PDXS, Vol. 7, No. 15, Friday, October 24, 1997

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Fight The War On Pot

by PDXS Staff

The Alternative Health Center needs your help and deserves your support. For months founder Diane Densmore and others at the AHC have provided medical marijuana to the sick and dying. But now the criminal justice system is using its power to close the AHC down and punish Densmore for daring to say the War on Drugs is wrong. Although the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney say they are merely enforcing the law, this is a political battle, pure and simple. That's why the upcoming fundraiser for the Alternative Health Center Legal Defense Fund is so important.

The police first raided the downtown AHC on September 24. They also searched Densmore's home, hauling away records on the Center's patients. These raids came just a few days before a political action committee blocked a new law increasing the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana from taking effect. The law had been passed by the 1997 Oregon Legislature. But the committee, Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement, gathered more than enough voter signatures to refer the law to the 1998 general election ballot.

Approximately one month later, on October 29, the police raided the clinic again. Not only did the police arrest Densmore on drug charges, but they shut down the clinic - preventing its customers and supporters from holding a planned fundraiser to offset legal costs. The police clearly timed the raid to interfere with the fundraiser - a legal gathering to help Densmore fight the criminal justice system.

Densmore was held overnight in jail and arraigned the next day. At that time, the judge ordered her to be released. Instead, on Friday the 31st, Deputy Multnomah County District Attorney Thomas Smith-Cupani filed four more charges against Densmore. Bail was set at a whopping $460,000 and Densmore was forced to remain in jail over the weekend, despite the judge's order and the fact that she suffers from a number of chronic ailments.

In response to the raids and blatant manipulation of the legal process, local marijuana activists met on Sunday, November 2. "In what amounts to a crass disregard for human rights, local police and elected officials have ignored the community's pleas for compassion for the seriously ill Diane Densmore," wrote the activists in a statement issued the next day. "With no medical care at all that we know of, Densmore has been kept in the downtown Justice Center jail since last Wednesday, even though she was supposed to be released after her arraignment on Thursday. Meanwhile real criminals have no doubt been released to ensure space for this harmless, yet politically troublesome prisoner."

According to the activists, the police set Densmore up by using a doctor to sign fake medical documents for undercover agents. "Over the last few months at the AHC, several undercover Portland police from the vice squad's infamous Marijuana Task Force presented a letter from a doctor establishing a medical need," read the Monday statement. "According to Densmore, 'In each case the letter was verified with the doctor who signed it.' Later it was learned this doctor was working with the MTF crew all along. (We don't know his/her name, but perhaps it's listed in the address books maintained by Francis Hipps and Adam Wylie, the two so-called West Hill Drug Dealers busted by the police last summer.) On this basis the pot cops purchased cannabis several times to build as big a case as possible. Meanwhile, the AHC has been providing cannabis to over 150 verified 'clients' with conditions that range from anorexia to cancer to late stage AIDS. To many of these clients, the AHC is not only a source of medicine, it represents a chance to socialize and be part of a healing community. At the AHC no one is outcast for their illness, not even the "sick" cops and DA who try to destroy it. Which, of course, they can not."

The activists also issued a list of four demands to local elected and law enforcement officials:

1. Immediately drop all charges against Densmore and release her.

2. Immediately review the police and district attorney's enforcement and prosecution priorities.

3. Immediately eliminate the Interagency Marijuana Task Force that has target pot outlaws.

4. Immediately make the arrest and prosecution of adult marijuana users the lowest law enforcement priority.

4. Immediately launch a study about the effectiveness of treating hard drug addicts to reduce crime and violence.

"We are adamant in our desire to expose the full extent of dirty dealings by the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office, Deputy DA Thomas Smith-Cupani and his cohorts in the Marijuana Task Force," Floyd Ferris Landrath, director of the Anti-Prohibition League, wrote in a subsequent press release. "The central question now becomes justice - will it be served, or once again denied by powerful forces defending their own narrow special interests, corruption?"

To press their cause, the activists began an around-the-clock watch at the downtown Justice Center, 1120 SW 3rd. Over 100 people helped maintain and document the vigil over the next 48 hours. Although the Oregonian ignored the protest, it was covered by most Portland television stations, including KOIN-TV.

After the protest began, the Multnomah County District Attorneys' Office presented more evidence against Densmore to a grand jury. On Tuesday. November 4, the grand jury indicted her on an additional eight counts of delivery of a controlled substance, five counts of conspiring to deliver a controlled substance and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. Despite the indictment, Densmore was released on bail the next day, Wednesday the 6th. She is expected to be arraigned on the new counts in the near future.

"Our basic struggle is against injustice," Floyd Ferris Landrath, head of the American Anti-Prohibition League, wrote shortly after Densmore was released. "Densmore's case is yet the latest in countless examples of how far off course all our government's drug policies really are. Unless, and until enough of our elected representatives realize this threat to our most basic rights is no mere abstract notion held by a few ivory tower academics and outspoken activists, we shall live in a very real world of unchecked drug abuse among our young, rampant drug-market violence, 'institutional racism,' and a cancerous corruption of our most important social institutions and values."

A concert and raffle for the Alternative Health Center Legal Defense Fund will be held on Sunday, November 23, at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny. Doors will open at 8 pm, with the music set to begin at 9. Peformers include Dharma Engine and Alias Jim, with musicians from several other local bands expected to appear as well. A raffle will also be held, with tickets already for sale at various locations around town.

Tickets to the benefit are $7.50 in advance, and $10 at the door. They are for sale at several stores and all Fastixx outlets.


Portland NORML notes: Diane Densmore is being represented by Leland Berger of Portland (LawBerger@aol.com, 503-287-4688). Donations for her defense can be sent to Berger at 950 Lloyd Center, Suite 3, Portland, OR 97232-1262.


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