(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #61, 10/02/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Life-saving services to persons at risk for disease and injury were abruptly "canceled" by law enforcement officers on Tuesday evening, September 29, 1998. For the third time in two years, workers at a Chai Project syringe exchange site were arrested. Diana McCague, founder and Executive Director of the Chai Project, and another volunteer were arrested at 8:10pm. Both were charged with possession and intent to distribute hypodermic syringes in violation of statute 2C:36-6. Incident to the arrest, officers seized the project van, thereby taking away the project's primary tool for distribution of life-saving materials and information.
"It's as if they wanted to make sure that this arrest did as much damage and put as many New Jersey residents at risk as possible," McCague told The Week Online. "Do they think that a whole bunch of people are going to wake up this morning and decide to kick their heroin addiction because they don't have a clean needle? No. They're going to use whatever is available because they're addicted and that's the nature of addiction. And many of them will be putting themselves, their loved ones and their future children at risk for no other reason than Governor Whitman thinks it's good politics to kill drug users."
As with the arrest of McCague and another project volunteer in April 1996, the raid occurred during a period of increased public attention to the issue of syringe exchange. Earlier this month, Governor Whitman sent a letter to her own Advisory Council on AIDS, demanding that they cease discussion of syringe exchange.
"Whitman is apparently not satisfied with an inhumane policy that condemns injection drug users and those they love to preventable but deadly diseases, she wants a gag on public debate around this critical public health issue," said McCague. "Whitman wants drug users, their partners, and their children to die in silence."
Gene Herman, a spokesman for Governor Whitman's office, told The Week Online that the action had nothing to do with the recent publicity surrounding Whitman's stance against syringe exchange and that the decision to arrest McCague was made at the local, rather than the state level.
Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Ronald Kercado was waiting at the New Brunswick police station when McCague was brought in, to lobby for a high bail. Bail for McCague was set at $7,500 without the usual allowance for ten percent cash payment. McCague was treated as a "flight risk" despite the fact that she is a native New Brunswick resident and despite the fact that she has spent the past two years dutifully appearing in municipal and state courts on her previous charges.
WRITE NOW: DRCNet urges our readers to make themselves heard regarding this arrest. In particular, since the Chai Project also delivers bleach kits and condoms to at-risk populations, it is important that they get their van back to continue at least this part of their work. Letters should go to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, 1 JFK Square, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 and to Governor Christine Todd Whitman, Statehouse, West State St., Trenton, NJ.
You can also send a letter to one or more of the newspapers that covered the bust. You might want to point out the absurdity of New Jersey officials wasting taxpayer's money arresting people who are working to limit the spread of deadly (and expensive) disease. Or that with organizations such as the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the US Department of Health and Human Services endorsing syringe exchange as sound public health policy, the New Jersey state government is apparently still living in the dark ages even as AIDS rages within its borders. Write to:
The Newark Star-LedgerRemember that most published letters to the editor are under 200 words, and most papers required an address and phone number in order to consider a letter for publication. Please send copies of your letter to DRCNet at 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036, fax to (202) 293-8344, or e-mail your letter or a note informing us that you've written a letter, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are pleased to announce the inception of our new radio show, the Drug Reform Coordination Network News (DRCNN). DRCNN is a weekly 4-6 minute radio show, featuring the top stories from the front lines of America's expensive and destructive Drug War. Broadcast quality DRCNN is available free to interested stations, producers and radio show hosts at http://www.drcnet.org/drcnn/.
DRCNN is based on our weekly electronic publication, The Week Online with DRCNet, and features domestic and international news and interviews with nationally recognized experts -- and if you've been enjoying Adam Smith's editorials, you can hear what they sound like read in his own voice.
If you are involved with programming at a radio station of any size, or would just enjoy hearing DRCNet reporting in a different medium, check it out! DRCNN is uploaded at 6:00pm every Friday, and each show is appropriate for airing immediately and for the following week (7 days). Review and broadcast quality Real Audio or MP3 files can be downloaded from http://www.drcnet.org/drcnn/, or from the GrassRoots News Network (MP3 only) at http://radio4all.web.net.
In a speech before the American Methadone Treatment Association in New York on Tuesday (9/29), US Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey announced a plan to restructure federal guidelines on methadone in order to make the treatment more available to those who need it. While methadone has been exhaustively studied and is widely hailed as the single most effective treatment for opiate addiction, it is currently available to only 115,000 of the estimated 800,000+ heroin addicts nationwide.
"Methadone treatment is simply not available for Americans in all parts of the country in a manner called for by rational drug policy," McCaffrey said. He stated that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) which he heads has set a goal of "adequate methadone treatment capacity for all of America's opiate drug addicts."
One of the major stumbling blocks to methadone treatment, aside from its scarcity, are the severe restrictions placed on its administration. Currently, only special clinics may distribute it. Clinics often have short hours and many patients must travel great distances each day to receive their dose, which is supervised by clinic staff. Dosages administered by clinics are also often sub-optimal, leaving addicted patients still struggling with the constant cravings and withdrawal symptoms that methadone is intended to ward off.
McCaffrey said that he would like to see private doctors licensed to prescribe the drug, and standards set for effective dosages, counseling and care.
While this is not the first time McCaffrey has publicly called for an easing on restrictions surrounding methadone treatment (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/014.html#mm), the speech took on added significance due to a war of words taking place between the Administration and Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, who has vowed to phase out methadone treatment in the city (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/051.html#giuliani).
Dr. David Lewis, professor of medicine at Brown University and project leader for Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy, told The Week Online, "Barry McCaffrey's views on treatment and on methadone in particular have been known for some time. And while I think that he'll have difficulty in making the bureaucracy move as quickly as he would like, in the long run, I don't see why we won't have methadone distribution from physicians' offices as they do in most countries in Europe. It's relatively trouble-free and physicians can be easily trained to do this. He's on the right track, and he's got science on his side and the medical establishment as well in terms of the National Academy of Science and the consensus review panel of the American Medical Association."
Giuliani, reacting to reporters' questions regarding McCaffrey's statements, said "This is what the Clinton Administration and General McCaffrey are advocating: more people dependent on a chemical."
Studies have consistently shown that up to 90% of people who are forced off of methadone will relapse into heroin addiction. Earlier this week, a full-page ad was run in the New York Times, signed by scores of medical and treatment professionals touting the effectiveness of methadone over any other known treatment for opiate addiction, as well as the fact that methadone allows people to live normal, productive lives.
In response to Mayor Giuliani's high-profile war on methadone, Dr. Lewis said, "It really makes me sad, more than angry. Looking back on anti-methadone history in this country, mostly during the early part of the twentieth century, it's surprising that a modern-day politician could take such a stance. It makes one think that there are other factors at work here, besides a concern over rational policies or science and medicine. I think that as this debate plays out in the public, it will become apparent to people that on the issue of methadone, Mayor Giuliani's position is misguided."
(For some interesting background material on this issue, see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/020.html#methadone, as well as our recent interview with Dr. Robert Newman, one of the nation's pre-eminent experts on methadone and addiction at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/051.html#newman. The National Alliance of Methadone Advocates can be found online at http://www.methadone.org.
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
October 1, 1998, Washington, DC: Legislation introduced in the Senate recently seeks to allow law enforcement to confiscate the money of individuals traveling with more than $10,000 cash.
"This legislation predetermines that anyone possessing large amounts of cash must be a criminal," charged NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, Esq. "It places a presumption of guilt on the defendant and forces owners to go to court and prove their innocence if they wish to reclaim their money. Essentially, this bill seeks to give the government a license to steal under the guise of fighting the war on drugs."
The Drug Currency Forfeitures Act, sponsored by Sens. Max Cleland (D-GA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), states that police may seize cash from individuals traveling through defined "drug transit areas". The bill broadly defines such areas to mean any port-of-entry, airport, or highway.
"The idea that any American should have to explain to the police where their money came from is offensive, and the idea that the police can pocket your money if they don't like your answers is downright criminal," said Libertarian Party National Director Steve Dasbach.
The bill currently awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
British Newspaper "The Telegraph" reports this week that it is in possession of a confidential document containing the minutes of a meeting organized by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS). In attendance were "10 of Britain's most senior officers and policy makers."
The document states that "corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service" and that the NCIS' intelligence director indicated during the meeting that "Corruption may have reached 'Level 2', the situation which occurs in some third world countries." The document blames the drug trade and the vast amounts of cash inherent in the black market for the enormous level of corruption. It states, in part that "The enormous volume of money that is available to... drug importers and dealers means that very large sums can be offered to corrupt officers. Criminals are willing to pay to ensure their ability to operate."
Equally troubling is that the document suggests that the officials in attendance are orchestrating and carrying out something of a cover-up of the situation. The Telegraph reports that "The confidential document suggests the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) formulates a strategy for dealing with 'adverse publicity'. A month after the NCIS meeting, David Blakey, the president of ACPO, formally stated that he and his colleagues believed 'the true level of corruption in the modern service is extremely low.'"
The Vancouver, British Columbia City Council was set to meet on September 29th-30th for a "show-cause" hearing regarding the business licensing of the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC shops, but lawyers for owner Shelley Francis asked that the meeting be postponed until October 16. (See last week's story at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/060.html#hempbc.)
On the evening of September 30, the Cannabis Cafe and Hemp BC were raided by Vancouver police, under a warrant for drug paraphrenalia. Some $40,000 Canadian dollars worth of pipes, bongs and other smoking instruments were seized, according to police. Officers collected identification from staff and patrons in both stores, but no arrests were made. Any charges stemming from the raid will be addressed in summonses.
Within minutes of the raid, a crowd of supporters began to gather outside the front of the stores, growing to an estimated 150 people. At one point, according to police, some of the demonstrators became rowdy. An account on Hemp BC's web site notes that "at least five people were arrested," but Vancouver police spokeswoman Anne Drennan says that the protesters were only removed from the scene. "We removed seven people," she told The Week Online. "They were placed into paddy wagons and removed from the scene, and released without charges."
Constable Drennan said the city had received complaints about the closure of the street outside the stores due to the demonstration, but owner Shelley Francis was heartened by the show of support from the crowd. "The people of Vancouver do not want to see us shut down," she said.
Asked whether the raid had anything to do with the planned city council meeting, Constable Drennan said, "Absolutely nothing at all." She added, "That's not to say that the information culled from the summonses will not be placed before the Council."
Ms. Francis said, "Of course, it's all connected. It's all politically motivated."
Ms. Francis said a June, 1999 court date has been set for her earlier summonses, also stemming from drug paraphernalia charges.
Pipes, bongs, and other smoking instruments may be sold legally in Canada, but are considered "drug paraphernalia" if they are sold or used explicitly for illicit drug use. Hemp BC bills itself as an "Advocate, Distributor and Retailer of Fine Cannabis Goods."
Hemp BC is providing ongoing coverage of this story at http://www.hempbc.com.
Reyes pleaded guilty, but
the appeals court overturned the conviction because the officers searched
the shed with no reasonable suspicion of drug use. On Monday, by
a vote of 4-3, the California Supreme Court justices reversed that
Catherine Campbell, a criminal defense attorney from Fresno, questioned the effect this will have on parolee crime, stating that 80% of parolees end up back in prison on mere parole violation itself, adding "and now it's going to be worse," in comments given to the Fresno Bee. Parolees are felons released from prison who undergo supervision for three to five years.
Marty Borderick, the executive director of Californian Attorneys for Criminal Justice, was concerned with the ruling's undermining of individual rights. Borderick told The Week Online, "I think it is an outrageous attack on the constitution. When paroled one does not lose the right to constitutional protection." The implications expand beyond just the rights of the parolees. With over 100,000 Californians living in society while on parole, other citizens will also be subject to searches without a warrant or reasonable suspicion. "Parolees often live with family members, who will often be subject to unreasonable searches," said Borderick.
Last February, George Singleton was driving home to Vermont from Los Angeles when he was pulled over by an Oklahoma state trooper. The officer, who has 12 years of experience on the force, seized a bag of what he thought looked like marijuana, decided that Mr. Singleton was driving under the influence, and noted that the tags on Singleton's license plates had expired. Singleton was promptly arrested and taken to a local hospital for blood tests.
The blood tests came back negative for alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other known intoxicants. The substance in the bag turned out to be a combination of mullein and rosemary, herbs that Mr. Singleton uses to treat his tuberculosis. But Mr. Singleton spent twenty-five days in jail anyway, and this Thursday completed the first day of a jury trial in what may be one of the more bizarre examples of face-saving by a police department in a botched drug case.
Mr. Singleton is a black man, and wears his hair in dreadlocks down to his waist. He and his attorney suspect that this, as much as anything, is why he was arrested in the first place. "He's not guilty of anything but being black and having butt-long dreadlocks and driving in Oklahoma," attorney Jim Hadley of Vinita told the Associated Press.
Craig County, OK district attorney Gene Haynes hopes that the arresting officer's report will prove what the physical evidence did not. "It is an unusual case because of the fact that we don't have proof of any illegal substance," he said. "We're continuing to pursue it because we feel he was under some type of influence that rendered him a danger on the roadway."
Mr. Singleton was ultimately charged with driving with expired plates, which carries a maximum fine of $100, and with driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance, which carries a fine and a maximum sentence of one year in jail.
In court this Thursday, his
attorney filed a motion to dismiss, on the grounds that the prosecution
had failed to meet its burden of proof. The judge has taken this
under advisement, and plans to make his decision on the motion Friday morning, and will be reported on this page later today or as soon as we have the information.
Note: On October 2, the judge agreed with Singleton's attorney and dismissed the State's charges against him based on a lack of evidence. --Ed.
Note: On October 2, the judge agreed with Singleton's attorney and dismissed the State's charges against him based on a lack of evidence. --Ed.
(As election day approaches, DRCNet correspondent Bear Wilner will be keeping us abreast of developments from Oregon as that state prepares to vote on not one, but two marijuana-related initiatives. The following is his first report.)
As readers of The Week Online are likely aware, Oregon is one of five states that will vote on marijuana-related ballot initiatives this Fall. (Voters will also consider an initiative in the District of Columbia.) Oregon is unique, however, in that two such questions will appear on its November ballot.
The first, Measure 57, began as a bill (HB 3643) that was passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber, MD on July 2, 1997. The bill's backers intended to overturn Oregon's 1973 law that decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, which was the first such law in the nation. Currently, possession of under an ounce is treated as a violation akin to a traffic ticket and is punishable by a fine of at least $500 but no more than $1000. HB 3643 would re-elevate the offense to misdemeanor status, with potential penalties including a jail term of thirty days, a six-month driver's license suspension, and compulsory drug treatment, as well as fines.
Furthermore, it would expand law enforcement officers' abilities to conduct searches in connection with a marijuana bust; under current law, no arrest is permitted and search powers are limited during a stop for a violation.
In accordance with a rarely-used state constitutional provision, citizens gathered enough signatures to suspend the effectiveness of the new law until a statewide vote could be held on it. If Measure 57 passes, HB 3643 will go into effect; if the measure is defeated, it will not. The Measure 57 campaign has been heated at times but has not been an overwhelmingly visible presence in the state, as, for example, have recent initiative campaigns concerning sexual minority rights. Polls indicate that the measure is likely to fail, meaning that voters seem to prefer the status quo.
The campaign against Measure 57 shares space on lawn signs around the state with the campaign *for* Measure 67, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. Combined efforts aside, though, it is the latter initiative that has the far higher profile as Election Day approaches. This proposed law, part of the nationwide family of initiatives sponsored by Americans for Medical Rights, would create a statewide registry of patients whose doctors recommend that the use of marijuana might help alleviate certain otherwise intractable health conditions. Such patients would be free to possess and grow sufficient quantities of marijuana for personal use. It prohibits public use and driving under the influence.
The campaign for Measure 67 is being led by Dr. Rick Bayer, a Portland-area physician. He has proven to be an articulate and thoughtful advocate in numerous public appearances, including a live call-in show on Oregon Public Broadcasting radio that matched him with a journalist and a measure opponent. In a recent appearance before the state Criminal Justice Commission, Sheriff Dan Noelle of Multnomah County, which includes Portland, claimed that Measure 67 is a cynical precursor to efforts to legalize other drugs, contending that marijuana has no medical effectiveness and that, in fact, it "contributes to violent and assaultive behavior." Some of the state's largest newspapers, including the Albany Democrat-Herald and the Eugene Register-Guard have editorialized in favor of Measure 67. Polls show it enjoying the favor of the voters, in line with similar surveys in other states and nationwide.
Recently, a headline-grabbing development of relevance to both measures has arisen in the farmland of Western Oregon's Willamette Valley. On September 15, deputies of the Linn County Sheriff's Office raided the home and lumberyard of Bill Conde, a longtime drug policy reform activist. Mr. Conde has hosted several large festivals on his property in the last few years that featured live music and speeches by him and other activists.
Linn County officials contend that marijuana and other drugs were widely used and sold at these festivals. Mr. Conde's attorney, Brian Michaels, replies that Mr. Conde's arrest broke a lengthy history of good relations between him and the county and was accompanied by clearly unrelated and disproportionate searches and seizures.
The Conde case has sent a wave of concern throughout the state. Coming as close as it does to Election Day, it reminds some reformers of the 1996 raid on the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers' Club, which directly preceded California's vote on Proposition 215, the initiative whose passage now allows the use of medical marijuana in that state. Along with business records and other materials, lists of names and addresses that had been gathered for clearly political purposes are now in the hands of police agencies. In addition, deputies seized a computer that controlled a large electronic sign clearly visible from Interstate 5, which runs directly past Mr. Conde's lumberyard; the signboard formerly displayed messages like "Vote no on 57. Vote yes on 67."
In a speech before the American Methadone Treatment Association in New York this week, Barry McCaffrey, the nation's Drug Czar reiterated his strong support for the expansion of methadone treatment and the loosening of restrictions which make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for people to obtain it. He said that it was desirable to allow doctors to be able to prescribe it so that patients would no longer be dependent upon a woefully inadequate system of clinics. He said that standards needed to be set to ensure that people were able to get adequate dosages. And he said that methadone is the cheapest and most effective treatment for opiate addiction known to medicine. On all counts, he is right.
It is significant that he gave this speech in New York City, home to the largest population of methadone patients in the country, and the city where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has recently embarked on a one man anti-methadone crusade. Giuliani has vowed to "phase out" the treatment, beginning with those slots which are under the city's direct financial control. Specifically, those serving the poor, the indigent and the incarcerated. Studies show that nearly 90% of people who are forced off of methadone will relapse into heroin addiction. But according to Giuliani, it is immoral to help people off of one addictive substance, heroin, only to "enslave" them with another. Abstinence, he says, is the moral choice. People must be made to live "drug free." And the science be damned.
Is it odd that Rudolph Giuliani rejects science and rationality out of hand in favor of dogma and moral fiat? Perhaps not. Perhaps it is more odd that Barry McCaffrey does not. McCaffrey, after all, has within the past two years rejected syringe exchange and the medical use of cannabis despite firm and growing evidence in favor of both of these propositions. He continues to advocate, even to preside over the continued arrest and imprisonment of adults who smoke marijuana recreationally, despite overwhelming evidence, including numerous government and scientific reports, showing that arrest and imprisonment are more harmful to the user than moderate use. He has lobbied for billions of dollars for interdiction despite the government's own findings that such programs have no impact on the drug trade on America's streets. He has consistently been more concerned with "sending a clear, no-use message" than with the health and well-being of those who his policies affect. So why methadone?
Methadone maintenance is, after all, harm reduction -- that evil phrase that is so often labeled by McCaffrey and his cohorts as a "smoke-screen for legalization." Methadone does not make a person "drug free" -- on that point Giuliani is correct. It simply changes the nature of their use and allows them to live normally, without the destruction attendant to their old addiction. If McCaffrey were true to the principles he espouses on other drug policy issues, he ought to be standing right with the Mayor of New York City, shoulder to shoulder at the door to the clinic, baseball bat in hand, sending his no-use message to America's kids.
The fact is that McCaffrey's position on methadone, like his position on every other drug policy issue, reeks of politics. McCaffrey is in charge of making sure that the drug war continues, that the money continues to flow and the drug warriors stay in business. Plain and simple. But over the past few years their war has fallen into disrepute. Respected people, people with credentials and with access to the media have been publicly questioning the war. And so somewhere, on some issue, there has to be some give. No one who knows anything about addiction would stand for the abolition of methadone on the premise that a "no use" message should be sent. So he takes on Giuliani, in the mayor's own city, and in doing so he makes his war look a little bit more reasonable by comparison.
This week, America's Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey stood up in favor of the expansion of the single most effective treatment for heroin addiction known to modern science. All of us who care about the lives and the health and the futures of the oppressed and the addicted should be happy. It was the right thing for him to do. But we should note that in standing up for rationality, for the lives and the health and the humanity of our society's most vulnerable citizens, in standing up for a reduction in the harms of addiction, he violated every other principle he has articulated during his stewardship of this insane war.
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