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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #304, 9/26/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Patients vs. Prosecutors
  2. Pain Doctor Arrests Provoke Backlash -- Group Urges FDA to Stop Cooperating With Justice Department
  3. Cheryl Miller Memorial Project Does DC
  4. Hawaii Meth Mania: Drug Summit, Media Push Target "Ice"
  5. Playing It Smart: Sensible Seattle and the Winning of I-75
  6. Newsbrief: Dr. Hurwitz Indicted, Jailed in Campaign Against Pain Doctors
  7. Newsbrief: MAPS-Sponsored Ecstasy Research Wins Final FDA Approval
  8. Newsbrief: Rio de Janeiro Jails Stuffed With Drug Offenders
  9. Newsbrief: UN Warns Stimulants "Public Enemy Number One," Cites Flawed Science, Attacks "Liberalization"
  10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  11. Newsbrief: Cannabis Tolerance Showing Up in India
  12. Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Appeal BC Marijuana Legalization Ruling
  13. Newsbrief: Drug War Sparking Death Squad Killings Again in Philippines
  14. Newsbrief: Ashcroft Says No Plea Bargains in Latest Bid to Send America to Prison Forever
  15. Newsbrief: Mandatory Minimum Sentences Unfair, Says Supreme Court Justice
  16. This Week in History
  17. Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion
  18. Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions
  19. Errata: Last Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  20. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Editorial: Patients vs. Prosecutors

David Borden, Executive Director, borden@drcnet.org, 9/26/03

Years back in my Boston days, I often rode the "1" bus along Massachusetts Avenue traveling between Boston and Cambridge. There was another frequent passenger on the bus whom I've never forgotten, a woman suffering from some medical condition which would cause her extreme pain anytime she had to stand up, or sit down, or walk, or navigate stairs. Each time getting on and off of the bus, she would cry out in agony, multiple times, to the horror of other riders. I'm sure they remember her too.

At the time, I wondered, is there nothing that could be done to bring her relief? Has she just not seen the right doctor, or any doctor? Could she be steered in the right direction?

Now, of course, I understand very clearly what the likely reasons were for her uncontrolled pain. Some level of treatment with opioid drugs (also known as narcotics -- morphine, codeine, etc.), would probably have provided her some degree of relief. She probably did seek such treatment; in fact, she probably sought it multiple times. But the doctor or doctors she saw were probably too scared to write those prescriptions, in the quantities she needed. They probably feared that if they did, a sneaky drug agent and an overzealous prosecutor would come after them and put them in prison and out of business. And it's quite possible that that is what would have happened.

I am speculating, of course, but there's a strong chance that I'm right. And if I'm not, the issue is no less important, because that is exactly what is happening to huge numbers of chronic pain patients in America today. How many of Dr. Hurwitz's patients were unable to find adequate pain treatment after he closed his practice with advance notice last year in anticipation of government action against him? I will also speculate and say that US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty probably ordered Hurwitz be arrested on Thursday to ensure he would spend the weekend (and Jewish New Year) in jail before a judge could decide whether to hold or release him on bond, even though Hurwitz is clearly not a flight risk.

In the decades following abolition of slavery but preceding the gains of the Civil Rights movement, the south's most racist would lynch the occasional black man. They didn't need to wage full scale riots or pogroms against the southern black population, at least not most of the time. They could simply kill or beat one or a few people, once in awhile, to keep the rest of them in line.

Similarly, one bad prosecutor can go after a pain doctor -- just once -- and frighten the rest of the doctors into submission. They won't prescribe opioids, at least not in the quantity needed by my fellow bus rider in Boston, certainly not if she had a substance abuse history or once she developed tolerance to the drugs and needed more for the same effect. And without the doctors to prescribe them, the patients can't get them, at least not without resorting to the black market and all the risk and harm that goes along with that. Narcotics remain demonized, diversion bureaus' budget stay strong or go up, and McNulty gets a promotion or runs for office. It's very simple, and for the likes of him very easy.

Of course, McNulty is a respected government official carrying out his duty, not a member of a lynch mob committing murder. If his charges are off base, if his evidence is weak, Hurwitz and his lawyers have the opportunity to make that case in court. But I don't buy that argument. If the case isn't there -- and I am very confident in this case that it's not -- then it shouldn't be brought. There is no moral difference between an unjustified prosecution brought for political purposes and a kidnapping done for ransom, and lynch mobs also operated with tacit sanctioning by the authorities.

The harm to the good doctor's finances is enormous, and the government isn't going to pay that back. McNulty can't undo the damage his Thursday press conference caused to Hurwitz's reputation, or the strain that the ordeal of fighting a possible life sentence must take on Hurwitz and his family. And the collateral consequences for patients will be only marginally less with an acquittal than a conviction, at least in the short term. The official who commits an act of unjust persecution is not less guilty than the criminal who does so, but more: In addition to all the same crimes and outrages, he has also betrayed the public's trust, and like a terrorist has committed his evil acts while claiming they are good.

I don't know whether Paul McNulty is a monster devouring the lives of doctors and patients for his personal political gain, or just a misguided zealot led astray by the people around him. But the effects of his actions are equally terrible in either case. Just as the Civil Rights movement rose up half a century ago to stop the injustices of lynchings and Jim Crow, just as medical marijuana patients have risen up to demand their right to medicine, the pain patient movement is rising now as well, to beat back the prosecutors and stop the lynchings of their doctors. McNulty will soon realize he's made a mistake to regret the rest of his life.

Please read the next article as well as the leading newsbrief -- below or at http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/304/prn.shtml and http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/304/hurwitz.shtml -- for recent important information on this issue.


2. Pain Doctor Arrests Provoke Backlash -- Group Urges FDA to Stop Cooperating With Justice Department

"Something is terribly wrong with the way some criminal justice authorities have begun to enforce the law against physicians and pharmacists who prescribe and dispense high dose opioids to treat chronic pain. The necessary balance in pain policy... has tipped drastically in the direction of ruthless drug control and away from compassionate collaboration. This is a recent development. The past five years has generated an unprecedented list of health care providers charged with murder for allegedly providing inappropriately large quantities of opioids to pain patients."

-- Dr. David Brushwood, Mayday Scholar with the American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics, September 4, 2003

Dr. Deborah Bordeaux used to be a pain management specialist. Now she's a convicted felon facing a 100-year prison sentence as a drug dealer. Bordeaux was arrested when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and South Carolina law enforcement raided the Myrtle Beach clinic where she once prescribed opioids to severely ill patients. Siobhan Reynolds is a New York City-based film documentarian with a chronically ill life partner. When Reynolds attended Bordeaux's trial earlier this year, the South Carolina doctor's ordeal and the apparent miscarriage of justice prompted Reynolds to found a new group to advocate for pain patients and the health care workers who treat them, the Pain Relief Network (http://www.PainReliefNetwork.org).

Now Reynolds has enabled Bordeaux to find expert legal talent for her appeal, and the Pain Relief Network has called for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to quit cooperating with the Justice Department in classifying drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. The appeal is now more timely than ever, as the number of physicians charged by overzealous state or federal prosecutors grows ever larger. In Myrtle Beach, three of Bordeaux's coworkers have pled guilty in the face of potentially horrendous sentences (like Bordeaux's) if they don't. In Roanoke, Virginia, Dr. Cecil Knox is on trial on similar charges -- what prosecutors call operating a "pill mill" -- but what the cutting edge of pain management considers well within the bounds of contemporary medical practice. (In an indication of what may really be going on, one of the state's witnesses against was unable to recognize him in the courtroom last week.) And Thursday, Dr. William Hurwitz, a nationally known pain specialist from northern Virginia was arrested on drug trafficking charges related to his prescription practices. (See the newsbrief on Hurwitz's arrest this issue --http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/304/hurwitz.shtml -- and look for extensive coverage of this late-breaking story and the coordinated attack on pain doctors next week.)

And there are more, a growing number of physicians indicted and sometimes convicted of being drug traffickers but who say they were only doing what was best for patients. Dr. Robert Weitzel from Utah, Dr. Stan Naramore from Kansas, Dr. Frank Miller from California -- all were charged with murder or manslaughter, but saw either the charges dropped in the face of medical evidence or the verdicts overturned in appeals based on the medical evidence. Others were not so lucky. Florida Dr. James Graves sits in prison pending appeal after being convicted of manslaughter, while three other physicians face murder charges related to their prescribing opioids. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (http://www.aapsonline.org) maintains a list of more than 30 doctors it contends have been unfairly prosecuted over pain management issues.

On September 9, the Pain Relief Network addressed the FDA in response to the rising tide of physician prosecutions and urged it to halt cooperation with the Justice Department until Justice recognizes the current medical understanding of what constitutes acceptable pain care practices. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the FDA must holding hearings on drugs and "advise" the Attorney General as to their proper classification. PRN's Reynolds told the FDA committee the process was fraught with mischief since the Justice Department, through its prosecutions of physicians, had proven it was not interested in the scientific or medical evidence.

Explaining that because her ex-husband had suffered severe pain and problems getting it treated, she eventually formed a listserv for patients and physicians interested in the issue, Reynolds then told the committee what came next. "One by one, I watched as several of our most prominent members were arrested and charged with murder, or subjected to accusations of violating the Controlled Substances Act. I knew, as I watched, that something was going terribly wrong," she said. Reynolds described watching the trial of Dr. Bordeaux. "I sat alongside her and two other doctors tried on similar charges. I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the Justice Department was bringing out of date, antiscientific, prejudicial testimony into a US courtroom in the hopes of convincing the jury that by prescribing medication in conformity with the actual, up to date standard of care, the standard I was familiar with, that these doctors had done something shameful, something unspeakably wrong."

Hundreds of physicians have now been charged with CSA violations because of Justice's stubborn adherence to outdated science, she told the committee. "I'm here to tell you that a terrible misunderstanding has occurred here and that the public health has been inestimably damaged. All over America doctors have simply put down their pens, patients in pain have returned to their beds or committed suicide. The suffering and destruction of innocent life is unimaginable," Reynolds said. "PRN is therefore calling on you to suspend your cooperation with the DOJ and to stand solely for your primary commitment to safeguard the public health."

"What we need is a congressional investigation," Reynolds told DRCNet, "and now at least maybe this FDA panel has some idea. They were shocked. I had said the unsayable. The acting head of the committee thanked me for my testimony and suggested I serve on the panel as a patient advocate," she related. "He said I ought to apply for a seat, but oddly enough, I haven't been able to get a call back from them."

Reynolds and the PRN have taken a first step toward bringing the looming crisis in pain management care into the bowels of the federal bureaucracies. But with federal prosecutors cutting down pain doctors like weeds and congratulating themselves for jailing the "drug dealers," this is a battle that is far from over.

Note: DRCNet is currently seeking major funding to help the pain movement and rein in the out-of-control prosecutions of doctors. Please contact David Borden at (202) 362-0030 or borden@drcnet.org for further information.


3. Cheryl Miller Memorial Project Does DC

The Cheryl Miller Memorial Project hit Washington, DC, this week, with more than 20 patients, along with friends and supporters, holding press conferences, demonstrations and doing lobbying in memory of longtime Multiple Sclerosis patient and medical marijuana activist Miller, who died of complications from MS in June.

Highlights included a Capitol Hill press conference addressed by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), respective sponsors of the States Rights' to Medical Marijuana Act (H.R. 2233) and the Truth in Trials Act (H.R. 1717), along with patients and medical experts. Moderated by Jim Miller, husband of Cheryl, the press conference was emotional and powerful.

"This was one of the most moving press conferences I have ever attended," reported Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (http://www.cjpf.org). "While I have heard several of the patients speak before, many of those who spoke I had never met or heard. Their straightforward presentations of their struggles and the value of cannabis in relieving their conditions were extremely moving."

"How many more people must suffer and die before Congress does the right thing?" asked Wisconsin patient Gary Storck, referring to the lack of movement on the Frank and Farr bills. Storck traveled to DC from Wisconsin, along with Jackie Rickert, founder of Is My Medicine Legal Yet (http://www.immly.org), her caretaker and another patient.

"I would not be here today were it not for medical cannabis," Rickert, uses marijuana medicinally to treat debilitating symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, told the full-house audience in the House office building. She had once been able to obtain medical marijuana through a federal government program, she said, but that program had been shut down. Now she buys it on the black market. Other patients, including Jeanelle Bluhm of Oregon, Jay Howell of Washington, Joan Legospi of Washington, Beckie Nikkel of California, Darrell Paulson of Minnesota, John Precup of Ohio, and Lisa Rasmussen of California, told similar tales.

But the Cheryl Miller Memorial Project had more on its mind than a press conference. Participants also took advantage of their time in Washington to visit congressional offices and lobby the National MS Society, Miller told DRCNet. "We started out visiting Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ). It turned out to be an acrimonious visit," Miller laughed. "We took up the medical marijuana issue with Pallone back in 1991, and his office promised they would not vote against good bills but just adopt a neutral position. But then he voted against the Hinchey amendment [to bar the DEA from raiding medical marijuana providers] instead of abstaining. I picketed outside his house last Sunday, so I can understand they're not too happy with me, but he could stop all this by having a 20 minute discussion with us on the record. That was the goal, to get an appointment, but so far they're saying that won't be possible."

Pallone wasn't the only congressman who heard from patient lobbyists that day, said Miller. "One of the patients and I went to my congressman, Jim Saxton (R-NJ), and we had a better time with him. We didn't get him to cosponsor, but he was patient, and we've got the door open." Other patients visited their representatives and even came back with some promises of cosponsorship, particularly from congressmen who had sponsored one bill but not the other. "That was empowering for the patients. They come to DC for the first time, and are able to get a response," Miller said.

And then there was the National MS Society, which much to Miller's frustration has shied away from embracing or even seriously researching the efficacy of marijuana in addressing the symptoms of MS. "That was the best part of the whole trip for me," said Miller, "we really made a lot of progress there." The visit was not confrontational, Miller explained, but part of an effort to educate the groups' local chapters. "Seven or eight MS patients came and met with Washington office head Jeanne Angulo, and she was absolutely stunned by what she heard," he said. "She looked absolutely befuddled that she didn't know this already."

Miller and the patients are asking the National MS Society to engage in a dialogue with patients over medical marijuana and MS -- "they've never even asked us what we know" -- to address the incidence of "treatment failure" with cannabis, and to turn its attention to work done on cannabis and MS in England, where patients will soon be able to purchase a sublingual cannabis spray. The "treatment failure" request, Miller admitted, is a ploy to get the society to finally notice all the cases where cannabis actually helps relieve symptoms for MS patients.

Miller's hope is that Angulo, and other local society heads who are about to be visited by energized patients, will begin bothering the society about the issue. "We'd like to see this end up with a visit with National MS Society director Dr. Steven Rheingold," said Miller. "We need to make this personal with him."

Miller praised the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (http://www.norml.org) for both its financial backing and its organizational assistance in Washington, and held out special kudos for Wisconsin patient Storck. "Gary was the hub of this," said Miller, "it couldn't have happened without him." The Project was also assisted by the Drug Policy Alliance's press office and a grant from the Tides Fund for Drug Policy Reform.

As for concrete results, Miller pointed to exposing a new group of powerful activists to the inner workings of the Capitol. "This was very empowering, they will be back, perhaps in smaller groups, but they will be back," he said. "And let's see if this resulted in any changes of mind or new sponsorships. We opened a lot of doors, but we need to see action. You don't know how well you did for awhile."

Visit http://www.cheryldcmemorial.org to learn more about the Cheryl Miller Memorial Project. View pictures from the two days at http://www.cheryldcmemorial.org/92203_ms_pts_ms_soc.htm and http://www.cheryldcmemorial.org/92303_press_conf.htm and http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/cheryl-mssociety.html and see http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/303/cheryldc.shtml for DRCNet's preview report on the event last week.


4. Hawaii Meth Mania: Drug Summit, Media Push Target "Ice"

Wednesday night, every television station in Hawaii turned its airwaves over to a documentary on "ice," as the Aloha State refers to the smoked methamphetamine popular there, followed by a statewide series of townhall-style meetings on the "ice menace." The collective examination of the state's methods of dealing with methamphetamine use was only the reprise for a more formal gathering last week, the Hawaii Ice Summit. And the summit in turn was preceded by months of increasingly shrill and ubiquitous mass media coverage of what it almost always referred to as the ice "epidemic."

But while the coverage was shrill, the problem is real, according not only to law enforcement and treatment professionals, but drug reformers and academic researchers as well. According to Dr. David Friar, an addiction psychiatrist working in the public sector in Honolulu who has tracked meth use in the islands, Hawaii ranks at the top when it comes to the stimulant. "Here, 44% of all arrestees test positive for meth," he told DRCNet. "This is the highest rate in the nation, although we also see high use in some areas on the mainland, San Diego and Kansas City, for example."

And methamphetamine abuse shows up in other indicators, as well, Friar said. "Meth is involved in 90% of Child Protective Service cases where children are removed from the home. Abuse and neglect rates are staggering. Roughly 50% of all ER visits are meth-connected -- the presentation often being of someone who is highly agitated, paranoid and violent, the so-called meth warrior," the researcher explained. "The fact that these folks are out there makes for a climate that feels less safe, on the roads for instance. Crime also has increased greatly in the past few years. Also there have been quite a few heinous violent high-profile crimes where the perpetrator was tested positive for meth."

Meth abuse indeed is a problem, agreed Pamela Lichty, head of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (http://www.dpfhi.org). "There are some arguments about the numbers," she told DRCNet, "but we cannot hide the fact that this is a real problem. It's been a long time coming, but has been building for 15 or 20 years, since about the time marijuana eradication took off. The ice problem has been growing and growing since then."

Although you wouldn't know it from following the local media, which is currently in something approaching an "all meth, all the time" mode, Hawaii does suffer other social problems, some of which may even be helping to fuel meth abuse. "We have a budget deficit like every other state," said Lichty, "and tourism has not bounced back from 9/11 and the Iraq war. We're very low in per capita education spending, our schools are poor, and the social safety net is eroding. The rise of crystal meth is a consequence of the deterioration of the safety net, along with attendant poverty, and the main response is the over-incarceration of native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders," she said.

But those issues are complicated and intractable. It's easier to get a grasp of concepts like the demon drug, and that is what a broad spectrum of interested Hawaiians attempted to do with last week's meth summit. Some 400 people representing law enforcement, treatment, education, prevention and harm reduction perspectives gathered in Waikiki to seek solutions. While one day was spent listening to speeches from the likes of Lieutenant Governor James Aiona, who has made meth a pet project, the real action was in the second and third day's break-out sessions, where small groups met to grapple with specific parts of the big picture. The resulting recommendations, which will be forwarded to Governor Linda Lingle (R), include:

  • Create a Hawaii Substance Abuse Commission to, among other responsibilities, ensure collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders.
  • Appoint a temporary director to follow up with summit recommendations and establish an executive branch level office or body.
  • "Ensure adequate funding and services from public and private sources to provide a full continuum of comprehensive, appropriate, effective and efficient substance abuse disorder treatment to all people who want/need services without discrimination."
  • An effective treatment approach that includes a "person-centered" model, diverse services and adequate financial support. Increased money could come from asset forfeiture, parity for drug treatment, dedicated grant writers and private sector initiatives.
  • Refine domestic abuse laws, enact laws to allow parents to guide their children's behavior, and review and enact laws regarding wiretaps and search and seizures, effective police tools and mandatory treatment.
  • "Provide law enforcement with the laws and means necessary to arrest and prosecute drug dealers; and provide judges with the laws and means for appropriate sentencing of drug dealers and users, consistent with civil liberties."
  • "We the communities of Hawai'i, in the spirit of aloha, will be equal voices and partners in designing, developing and deciding strategies, resources and systems of allocation to attain and sustain all our agreed upon goals."
  • Create and develop community action groups/summits to mobilize resources that will foster and support safe and healthy local communities.
While some thought the summit would be mainly a feel-good exercise or a forum for police, they were pleasantly surprised. "I went to the summit with skepticism, expecting it to be a whitewash or a pre-determined exercise favoring law enforcement," said Friar. "Instead it was substantial. The participants were broadly representative of the community, people from different backgrounds and perspectives who had extensive experience with and knowledge of the problem, who were deeply committed. There was lots that could be criticized -- there wasn't nearly enough discussion of harm reduction, for instance -- but on the whole it was a positive experience. I and many others left with a feeling of cautious hopefulness."

Lichty, too, pronounced herself generally satisfied with the make-up of the conference and the tenor of the recommendations. "It was really heartening to see the outcry for treatment, even from law enforcement," she said. "We came to the summit specifically to make counter-proposals to police recommendations, but we were also really pushing for treatment opportunities. We formed a group called Heart and we had buttons saying things like 'treatment protects communities' and 'drug testing is not prevention.'"

But Lichty also pointed to the summit's shortcomings. "A lot of key players were not invited," she noted. "They didn't invite the Honolulu City Council, which was a mistake because they control the police, they didn't invite the head of the needle exchange program, they only invited the chairs -- not the members -- of the legislative drug task force, and they didn't invite the woman running the federal Matrix study of meth users -- now that's outrageous!"

And, according to Lichty and Friar, legalization remained the drug policy that dare not speak its name. "There was plenty of talk about harm reduction," said Lichty, "but no one got up to talk about legalization." Neither were the putative subjects of the summit -- methamphetamine users -- invited, with the exception of ex-users or users in treatment. "There was no one to get up and say I'm a current user," Lichty reported. "It's a pretty scary atmosphere for something like that."

"No, there was no mention of legalization," agreed Friar. "But there was plenty of recognition, even among law enforcement, that we can't arrest our way out of this."

Still, Lichty said, the summit was an opportunity to dialogue with and rein in law enforcement on the margins. "You see in that recommendation about providing law enforcement with effective means where it says 'consistent with civil liberties'?" Lichty asked. "That was us."

Keeping the cops in line will be a continuing battle for Hawaii reformers. While the summit produced some general recommendations to ease restrictions on police, the legislature's Joint Senate House Committee on Ice and Drug Abatement is following a parallel course and is expected to present its own package of anti-meth policing bills when the next session begins in January. "The police want to undo some of our state constitution privacy provisions so they can question people without any suspicion at airports," Lichty said, "and the US Attorney here wants to amend the wiretap statutes to make it easier to do drug investigations. There has also been some talk about criminalizing pregnant women who use substances. I think we can beat that back, but every time we get a 'children of ice' story on the local news, it gets more difficult."

And even for the non-police recommendations -- treatment, education, harm reduction -- the key question is follow-up, and follow-up requires funding. "Really, it's going to come down to where we're going to put our few precious dollars, as a community, as a state," Nanci Kreidman, executive director of the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, told the Maui News. "The dicey part of course, is always carrying it out," Kreidman said. "There are so many competing demands."

Elaine Wilson, chief of the Department of Health's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, told the News the summit left her optimistic about funding. Her pleas for more treatment and prevention money had fallen on deaf ears for years, she said, "but never before have the governor and lieutenant governor had this much focus on the need for treatment and the need to really make an impact on the substance abuse problem. "Not that in the past people haven't helped us, but this is fabulous."

Lichty's take was a bit less enthused. "Yes, there is an overwhelming consensus for treatment, and it's all very politically correct, gender specific, culturally sensitive and all that, but this is all about following the money. We will support more money for treatment, yes, but we will also have to counteract the heavy law enforcement emphasis, we will have to argue that speed is like other drugs, that its users are amenable to treatment and prevention, broadly defined to include harm reduction approaches."

And someone might want to look at the social components of methamphetamine abuse in Hawaii. "People often work two or three jobs here, so that makes ice attractive," said Friar. "Of course, it also leads to spectacular crashes. Poverty and cultural factors also have something to do with it, and so might the emphasis on marijuana eradication in the 1980s. But those causative factors are complex."

Visit http://www.hawaii.gov/ltgov/drugsummit/ for more on the Hawaii drug summit.


5. Playing It Smart: Sensible Seattle and the Winning of I-75

For the national media, the only thing that happened in Seattle's elections last week was the defeat of a 10-cent per cup espresso tax. But caffeine wasn't the only drug on the ballot in Seattle. By a margin of 58% to 42%, Seattle voters approved Initiative 75 (I-75), which directs Seattle police and prosecutors to make marijuana possession arrests the lowest law enforcement priority.

While not decriminalizing marijuana possession, the successful initiative should bring down the number of marijuana possession arrests in the city. Seattle police have said that the initiative will not make much difference since police only made 400 pot possession arrests last year, but 400 arrests is still more than one per day. And city attorney Tom Carr has worried publicly that defense lawyers will challenge any possession arrest as going against the will of the voters.

While Seattle law enforcement may be correct in saying that the passage of I-75 will not make a big difference in day to day policing and prosecuting, it is a huge symbolic victory for the forces of reform. Seattle voters have now gone on record as saying they do not believe it is a proper use of taxpayer funds to throw marijuana users in jail.

To get a sense of how the victory was won -- especially in the face of opposition from drug czar John Walters, who has made defeating marijuana-friendly initiatives a top priority -- DRCNet talked with some of the key players involved. What emerges is the story of a calculated, carefully crafted campaign done on a relatively low budget but using the entire panoply of modern political techniques, from coalition building to push-polling to fine-toothed voter data analysis.

Dominic Holden, head of Washington NORML and a central organizer of the annual Seattle Hempfest -- the world's largest marijuana rally with about 100,000 people attending on each of two days -- also played a key role as head of the steering committee for Sensible Seattle (http://www.sensibleseattle.org), which organized the campaign for the I-75 initiative. "This was an effort that began three years ago," Holden told DRCNet. "I met with the ACLU of Washington to sit down at a roundtable about how to move forward, and we hired the ACLU's Andy Coe to write the first draft. We also hired a campaign expert, Matthew Fox, to help us work smarter," Holden said. "We created an initiative and had begun working on it in 2001, but then came September 11 and it became clear that trying to do anything not related to the war on terrorism was too unpopular, so we dropped that effort and began again with I-75 last year."

But from the beginning Holden and Sensible Seattle reached out for funding that would allow the campaign to succeed. "We formed a steering committee early on, we applied for and received grants from the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance," he explained. "We also asked the ACLU to include us in their budget this year, and they did." The cost for the initiative campaign came in a just under $200,000, said Holden, "and that included not only the big contributors but also money we raised from going door-to-door."

With a respectable war chest, Sensible Seattle was able to hire another campaign consultant, Blair Butterworth, who ran successful campaigns for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Washington Governor Gary Locke. "Butterworth really brought some discipline to the campaign," Holden said. "He told us what was safe to say, and on his recommendation we ran a stealth campaign. We had a web site and voice mail, but we decided not to actively seek media coverage."

That's because the stories kept on coming out skewed, Holden explained. "Reporters always loved the fact that I was also the director of Hempfest, which terrifies older voters, and while they would give a good chunk of the story to our side, the editors always, always found it more compelling to lead with what elected officials or law enforcement had to say, and they felt compelled to write headlines like 'Police Oppose Pot Initiative," he said. "We stopped sending out press releases, we quit seeking out the media, and in some cases, especially with the conservative press, we found ourselves too busy to respond to their interview requests."

If Sensible Seattle wasn't playing the media game, it played the coalition-building game very well. "We formed a working group with the King County Bar Association, the public defenders, city and county council members, the League of Women Voters, and the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, among others," said Holden. "We were able to bring together lots of groups that had taken a stance against the war on drugs and we gave them a chance to work on I-75. That gave the various groups the opportunity to get to know each other and work together."

That's right, said Doug Hoenig, executive director of the ACLU of Washington. "We worked with numerous organizations on this, and we were very involved in the campaign," he told DRCNet. "We helped draft the initiative, we provided some financial support, and we mobilized our volunteers for phone-banking and other grassroots organizing. But we were part of a coalition that included a number of groups working on broader drug policy issues."

One group not normally counted among the usual suspects when it comes to drug reform is the League of Women Voters, but perhaps that's because reformers aren't keeping their eyes open, said Nancy Eitreim, president of the League's Seattle chapter. "We've been working on drug policy issues since at least 1992," she told DRCNet. "We advised the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project when they did their comprehensive drug policy study that year, and took a position supporting prevention, education and treatment as a means of reducing demand for drugs. We've been at this for awhile," she reiterated.

The League's Seattle chapter, with some 750 members, has continued to examine drug policy, Eitreim said, adding that supporting I-75 was a natural for the League. "Some of our members have remained involved with the Bar Association project," she said, "but it was also the research showing that people of color and low-income people were getting arrested in disproportionate numbers for minor drug crimes like marijuana possession that got us to support the initiative when it was filed a year ago."

But Sensible Seattle did more than avoid reporters and build broad coalitions. It did polling and used the results to craft its message, Holden said. "We spent $14,000 on Seattle's leading polling firm to have them ask voters what they thought of I-75, and we presented a series of messages to see which voters responded to. That was smart, because it showed us which messages worked," he explained. "We also tested possible counter-messages from the opposition to see which were most powerful, and that, too, proved to be extremely useful. That is the power of polling." (Most effective opposition messages, said Holden: "It sends the wrong message to kids" and "What about drugged drivers?" Most effective pro-initiative message: "People are still going to jail for pot.")

Polling also helped the coalition figure out who voters liked and didn't like and craft its message accordingly. "It was clear to us that we needed spokespeople who looked more like our electorate than I do," said Holden. "Our electorate, especially in a primary election, is older. We polled on responses to individuals, and we found that voters loathed Bush and Ashcroft, but respected the ACLU of Washington and the King County Bar Association. The KCBA had the credibility, the gravitas, to avoid being seen as too controversial. (KCBA Drug Policy Project director Roger Goodman was on vacation this week and unavailable for comment.)

"Oh, they really hate Bush out here," said Holden. "Little old ladies on the bus will spontaneously burst into diatribes about how bad he is. So when drug czar Walter came up to campaign against us, that didn't help the opposition. In fact, because of our polling, we created a mailer that had a photo of John Ashcroft paired against two smiling older people. 'Who's right about I-75?', that mailing asked."

(One thing Walters' visit accomplished was to provoke the Marijuana Policy Project to once again challenge him to debate --anywhere, anytime -- on marijuana policy. "The real issue," Walters told a September 10 meeting in Seattle, "is should we legalize marijuana. Let's have a national debate on that." The Marijuana Policy Project has taken up that challenge (http://www.mpp.org/warondrugczar/), but has yet to receive a response, said MPP Communications Director Bruce Mirken.)

That mailer was one of three commissioned by the campaign. The second mailer featured medical marijuana patients, while the third mailer asked whether police should be allowed to focus on violent crimes and whether tax dollars couldn't be better spent. "The mailers were laid out by a campaign literature professional," said Holden. "It cost more money, but it was worth it to have campaign materials with a professional look and feel."

Campaign adviser Butterworth made sure those mailers were sent to appropriate households, Holden said. "He hired a local database firm to look at Seattle voters -- and even non-voters," he explained. "We used the data to target out mailings to hit where they would do the most good. We also used a Midwest phone bank company to call friendly voters before the election, as well as using volunteers."

Sensible Seattle's financial approach also seems very sensible. While it was unafraid to spend money for political necessities, it kept operating expenses low. "We don't have an office," said Holden. "The office is a cell phone I carry with me. That costs us $350 a year, and we don't pay for office space, or staff, or computers."

While Holden and the rest of Sensible Seattle are pleased with their immediate result, they also see the I-75 victory as a stepping-stone (gateway?) to larger victories in the future. "This vote sent a message that voters don't want to throw pot-smokers in jail," said the Washington ACLU's Hoenig, "but it also sends a more general message of discontent with the way the war on drugs is being waged. We had the drug czar, the city attorney, the police chief all opposed, the two major dailies editorialized against us, but the public didn't buy their arguments. This gives a lot of encouragement to anyone concerned about changing course in the war on drugs."

As for Holden, he told DRCNet he hoped the lessons learned in Seattle could be applied elsewhere, but that reformers needed to plan carefully. "This was a big challenge, especially in the current climate," he said. "I'm not certain something like this would work in every city. It was the right thing at the right time in Seattle, but it could ultimately be a big drain of energy and resources if you fail. You need to consider that carefully. And when in doubt, start with a poll."


6. Newsbrief: Dr. Hurwitz Indicted, Jailed in Campaign Against Pain Doctors

Retired McLean, Virginia, pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz was arrested Wednesday morning and sits in jail pending a Monday bail hearing after being indicted on federal charges related to his use of high doses of opioid pain relievers in the course of his medical practice. A 49-count indictment charges the nationally known specialist with drug trafficking resulting in death and serious injury, engaging in a criminal enterprise, conspiracy and health care fraud. The most serious charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Hurwitz is the latest pain doctor to fall victim to an Oxycontin-fueled Justice Department crusade against doctors it considers to be no more than drug dealers. But the doctors' defenders charge that federal prosecutors and DEA agents are ill-qualified to pass judgment on the latest advances in pain management, which include sometimes massive doses of opioids within accepted medical practice.

"Dr. Hurwitz is a legitimate medical doctor with expertise in the area of the management of intractable chronic pain," his attorney, James Hundley, told the Washington Post Thursday." He was doing nothing but providing appropriate medical care. The government has come in and taken a medical issue and attempted to apply horribly twisted logic to it through criminal statutes."

"The indictment and arrests in Virginia demonstrate our commitment to bring to justice all those who traffic in this very dangerous drug," countered Attorney General John Ashcroft in a press release trumpeting the arrest. "We will continue to pursue vigorously physicians, patients and others who are responsible for turning OxyContin from a legitimate painkiller to a vehicle of addiction and death."

US Attorney for Northern Virginia Paul J. McNulty told the Post that Hurwitz was a "major and deadly drug dealer" who dispensed not proper pain relief but "misery and sometimes death." Hurwitz's patients, including some who have spoken to DRCNet in the past, tell a different story. Hurwitz closed his practice last year, telling DRCNet he feared indictment and that he wanted his patients to have time to find alternate caregivers.

The indictment of William Hurwitz, which came late in this week's DRCNet news cycle, is a major development in the conflict between medicine and the Justice Department, but others are occurring as these words are written. Look for extensive DRCNet coverage of the issue next week, and click the following links for some of our previous reporting on Dr. Hurwitz:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/263/hurwitzraid.shtml
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/252/drhurwitz.shtml
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/087.html#undertreatment
http://www.drcnet.org/guide10-96/pain.html

7. Newsbrief: MAPS-Sponsored Ecstasy Research Wins Final FDA Approval

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced Tuesday that its groundbreaking study on the therapeutic use of MDMA (ecstasy) in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has conquered the penultimate government hurdle. The Institutional Review Board reviewing the proposed research granted final approval Tuesday, after nearly two years of allowing it to languish.

The Institutional Review Board decision is required under Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. The FDA approved the study in November 2001. MAPS noted that it took eight separate applications before various IRBs before succeeding this week.

Now, the proposed study lacks only the issuance of a DEA Schedule I license for researcher Dr. Michael Mithoefer. MAPS applied for that license 15 months ago. "We hope to receive a license somewhat quickly now that IRB approval has been obtained, but you can never tell with DEA," the group noted. Once that license has been granted, the research can begin.

Researchers in the 1980s began research into MDMA's therapeutic effects on a number of disorders, but that research was squelched when MDMA was reclassified as a Schedule I substance in 1986 after partiers in Texas were observed having way too much fun with it. MAPS has been instrumental in attempting to get research into the drug's therapeutic uses going in, and has even crafted a "5-year Clinical Plan to make MDMA into a prescription medicine for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder."

For more information, visit the MDMA research pages at MAPS, http://www.maps.org/research/mdma/.


8. Newsbrief: Rio de Janeiro Jails Stuffed With Drug Offenders

Data released last week by by prison health authorities in Rio de Janeiro shows that 80% of 18-to-30-year-old in Rio's prisons are doing time for drug trafficking offenses. The figure is 60% for women. The study by the state Prison Administration Secretariat's Health Superintendency profiled some 1,624 male prisoners at Ary Franco Prison and 138 female prisoners at the state's Nelson Hungria Prison.

Prison Health Superintendent Edison José Biondi told O Estado de Sao Paolo that most prisoners are drug users and that many continue to use while in prison. According to Biondi, 78% of men and 72% of women prisoners used marijuana prior to arrest, and nearly half of the men and about one-third of the women continued to smoke in jail. Similarly, 66% of men and 77% of women prisoners used cocaine prior to arrest, while 24% and 21% respectively continued to snort behind bars.

"Use decreased because of the toughness of getting drugs in," said Biondi, "but it exists. We debunked the idea that you don't have drugs in prison."

While Brazilian prison health officials see solutions in treatment programs, the pervasiveness of marijuana and cocaine and their widespread sales by users guarantees a continuing supply of new prisoners absent real change in Brazilian drug policies. Reformers greeted the election of Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva with great hope, but he has so far failed to deliver on hinted drug policy changes. In the meantime, the Brazilian state resorts to "therapeutic justice," an Orwellian-sounding counterpart to the US drug court system, which enlists health professionals to serve criminal justice ends.


9. Newsbrief: UN Warns Stimulants "Public Enemy Number One," Cites Flawed Science, Attacks "Liberalization"

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Tuesday that the use of amphetamine-type stimulants, including methamphetamine and MDMA or ecstasy, have surpassed heroin and cocaine as the most commonly used hard drugs. In remarks at a Rome press conference and in a subsequent Reuters interview, UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa used the announcement of the findings to lash out at "liberalizers," repeated discredited claims about ecstasy's dangers, and bemoaned the fact that few people die from ecstasy or amphetamine overdoses.

UNODC's Ecstasy and Amphetamines Global Survey 2003 found that seizures of what the UN calls "amphetamine-type stimulants" (ATS) had increased ten-fold during the 1990s, from four tons to forty tons, and estimated total annual ATS production at 500 tons in 2001. That supply fed the habits of some 40 million users worldwide. Amphetamines were more widely used in Asia, with Thailand reporting a world-leading 5.6% of its population using speed, while in Western Europe and North America, ecstasy was the most commonly reported ATS.

"Profits are driving the business," the report stated, adding that one kilogram of ATS, sold at black market prices, typically pays for the initial investment in setting up a small laboratory. UNODC estimated profit rates for ATS producers at 3000-4000% and pegged the trade's value at $65 billion per year. And it is a growth market, according to UNODC, which found a 70% increase in ecstasy use from 1995 to 2001 and a 40% increase in speed use.

But the fact that production is spurred by windfall black market profits was less worrisome than the specter of "culturally sanctioned" drug use for Costa, who warned in Rome that: "The abuse of synthetic drugs risks becoming culturally sanctioned, blurring the notion of drug addiction, as parents and governments alike are confused about the severity of their impact. Especially alarming are occasional calls for some form of liberalization of substances that have the potential to maim our youth." For emphasis, Costa added that, "Opting out, namely -- accepting any notion of the liberalization of the market, is not an option, as the health of our society is at risk. Better safe than sorry," Costa concluded.

If there is confusion about the severity of the health impact of ATS, Costa and the UNODC contributed to it by referring to the now discredited research of Dr. George Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. Ricaurte is currently gaining infamy for trumpeting alarmist findings about neurological damage from ecstasy based on studies that he has now had to retract (see http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/302/oops.shtml and http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/303/escandal.shtml for info). But the ongoing reassessment of Ricaurte's now increasingly challenged work escaped UNODC, which warned of "worrying health implications of Ecstasy include Neurotoxicity, an early decline in mental function and memory, or the onset of Alzheimer-type symptoms."

Costa was in full alarmist mode during his Monday interview, warning Reuters that ATS drugs are "publicly enemy number one." And they are insidious. "These are terrifying narcotics because they are subtle -- they kill the brain rather than the heart," he said. "The problem is that few people die from using synthetic drugs. There are no scary headlines of people dying of overdoses. Instead, there is a slow mental deterioration -- danger by stealth."

Damn, if we could only get some overdoses! Hmmm, maybe if we had Dr. Ricaurte administer the drugs...

Visit http://www.unodc.org/unodc/publications/report_ats_2003-09-23_1.html to read the UNODC report online.


10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

Drug war corruption of the most banal and venal sort is alleged in Kentucky this week. A routine September 17 plea bargain hearing took an unexpected turn when a 19-year-old Ludlow man, Edward Elmore, accused Ludlow Police Chief Ray Murphy of offering to make his case go away for $1,000. And it's not the first time such accusations have been made against Ludlow Police.

Elmore, who was arrested August 12 at a "marijuana party" along with two others, had accepted a plea bargain from Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Jim Redwine.

Redwine agreed to drop a felony charge of cultivating marijuana in return for a guilty plea to possession and a reduced misdemeanor charge of unlawful transaction with a minor. Elmore was looking at a 180-day suspended sentence and a $500 fine as part of the deal -- business as usual, so far, in the lower levels of the war on drugs. And so was the pro forma questioning of Elmore by Kenton County District Court Judge Doug Grothaus to put the judicial imprimatur on the deal. But all that changed when Grothaus asked if anyone had made any promises or offers to Elmore.

"Yes, your honor," Elmore replied.

A startled Grothaus asked, "What was that offer?"

Elmore: "It was, I think, it was the police department of Ludlow."

Grothaus: "And what was that offer?"

Elmore: "$1,000 to get rid of all the fines."

Grothaus: "And who made that offer to you?"

Elmore: "The police chief."

Grothaus: "And what was that person's name?"

Elmore: "I don't quite remember."

Grothaus: "Was it Chief Ray Murphy?"

Elmore: "Yeah, that was it."

Elmore told Grothaus that he had not spoken directly with Chief Murphy, but that Murphy had relayed the offer through Elmore's attorney, Bob Braun. Grothaus then ordered Braun to the stand, but he refused to testify, citing attorney-client privilege. Outside the courthouse, however, he told the Kentucky Post Elmore was telling the truth. "His testimony was accurate," Braun said. "My client told the truth today."

Elmore's plea bargain is now on hold and Judge Grothaus has said he is forwarding the accusation to the appropriate authorities. "Given the nature of the atmosphere that is going on, and the fact that Mr. Elmore has indicated that an offer was communicated through his attorney -- from the police chief of Ludlow requesting $1,000 -- to make this all go away, causes the court grave concern," Grothaus said.

Murphy has denied making the offer and remains on the job at press time, but Elmore's accusation threatens to drag him into an ongoing scandal surrounding Ludlow police Detective Bill Shilling, who is being investigated by the state police for allegedly offering leniency in drug arrests in return for drug forfeiture money or "reimbursements" to the police department. Schilling sent letters to drug defendants offering to get felonies reduced to misdemeanors if the targets would "reimburse" the department for investigating them.

The Kentucky Post reported that a copy of one of Schilling's letters it obtained shows he also asked people facing charges to become informants and make drug buys. In one letter, a "proffer" to Carolyn Merritt, who was arrested along with her parents and husband during a Schilling-engineered "drug sweep" in February, Schilling suggested she forfeit $30,000 to the department instead of having the police seize her home. He also demanded that she make drug buys from five different people so she could inform on them and that she perform 100 hours of community service "at the discretion of the Ludlow Police Department."

Kenyon County law enforcement and criminal justice official all said that Schilling was acting on his own and that they authorized no such deals. Schilling remains on the job pending the state police investigation. Merritt pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge; charges against her parents were dropped. The case of Chief Murphy smells of banal personal corruption, but that of Detective Schilling betrays the stench of a more institutionalized corruption that usually goes unremarked upon -- until someone like Schilling gets a little too honest and puts it in writing.


11. Newsbrief: Cannabis Tolerance Showing Up in India

A pair of press reports from India suggest that a US-style war against cannabis is unlikely in the world's most populous democracy. In a story last week from Hyderabad, the capital of south-central Andra Pradesh state, the Times of India reported that "marijuana -- "ganja" or "bhang" in common parlance -- has come out of the closet. No more a clandestine trade, pan and cigarette shops are passe, the stuff is now openly sold from houses too. The reason: they have the tacit approval of the local cops and even some politicians. "In fact, a close relative of a minister too peddles ganja," the Times noted with a wink and a nod.

The intrepid Times recounted easily scoring on the street, although some of the sales pitches may stretch the truth. "It's a cure for core diseases," offered one seller dressed as a sadhu (holy man). "Take this medicine twice a day, and you will live for 130 years. A sadhu at Bolarum who used to take it lived that long," he told the Times man.

If they're winking at pot in Hyderabad, the voice of the Indian business class isn't too alarmed. In an article on Dutch medical marijuana last week in the Business Standard, the Indian version of the Wall Street Journal, the Standard praised Holland's "laissez-faire attitude" as beneficial to the Dutch and for leading the way to reform for all of Europe. India should follow the Dutch lead, the Standard suggested. "Decriminalization could be similarly beneficial to India, where scarce policing resources could be concentrated on chasing more dangerous substances such as heroin or RDX. Decriminalization would enable research into the medical properties of cannabis and help India cope with the flood of HIV cases that will emerge over the next few years."


12. Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Appeal BC Marijuana Legalization Ruling

The Canadian federal justice department will appeal a British Columbia provincial court judge's ruling that there is no valid law against marijuana possession in the province (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/303/bccourt.shtml). The September 4 ruling by Judge Patrick Chen followed similar rulings by courts in three other Canadian provinces, but unlike the Ontario ruling in particular, which was made by the highest court in the province, Chen's ruling is not binding on other BC judges. Neither do BC prosecutors and police consider the law to be invalidated at this point, also unlike Ontario, where police have conceded they have no power to arrest simple pot possessors.

Lyse Cantin, the federal justice department's BC spokesperson, announced September 18 that prosecutors have filed a notice of appeal. That news was greeting warmly by BC Marijuana Party (http://www.bcmarijuanaparty.org) head Mark Emery, who told the Vancouver Sun Chen would prevail. "That's a good thing for everyone, I would think. It'll be appealed to BC's Supreme Court and they'll rule in the favor of the judge." Chen's ruling, he said, was "ironclad."

All of the provincial court rulings vacating marijuana possession laws stem from a 2000 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling holding the marijuana laws invalid because they failed to provide for medical users and giving parliament a year to act. It didn't, and the courts did. Chen is the latest jurist to agree that "Section 4 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, as it applies to marijuana, ceased to be valid legislation after July 31, 2001."


13. Newsbrief: Drug War Sparking Death Squad Killings Again in Philippines

Flagellated by a sensationalist press and egged-on by publicity-seeking politicians, the Philippines is deep in the depths of another round of drug war madness, and the death toll is mounting -- again. Just a few years ago, Davao City was the scene of vigilante-style executions of hundreds of suspected drug dealers, and now, according to the General Santos Sunstar, the anti-drug death squads are showing up in General Santos City.

As usual, the authorities pronounce themselves mystified by the killings -- all of people on police watch lists of suspected dealers or users -- or suggest that the drug dealers are killing each other. But local residents told the paper they believed the killings were the work of Davao-style death squads.

More than 120 people have been killed in what police call "drug related summary executions" in General Santos City since November 2001. That's according to Efren Alcuizar, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for Central Mindanao. All of them were on anti-drug watch lists, he said. But PDEA had nothing to do with it, he was quick to add. The latest victims, two young men in their twenties, were gunned down by hooded, motorcycle-riding vigilantes on September 13 and 14, the newspaper reported.

Local businessmen could be paying the killers, Alcuizar suggested, citing the May 2002 case of two would-be assassins captured by police who said they were being paid by business interests to kill drug dealers. Those two later were killed "reportedly attempting to escape," the paper noted. Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr., however, denied the existence of anti-drug vigilante groups in the city. Instead, he suggested, the killings are the result of drug deals gone bad or disputes over profits.


14. Newsbrief: Ashcroft Says No Plea Bargains in Latest Bid to Send America to Prison Forever

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced this week that he is ordering federal prosecutors to limit the use of plea bargains and to go for the throat in charging and sentencing defendants in criminal cases. The policy shift is only the latest in a series of moves by Ashcroft this year to make federal prison sentences harsher and to restrain federal judges who increasingly balk at sending low-level offenders to prison for decades. "Federal prosecutors must charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses that are supported by the facts," Ashcroft said in a memo to US attorneys released Monday. "Charges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to get a plea."

Under the new Ashcroft directive, plea bargains would still be permitted, but only if defendants agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations. The new guidelines also generously allow for plea bargains in cases where "the possible maximum sentence is unaffected by the agreement," when it appears the government is losing, or on a case-by-case basis with written approval from a supervisor.

The move comes on the heels of Ashcroft's efforts earlier this year to see the federal death penalty applied more broadly and to order prosecutors to appeal cases where judges have handed down sentences below federal sentencing guidelines. This latest policy shift is sure to further inflame the growing national debate over John Ashcroft's temperament and fitness to serve as Attorney General, a concern held not only by drug reformers and prisoner interest groups, but a growing number of organizations and individuals concerned about Ashcroft's behavior in both the war on drugs and the war on terror.

The Associated Press reported that when asked about his new policy in Milwaukee on Monday, Ashcroft described his goal as equal justice. "It's important that when the law is broken in Milwaukee, it's attended by the same consequences as when it's broken in Denver," he said.


15. Newsbrief: Mandatory Minimum Sentences Unfair, Says Supreme Court Justice

Even as Attorney General John Ashcroft moved once again to quash any tendencies toward leniency in federal sentencing, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Sunday became the second justice in recent weeks to attack overly rigid federal criminal sentences. In a speech at the John F Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, Breyer called mandatory minimum sentences "unfair" and "not helpful." He joins Justice Anthony Kennedy in attacking mandatory minimums; Kennedy told the American Bar Association annual convention last month that such sentences were "unjust."

Calling mandatory minimum sentences a "monkey wrench" thrown into the gears of justice, Breyer called for greater flexibility for judges. "There has to be oil in the gears... There has to be room for the unusual or the exceptional case," he said. Breyer blamed Congress, which he said passed too many mandatory minimum laws where "there is no room for flexibility on the downside. "That is not a helpful thing to do," he said. "It's not going to advance the cause of law enforcement in my opinion and it's going to set back the cause of fairness in sentencing."

Breyer told the audience of more than 500 people than he and Kennedy were not alone among justices unhappy with mandatory minimums. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and "others on the court" shared his views, he said. Nor is unhappiness with harsh sentences limited to Supreme Court justices. A series of moves by Attorney General Ashcroft to crack down on light sentences is threatening to turn a festering judicial resentment over loss of sentencing discretion into a full-fledged rebellion of the black-robes.


16. This Week in History

Every Year: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issues its annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which provides drug offender arrest totals for the previous year. Nearly seven out of every eight arrests for marijuana continue to be for possession of the drug.

October 1, 1998: National news is made when the increased funding of prisons (largely driven by warehousing drug offenders) and decreased spending for schools prompts massive protests by California high school students.

October 2, 1982: Ronald Reagan, in a radio address to the nation on federal drug policy, concluded, "we're making no excuses for drugs -- hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we're going after them. As I've said before, we've taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we're going to win the war on drugs." That was about 20 years and half a trillion ($500,000,000,000) dollars ago.

And one from last week in history:

September 21, 1969: In an attempt to reduce marijuana smuggling from Mexico, the Customs Department, under Commissioner Myles Ambrose, subjects every vehicle crossing the Mexican border to a three-minute inspection. The operation lasts only two weeks and wreaks economic havoc on both sides of the border. Mexico agrees to more aggressively attack marijuana trade, but the operation doesn't seriously impact the flow of marijuana into the US.


17. Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion

Tell Congress to Pass Medical Marijuana Now! Send letters supporting the States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act and the Truth in Trials Act:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/

Stop the Andean Drug War! Tell the Senate to strip Colombia military and other drug war funding from the 2004 Foreign Aid Appropriations bill:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/stopthehelicopters/

Repeal the Drug Provision of the Higher Education Act to restore financial aid to students with drug convictions:
http://www.raiseyourvoice.com

Stop John Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion! Repeal the terrible Feeney amendment which discourages judges from granting downward departures from the draconian federal sentencing guidelines:
http://stopthedrugwar.org/justice/

More coming soon!


18. Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions

The John W. Perry Fund, a project of the DRCNet Foundation in association with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, provides college scholarships to students losing federal financial aid because of drug convictions. The Fund has monies remaining for fall 2003 as well as future semesters, and eligible students are urged to apply as soon as possible.

Please visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/perryfund/ to fill out a pre-application, print out an application form or brochure, or for further information. Students, financial aid officers, friends and family members and supporters of students, as well as media, activists, potential donors and other interested parties, are all welcome to contact us!

Supportive parties are urged to take copies around to financial aid offices, social services agencies whose clientele are likely to include drug ex-offenders, high school guidance offices, and to forward information about the Perry Fund to appropriate e-mail lists. Community and state colleges are of particular interest to the Perry Fund, because the low tuition rates enable us to fully finance a student's education in many cases, and because their student bodies include a high proportion of low income with especially great financial need.

Any applicant losing federal financial aid due to a drug conviction, however, attempting to attend any school, is welcome and encouraged to apply. We continue to raise money for the Perry Fund, and the more applications we have received, the more money we will likely be able to raise for them. Please urge potential applicants to visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/perryfund/ for information and to apply, or to contact DRCNet at (202) 362-0030. Thank you for spreading the word.


19. Errata: Last Week's Corrupt Cops Story

Last week's story about recently indicted sheriff Gerald Hege (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/303/geraldhege.shtml) incorrectly stated that he was from Davidson County in South Carolina. As noted lower in the article, Davidson County is in North Carolina.


20. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to calendar@drcnet.org.)

September 26, 6:30pm, Phoenix, AZ, "The Failed War on Drugs," public forum with Nora Callahan of The November Coalition and Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. At Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 8801 N. 43rd Ave., sponsored by Arizona Coalition for Effective Government. Contact Roma Thomas at grthom@cox.net for further information. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for other Jack Cole appearances in Arizona during 9/20-27.

September 27, 7:30pm, New York, NY, Fundraising Gala for Grandpa Al Lewis, political satire by the Christmas Coup Comedy Players, raising money for an at-home radio facility for the elderly activist as he recuperates from surgery. Donations of any size, at the Puffin Room, 435 Broome St. (between Broadway and Crosby), call (212) 209-2912 or visit http://www.christmascoup.com for reservations.

September 30, Tulsa, OK, Amnesty International hearing on racial profiling, chaired by Hon. Timothy K. Lewis, former Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/events/fall2003hearings.html or call (202) 544-0200 for further information.

October 2, New York, NY, Amnesty International hearing on racial profiling, chaired by Hon. Timothy K. Lewis, former Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Visit http://www.amnestyusa.org/events/fall2003hearings.html or call (202) 544-0200 for further information.

October 3-4, Detroit, MI, "And Justice for All? Communities of Color and the War on Drugs," conference of Drug Policy Forum of Michigan with Wayne State University SSDP and other organizations. Visit http://www.dpfmi.org/conf.htm or contact Debra Wright at (734) 368-8328 or dswmsw@msn.com or Michael Segesta at (586) 873-5086 or msegesta@comcast.net for further information.

October 5-17, Deming, Silver City, Truth or Consequences and Las Cruces, NM, "Continuing Drug Policy Reform in New Mexico," speaking tour by Jack Cole and Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

October 22, 7:00pm, Syracuse, NY, "Against All Odds: Cops Fighting the War on Drugs," forum with Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Sponsored by Reconsider: Forum on Drug Policy and Syracuse University Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At Syracuse University, for further information contact Gerrit Cain at caingerrit@hotmail.com or Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@reconsider.org.

October 23-26, Lisbon, Portugal, Lisbon International Symposium on Drug Policy. Sponsored by the Senlis Council, visit http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/events/lisbon for info or contact info@senliscouncil.net.

November 5-8, East Rutherford, NJ, biennial conference of Drug Policy Alliance. At the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center, 2 Meadowlands Plaza, visit http://www.drugpolicy.org for further information.

November 7-9, Paris, "Fourth Hemp and Eco-Technologies Exhibition." At the Cité de Sciences et de L'Industrie, call +33(0) 1 48 58 31 37, e-mail info@festival-du-chanvre.com or visit http://www.festival-du-chanvre.com for further information.

November 22, 11:00am-10:00pm, Portland, OR, "Second Annual Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards 2003." At the Double Tree Inn Lloyd Center, e-mail OrNORML.Secretary@comcast.net or visit http://www.ornorml.org for further information!

January 28-February 7, 2004, Hannibal, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City, MO, "Special Delivery for John Ashcroft," speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Roger Hudlin. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or speakers@leap.cc for details of individual engagements.

April 20-24, Melbourne, Australia, "15th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm." Visit http://www.ihra.net or e-mail ihra@adf.org.au for information.


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