(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #220, 1/18/02
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, email@example.com, 1/18/02
The poisonous fruits of long-sown US drug war policies in the Andes have ripened and are spreading their bitter taste throughout the violence-soaked nation of Colombia and its neighbors.
One day after the Colombian government receives a phalanx of shiny new US-purchased Blackhawk helicopters, it calls off long-running and all-important peace negotiations with the rebel FARC group. Peace is granted a brief reprieve after a host of countries -- US conspicuously absent -- send their best diplomats to urge continued discussions and offer their help in making that happen. Time will tell.
In government-controlled territory, deadly poisons not meant to exist are sprayed indiscriminately in US-led "coca eradication" operations. In reality, many legal crops get wiped out. Coca moves around and thrives in one location or another. Human beings and animals are exposed to the chemicals, some of which are marked by their manufacturer "not to be used near humans or animals," some of which are banned in the US entirely. Destruction, disease and death are left in their wake.
Colombia's truest terrorists, the paramilitaries, or "death squads," as they are known, receive quiet help from the government's army -- the people who just got our helicopters. They are massed and waiting for the government's signal for all out war. For the paramilitaries, war means murder and mayhem, massacring anyone who is on someone's list for whatever reason. Helicopters are our reward to Colombia for harboring terrorists. As long as the terrorists only kill other Colombians.
Conflict again breaks out in Bolivia's Chapare region. Coca eradication is the issue. Police murder a peasant union leader. The US Embassy warns, don't negotiate. Poverty and civil conflict are not cause for concern. US drug warriors' execrable crusade must be waged, regardless of the consequences for Bolivia.
No decrease in the availability of drugs is achieved. Wasted lives, predictable failure, morality and reason cast aside. The US drug war in action. Not a just war.
In an act of political jujitsu, Canada's largest hemp seed producer is taking advantage of a little-used provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to sue the US government over the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) proposed administrative rule that would ban hemp foods containing traces of THC after February 6.
On Monday, Kenex Ltd. of Chatham, Ontario, filed a $20 million-plus lawsuit charging that the impending ban would destroy its rapidly growing business in the US. Kenex also argued that US government efforts had already caused the company to forego introduction of one new product line last year and that it was losing US customers because of uncertainty over its ability to import already contracted shipments.
Under NAFTA rules, member countries must treat companies from other member countries equitably and through a legitimate regulatory process. The Kenex filing, a copy of which was obtained by DRCNet, accuses the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office) of "harassment of the legal and legitimate trade" in industrial hemp and attempting to "effectively amend" existing law through the regulatory process.
As the Kenex filing notes, the well-settled US federal statutory definition of marijuana excludes "the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seed of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination."
In other words, hemp, hemp seed, and hemp oil are not marijuana under US law. But Kenex argues that that the DEA and ONDCP, through DEA's rule-making procedure, are attempting to treat the trace amounts of THC in hemp as a controlled substance and have thus created "a de facto ban on the hemp food products produced, marketed, and distributed, by the investor and its investment in the United States."
"There are two principles at question here," said Kenex attorney Todd Weiler. "NAFTA spells out that member countries must treat companies fairly and equitably, and it also demands that under its 'national treatment' and Most Favored Nation provisions that companies in member countries be treated the same as their competitors in other member countries," he told DRCNet. "But it really comes down to fairness, that's what this case is all about."
Weiler cited the importation of poppy seeds, which contain trace elements of opiates, but which are allowed under US law. "Poppy seed producers make a product that competes with hemp seed," said Weiler, "but the DEA is not embargoing poppy seed bagels. They are not treating hemp seed producers like poppy seed producers."
The NAFTA expert expressed confidence that Kenex would prevail in its suit, but told DRCNet the aim was not so much monetary damages as forcing US authorities to come up with a reasonable policy. "The idea is to get them to come to their senses and adopt a reasonable policy, such as those of the Canadians, the Europeans, and the Australians," he said.
The Kenex lawsuit runs parallel to Canadian government concerns about US hemp rules. Canadian trade officials recently sent a letter to the DEA warning that the proposed ban would hurt a legitimate, regulated Canadian industry, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported on Monday. The letter also noted that the ban would violate World Trade Organization rules requiring countries to run risk-assessment tests before banning products.
"The Canadian government is on our side," said Weiler, adding that he was referring to general concerns about the DEA's hemp rules, not the Kenex case in particular. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs heard about the hemp rulemaking and wrote to DEA asking to see on what basis they were making the changes. Under NAFTA, the DEA must give this stuff to the Canadian government," said Weiler. "But they must not have an international attorney. DEA wrote back tersely, saying the information was confidential."
The Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade had not returned DRCNet calls for comment by press time.
The NAFTA challenge to DEA's hemp food ban through administrative fiat is only the latest front in this increasingly noticed battle. Last week, the Hemp Industries Association and seven hemp food producers, including Kenex, sued in federal court in San Francisco to block the ban on hemp food containing traces of THC (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/219.html#hempsuit). HIA is also awaiting a ruling on a temporary injunction blocking DEA from implementing the rule changes. And VoteHemp (http://www.votehemp.com), an advocacy group linked to the industry, along with Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Mintwood Media Collective, put public pressure on the agency with a 74-city hemp food taste-test protest last month.
All of the pressure is starting to pay off, at least in terms of media attention. The story made big-time last Sunday, with a reasonably accurate and balanced front-page story on Sunday, January 13, followed by the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
A House committee's effort to cut through the regulatory thicket surrounding financial aid for college students has opened a second front in the battle to repeal the anti-drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Under this provision, which bars financial aid to students convicted of a drug crime, some 43,000 college students have lost financial aid this year. The HEA anti-drug provision has sparked a huge opposing coalition, including students, universities, financial aid administrators, and educational and civil rights organizations. The provision is also under direct attack through a bill, H.R. 786, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), which has already attracted 55 cosponsors.
Now repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision has made it onto the House Education and Work Force Committee's 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee's higher education regulatory reform agenda. The subcommittee's initiative to identify and eliminate "needless or overly burdensome regulations," titled "Upping the Effectiveness of Our Federal Student Aid Programs," or FED UP, was announced in May. In a May 24 letter to the higher education community, subcommittee head Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and ranking minority member Rep. Patsy Mink (D-HA) urged interested parties to submit proposals on regulations that "are out of date, have become more of a burden than they're worth, or otherwise prevent colleges and universities from helping students graduate from college" (http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/107th/education/fedup/).
In a survey of suggested regulatory relief proposals published by the subcommittee last month, repealing the HEA anti-drug provision is item 49 out of 103 recommended regulatory or statutory changes to the financial aid program. "Eliminate these requirements," is the change suggested in the survey. In its rationale for the change, the draft noted that, "These are regulations and statutory requirements that have no bearing on a student's propensity for educational success. These regulations add complexity to the student aid application and process without providing any significant social benefit."
Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the author of the anti-drug measure, has in recent months backtracked from the language he drafted and criticized the Department of Education for implementing the law as he wrote it, which calls for student drug law violators to lose financial aid regardless of when they were convicted. Souder now says that the law should only apply to students who receive drug convictions while receiving financial aid.
But that isn't good enough for repeal backers, who have hailed FED UP's inclusion of repeal of the HEA's anti-drug provision as a major step toward repeal.
"In our view, the anti-drug provision has so many legislative problems that you can't get a workable regulation out of it," said Becky Timmins, head of government relations for the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) are two of the education organizations that have pushed for repeal of the provision from early on. "Souder's effort to change the way the Department of Education interprets the rules has gone nowhere," she told DRCNet. "While a Souder rewrite to exclude past convictions would be helpful to some people, it just doesn't address the other problems with the law. We don't see Souder's effort as unwelcome," Timmins added, "it is just not a remedy for all those other problems."
"This shows that Congress is heeding our message. We already have one bill in the works, and this will turn into a bill, too," SSDP president Shawn Heller told DRCNet. "Rep. Souder wants to be a reformer now, but the rest of Congress is not being misled by Souder's attempt to make a bad law less worse. Other members of Congress would like to see this miserable piece of legislation just go away."
"This is an important step for repealing the HEA drug provision," said Bill McColl of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, which has provided limited support to the effort. "This shows repeal is not just on the plate for the drug reformers, but that the law has become a terrible burden on financial aid administrators," he told DRCNet. "What this really says is that HEA drug provision repeal is on the agenda of the education organizations."
"Absolutely right," said ACE's Timmins. "We were first at the table trying to get rid of this. We fought this tooth and nail in the legislative stage as well as during the early rounds of rule-making," Timmins pointed out. "It's bad law, bad regulations, and it's just not implementable."
But while Timmins said the response to the FED UP initiative showed that repeal of the drug provision was a "community priority," she told DRCNet it probably would not happen until 2003 or even later. "The regulatory route has failed, and I think repeal will be dealt with as part of the HEA reauthorization set for next year," she said. "But in reality, it won't be done next year. They are behind on the Hill."
For TLC-DPF's McColl, now is a time for building up the bases. "Lindesmith is ready to step up the advocacy pressure when the time is right, but right now we need to be building up the grassroots," he said.
Congressman Mark Souder (R-IN) found yet another reason to regret sponsoring the increasingly controversial anti-drug provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) this week, when Roll Call, the read-in-all-the-right-places trade daily for congressional affairs zapped him in a brief piece on Thursday. Running under the headline "Souder Taken to School?", the piece described the Fort Wayne drug warrior as "ducking a debate" with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) national director Shawn Heller, whom it describes as "calling the lawmaker out" on whether the anti-drug provision should be repealed.
"I'll debate Mark Souder anywhere, anytime to set the record straight," Heller told Roll Call. Heller had decried a Souder comment about "whiny college reporters" made last year, in a statement distributed to the media by SSDP this week.
Sensing an opportunity to insert foot in mouth once again, Souder staff rejected Heller's challenge, but then went on to attack SSDP. "He's not going to debate them," Souder spokesman Seth Becker told Roll Call. "This is a fringe group. This is a group that is encouraging [drug use] that kills American men, women and children, and the Congressman will not debate them."
Rep. Souder's colleagues read Roll Call. They see what an angry, organized, and energetic opposition he has generated. They see him demeaned by their paper of record. And they see him once again making himself look the fool. They will remember, and Souder will remember.
Read about previous Souder madness in our archives:
Sheriff Bill Masters has been the law in
San Miguel County, most well-known for the town of Telluride, since 1980.
First serving as a Republican, he switched to the Libertarian Party and
is now the nation's only Libertarian sheriff. In recent years, Masters
began to speak out publicly against the drug war, criticizing it as ineffective,
unjust and inhumane. Now Masters has written a book, "Drug War Addiction:
Notes from the Front Line of America's #1 Policy Disaster," which would
make a great gift idea from drug reformers to their local Officer Friendly
-- if he still be found -- or law enforcement decision-maker. (The
book is available from Accurate Press, (800) 374-4049, or http://www.accuratepress.net
and soon on Amazon.com.) DRCNet spoke with the sheriff this week.
Colombia remains a hairsbreadth away from a dramatic upsurge in political violence, as President Pastrana and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC engage in high-tension political brinkmanship over whether the country's stagnated, three-year peace process will continue and with it, the rebel's Switzerland-sized safe haven. Meanwhile, in Bolivia, the last Andean drug war success story, incoming President Jaime Quiroga is cracking down on traditional coca markets in the Chapare, a campaign that has led to two civilian deaths so far.
When the Week Online went to press last week, Pastrana had given the FARC an ultimatum to remove conditions it set on the negotiations or be prepared for an attack within 48 hours. As the Colombian military deployed around the safe haven and its murderous paramilitary allies began gathering in the area, international mediators from the United Nations and the so-called "group of friends" nations (France, Canada, Sweden, Cuba, Norway, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Switzerland, and Venezuela) managed to paste together a deal to keep the peace talks going.
Talks began again on Wednesday and will continue under severe pressure through the weekend. Sunday marks the end of President Pastrana's latest extension of the deadline for the talks and the safe haven. Pastrana is demanding serious progress toward a ceasefire agreement as a condition for another extension.
There are some indications from Washington that the US government would just as soon see the talks fail, paving the way for a deeper US involvement in Colombia's 38-year-old civil war. Despite State Department spokesman Richard Boucher's contention that the US would support Pastrana's decision, the US is conspicuously absent from the peace process. No US diplomats joined the UN and group of friends in attempting to salvage the negotiations.
Instead, according to the Washington Post, "senior US officials" spent last weekend salivating over the prospect of enlarging the US effort in Colombia to explicitly take on counterinsurgency activities against the FARC. Current US policy limits US assistance to counternarcotic operations. According to the Post, those officials held "urgent weekend discussions" about how to get around congressional restrictions on such activities as providing intelligence on guerrilla activities around the country and forming a new battalion of Colombian troops to serve as a rapid reaction force defending "vital infrastructure, including pipelines owned by US oil companies" from guerrilla attacks.
The proposed shift to a deeper involvement in the Colombian civil war has been floating around Washington for months now, but has received a real push after September 11, and last weekend's dramatic standoff sent the war hawks into a tizzy. "Before [September 11], there would have been no debate or only very limited debate, about whether to even think about extending beyond counternarcotics aid," one anonymous official told the Post. "At least now, these are debatable propositions."
Now, with the Bush administration officially defining the FARC and the smaller ELN as "terrorist organizations" akin to Al Qaeda and the peace process on extremely shaky ground, the Potomac chest-beaters smell blood. Of course, there is that pesky problem of the other "terrorist organization" in Colombia, the paramilitaries of the AUC. The Colombian military has the bad habit of allying itself with these rightist death squads, making a US war on terrorism in Colombia an exercise in hypocrisy at best and a murderous moral and military quagmire at worst.
Meanwhile, in Bolivia, civic unrest among the coca-growing peasantry has been inflamed by the new government of President Jaime Quiroga. In November, the Bolivian government passed a new law, Supreme Decree 26145, which prohibits the drying, transport, and sale of coca leaf grown in the Chapare region. According to the Andean Information Network, drying coca is not necessary to produce cocaine, but is an essential step in preparing the leaf for legal, traditional consumption.
In recent weeks, the government moved to close 15 previously legal coca markets in the Chapare and the Sacaba market in Cochabamba, which were the only legal markets for Chapare coca. By Monday, the government moves had provoked a new round of peasant mobilizations, with 5,000 cocaleros marching on Cochabamba to protest the prohibition on coca sales and denounce efforts to remove union leader Evo Morales from his position in parliament.
On Tuesday, protestors marched on the offices of the General Coca Directorate, the government entity responsible for legal coca, and the Sacaba market. After fruitless discussions with directorate officials, peasants forcibly entered the compound, burning 25 vehicles that had been confiscated by police. In a melee that lasted for hours, police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition, leaving a toll of four peasants wounded by gunshots and two injured policemen.
Violence escalated on Wednesday, with police killing two demonstrators near the Sacaba market. The Andean Information Network reported that the toll of wounded over the two days had climbed to 38, with 49 others detained by police.
Tensions remain high at press time, with the government ordering arrest warrants for a dozen coca union leaders, a general strike in Sacaba on Thursday, and coca growers telling the local press the may take up arms to defend themselves.
Despite ongoing violence between coca growers and the Bolivian state, the last mainstream US press article about Bolivia appeared in September.
Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/215.html#blockades for previous Bolivia coverage, and visit http://www.narconews.com for an interview with peasant leader Felipe Quispe ("El Mallku") and other live reporting from Bolivia and elsewhere in Latin America. The Andean Information Network is at http://www.scbbs-bo.com/ain/ online.
Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/219.html#colombia for previous Colombia coverage. Visit http://www.wola.org or http://www.lawg.org or http://www.ciponline.org/colombia/ for further information on Colombia. Visit http://www.ariannaonline.com/columns/files/011402.html to read Arianna Huffington's column discussing the US role in derailing Colombia's peace talks.
Two identical bills that would have made MDMA, or ecstasy, a Schedule I drug in California and made being under the influence of ecstasy a misdemeanor with a 90-day mandatory minimum sentence, have run into rough water this week. A subcommittee vote killed the Senate version outright, while the sponsors of the Assembly version have stripped it of its "under the influence" provision.
The introduction of the bills incited quick and intense opposition from a range of groups, including the Alchemind Society's Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (http://www.alchemind.org), the Drug Reform Alliance, the scientific community and others. Nearly 1,000 people used a DRCNet web site to send e-mail and faxes to their state senators, assemblymembers and the governor in a one week period.
According to an Alchemind news alert now available at the web site, a senate subcommittee killed the bill on a 3-2 vote after hearing from Richard Glen Boire, attorney for the center; MDMA researcher Dr. Charles Grob; and a representatives of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the state's largest criminal defense bar association. Grob, who led the first FDA- approved study of MDMA and is currently Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, told the senate subcommittee that making ecstasy a Schedule I drug in California could hinder research. He also criticized the "under the influence" provision, telling the senators the risk of a 3-month mandatory jail sentence could deter ecstasy users from seeking medical help in the event of problems.
Suburban Los Angeles Senator Bob Margett (R-District), the author of the bill, portrayed it as protecting young people from themselves, whom he claimed were incapable of making rational choices about drug use. But Alchemind's Boire told the lawmakers the same thing he told DRCNet last week: that throwing young people in jail for 90 days, ripping them from their schools, jobs, and families, hardly seemed helpful. In his testimony, he also stressed issues of personal freedom and responsibility and decried the bills as creating "a thought crime."
But while the senate stopped the bill in its tracks, the new, stripped-down assembly bill managed to pass its first hurdle with a 5-1 vote in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety. Perhaps members were swayed by alarmist rhetoric from Assemblywoman Lynne Leach (R-District 15), the bill's author. Leach told her audience she was worried about the risk facing kids who try "to get off the drug cold turkey, and die." The assembly bill, which is now reduced only to the rescheduling provision, next heads to the appropriations committee.
The New Jersey racial profiling case that led to a national debate on the practice has reached its conclusion. The case that began with a series of bangs on the New Jersey Turnpike has ended with a whimper in a Trenton courtroom with two state troopers taking the fall for a practice encouraged by state and federal officials. But even the troopers didn't do too badly, considering they had opened fire and wounded three unarmed black and Hispanic men on the Turnpike for no apparent reason.
Troopers John Hogan and James Kenna pleaded guilty on Tuesday on charges of obstructing the investigation into the April 1998 shootings. They admitted to the court that they had lied to superiors investigating the shootings and that they had intentionally misrepresented the race of other drivers they had stopped in an effort to cover up the fact they were targeting racial minorities. While they had originally been charged with aggravated assault, and Kenna faced an additional charge of attempted murder, in the end they were able to cop a plea.
Under the plea agreement, neither man will serve jail time nor undergo probation. Both men also resigned from the police force and promised never to work in law enforcement again. "You are victims not only of your own actions, but of the system which employed you," State Superior Court Judge told the pair, fining each man $280.
That wasn't good enough for critics of the practice. "This was not justice," Rev. Reginald T. Jackson of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey told the New York Times, "and we will not stop until justice is ours. Not one superior officer has been named. Not one superior officer has been removed from employment with the New Jersey State Police."
While higher-ups in New Jersey and at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which promulgated race-based drug enforcement practices to the states, escaped largely unscathed, the political fallout from the case made racial profiling a national issue and dominated former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's second term. New Jersey authorities underwent an investigation by the Justice Department and had to enter into a consent decree allowing a court-appointed monitor to oversee the state police. State Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero, who was attorney general at the time of the incident and its cover-up, was threatened with impeachment for his role, but that move died in the State Assembly.
The state settled a civil lawsuit filed by the shooting victims, a group of young men on the way to a basketball camp, agreeing to pay out $12.9 million last February.
While the New Jersey case catapulted racial profiling to center stage -- it was denounced by George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 election campaign -- the events of September 11 and their aftermath have largely undercut progress toward making racial profiling a taboo tactic for law enforcement.
Bernard Rappaz, owner of the Valchanze cannabis company in Martigny, Switzerland, jailed since November 14 after distributing medicinal cannabis to illness sufferers, is now on the 65th day of a hunger strike to protest his detention.
Although Valchanze is a well-established Swiss company producing a variety of cannabis products, Rappaz had dealt openly with Swiss authorities for years, and Switzerland is on the verge of legalizing cannabis consumption (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/154.html#swissdecrim), local authorities resorted to US-style SWAT team tactics in arresting and charging Rappaz, according to his supporters.
"The police came in like gangbusters," said Boris Ryser of the Swiss Cannabis Consumers Association (http://www.multimania.com/fdcc/homepage.htm). "They woke him up in the morning, coming in with weapons drawn and TV cameras, they even filmed Bernard's arrest in his bedroom," Ryser told DRCNet.
"They are treating him and the 20 growers who worked for him like they were mafiosi," said Ryser. "This is the same problem anywhere that cannabis is prohibited -- the honest growers have problems, while the real mafiosi prosper."
In addition to charging and jailing Rappaz, local Swiss authorities have frozen the company's assets, threatening to drive Rappaz and Valchanzre into bankruptcy. Local police also carried away 20 truckloads of high-THC cannabis, an estimated 50 tons, according to Ryser.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss embassy in Washington, DC, told DRCNet the Swiss government had no comment on the Rappaz case. "We don't generally comment on pending legal matters," she said. "We let the courts rule, that is our comment."
But Rappaz and his supporters are not waiting. Rappaz began his hunger strike almost immediately upon his arrest and refuses to stop despite the urgings of his worried comrades. "Bernard has lost 30 or 40 pounds already," said Ryser, "and we are doing all we can to persuade him to stop. It is too dangerous, he is too old." But if Rappaz is too old to continue, he is too principled to stop. "He believes very strongly in this," said Ryser.
While imploring Rappaz to break his fast, supporters have also organized global solidarity actions. "We have a chain of people doing solidarity fasts in Australia, Switzerland, France, and Belgium," said Ryser, "and we have organized a new group, Cannabis International Coordination, to call for an immediate, global end to cannabis prohibition. We will be going to Vienna [home of the UN's Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention] and Brussels [seat of the European Union] to demand these changes." A petition demanding freedom for Rappaz is also online at the FCCH web site.
Why now, when the country is on the verge of legalization? "Switzerland has been very tolerant for the past eight years," offered Ryser. "We have more than 400 hemp shops selling mainly smokable cannabis. But now, as we are about to regulate cannabis, the retrograde prohibitionist right wing is taking its last shot. The people are with us, 90% of the politicians are with us, but one right-wing magistrate ordered this arrest. We are a democracy, and the police are paid by the people. People want to know why this is happening. Why is cannabis illegal, why is Bernard in jail? This must change."
For US residents who would like to relay their thoughts on the Rappaz matter to Swiss authorities, the phone number of the Swiss Embassy in Washington is (202) 745-7900.
DRCNet reported last week that the Brazilian legislature had passed and President Fernando Cardoso was ready to sign a bill that would keep small-time drug offenders out of prison (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/219.html#brazil). But Cardoso, who had given the green light for the legislature to pass the 10-year-old reform bill in December, has now vetoed the bill's provisions that would have eased penalties, citing constitutional reasons. Cardoso did, however, sign provisions of the bill enhancing penalties for drug traffickers.
Under current Brazilian law, possession of a joint can get the same six-month to two-year sentence as possession of a pound of cocaine. The new law would have allowed for alternatives, including treatment, community service, fines, or license suspensions. It was widely hailed in South America's largest and most populous nation, where marijuana smoking occurs openly on its fabled beaches and in the nightclubs of Rio and Sao Paulo.
At a January 11 news conference, Gen. Alberto Cardoso, the president's top security adviser, told reporters President Cardoso vetoed some of the articles because they failed to specify the length of alternative sentences, according to a Reuters account. Another vetoed article would have permitted jailed traffickers to move out of maximum security facilities after having served a third of their sentence.
According to Gen. Cardoso, President Cardoso would send substitute legislation to congress that would retain the essence of the original bill's commitment to alternative sentences for minor drug crimes. He will do so in time for congress to approve the substitute proposal before the rest of the law goes into effect in 45 days, said Cardoso.
"The Brazilian government's philosophy... is a reduction in demand and a reduction in supply, heavily repressing traffickers while treating users as people with an illness who need to be attended to, not as criminals," Cardoso said.
The shift in Brazilian drug policy comes under the glowering gaze of the United States. Brazil has been the object of US diplomatic pressure to support American efforts to use fighting the drug trade as a means of extending its political and military influence in Latin America. But while the US has broad regional pretensions, it has been most directly concerned with gathering support for its intervention in Colombia.
As the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit Washington watchdog, noted in a special investigative report last July (http://www.public-i.org/story_06_071201.htm), the war on drugs has provided a convenient rationale for a rapprochement between the Brazilian and US militaries, with the US providing assistance for Brazil's Plan Cobra (Colombia-Brazil), which has increased the Brazilian military presence along the border with Colombia. As Brazil has reluctantly and partially gone along with US policy in Colombia, the US aid spigot is opening wider. US drug war aid to Brazil increased from $1.2 million in 1999 to $5 million in 2000 and rises dramatically to $15 million this year.
"The significant increase in resources requested for Brazil," the State Department noted, "is needed to support programs designed to combat the growing problem of cross-border narcotrafficking, such as Operation Cobra, and in response to measures needed to support the administration's overall Andean Regional Initiative for Colombia and the bordering countries."
The Brazilian military seems well aware it is making a potentially faustian bargain with the US, but is plunging ahead regardless. "During the Cold War, communism served as a frame for the US to exercise their influence in the American continent," Gen. Cardoso told CPI's Independent Center for Investigative Journalism. "As the conjuncture of communism ended, it [narcotics trafficking] appeared naturally as a new cause to justify the same geopolitical and geostrategic interests. In that case, the war on drugs justifies for the US their external military operations."
If the Brazilian state is willing to kowtow to the Americans for the sake of closer military cooperation and the opportunity for boodle, Brazil's body politic is at least prepared to move forward on sentencing, at least if President Cardoso holds to his word.
Federal officials will lay off roughly one thousand National Guard troops assigned to drug interdiction efforts nationwide starting January 31. The Guardsmen were supposed to be paid for out of a $40 million increase in counter-drug programs in the 2002 defense appropriation bill, but that money was first trimmed to $33 million, then earmarked for specific projects in a handful of states during a House-Senate conference. The National Guard's State Plans counter-drug account within the "Drug Interdiction and Counter-drug Activities" line item of the defense budget has thus come up short.
While the National Guard and state law enforcement officials apparently went ahead on the assumption that funds would be found, the money has instead run out. Officials in Arizona and Florida announced in the last two weeks that layoffs were coming in their states. Texas officials confirmed to DRCNet that they, too, were losing troops, while a group of congressional drug warriors told the White House cuts would come in every state.
In Florida, Jon Myatt, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Military Affairs, the agency that manages the Florida National Guard, told the Miami Herald on January 9 that the budget shortfall will mean the loss of 70 active duty positions, almost half of the 156 Guard members assigned to help US Customs and the DEA in the state. "We provide the manpower," said Myatt. "We inspect the hulls of ships, climb inside the carriers looking for signs of contraband and drugs. We're the extra set of hands and eyes for law enforcement and Customs," he added. "It's going to be tough to lose those soldiers," said Myatt. "Unfortunately, drug traffickers don't go away."
Also unhappy was Florida drug czar James McDonough, who told the Herald the layoffs were "a big hit" against interdiction efforts. The Guard did a lot of labor-intensive anti-drug work, said McDonough. "You lose the physical on-site inspection and the deterrent factor once you begin moving them from the docks," he said.
Among those let go are 43 Guardsmen assigned to the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport and eight intelligence analysts and linguists for the DEA in Miami and Jacksonville. Another eight intelligence analysts are being laid off in other parts of the state, Myatt said.
In Arizona, Major Jim Kellett told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday that 60 full-time active-duty Guard members assigned to anti-drug activities are being relieved of duty because of the budget shortfall. Most being laid off in Arizona work in Phoenix and Tucson, but the cuts will also affect staffing at border checkpoints in Nogales and Yuma, where Guardsmen operate scanning devices and assist Customs with vehicle searches.
Jim Molesa, spokesman for the DEA Phoenix office, told the Republic that staffing shifts would cover some of the missing personnel, but without the intelligence analysis and communication support provided by Guard units, some multi-agency drug operations will suffer "big time."
In Texas, National Guard public affairs officer Lt. Col. Robert Luna told DRCNet that the Texas Guard expected to lay off between 55 and 57 members assigned to drug interdiction, but Luna also expressed a faint hope that funding would be found between now and the end of the month. "If we get more funding, that won't happen, but that's not up to us, that's federal money," he said.
Congressional drug warriors are making a last-minute effort to try to make that happen. A spokesman for Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) told DRCNet that Graham "certainly hopes" to obtain more funding and that his office had organized a letter sent to President Bush on Tuesday asking that the funding gap be addressed. That letter was also signed by 14 senators and 18 members of the House.
In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by DRCNet, the bipartisan, bicameral group played the terrorism card in urging President Bush to restore funds. The signers wrote that they agreed with Bush's public assertions that "drug trafficking and terrorism are inextricably linked," and went on to say: "Both require careful vigilance against organizations interested only in their personal gain, and willing to sacrifice the lives of innocent Americans to accomplish their objectives. Maintaining the National Guard's counter-drug efforts are a vital part of our fight against terrorism as well as drug trafficking."
Then they made their pitch. "It is our understanding that sufficient funding will not be made available [for] National Guard's requirements to continue their current level of operations," they explained. "To correct this shortfall, we urge you to direct that an additional $40,000,000" in defense counter-drug funds "be used only for National Guard Governor's State Plan funding requirements. Finally, we respectfully request that you include full funding to sustain this ongoing and successful program in future annual defense budget requests."
But with defense spending shooting through the roof and a seemingly endless "war against terror" looming, perhaps even Bush will have to begin to rethink priorities. After all, the Guardsman in looking in cars at Calexico or peering across the Rio Grande or peeking into containers in Miami is going to have to compete with anti-terror campaigns in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Somalia, and any number of places at home and abroad. Suicide bombers who want to kill Americans may slowly but surely take precedence over limitless numbers of drug traffickers who would rather be left alone.
Urban Health Study is hiring for a new position coordinating intervention and evaluation for the Secondary Syringe Exchange Peer Intervention Study. The study is housed in San Francisco but located in two field sites in Richmond and West Oakland. Click on this link to read the complete listing, and contact Thomas Riess at TRiess@psg.ucsf.edu for further information.
The Libertarian Party national office in Washington, DC, is hiring a Director of Development. This position will be principally responsible for for prospecting, both internal (existing donors) and external (from the movement); donor relationship management and the process of large gift solicitation; coordinating the efforts of board and staff functions to reach key donors with targeted solicitations; maintaining and increasing the database of donors; and overseeing fundraising events.
Bachelors degree required, marketing or
business preferred, two-five years experience with proven track record
of success, at least two years in free-market think tank or issue-based
organization, with direct individual gift solicitation
Salary competitive, commensurate with experience, send resumes to: Libertarian Party, Attn: Steve Dasbach, 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20037, fax: (202) 333-0072, e-mail SteveDasbach@hq.lp.org.
Good news: The Senate version of California's anti-ecstasy bill, SB 1103, was voted down in committee 3-2. This bill appears to have been defeated -- thanks in part to nearly a thousand of you who used our web site to lobby against it. If you haven't already been there -- http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/ca-ecstasy/ -- take a look to learn a little more about the issue and send a letter anyway -- the Assembly vote hasn't taken place yet, and they could still try something else, so making your opinion known is still a good idea. In the meantime, thank you for helping to draw a "line in the sand" against this extreme legislation!
Click on the links below for information on these issues and web forms to help you contact Congress:
Repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision
(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
January 19, 11:00am-7:00pm, Brooklyn, NY, "Rave and Outlaw Summit: A Gathering of Youth Outreach Workers." Topics to include front-line outreach, the law and student aid, GHB and heroin overdose prevention and first-aid, Drugs 102, handling the media, and the state of the attacks on rave and club culture. At the Lunatarium, 10 Jay Street, contact DanceSafe NYC at email@example.com for further information.
January 19, noon-12:30pm, Washington, DC, "Dr. King's Legacy: Protecting Civil Liberties in the Wake of September 11," a rally and town hall meeting. At the Washington Convention Center, 900 9th St., NW, Hall C, contact Amber Khan of the DC ACLU at (202) 715-0831 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
January 20, Berkeley, CA, 1:00pm, California NORML new year's activist meeting. Topics to include DEA's action against the medical marijuana clubs, federal and state legislation, and other topics. At 2747 San Pablo Ave., RSVP to Dale Gieringer, email@example.com.
January 21, Albany, NY, Drop the Rock press conference opposing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, marking Martin Luther King Day. Near the Empire State Convention Center, followed by speakers, awards presentations, entertainment and a march on the capitol. Visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
January 24, 7:30pm, Melbourne, FL, "Express Yourself: A Guide to the First Amendment," role-playing workshop dealing with direct action, petition gathering and tabling for nonprofits. At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, call Kevin at (321) 726-6656 for further information.
January 25-27, New York, NY, "Maternal-State Conflicts: Claims of Fetal Rights & the Well-Being of Women & Families." Conference sponsored by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the Mt. Sinai Hospital-Based Clinical Education Initiative. For further information, call (212) 475-4218, visit http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 26, 8:30am-4:30pm, Pasadena, CA, "Unlocking Los Angeles: LA and the Prison Industrial Complex," conference of the Criminal Justice Consortium. At All Saints Church, 132 North Euclid Ave., e-mail email@example.com, visit http://www.idiom.com/~cjc/ or call (626) 296-3338 for further information.
January 26, 9:30pm-3:00am, Miami, FL, Benefit Concert for the medical marijuana petition drive. At the Tobacco Road Night Club, 626 South Miami Avenue, call Flash at (305) 579-0069 for info.
January 29, 7:30-10:00pm, Anniversary Party and Benefit for the Marijuana Policy Project. $10 admission, $5 for MPP members, at the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th Street, NW, featuring music by Sugar Jones (http://www.sugarjonesmusic.com) and a short speech by MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. For info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 29, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Kris Krane, national chapter coordinator for NORML. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 5, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Jodi James, director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 12, 8:00am, Indianapolis, IN, Jeanne Horton Support Rally, medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis being prosecuted by Marion County. At the Indianapolis City County Building, Market St. Entrance. For further information, contact Indiana NORML at (317) 923-9391 or (317) 335-6023, email@example.com or http://www.inorml.org.
February 16, 9:00am-4:00pm, Menands, NY, Drop The Rock Upstate-Downstate Coalition Organizers Conference, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway. Admission $20, includes continental breakfast and lunch, call Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.droptherock.org for information. For reduced rate lodging, call (518) 463-1121.
February 21-23, Washington, DC, National Families Against Mandatory Minimums Workshop. At the Washington Plaza Hotel, call (202) 822-6700 or visit http://www.famm.org for information.
February 23, noon, Tampa, FL, "Washington’s Birthday Hemp Festival." Sponsored by FORML, featuring music, vendors, speakers and more. At Lowry Park, contact Mike at (813) 779-2551 for further information.
February 28, 7:30pm, Melbourne, FL, "Marijuana: Medical Effects and Legal Consequences." At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, contact Jodi at (321) 253-3673 for info.
February 28-March 1, New York, NY, "Problem Solving Courts: From Adversarial Litigation to Innovative Jurisprudence." Panelists include former Attorney General Janet Reno, Rev. Al Sharpton and Mary Barr, Executive Director of Conextions. At Fordham University Law School, take the A, B, C, D, 1, and 9 subway trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle and walk one block west. For further information, call (656) 345-5352 or e-mail Subha_Dhanaraj@hotmail.com.
March 3-7, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 13th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm and 2nd International Harm Reduction Congress on Women and Drugs. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit http://www.ihrc2002.net or e-mail email@example.com for further information.
March 14, 7:30pm, Court Watch Project Training Meeting. At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, with the Florida Cannabis Action Network, call Kevin at (321) 726-6656 for further information.
March 24-27, Rimini, Italy, "Club Health 2002: The Second International Conference on Night-Life, Substance Use and Related Health Issues." Visit http://www.clubhealth.org.uk for info.
March 26, Albany, NY, "Drop The Rock Day," march and demonstration against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
April 8-13, Gainesville, FL, "Drug Education Week," series of presentations on different topics in the drug war, including daily keynote, followed by Saturday free concert. Hosted by University of Florida Students for Sensible Drug Policy, visit http://grove.ufl.edu/~ssdp/ or e-mail UFssdp@hotmail.com for further information.
April 18-20, San Francisco, CA, 2002 NORML Conference. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Square, registration $150, call (202) 483-5500 for further information. Online registration will be available at http://www.norml.org in the near future.
April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 for further information.
May 3-4, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time and Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, for further information visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com or call (804) 263-4484.
December 1-4, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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