inside the club. The Cannabis Cultivators Club supplied marijuana to about 9,000 patients and was run by Dennis Peron, author of Proposition 215, the ballot initiative that allowed patients to use marijuana for side effects of cancer therapy, AIDS and other illnesses with a doctor's recommendation. A state appeals court ruled last year that the club, which served patients coming off the street, was not a "primary caregiver" authorized by Proposition 215. State Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren went to court for a shutdown order, but Peron contended that he was serving only patients for whom the club provided continuing care. Superior Court Judge David Garcia sidestepped the dispute and instead ordered the club closed based on Peron's admission that it sold marijuana not only to patients but also to caregivers of bedridden patients. The club closed April 20. The next day, the Cannabis Healing Center opened in the same storefront, under the direction of Hazel Rodgers, 79, who uses marijuana for glaucoma. Copyright Los Angeles Times
------------------------------------------------------------------- Dan Lungren vs. the Peter Pan of Pot (The Express, in Berkeley, California, recounts the Dennis Peron saga.) Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 21:10:38 EDT Originator: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: email@example.com From: Gerald Sutliff (firstname.lastname@example.org) To: Multiple recipients of list (email@example.com) Subject: The Peter Pan of Pot Pub Date: May 1, 1998 E-mail: Ebxpress@aol.com Dear Talkers, The following article is published in the East Bay Express, a free newspaper. I know it is long but it is also entertaining and informative. Enjoy. The Express may be e-mailed at Ebexpress@aol.com vty, jerry sutliff *** The Pot Club Is Dead! Long Live the Pot Club!," the San Francisco Examiner ex-claimed with neo-Hearstian flamboyance. It was April 21, the day before Cannabis Cultivators Club founder Dennis Peron was to preside over the opening of the newly reinvented Cannabis Healing Center. This slight-of-hand maneuver fooled no one, of course. From the national evening news to front-page coverage throughout the Bay Area and the &ountry, you couldn't miss the news that on April 15 San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia ordered Peron's club shut down, ruling that the majordomo of the medical marijuana movement broke the verv law he wrote-the state law passed as Proposition 215 in 1996. That law, ruled Judge Garcia, authorized marijuana sales only to doctor-approved patients not said tne judge, to their "caregivers." The civil suit was brought by Dan Lungren, the Republican state attorney general against whom Peron is running for the GOP governors nomination in the June 2 pnmary San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey was the reluctant official charged with evicting Peron from his Market Street premises. No sooner had the eviction happened than the building found a new tenant: the new Cannabis Healing Center is now run by a perky se~ tuagenarian grandmother named Hazel Rogers who has used pot for years to counter the pain of her glaucoma. Though Peron is now officially the ex-head of the controversial pot club, he is not yet able to retire from the public scene. He faces another Lungren-inspired legal ac-tion: a criminal case which will take place this month in the Alameda County Court-house. If convicted on Lungren's criminal charges of felonious possession of mari-juana with intent to sell, Peron could face a dozen years of hard time. When he decided to get involved with politics, Peron says, he never thought he'd be facing a heavy prison term, but the 52-year-old activist has been a much-celebrated gadfly in the legal ointment for many years, ever since he returned from his Air Force stint in Vietnam and settled in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury in 1970. Both places, he maintains, profound-ly affected him: the horrors of Vietnam turned him into a crusader for peace who took a lifelong vow of poverty; the anar-chic atmosphere of the Haight and the free spirit of the newly emerging gay mecca in the Castro district set the pace for a brand new life. Inspired by his friendship with San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, he became a gay rights activist, and as an outspoken advocate of legalized marijua-na, he began openly selling pot-so openly that he's been busted for it sixteen times over the years, including one bust during which he was shot by an under-cover cop. Two later police raids were even more instrumental in Peron's activist career. It was after one bust in 1990 at the home he shared with his lover who was slowly dy-ing of AIDS that Peron decided to become a full4ime crusader: he started the Canna-bis Cultivators Club to provide access to marijuana for medicinal purposes to sick and dying AIDS patients. He subsequenfly engineered passage of a city ordinance that was the precursor to Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was established as California law by a sizable 56 percent statewide majority in 199~but not be-fore his archnemesis Dan Lungren tried his best to derail him. In late October 1996, just three weeks before the 'election, Peron was arrested in a raid by agents of the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement assigned to Attorney General Dan Lungren. This was the second Lungren~ordered bust in the three months prior to the election, leading Per-on to conclude that Lungren was inten-tionally abusing his power as a political ploy to discredit Prop. 215 and vilify its au-thor. So Peron decided he would run against Lungren for the ~publican guber-natorial nomination. Now, a year and a half later, the two-ring David-vs.-Goliath show is ready to open both in the courtroom and at the polls for California's first statewide "open primary." Later this month, Peron and his leg-endary lawyer Tony Serra will begin their pretrial maneuvering for Peron's criminal case. They intend their victory in this one to guarantee once and for all the promise of Prop. 215, the right of the sick and dying to have regular access to a life enhancing supply of marijuana. In the trial, Peron says, his Alameda County jury will have a chance to put Oakland on the marijuana map of history: "We'll be asking the jury to fully recognize the California Medical Marijuana Law in letter and spirit." Peron cuts a dapper figure in his regu-lar white linen suit, appropriately rumpled; his blue silk tie hangs loose at the neck. With his shock of white hair above his ani-mated eyes, he looks a bit like an after-the-show Phil Donahuin miniature. Peron stands S'S". And when be speaks, a slight trace of his "longuyland" accent emerges, a tonal reminder of his suburban Long Is-land childhood. An incarnation, he says with glee, that he's never left-"I never want to grow up." He's quite content to r~ main the Peter Pan of pot. KEN KEIIEY: You entered electoral politics after a major police raid on your home confiscated the marijuana for your lover, Jonatiian West, as he lay dying' of AIDs. You dedicated the marijuana club to his memory. DENNIS PERON: And I miss him terribly, every day of my life. I was with him seven years. In the end he was so sick, it was horrible. It was after that midnight bust in late October 1990 that I decided we needed a marijuana distribution system for all the AIDS victims, sick and starving and dying. I've been busted sixteen times, but that was the cruelesL They took four ounces of top grade marijuana I kept to help Jonathan survive the unbearable nausea he felt from the dozens of drugs prescribed for keep his food down. When the cops found out Jonathan had AIDS, out came the rubber gloves and the sick jokes. When they saw an old photo of me hugging Harvey Milk, they launched into a tirade about how they hated that fag. They arrested me for possessing marijuana for sale. That night in jail, I decided to do something about inhumane marijuana laws. Six months later, the judge threw out my case when Jonathan, who could barely make it to the stand, said the dope was his medi-cine. He died two weeks later. His death inspired me and some friends to start the Cannabis Cultivators Club and trust city voters to make it legal. We wrote Proposi-tion P, which allowed medicinal marijuana providers to go about their work without fear of arrest by city police. It passed by 80 percent in 1991. That really encouraged us and we lobbied throughout the state to change the law. By 1994, we'd successfully lobbied both houses of the legislature to pass the Medical Marijuana Resolution. Wilson vetoed it. Same bipartisan passage of the Medical Necessity Defense Act in 1995; Wilson vetoed it. So we wrote Proposition 215, got it on the ballot, and 56 percent of Califor-nia voters enacted it. The court action that forced you to close the Cannabis Cultivators Club was a civil action brought by Attorney General Dan Lungren. Yeah, though he used the same evidence that he's going to use against us in the criminal case coming to trial in Oakland. He claims we exceeded the limits of Prop. 215. By shutting' down the club and reopening it, are you admitting that you violated your own law by selling pot to caregivers, rather than directly to patients? No, because it wasn't illegal until it was ruled to be so by Judge Garcia. There was nothing in the law, as written, that forbade selling pot to caregivers. Caregivers are, essentially, the legs of the people who can't get to the club because they're too sick. Garcia came up with the whole caregiver issue-I think that was his way of getting rid of the case without getting rid of us. He said nothing to prevent us from reopening again, which is what we did. Judge Garcia was deliberately cutting you some slack, then? Well, he sure made it easy for us to reorganize and open a new club. The term "caregiver' wasn't in the Prop. 215 law, what provisions of the law did Lungren claim you were violating? He alleged a lot of things: that I didn't check authorized medical documents enough, that the club was creating a neigh-borhood nuisance, but the only complaint the judge chose to find relevant was selling to caregivers. So I'm technically guilty of that. Are you planning to appeal Garcia's decision to recognize that narrow definition prohibiting caregivers? Hell no. It sets an easily accomplished new judicial standard-as long as clubs don't sell to caregivers, they're in the clear. So it bodes well for all the otherpot clubs, too-including the one in Oakland. Yeah, that one's run by a great guy, Jeff Jones. He's doing the best he can in a very difficult situation. The forces ofthe law have pretty much left him alone, haven't they? They have. He followed in my wake, so I presume they waited to see if they could succeed on me before they go to him. If they get me, I'm sure they'll try to get him. So you're saying you weren't bothered at all byjudge Garcia's decision? Look, it's always tough to accept defeat, you know? To say I broke the law-I really don't like that It's a smear on my campaigu, for one thing. How can I be governor if I'm just gonna go on breaking laws? But I was breaking a law that hadn't even been es-tablished until Garcia's ruling. No jury would have found me guilty of breaking a law that hadn't even been defined yet. Okay, my first reaction to Garcia's decision was-"Hey, bring on the tanks." But cooler heads prevailed; then I realized that I could just step down. This is what they want, so that's what I'll do. You're saying Lungren didn't actually win. You got it! Of course he claims victory: Just like in Vietnam, where we declared victory and left. Lungren's hardly leaving you alone. He's prosecuting you with great determination in the criminal case that'll be heard next month in Oakland. And you 're still in a judicial face off with the federal government, which argues that Prop. 215 is illegal because marijuana is illegal under federal law, which overrides state law- Yeah, Big Brotherism at its very worst. That's the remaining civil action against us: US Attorney Thomas Yamaguchi asserting federal supremacy over this state's citizens. In the wake ofthe court's decision, if you had it to rewrite, would Prop. 215 have specified that caregivers are entitled to purchase pot? If I had known the court would seize on technicalities, I would have tightened up the technicalities to include caregivers. But it's hard to anticipate what you will be held accountable for. If I'd written the law to include caregivers, Lungren would have picked on something else. How did you come to select the new Cannabis Healing Center's president, Hazel Rogers? She's been involved in the club for years; she'd taken a little hiatus when her glaucoma got worse, but now she's back. She knows everything about the club. Hazel is the "good-vibe monitor." She has a hundred or so people working for her on staff, and mostly what she'll do is be a spokesperson who can talk to the media and preside over the operations already in place. She's the best-I couldn't get any better. So, you chose her to reinvent the club? Yeah, we've reinvented ourselves, with guidance from the court, which essentially told us what to do, so we did it. Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who supports you and was initially reluctant to evict you under the court's order, says that the eviction operation went smoothly, that he wished all his evictions were so civil and simple. Was that your perspective, too? Well, his deputies were nice enough to get rid of a lot of our garbage for us. What do you mean? The deputies did us a big favor-they removed a lot of our old pot plants that were spindly and dying. They took away one of our weighing scales, which was beyond repair anyway. They dumped a lot of broken cellophane baggies. And they cleaned up the place. They got rid of a lot of the bugs. And they said they'll water the plants for me. Come again? I told the deputies, I'm gonna try to get some of the plants back, so I want you to water them for me, and they said okay. That way, maybe they can spring back to life. You gotta love that-officially deputized pot-plant sprinklers. But all of this is minor league stuff compared to your upcoming criminal trial in Oakland. Yeah, this is the big bust, the one Dan Lungren will use to try to get rid of me for a very long time. It's a heavy charge felonious possession of marijuana with intent to sell. If I'm convicted, I face up to twelve years in jail. This is not a "symbolic" trial or anything so lofty-it's about depriving me and my four co defendants of our freedom. What kind of case is Lungren amassing against you? Essentially lies and subterfuge. They'll have to present the phony lists they used on us: phony patients and phony doctors' offices, phony letters of diagnosis used to buy small amounts and in one case one pound of marijuana. For the pound, the guy made a phony claim that he was starting a cannabis club to sell to sick and dying people up on the Russian River; he told us his lover had died of AIDS and that he had AIDS. All lies! It's all on video, too. He recites this tender lie about how his poor lover died-touchingly twisted, I guess. On the tape, I'm shown trying to give him names of Russian River people we know who can't make it down for help, and he makes some lame excuse so he won't have to take their names down, which made me kind of think at the time, but it was too late. This was the basest kind of cop-phony-setup sting, so of course entrapment is one of our big issues. All their taped evidence against us has us doing just what we set out to do: getting marijuana to sick people. The major issues are the abuse by the police, and the abuse by the attorney general of the police. Think about it: the private police of the attorney general trying to affect the outcome of the election. To have that much power-you control all of law enforcement, with the potential to affect the outcome of any political race. Are you going to claim that, in light of Prop. 215, you're not breaking the law? Sure, we're saying that what we were doing is now legal. And, by inference, that Lungren is breaking the law by prosecuting. We're trying to get him on the stand. That would be fun! Somehow, he doesn't want to testify. We want to know from his mouth, not why he started his investigation against us, because we know it started when we turned in our signed Prop. 215 qualifying petitions. He knows we're selling pot, but he sends hundreds of his agents out door-to-door, his planes circling our office, following people relentlessly. And all they could come up with was itty-bitty bags of pot for sick people. Lungren needs more-let's use force, he says, and they do. Three weeks before the election, five of us are busted and threatened with twelve years in prison. We'd like to ask Lungren in open court to explain the reasoning behind his criminal conspiracy. Which of course immediately backfired: three hours later the TV world saw me walking out of the Oakland jail. And a fair number of viewers no doubt cast their ballots with that picture in mind, probably delivering quite a few more votes to our margin of victory. I think from then on people saw that it's obvious political opportunism, deliberate electoral interference, and that it's wrong. Why do you think Lungren chose Oakland for this trial? I can't imagine. Why would Lungren choose a city whose citizens voted 72 per-cent for 215? I know people in Oakland are open-minded, liberal freethinkers. They know about police injustice. They want a pie, and an end to the cycle of violence which the drug war is feeding. Meaning? It just seems so logical to me that when you have a junkie who's hopelessly hooked on heroin who has to steal $300 worth of goods every day to get the $150 he needs for his habit . . .what does the heroin actu-ally cost? Maybe fifteen cents. So many people get killed and hurt between that fifteen cents and the three hundred dol-lars the addict needs. We should look to the way Britain does it-heroin on demand is treatment, too. Why is that such a good thing? It stops heroin-related crime, and puts the addicts in a place where eventually we can reach out and get them off the drug. It frees all the addicts from the tyranny of the black market A heroin addict is not nec-essarily the same thing as a bad person-I don't know a single one who woke up one bright sunny day and said, Gee, I think I'll become ajunkie today. Given your feelings about legalizing drugs, is it fair to say that Prop. 215 really was a sham, just the first step toward the goal you really want: complete legalization ofmarijuana? (Laughs) Well-how can I answer something like that? I dedicated the club to a young man, my lover who died of AIDS. You can't get any more pure than that. And people can say what they want-I do want marijuana legalization-but to call it a sham is to, like, shame my dead lover, and I think that's very wrong. Hey, Prop. 215 was designed to keep people out of jail while letting doctors participate in their healing. Marijuana is appropriate medicine, so do it. It's been around in Chinese pharmacopoeia for many illnesses for many centuries. People were using it as medicine, so I felt the law should reflect that reality. The federal government says heroin and marijuana are both Class-A narcotics. Wasn't Clinton supposed to be the one who knows better? Another hypocrite We all know who Bill Clinton he's the man who doesn't really know who he is, and that's his problem. He wants to be all things to all people. In the end, those people wind up being nothing to anybody. I feel sorry for Clinton, too, that it's too bad, now that he doesn't have anything to lose, that he can't let people know who he is. And you know he inhaled -this coy little winking and nodding about pot. It's disgusting. Same with fags in the military-don't tell anybody, lie and you're okay. It's his throwing a bone to the profes-sional drug warriors. Granted, they've been thrown quite a few already, but what I represent is flagrant, in-your-face stuff that drives narko types nuts. They'll never change. We have to wait for them to die out. Maybe I'll stress out a few to encourage some untimely demises. (Laughs) Willie Brown says he has tried to pressure Clinton to drop the Justice Department case against you. It's important that Mayor Brown has offered, but I don't think Clinton will bend. It's a shame that at a time when nobody's buying it anymore that smack and weed are even remotely similar that Clinton should stay on the road to ignorance. I hate it when I hear cynics who demean voters as dummies; I'm not a cynic. I think voters are pretty smart. They sure have proved it by me so far. Which no doubt encouraged you when you decided to challenge the attorney gener-l for the GOP nomination for governor. He greeted your announcement by saying you'd "been smoking even more than I thought", He knows who I am, and he knows I'm going to give him a run. In fact, in many ways, Dan Lungren created me, so let him live with it. I mean, no one really heard of me before I got busted with the club and it led to 215, where in the campaign he blamed me for everything wrong in society His attacks gave me the strength to go on and fight him. This is not about me disliking him personally, since I've never met the man. I'm sure he can be quite charming. They say Strom Thurmond can be quite charming. (Laughs) At the same time, I detest his philosophy of government. And I charge that Lungren misused his powers to affect the outcome of an election-he busted us twice in the '96 election season-which to me is reprehensible. He knew full well what the Cannabis Cultivators Club has been doing for years. The second we collected our thousands of signatures to get Prop. 215 on the November ballot, Lungren starts an investigation. He singled me out with outright lies that I'm an out of control dope dealer selling to anybody Fortunately, Lungren's ploy totally backfired. The people decisively passed Prop. 215 and it became law. Did you deliberately turn Republican just to tweak Lungren's political nose? Not at all. When I tell my friends I'm Republican, they look at me like I just beat my dog. Nowadays, instead of being thought the party of Lincoln, the right-wingers are turning it into a party of division and hate. I keep this copy of The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln right here on my desk, for easy reference. Let me quote him directly on the subject of Prohibition: "Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason, in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles on which our government was founded." How true. And they weren't even thinking about prohibiting marijuana then. Destroy the healthy hemp plant? Hell no! Are you in favor ofthe move to tax marijuana as the price of growing it legally? No, because how can you tax people's gardens? It's like taxing corn. What makes you the best candidate for governor? I'm sure there's someone better in, say, economics than I. But I figure, as governor, I would set the right moral tone. Leaders should know simple right from wrong, but politicians never seem to. You can't count on 'em to do right. Teddy Roosevelt-he was a good Republican governor before he became president. He got the mine workers their first union contract. He busted some monopolies. He spoke his mind, instead of toeing the latest line. So Lincoln, TR.-I run in the finest tradition! And, having tried other political parties -Democrat, Green, Libertarian-I felt at home as a liberty loving Republican candidate who refuses to sit back and let the party of Lincoln get highjacked by right-wing extremists like the Dan Lungrens of this world. I hold the firm Republican belief that big government is not the answer; I want government off our backs and our fronts. We pay too much in taxes to make things we don't need like B4 bombers that can't even go out undetected in the rain. See, I'm running to preserve democracy. The guys in charge now have too much power, which they abuse so much it threatens democracy itself as the chosen form of governance. Still sounds like you're the round peg that can't fit the square hole of current Re-publican leadership. If it were up to those guys, they'd ban Abraham Lincoln from the Republican Party. And if courageous guys like William Weld can stand proud as a Republican, so can I. There are other people like me who are fiscal conservatives and also socially conscious. So I'm a liberal Republican. To some its a self canceling phrase, but I'm the only one in this race even saying "liberal." How well do you expect to do in the June race-the state's first "open primary" where voters can cross party lines and choose candidates from all parties? That's certainly an accidental bit of my good fortune. Anything can happen. I never know what to expect-I never expected Prop. 215 to get such a large vote. I do think fifteen percent is not out of reach, and would represent a significant showing from an emerging Republican constituency. What was the defining moment when you decided to take on Lungren? Right after my second Lungren arrest in October '96, three weeks before the election. I woke up in the Alameda County Jail, and I just knew then I had to run. I announced a year later. It was a pretty gruesome bust-much like the Lungren-engineered first bust in August. In August, almost 150 of Lungren's goons came crashing in on a Sunday, the day we're closed. We knew they'd been sniffin' around-we caught them observing us for the past two and a half months, so many times it was embarrassing. We caught them trying to videotape us, trying to be subtle but acting so obvious. They grabbed all the pot--I don't know how much they got-and they took a lot of money. The first report said they got sixty pounds of weed. Then it grew to 260 pounds. (when I get it back, I'll be glad to take the additional amount with me. I give it all away, anyway.) Then, in late October, goons in five simultaneous raids busted my home and four other houses, and arrested five of us, booked us at the Alameda County Jail for felony sales of marijuana. Let's take an inward turn for now. where did you grow up? Who says I grew up? Okay, in Elmont, Long Island. I grew up a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The greatest day of my life was the day they won the World Series in 1955 against the Yankees. I was eight years old. It was a very suburban middle class-to-the-zenith family of five kids. I left at eighteen. I got drafted into the Army, so I joined the Air Force and was sent to Keesler Air Force Base, in Biloxi, Mississippi. I figured the Air Force wouldn't send me to Vietnam. Where's the flrst place they sent you after training? Straight to Vietnam. But just before I left, I had an epiphany. I visited Haight-Ash-bury, in 1967; it was the "Autumn of Love." I spent 25 days there, didn't have any money, but felt like the richest guy around. I took a lifelong vow of poverty-that whatever money came my way, it was only "mine" as to what I could spread around to share with all my friends. Since then, I've had so many friends. I knew money in and of itself would never make me happy; that the only wealth would come from people who loved me whom I loved back. If that makes me sound like a hippie-dippy-dovey-dovey do-gooder flake, I can't help it; one thing I'm not is a fake. So what happened in Vietnam? I made sergeant pretty soon. I worked in the mail room. The first week there, I saw the charred remains of a Buddhist monk who'd just immolated himself. That blew me away; I began my now firm embrace of Buddhism. And it set me up for the next epiphany I was about to experience. It came during the Tet Offensive, February, 1968. The mail room was closed down because the airport was closed down. They couldn't ship out all the dead bodies to Saigon, because the planes couldn't leave. So I was assigned to stuff people into body bags. That was a real turning point in my life, a catharsis. I had gone to Viemam not exactly pro-war, but vaguely thinking we were "helping them." I remember going around thinking nothing but "This is insane!" over and over. I decided the only way I could go on was to dedicate my life to the cause of world peace. I was disciplined for wearing -a black armband when I was dealing with the body bags. During a stateside leave I marched in the Washington Moratorium against the war. After that heavy year in Vietnam, I was transferred to a base in Thailand that officially didn't exist. I was nineteen. I was literally in the middle of nowhere, near the Laotian border. America had launched a secret war, dropping thousands of tons of bombs on Laos every nine minutes, allegedly to stop the Ho Chi Minh supply trail, which it never came close to doing. My job was to track nonexistent planes on -nonexistent flights for a nonexistent base Then I worked for Air America, with no idea that it was CIA, until I got back home. Was it in Vietnam that you first made it with another guy? Yep. what? Blowjob in a foxhole? You got it. I love the way that trips off the lips. Sounds almost as sexy backward "Foxjob in a blowhole." (Laughs) Leaving Vietnam behind... I hit home at Travis Air Force Base and proceeded immediately to live in the Haight. Four months later, I got busted the werf first time--for smoking dope in Golden Gate Park. By the horse patrol; the cop - snuck up on me as I was just tokin' away, a happy little flower child. ~aughs) I got three years' probation: my first days back, and I'm snared into the war on drugs. Did that stop you from dealing pot? Well, I was going to City College studying psychiatry, when I realized the job of a psychiatrist is to make patients, who are no less well-adjusted than he is, happy. Didn't ring right to me. I figured marijuana is the honest way to make people happy. But to answer your question, no, it didn't stop me from dealing pot. In reality, I became a pot dealer the moment I walked off the plane after Vietnam. I was dealing when I was first busted, yes. An ounce was called a "lid," and it sold for ten bucks tops. A hundred bucks a pound. You made forty bucks on a pound, you could pay your rent and keep a little to smoke. I saw you dicker with someone over a pound where you ended up at $3,000 Yeah, that was for twelve-star. The best. We rank from one-star at the bottom, all the way up. Who can tell the difference between eleven-star and twelve? Our very particular members. Enough grams to keep you stoked for about sixty dollars. Back then, as my clientele increased, I became a bigger dealer, and eventually it turned into the Pot Supermarket, at Liberty and Castro. It ran from 1974 through 1977, when the police shot me. What happened? The cops raided my house, but the first guy in wasn't wearing his shield for identi-fication. He was a big black guy with an Afro and a floppy hat-Mod-Squad~nark? You got it. Anyway, of course I thought this was an organized ripoff of my house. I was worried about the other people inside, so I held up this empty Alhambra water bottle that was standing next to the stair-case, up above my head so it would seem like "Fucket; go downstairs, or I'll throw this in your face," even though I saw he had a gun. Then he shot me. The bottle fell back; I fell down. I got hit through my right femur bone, which shattered in my leg. They eventually busted 44 of us. In the end, I got sentenced to six months in San Bruno. But before I went, Harvey Milk helped me get the 16,000 signatures needed to put Prop. W on the ballot. That was the 1978 version of the medical marijuana initiative that took the money to enforce marijuana laws away from the narks. It won; it was non-binding, but Milk was going to try to make it binding after he was elected supervisor. Wasn't Harvey Milk another Long Is-land boy? That he was. I met him when he was the play Lenny in New York. He moved out here and he became my friend and mentor. Just before I got out of San Bruno, he was assassinated. And then everybody forgot about Prop. W. Dianne Feinstein, of course, hated Prop. W After the six months in San Bruno, you moved back to your commune, the Big Top Collective? Right. Plus I'd started the Island restaurant in the Castro. I get out, then Jonestown. Then no more Harvey, no more George Moscone. Soon Reagan's president; AIDS starts to kill my friends. Shit hits the proverbial fan, and it stays there for a very long time. Jonathan dies. I start to organize and the long arm of Dan Lungren starts its stranglehold. C'mon-you 're the self proclaimed optimist. Aren't you pretty confident of beating the Oakland rap? You're right, I really am. Because all they have is a bunch of lying narks who made their sexist and racist comments and displayed their brutality on the ultimate posterity of videotape. I make this very clear: I'm not on trial - Lungren's narks are on trial. Everybody knows what I was doing. But no one knows what they were doing-until we play their own tapes! I think a jury of my Oakland peers will be outraged by what the narks did, wasting their tax money in a place they had no business being. Imagine: one by one, 75 narks take the stand describing how they smashed into the Cannabis Club, how they stole our marijuana, how they pushed aside sick and dying people. We'll show tapes of them engaging in outrageous lies to get into the club, playing on our peoples' sympathy. The jury will get to see all the people who are the club. Like the 78 year-old woman who will sweetly say about why she signed up a lying nark: "I do remember signing that person up and she told me she had a yeast infection and I felt terrible for her because l had one myself, and they really hurt, so I took her to the side and hugged her, since I didn't know she was a narcotics agent." The jury will hear things like that. Then we'll hear what they did: "Well, we flew our Cessna airplane over the Cannabis Club, we followed five or six cars for about four hours. They went home. Then we followed Mr. Peron. He went down to Castro Street by himself. He gave a homeless person a dollar bill." So you see, I have faith in my potential Oakland jurors to fairly judge for themselves who's guilty of what. And there's another important aspect of the Oakland trial: with Proposition 215 we didn't change all the stupid laws like "the pipe paraphernalia law" or "the transportation law" or the "packaging law." But those Alameda County jurors have a chance to change those laws, by just acquitting us. Just saying, No, this is it! Yeah, they were guilty under an old law, but who cares? They were doing the right thing. The verdict in the Oakland trial may come just before the June primary is a re-play on the way of another Lungren reversal offortune? Would his defeat in a show trial boomerang on him and hurt his campaign, the way his preelection bust helped Prop. 215 pass? Yeah, that's the bright side. But expensive. And draining. And a drag. On the other hand, if you lose this case, you face a dozen years in jail. When you decided to get involved with politics, did you ever think things would get this heavy? No, not in my worst nightmares. I'm a very unlikely warrior; I'm not cutout to be a hero. Had it not been for Jonathan dying and losing all my friends to AIDS, I wouldn't have done it. That's still a big part of what keeps me going. I used to say I had no past -because everyone died in my past. And now [Pauses, wipes his eyes] I don't even know, I'm not sure about my past. I used to look at a picture and turn around to find somebody who was there to remember that moment. Now nobody's around, and everyone in the picture is dead, except me. I keep trying to ask myself about the past-like, what happened? I find myself thinking about it often, but I'm not really sure. Here my best friends are dead and I'm very lonely. And I experienced the isolation that people who have AIDS feel-like my Jonathan. All covered with welts and lesions -people don't look pretty, you know? Here at the club, nobody judges you for how pretty you are, how much money you don't have, or anything else. Everybody can relax in dignity and comfort. Everybody can get a little less lonely. This club was my way of bringing those people together and, "whew!-I'm not alone!" But I sure wish Jonathan were here. I really need him! He was smart, gregarious, plus he was so beautiful and absolutely adored me. He was nineteen when we met. Took me a whole year to get into his pants (Laughs) I kept reminding myself-"Hey! What'd I do right to deserve all this?" You know, sometimes when I think of Jonathan-I'm glad if what I've done made Dan Lungren mad. He deserves it, since in a way, I'm Lungren's conscience. How so? Outside he emits this gruff-in-tone politician who is ruled by the morality of religion. He professes to be a Roman Catholic, yet he's for killing people with the death penalty. I know he was pro-Vietnam, but he never served-unlike me, who did. He typifies the politics of convenience. He doesn't really have any convictions and takes sides on issues without really knowing anything. As a career politician, he's never stood for anything but meanness and hate. And look at his rotten record in office -take the prison system alone. The whole prison system is out of order, guards setting up inmate gladiator-fights and shooting 'em down. The federal government brought charges against the prison personnel, while Lungren's investigation was a whitewash and a cover-up. Dan Lungren should be indicted for the concerted cover-up in that probe; it was rotten from the bottom to the top, and Lungren sits right at the top. Will you bell him with that when you debate him in the governor's contest? I doubt very much he'll appear with me. But, let me take the chance here and now to issue that challenge: Mr. Lungren, I challenge you for the soul of the Republican Party. I'll debate you anytime, anywhere, as many times as you want. Please have your people call me with your answer so we can begin planning! There. Now we'll see. What was it like for you and your minions who attended the San Diego Republican state convention in January? Were you warmly embraced? I went in a suit and tie, very politician-looking I thought I told everybody else to wear their "best," which means nice clean clothes, and sorry Mr. Armani. I figured if while the other delegates wouldn't perhaps welcome us, they'd at least be tolerant, and maybe even ask me to say something. Erroneously. We stuck out right away because of our variety-we were brown, white, black, gay people. That's the bottom line. There was like one official black Republican delegate, and we had some twenty African Americans with us. A lot of our people had AIDS. There were about sixty of us altogether. So did you just appear, unannounced? We had banners that announced us (Laughs). We got on the grounds until a security guard stopped us and said "no further." I protested that this was a public hotel. "Yeah, but it's been rented out and you can't get in!" Someone spots the kitchen entrance, so we go down through the windows past dumbfounded food workers and boom-we end up right smack dab in the middle of the convention hall. So we have all our signs, and we start to march around in a convention floor demonstration. You know-like what you're supposed to do at a convention, as everyone who's watched 'em on TV knows. Security erupted all around us. "They-are-in-the-building-now-hey're-on-the -floor-oh-my-God where-are-they?" They saw a group of black people, who they knew shouldn't be there, and they went to our man Tom Jones. They went to the wrong guy.? At the top of his lungs, Tom belts out, "I went to World War II for my country, don't you racist pigs be tellin' me I can't be inside here!" So then other delegates start hittin' their signs, going, "Go, Danny, Go!" We'd alternate with, "Peron! Hope! Compassion!" So I decide to make a speech. I go up these narrow stairs to a small staircase at the rear of the hall. Security and the Danny-boys are all around me as I get ready to talk. The whole floor goes quiet. I don't speak loud, but everybody can hear. "I came here to be part of the big tent," I sald. "I want to be your governor, I want to let you know who I am." Then I gave my speech about trying to bring people together. "But here you are acting like big babies trying to throw me out I'll leave, but you'll lose something when this delegation walks out" Then security pushed us out the exit, we walk outdoors, and all the media swarm around, "what happened?" So I got to do a dramatic recreation. Then the cops came. Security said, "Arrest them!" Cops said, "We don't want any part of this," and split. So were you taken aback by the rude reception? I would have liked them to say something nice. Awwww-they hurt your feelings? Look, they could have gone along with it. It would have given them some energy. They had a coronation-nobody running against their man except me, no passion behind the man, he doesn't mean anything, everybody knows he's a big loser. They have no one to hate, so if they'd at least hated me, it would have given them some energy! One politician who has supported you is San Francisco DA Terrence Hallinan. He's nothing short of the revolutionary district attorney in the whole country. About marijuana, he's taken the stand people support, a stand in favor of changing the marijuana laws. It's a cause he's supported for years. Now that the law has changed, everybody wants to back away from it--not Hallinan. He's been waiting a long time to reorder society so that we can deal with vi-olent crime-real crime-and not bogus marijuana cases. He proves his courage. Specifically, he has said that if the Cannabis Cultivators Club were ever to get shut down, he would organize a way for city workers to take the responsibility for distributing marijuana to the medically needy. Yes-you can't get any better than that, can you? Think of it-cops giving away pot! I love it! Would it work? I think it'd be great The cops have a lot of pot in storage, and they could roll up joints out of San Bruno jail.... So you seriously wouldn't mind being put out of business that way? I wouldn't mind. Of course, they'd screw it up. I could be a special advisor on the sidelines or something. Then I could go out and do something I've always wanted to do-get a farm. I'd get to grow marijuana for the first time. I've never tried, but I've always wanted to obey the slogan, "Grow Your Own." There are twelve-step programs advertised to help marijuana addicts. So what do you think: does frequent pot use create addicts? It's a bogus notion. It's part of a disinformation campaign, largely funded by those treatment people for whom chemical de-endency has become a big business. If they only have heroin and alcohol, that's limiting their treatment. But if they can add pot-they've got really big business. They've been treating people who like pot for years! In a word-it's a ruse. A subtle one that plays on people's worst fears. Do you ever fixate on what will happen if you lose in Oakland, that you 'Il actually go to prison for your beliefs? Oh, yeah, but what the hell-put me in with a bunch of men-it could be worse. Look, I'll make the best of things, I always have. I was supposed to have died in the Vietnam War. I was supposed to have died when that cop shot me. I was supposed to have died in the AIDS epidemic. I feel like it's a miracle I'm here. So, what the hell! In terms ofyour campaign, has all the new publicity helped you? Well, I had just over one percent of the vote in the polls before the hubbub you need five percent to qualify for inclusion in the official TV debates. The new poll will come out in mid-May -the publicity has got to help me there. I know I've got at least five percent; we'll wait and see what the poll shows. There are nineteen people running for governor, you know. Nobody 5 ever heard of most of them, except the big candidates who've spent the big bucks and, now, me. After the election-presuming you don't win the nomination-what's your next move? I'm going to open new clubs, one in San Francisco and probably one in Los Angeles. The new Cannabis Healing Center will stay around... Oh, yeah-that'll still be there long after I die. That will always be the flagship. How would another new San Francisco club differ? It wouldn't be much different. It d be pretty much the same, but not at that Market Street address. The difference is I'd like to be able to be there to run it, which I'm prevented from doing now at the Cannabis Healing Center. So what are your duties there, now that you've deposed yourself? None. Ijust hang around a bit, to be there when Hazel asks my advice. My only real duty now is running for governor. Any final words for Lungren? Yeah-now that the whole state knows I'm running for governor, let me say. Thank you, Danny! I love you!
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