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Erowid Conference Vault

"Training The Trainers"
Michigan Anti-Medical Marijuana Conference
May, 2000


Please visit the homepage for
Ballot 2000, the initiative this conference was designed to stop.

[Erowid Update: The Ballot 2000 Initiative which was the topic of this conference failed to gather enough signatures by the deadline in 2000, but appears to be on track to having enough signatures in 2001 to meet the requirements. July 2001]



"Behind the Looking Glass"

First, they address it as a foregone conclusion that PRA will make it to the November ballot. All during the conference they talked about the huge financial resources reformers have. It would appear that they don't know we're having to do this on our own.

The gist of the conference was two-fold...lots of data about the impact of drugs on children, the community, and the work place. Real basic, scare tactic kinds of things which were dramatized to the extent of sensationalizing the issue. The other category of content was aimed at "Training the Trainers," or, as I prefer to call it, "Go Get Em and Don't Worry About How and What You Do to Stop Them."

I arrived with a camera and tape recorder in hand. They looked shocked that I assumed I could record and take pictures. They demanded that, prior to entering the conference I take the equipment back to my room and sign a really prohibitive agreement. No electronic equipment, and that there would no questions from the floor. Instead, we had to write them out, complete with our full name and the association we were from. They were gathered up by conference personnel and given to the speakers at the end of their presentation to be responded to "as time allowed." Which translated into the presenters having the opportunity to thumb through and pick and choose the ones they wanted to answer. Why am I not surprised?



It wasn't easy to get a blank copy of the agreement. By this time I had already committed the faux pas with the camera and tape recorder, and had noticed them looking at me and talking in lowered tones. So, in order to get the copy, I had to tell them I didn't have my glasses with me, and that I wanted to read it later on so I would be sure to remember all the dos & don'ts. (My glasses were in my pocket.)

And that illustrates the tone of the conference. It was highly regimented and really weird. You could have heard a pin drop, everyone sat so still and quiet. I doubt that even the President has such a stilted and dutiful response in cabinet meetings. Although, after every break, the number of attendees steadily declined. The narcotics detective seated next to me surreptitiously read a newspaper all morning. I noticed another person writing and writing and thought "Gosh, she's taking as many notes as I am." Turns out she was writing a letter.

I had asked if tapes of the conference would be available, and they said no. After reading the summation of the notes I kept, you will probably understand why.

Each attendee was given a "Drug Free" tote bag stuffed with a gazillion page ring binder, and a 40 page list of associations, internet sites, and individuals who are supportive of reform. I looked for your name right away, and felt sort of miffed that you weren't included. And the grand prize was 2 tapes entitled "Medical Marijuana: A Smoke Screen," and "Medical Marijuana: A Formula for Disaster." I encourage you to view them. There is almost no substantive content, but they are amusing in terms of their approach. Lots of footage of cute little kids romping in the park while the over voice direly intoned the dangerous and insidious movement afoot in this country to try and destroy us via drug legalization.

I'll try not to scatter this...hopefully you will find some of it entertaining. Whenever possible, I tried to get things down verbatim.

The local organizer, and director of the Troy Community Coalition. Ms Solberg is so bothered about PRA that she made this tremendous effort, but she apparently has not bothered to read the petition! I eavesdropped on a conversation during lunch on the 2nd day wherein a Michigan attendee explained that it is not just a "Medical Excuse Marijuana" initiative. (Their words, not mine.) Then she made the statement that "my attorneys have told me not to mention PRA in public." Then, she glanced at me and lowered her voice almost to a whisper. I felt like James Bond doing reconnaissance in a kindergarten.

Onto the speakers.

The Honorable John Pappageorge, Representative, Michigan House of Representatives was one of the kick-off speakers. He commended the organizers and attendees for their efforts and expressed support for the movement. He spoke about the issue of medical marijuana, but only in terms of pain reduction. Nothing about the control of glaucoma, nausea, or spasticity. He stated that marijuana does not reduce pain, (I find myself wondering how he knows that) and that he makes a point of telling that to children. Apparently that comment was made so that folks will know he is "doing his part." The content of his talk indicated that he apparently has not read the initiative either! And many of the participants hadn't read it either. If we can get on the ballot, I doubt they will be able to launch an effective campaign.

I'll identify each person with their name and title, and as well the titles of their presentations. Ironically, it's more fun that way. Some of their verbiage was really amusing when viewed in conjunction with what they were supposed to have been addressing.

Dr. David Gross, chairman, International Scientific and Medical Forum on Drug Abuse

"It's All About the Children"

He began by doing a long, statistic laden, and questionable sermon refuting the efficacy of medical marijuana. He went on to explain that the reform movement is about "Power and the Dollar." He said that pro-legalizers don't care about sick people, or possible dangers to children.

His presentation reflected the on-going theme that pro-legalizers are "after our children." And these remarks were stated blatantly, not by implication. They were really pitiful...if what I was hearing is the best they have to offer, I have no fear of PRA passing.

Jack Hook, chief of demand reduction, Drug Administration

"Drug Strategy, from a National Perspective"

(Are you noting the heavy hitters they rounded up to speak? International, federal, and state chairpersons galore.)

Mr. Hook refuted that there are people imprisoned for simple possession of marijuana, and he did this with a dizzying array of statistics. He said that only a "measly" 4% of prisoners are new commitments, and that 39% of prisoners are probation and parole violators. This statement appeared to be an attempt to justify imprisonment for possession. He said that in the last 20 years as many people have been incarcerated as in all years prior. "But, that's good because drug use is down 30%." He said that 64% of prisoners are there for drug related charges, but that they are drug traffickers, not persons convicted of possession. He contradicted himself at least 3 times. I could hardly follow him. He would be effective in sound bites, but would die in a debate.

He also explained that one joint is the carcinogenic equivalent of 15 to 20 cigarettes, and that he makes sure and tell that to children. (No wonder why the war on drugs people has lost credibility with children. They lie to them.)

He demeaned the compassionate measure of remanding persons to treatment, rather than prison. He kept sort of snorting and sneering. He stated sarcastically "Treatment? Counseling? Drug traffickers won't benefit from it."

Darnell Jackson, director; Michigan Office of Drug Control Policy

"Overview of Drug Control Strategy in Michigan"

Mr. Jackson said that pro-legalizers "play on the ignorance and sympathy" of the public. And "don't believe them when they say this is a compassionate measure."

By this time I noticed that no one had, or ever did use the words PRA 2000. Instead, they would say "what's happening in you state," or the "initiative," or "the amendment." So, I guess they knew all along was illegal. More of their lame, pitiful tactics.

Calvina Fay, executive director, of the Drug Free Foundation

"Drug Legalization in the New Millennium"

Ms. Fay summarized her talk as the "who, how, and about" legalizers. She urged that all of us be identified, as well as any groups. She said, "Remember they don't use the 'L' word." (legalization) Also that "in the 1960's we fought hippies" but that "now they look and act mainstream." And that the reform movement is well organized to promote their cause, and that "they get grants from the Drug Policy Foundation." She said "they are brain-washing our children to think that they can use safely" and are "attacking employers rights to maintain a drug-free work place."

She described the "90's style of legalization" which she claimed focused on an attempt to "medicalize" addictive drugs. (No mention of the addiction potential of almost all legal, prescribed pain killers.) She talked about "buyers clubs" and claimed that they sell other drugs as well as "Medical Excuse Marijuana." She claims that Dennis Peron clears $5 to 8 million dollars yearly, "but that's only what he admits to."

She appears to be the Jack Herer of the antis. Smooth, sleek, professional and a superb speaker. Also full of intensity and hot air. I'd love to see her go toe-to-toe with Jack in a debate. His laid-back, laconic style would be the perfect foil.

A couple of speakers claimed that there had been numerous attempts to organize debates with pro legalization people, but that none of them would agree to participate. I didn't believe them.

Over all, none them had anything new to say other than the same tired rhetoric we've been inundated with for the past generation. You know the spiel, gateway drug, motivation killer, etc. They kept urging us to "get the word -drugs are bad!" Perhaps they've spent the last couple of decades under a rock.

All presentations were made slide shows, nicely done and very professional. For instance, the bit on Dennis Peron was illustrated via pie charts and equation. It made their points look like God's truth, somehow. In presentations that delineated specific steps for defeating PRA each item was shown separately on the screen, some with elaboration, some not.

Richard Romley, Count Attorney, Maricopa County, Arizona

"Medical Marijuana: A Smokescreen"

He referred to medical marijuana as a "Trojan Horse," another on-going theme. He gave a detailed history of legalization in California, Arizona, and Colorado. He showed TV ads that had promoted the issue, and called them "outrageous." He said that Arizona "got caught asleep at the switch." And that "We thought it didn't have a chance." He stated that they couldn't get press because the reformers said "Why are you using government dollars to promote a political issue?" That's verbatim. Some people looked surprised and indignant at this. For them, the war is a Jihad, and my observations have been that the sheer holiness of their "cause" blinds them to both public consensus and the notion that they will be held to accountability.

As long as I've digressed, I'd like to describe some conversations. I eavesdropped and barged my way into conversations during the breaks. The majority of attendees were Michigan State Police. Most were administrative, but some were line officers. I overheard comments from three of them. One expressed neutrality regarding PRA, two of them expressed support. Mentioned were the drain on departmental resources, and having to work excessive overtime. Another said, "I don't give a shit, man. Let it pass. The whole thing is stupid."

An undercover narc told me that "DARE is good because it gives kids a chance to rat out their parents." When I couldn't think of how to respond he made a lame about "you know, so they can get help and stuff." When I expressed admiration of the many attendees who had sacrificed personal time to attend the conference, he he said he was on duty. I mentioned having worked for the state, and that we were not allowed to involve in political issues on state time. He looked confused and said "I don't think it's looked at that way."

Another officer said that DARE is good because it gives officers a chance to find out about parties. It struck me as a really stupid statement. They're using 10 yr. olds as stool pigeons?

I opened other conversations with "What's this country coming to?" kinds of things. I mentioned that 5 Southeastern school districts had dropped DARE. Someone from another area said, "well, that's because they ran out of money. The DARE program is expensive." I said no, the schools had decided it was a waste of time and money. I described the probe done by the Detroit News wherein they challenged the efficacy of DARE. Also the News claim that DARE officials would not cooperate with studies, or denied studies showing that DARE is ineffective. I got surprised looks and doubtful expressions. They aren't even aware that the efficacy of DARE is being questioned.

I'm mentioning this kind of thing because the law enforcement and treatment communities are cliquish, and because of their positions, people don't talk to them openly. They're naive about public support and acceptance of the reform movement. I mentioned petition passing in another group, and that circulators are reporting that a high ratio of people are glad to sign the petition. They didn't believe it. They're so used to the war on drugs being sacred, and that was the underlying theme of the conference. To drive it into their heads that times have changed.

Back to Richard Romley, who said that "Medical issues shouldn't decided at the ballot box, but by a Dr." (I hope you find that statement as amusing as I did.)

He went on to say that "This is a movement" and that "Our strategy has to change on how we approach this." There followed a list of instructions for defeating PRA entitled:

"Put the Brakes On"

1. "Hold the Media Accountable"

Mr. Romley blames the internet for press support of reform, because legalizers use it to pressure the media. He urged that attendees develop internet sites in order to "fight fire with fire."

2. "Fundraise Fast and Furious"

He said to "tie into" the business community as a way of getting funding. He said that attendees should "play on" business losses from drug use such as absenteeism, lower quality of work, and loss of productivity.

3. "Establish a Strong Grass Roots Organization"

They persisted in presenting the reform movement as the opposite of grass roots. Huh? Made it seem like they're fighting some evil and sinister super power.

4. "Choose Your Campaign Spokesman Carefully"

He said not to use law enforcement because "They'll use it against you." This resulted in a general crestfallen and discomfited shift from the audience.

5. "Take Advantage of Potential Legal Strategies"

He advised getting a law firm to donate their services. And to request that they go over petition signatures, and to evaluate the constitutionality of the proposition. He summed it up by saying, "Just get the whole thing gone."

6. "Never, Never, Never, Give Up"

This quote was accredited to Winston Churchill. Apparently it was meant to be motivational. Some people got weepy at this point. Gag me with a spoon.

Q&A - When asked why they lost in Arizona, he said it was due to a lack of money. Also, because the medical community does not want to get involved. He said that physicians refuse, but some pharmacists have agreed to involvement.

There was a question re: how many pro legalization use, along with the comment "They seem so intelligent. People are influenced by them because they seem so fine." Rather than responding, he advised using victims of drugs, such as the Mother of a child who was killed by someone who was high. He was asked if federal dollars and support would be available and said, "You're on your own," producing another incredulous, indignant shift in the audience.

Enter our buddy Calvina Fay again. More specifics:

Harness the media Get videos which can be ordered from our web site on how to get press Get added to our internet list We can help you get the right spokes person. The best is Drs. Turn the compassion issue back Try to involve children

Dr. Eric Voth, chairman, International Drug Strategy Institute

"Why Marijuana is not Medicine"

Another zillion statistics, studies supporting his premise. Then he said, "One way we can hammer these people" is to try for spending limits on proposals, "just like we have for campaigns." He said "try going after Insurance Companies" and " tell them there would be an increase in lawsuits because people would be high in the workplace." Can you see how desperate they are? Not to mention frightened.And no compunctions, at all, about messing with those tiresome old civil rights and the constitution & etc. Grrr....But, if you can believe it, and I swear this is true, he was asked about the impact of marijuana on epilepsy and said "Interestingly enough, there are some things in marijuana that suppress seizures."!!!!!! Hmm....Just like Dilantin, I would guess? Certainly a revealing comment on the issue of "Medical excuse marijuana."

Susan Combs, executive director, Leadership Michigan and Drugs Don't Work Programs

"The Impact of Drugs on Michigan Employers"

This was presented in conjunction with, (you guessed it) our good buddy Calvina. She introduced Ms. Combs as the "Local Tsarina" on the issue of drugs in the workplace and employee drug testing. She fingered the ACLU for questioning the constitutionality of forced drug tests. They encouraged trying to get medium and smaller sized companies to initiate a "Drug Free Workplace" program. They described studies which had supposedly proven that drug testing has been successful in reducing absenteeism, accidents, and medical leave.

Ms. Combs was asked which drug was most commonly found via drug screening. She answered "Marijuana, but that's because it stays in the system so long." Our buddy Calvina looked slightly panicked, reclaimed the mike, and told us to go to lunch. Undoubtedly, Ms. Combs has lost her title as the "Local Tsarina."

Dr. Voth (second presentation)

"Addiction Promotion Through Needle Exchange and Heroin Maintenance"

I was hoping for another great quote, but no such luck. Lots of statistics and comments about the supposedly negative impact of these issues in Holland and England. He did mention that law enforcement has a "fear of busing spokes people" because it might be viewed as retribution. I guess that means that you, as the most famous and effective of the Michigan rabble rousers, can get away with almost anything.

Dr. Voth continued the tactic of rolling marijuana in with heroin, cocaine, LSD & etc., especially when presenting statistics. None of them even bothered to be clever about it. They knew they were, as Jack Hook (DEA) put it, "preaching to the choir." They had that comfy cozy affect of people who are sure of audience approval.

And they repeatedly referenced the financial resources and support from prominent people that "they" have. They spoke in shocked tones about criminal justice people and public officials who have questioned the war on drugs. It was amusing, but irritating and funny at the same time. They presented the reform movement as if we are an evil and sinister super power. The recent events in Hawaii were described as "tragic and frightening."

Mary Ann Solberg, executive director, Troy Community Coalition

"What's Next For Michigan?"

She began by presenting a greeting by Governor Engler.

"I applaud your efforts. The harm that drugs cause is irrefutable. The legalization effort should be stopped dead in it's tracks."

She also delineated a list of how-tos:

1. Each of you make 5 presentations. We will help you. Show videos. Talk to public officials. Work with your faith communities and PTAs. Recruit spokes people, especially physicians. Join committees to fight the legalization of marijuana.

2. Hold mini-conferences around the state. It's time to stand up for what we believe in.

3. Write letters to the editor.

4. Begin, now, to develop associations with businesses. When and if it is passed, we will need equal time. We need to buy air time now for the final 2 weeks before the elections, or else there won't be any left.

5. Recruit people.

She ended with....

"Make Michigan the first state to just say no!" (Where have I heard that before?)

Calvina Fay closed the conference. By this time there was almost no one left. Too bad. I want the whole world to know the incredibly stupid and vicious things she is saying.

"They are proactively recruiting our children to create a customer base."

"They're trying to hook them young."

"They train their people to fit in with mainstream America."

Also that although reformers have claimed the drug war is a failure, "we've reduced drug use by 50%."

Best regards - this was quite a bit of fun - please feel free to recruit me whenever possible.

Mary Jane