Drug War Chronicle

comprehensive coverage of the War on Drugs since 1997

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another sheriff who couldn't resist temptation, another drug-dealing cop, and something smells mighty bad in a Mississippi anti-drug task force. Just another week in the drug war. Let's get to it:

In Adel, Iowa, the Dallas County sheriff was charged July 28 with stealing $120,000 in seized drug money. According to WHO-TV in nearby Des Moines, Sheriff Brian Gilbert is accused of pilfering one packet of cash in a $900,000 seizure. Gilbert took the cash from the scene and reportedly detoured to his home on the way to the station. When he got there, Deputy Scott Faiferlick noticed one of the packets was missing and told investigators. Sheriff Gilbert maintains his innocence, but now faces charges of first degree theft.

In Henrico, Virginia, a former city police officer is on the lam after police went public with two arrest warrants for him Monday. Former Officer Charles Harpster faces charges of obtaining drugs by fraud and marijuana distribution, Henrico police told WRIC-TV8 in Richmond. Police have released little other information, except to neither confirm nor deny allegations he took drugs from the police evidence room.

In Ellisville, Mississippi, prosecutors have dismissed at least three dozen drug cases because of an ongoing investigation into "questionable activities" by the Southeast Mississippi Drug Task force, according to a July 26 report by WDAM-TV7 in Hattiesburg. Jones County Assistant District Attorney Ronald Parrish told the station a number of other cases will not be presented to a grand jury. No specifics of the alleged police wrongdoing have been made public, but it must be pretty serious if prosecutors are already dismissing cases.

Harm Reduction: Drug Czar's Office Opposes Letting Heroin Users Have Easy Access to Overdose Antidote

When heroin users around Philadelphia started overdosing on junk laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, a local harm reduction group began working with a sympathetic physician to provide addicts prescriptions to naloxone (brand name Narcan). The Office of National Drug Control Policy thinks that's a bad idea.

In many cities, paramedics carry Narcan with them, but by the time they arrive on the scene, it can be too late, explained Casey Cook, executive director of Prevention Point Philadelphia, the group that runs the city's needle exchange program. "If people have to rely on paramedics, more often than not, the overdose is going to be fatal, just because of the amount of time for people to get there," she told the Associated Press in an interview last Friday.

But the drug czar's office is worried that providing addicts with the means to survive an overdose would prove "disinhibiting," much the same way social conservatives argue that providing teenagers with condoms to prevent pregnancy and disease "disinhibits" them from remaining abstinent. ONDCP doesn't want to appear to condone drug use. "We don't want to send the message out that there is a safe way to use heroin," said Jennifer DeVallance, an ONDCP spokesperson told the AP.

There were some 16,000 drug-related deaths reported in 2002, the vast majority of them involving either heroin or prescription opiates, and at least 400 people have died in the wave of fentanyl-related heroin ODs in the past few months. Better they should die than people think heroin is safe, huh?

Feature: As Fighting Flares in Southern Afghanistan, Support for Licensed Opium Production Grows

American military commanders in Afghanistan Monday officially turned control of the country's restive, opium-rich south to NATO amid increasing rumblings of concern from European politicians -- concern over both rising coalition casualties and the wisdom of trying to prosecute the war on drugs and the counterinsurgency operation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda at the same time. With some 18,500 troops, it will be the biggest mission in NATO history, and one whose outcome is cloudy at best.

This year has seen an upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan, with some 1,700 people killed in the spreading violence so far. Among them are 65 US troops and 35 NATO troops, including three British soldiers killed Tuesday in an ambush in southern Helmand province and two more killed Wednesday. Last year, the bloodiest year yet for coalition forces, saw 129 US and NATO soldiers killed, but this year looks set to be bloodier yet. In the last three months alone, 58 NATO or American soldiers have been killed, 35 in the south. At the rate things are going, these figures will probably be outdated by the time you read this.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/symposium.jpg
2005 Senlis symposium
It has also, by all accounts, seen an upsurge in opium production, especially in the south. Despite the stirring words of Prime Minister Karzai, who has vowed a holy war against the poppy, eradication efforts are achieving mixed results at best. That is because the Karzai government and its Western backers are confronted by a multitude of factors militating against success.

"The drug fight is continuing, but it is not very effective," said Abdul Raheem Yaseer, assistant director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. "The lack of the government's ability to help farmers find markets and the difficulty of transporting goods on the bad roads are very discouraging. And now the area is suffering from drought," he told DRCNet. "People were optimistic at the beginning of the year that they could sell their produce, so they invested their money, and then the drought came. Now, many of them are saying they can't make back the money they spent, so they are shifting back to opium. They speak openly. They say 'We have families to feed, loans to pay, there is no water, there is no improvement in the roads.'"

Yaseer pointed to several factors hindering the eradication effort. "The drug lords have been benefiting for years, and they fight to keep that revenue going," he said. "The high rises going up in Kabul are all built by drug lords. But some of those drug lords are members of the government, which complicates matters even more. Karzai talks very tough about eradication, but the reality on the ground is quite different. The corruption, along with the lack of support within the government and by the West, allows the drug lords to enjoy a relatively peaceful time."

But if British Lt. Gen. David Richards, the new NATO commander in the south, has his way, the drug traffickers are about to feel the wrath of the West. "I'm convinced that much of the violence is only caused by the drugs-related activities in the south," said Richards at a Kabul press conference Saturday. "The opium trade is being threatened by the NATO expansion into the south and they are going to fight very hard to keep what they have got and a lot of what we are seeing has nothing to do with any ideological commitment" to the Taliban, he said. "Essentially for the last four years some very brutal people have been developing their little fiefdoms down there and exporting a lot of opium to the rest of the world. That very evil trade is being threatened by the NATO expansion in the south. This is a very noble cause we're engaged in, and we have to liberate the people from that scourge of those warlords."

"NATO has three objectives," said Yaseer. "Their first priority is to defeat the insurgency, secondly to win hearts and minds, and third to wipe out the opium." But, he conceded, those goals are contradictory, given Afghanistan's huge dependency on the opium economy. According to the United Nations, opium accounts for somewhere between 40% and 50% of the national economy.

And the attempt to prosecute all three objectives at the same time could well led to a more formal alliance between traffickers and insurgents. The major drug traffickers also align themselves with the Taliban and what Yaseer called "intruders" from Pakistan, referring to agents of Pakistani intelligence, the ISI, who he said work to keep Afghanistan from gaining stability. "The drug lords do not want to be controlled by the Afghan government, so they side with the intruders and the Taliban and share profits with them. These intruders from Pakistan are not helping; they are jeopardizing the efforts against smuggling and to eradicate the poppies. As for the Taliban, they might have religious problems with opium, but they like the money and they cooperate with the growers and traffickers."

"The drug lords and smugglers are as strong militarily as the Taliban and Al Qaeda," said Yaseer. "If they really unite together, the coalition forces will face a big strong resistance."

The command turnover from the Americans to NATO, and the rising death toll among NATO soldiers is beginning to focus the minds of European politicians, some of whom are beginning to call for the adoption of a scheme that would allow the licensed production of opium for the legitimate medicinal market. Formally unveiled last October in Kabul, the proposal from the European security and development think tank, The Senlis Council, has so far attracted only limited support from key decision-makers in Kabul and the capitals of the West.

Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported that some British Conservatives had begun to call for adoption of the Senlis proposal. By the time that report appeared, new calls to adopt the licensing scheme came from the Italian government.

"The Italian government will be a promoter both in Europe and in Afghanistan" of a project to "legally purchase the opium produced in Afghanistan and use it for medicinal purposes," said Italian foreign vice minister Ugo Intini last Friday, as he spoke with journalists at the Italian Senate. The aim is to reduce the illicit trafficking of opium and make opioid pain medications more available to poor developing countries, he said. The lack of opioid pain medications in the developing countries is "profoundly unfair," he added.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/plaque.jpg
plaque memorializing journalists murdered by Taliban, at hotel where they stayed in Jalalabad
A British Labor Party politician told DRCNet Thursday that he, too, supported the Senlis proposal. "In Helmand, Britain has stopped destroying poppy crops to concentrate on bombing people into democracy and trying to win hearts and minds by using bombs and bullets," said MP Paul Flynn, a staunch opponent of the drug war. "The $40 million paid to the corrupt Karzai government to compensate farmers for crops previously destroyed never reached the farmers. The only sensible way to make progress is to license the farmers to use their poppy crop to reduce the world-wide morphine shortage."

But the idea that the US, which opposes any relaxation of any drug law anywhere on ideological grounds, or the Afghan government, will embrace the proposal is probably mistaken, said Yaseer. "As soon as you hear 'legalize drugs,' all kinds of religious, traditional, and other resistance pops up. One problem here is that the state is too weak. They can’t control it when it is illegal, and they wouldn’t be able to control it if it were legal. There is plenty of opium already without licensing; in the Afghan context, licensing means freedom to grow more."

Instead, said Yaseer, the Afghan government and the West should subsidize the farmers, seek alternative crops, and enable local government to actually establish control on the ground. But that will not be easy, he conceded. In the meantime, the poppies continue to bloom, the drug lords, both within and without the Karzai government, continue to get rich, and NATO soldiers, American soldiers, Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, and drug trafficker gunmen all continue to fight and die. And civilian Afghan citizens, most of whom would like nothing more than peace and prosperity, are among the biggest losers as the bullets fly and the bombs drop.

visit: DRCNet in Afghanistan

Feature: British Parliamentary Committee Slams Drug Classification Scheme, Calls for Evidence-Based System

The British Parliament's Science and Technology Committee released a report Monday that rips into Britain's current drug classification scheme as "opaque" and urges that it be replaced with a system that is based on scientific evidence and accurately reflects actual harm to drug users and society. The current system is "not fit for its purpose," the scorching report found.

Under the current system, drugs are classified as Class A (heroin, cocaine), B (methamphetamine), or C (marijuana, anabolic steroids), with the Class A drugs considered most harmful and Class C drugs considered least harmful. Class A drugs carry a seven-year prison sentence for possession, Class B five years, and Class C two years. Sales of Class A drugs can earn up to a life sentence, while sales of Class B and C drugs can earn up to 14 years. The British Home Secretary is charged with deciding which drug goes where in the classification scheme based on evidence provided by advisors, who are supposed to weigh the problems caused by various drugs and classify them accordingly.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ecstasypills.jpg
ecstasy pills
It hasn’t worked out that way, the committee concluded in its report, aptly titled "Drug Classification: Making a Hash Of It? "There was a lack of consistency in the way some drugs were classified in the A,B,C system and no solid evidence to back-up the view that classification had a deterrent effect," the committee noted dryly as it released its findings. "The Committee was also critical of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the key scientific advisory body on drugs policy, calling its failure to alert the Home Secretary to the serious flaws in the classification system a 'dereliction of its duty.'"

Pointing to the recent review of the 2004 down-classification of marijuana from Class B to Class C against a steady drumbeat of tabloid hyperventilation over its alleged dangers, the committee complained that such reviews gave the impression they were “knee-jerk responses to media storms." The committee also scored the Home Office and ACMD for failing to demonstrate that the current classification system is effective and for failing to invest in research on addiction.

“The current classification system is riddled with anomalies and clearly not fit for its purpose," committee chair MP Phil Willis said in a statement accompanying the report's release. "From what we have seen, the Home Office and ACMD approach to classification seems to have been based on ad hockery and conservatism. It’s obvious that there is an urgent need for a root and branch review of the classification system, as promised by the previous Home Secretary. We all know that the current Home Secretary has other things on his mind, but that’s not an excuse for trying to kick this issue into the long grass."

If Britain wants a rational drug classification system that works, said Willis, it should forget about using it to punish people for taking drugs the government doesn’t like. "The only way to get an accurate and up to date classification system is to remove the link with penalties and just focus on harm. That must be harm not only to the user but harm defined by the social consequences as well," the committee head explained. "It's time to bring in a more systematic and scientific approach to drug classification – how can we get the message across to young people if what we are saying is not based on evidence?"

The report also calls for including alcohol and tobacco in any new drug classification scheme, and suggests they should be classified as more dangerous than ecstasy. It also attacked the government's classification of several drugs. With psychedelic mushrooms, the government reclassified them administratively as dangerous Class A drugs, thus avoiding consultation with the ACMD. That move "contravened the spirit of the Misuse of Drugs Act and did not give the ACMD the chance to consider the evidence properly."

The committee report criticized the ACMD for not speaking out on the mushroom issue, saying its failure to do speak has "undermined its credibility." The report also scolded the ACMD for never getting around to reviewing ecstasy status, which currently mis-classifies it along with the most dangerous and harmful drugs.

Drugscope, a leading British drug policy thinktank, welcomed the committee's call for an overhaul of the classification system. "The Misuse of Drugs Act is over 30 years old and the drug scene in the UK has changed out of all recognition since then," said Drugscope head Marvin Barnes in a statement greeting the report's release. "It also true that some of the decisions about placing certain drugs within the Act, such as ecstasy and fresh magic mushrooms, do not bear much scientific scrutiny. It is important that the Act more accurately matches legal penalties to the overall risk of drugs to society. Such a review was promised by the Home Office in January, but we have heard nothing about it since," Barnes chided.

But Drugscope rejected some of the criticisms leveled against the ACMD in the report. "It may be that the ACMD could have been more proactive regarding drug classification, but their many reports have helped shape the drug treatment system in the UK," Barnes said. "In particular, their recommendation about supplying needles and syringes to heroin users in the 1980s may have saved the UK from a major HIV/AIDS epidemic."

A leading mental health nonprofit, Rethink, used the report's release to clamor for more information about the links between marijuana and mental illness. Rethink’s Director of Public Affairs Paul Corry said: "In any debate about the classification of cannabis, Rethink’s main concern is that the government delivers on its promise to educate the public about the mental health risks of cannabis use," said Rethink public affairs director Paul Corry in a statement Monday. "Rethink is concerned by the lack of progress concerning this critical public health issue. We know that early-age users, long-term users and people with a family history of mental illness are at a high risk of developing psychosis from smoking cannabis – the problem is that they don’t know it because the government has failed to act on its promise," Corry argued.

The British reform group the Transform Drug Policy Foundation also issued a statement welcoming the report. "Transform welcomes the fact that the committee has taken on board the broader critique of the classification system rather than getting bogged down in a pointless debate about why each drug is in a particular class," said Transform information officer Steve Rolles. "The bigger issue at stake here is that the entire classification system is based on drug war ideology, has no scientific basis whatsoever, and does the exact opposite of what it is intended to do. We would like to see this is a prelude to a more significant inquiry into the evidence base for the criminalization of drugs per se.”

Rollins also echoed calls for the Home Secretary to act. "We also hope that the Home Office will now resume the drug classification consultation announced by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke earlier this year, as specifically recommended by the committee," he said. "The consultation document was ready to be published but seems to have been kicked into the long grass by the new Home Secretary. The Select Committee’s withering critique makes this promised Home Office consultation all the more urgent"

The Tories are using the report to hammer Labor's drug policy and take up the "dangerous marijuana" banner. Shadow Home Secretary Edward Garnier quickly released a statement seeking political advantage. "We will study the Select Committee Report in detail, but what is and has been apparent for some time is the lack of clarity in this government's policy on illegal drugs," Garnier charged. "The downgrading of cannabis sent out the message that it was pretty harmless and will have encouraged youngsters to take it up. It is vital that we have strong and effective measures warning children of the dangers of drugs devoid of any confusion."

Labor so far has been quiet, but Labor MP Paul Flynn told DRCNet he found the committee report a useful palliative for the politicization of drug policy. "Categorizing drugs in 1971 was to be the silver bullet to cut drug use. Then there were 1,000 addicts; now there are 280,000," he noted. "Yet all political parties still cling to this duff bullet by voting in 2005 for the insanity that classified magic mushrooms with heroin and left alcohol and nicotine unclassified. Thanks to the science committee for a whiff of sanity."

With the publication of the committee report, Britain is one step closer to rational, evidence-based drug classification system. The US drug classification system is similarly irrational, placing, for instance, marijuana and LSD in the same category as heroin, but there is no sign of any such scientifically-guided approach here.

In Memoriam: Methadone Pioneer Vincent P. Dole

(This memorial piece for a great pioneer in addiction treatment was written and distributed by his friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Newman.)

Dr. Vincent Dole (an internist) and his late wife, Marie Nyswander, MD (a psychiatrist), began their collaborative research with methadone with a handful of long-term heroin-dependent individuals in 1964. They did so in the face of overt threats of harsh criminal and civil action by federal narcotics agents. Their courageous, pioneering work demonstrated that methadone maintenance is a medical treatment of unparalleled effectiveness -- a superlative description that is as applicable today as it was four decades ago. As a result, well over three-quarters of a million people throughout the world are able to lead healthy, productive, self-fulfilling lives - over 200,000 in the United States, an estimated 530,000 in Western Europe, and many tens of thousands more in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Central Asia, Far East, Australia and New Zealand.

After the remarkable transformation they observed in their first few patients, Dr. Dole and Dr. Nyswander went on to provide direct supervision of the first methadone maintenance treatment program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. In so doing they demonstrated that it was possible to replicate on a large scale the therapeutic success they achieved in the small, controlled, research environment of the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University). Dr. Dole was also responsible in the early 1970s for convincing the New York City Department of Corrections (at the time headed by Commissioner Ben Malcolm) that detoxification of heroin-dependent inmates in the city's main detention facility at Rikers Island was imperative to save lives and lessen suffering (there had been a wave of suicides at the time that had been attributed to severe opiate withdrawal). The detoxification program continues to this day, and has become a model for enlightened corrections officials in other countries.

Dr. Dole and Dr. Nyswander's contributions, however, transcend the life-saving clinical impact on patients and the enormous associated benefits to the community as a whole. They had prescience to hypothesize, years before the discovery of the morphine-like endorphine system in the human body, that addiction is a metabolic disorder, a disease, and one that can and must be treated like any other chronic illness. What was at the time brilliant insight on their part is today almost universally accepted by scientists and clinicians alike, and remains the foundation upon which all rational policies and practices in the field rest.

In his mid-80s Dr. Dole traveled to Hamburg to be present at the naming ceremony of the Marie Nyswander Street; in less than ten years Germany moved from methadone being illegal to having over 60,000 patients in treatment! His efforts during recent years were devoted to fighting the stigma that, tragically, remains so widespread against the illness of addiction, the patients and the treatment.

Weekly: This Week in History

August 4, 1996: In the midst of an election season that includes California's medical marijuana initiative, Prop. 215, state narcotics agents, at the direction of California Attorney General Dan Lungren, raid the Cannabis Buyers' Club of San Francisco.

August 5, 2004: In a Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed entitled “War on Drugs Escalates to War on Families,” Walter Cronkite calls the war on drugs “disastrous” and a “failure” and provides a plethora of reasons why it should end immediately.

August 6, 1990: Robert C. Bonner is sworn in as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Bonner had been a federal judge in Los Angeles. Before he became a judge, Bonner served as a US attorney from 1984 to 1989.

August 6, 2004: The Ninth Circuit orders the release, pending appeal, of Bryan Epis, who had been convicted of conspiracy to grow 1,000 marijuana plants in a federal trial in which the jury was not allowed to hear that he was a medical marijuana activist.

August 7, 1997: The New England Journal of Medicine opines, "Virtually no one thinks it is reasonable to initiate criminal prosecution of patients with cancer or AIDS who use marijuana on the advice of their physicians to help them through conventional medical treatment for their disease."

August 8, 1988: The domestic marijuana seizure record is set (still in effect today) -- 389,113 pounds in Miami, Florida.

August 8, 2001: During his third term in Congress, Asa Hutchinson is appointed by President Bush as chief administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

August 9, 1990: Two hundred National Guardsmen and Bureau of Land Management rangers conduct a marijuana raid dubbed Operation Green Sweep on a federal conservation area in California known as King Ridge. Local residents file a $100 million lawsuit, claiming that federal agents illegally invaded their property, wrongfully arrested them, and harassed them with their low-flying helicopters and loaded guns.

Web Scan

"How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence," former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, for AlterNet

Cultural Baggage with Prof. Arnold Trebach, author "Fatal Distraction - Drug War in a time of Islamic Terror," also Name Drug, Terry Nelson, Black Perspective II, Poppygate, Official Govt Truth

Century of Lies with Dean Kuipers, author of "Burning Rainbow Farm," also Terry Michael of Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, Black Perspective I, DRCNet Corrupt Cops Story

DrugScience.org, updated web site of the Cannabis Rescheduling petition and future home of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform

court filings, Multi-Denominational Ministry of Cannabis and Rastafari federal injunction case

Announcement: IJPD Seeks Article Submissions on Women and Harm Reduction

The International Journal of Drug Policy has released a call for papers, for a special issue: "Women and Harm Reduction: Spanning the Globe," guest editors Susan Sherman, Adeeba bte Kamarulzaman and Patti Spittal.

The issue aims to examine: the unique factors (e.g. cultural, relational, legal or economic) that contribute to women's use of psychoactive drugs (licit and illicit); the stigma associated with women's drug use; proximal and distal effects of drug use on the lives of women drug users as well as drug users’ female sexual partners; examine patterns of use and consequences of different types of drugs (e.g. ATS, alcohol, opiates); to explore the effects of different types of drugs; to examine gender-related policies regarding harm reduction services and treatment; and to examine innovative programs targeting women drug users.

The issue aims to include work representing a range of geographic regions (e.g. former Soviet Union, Middle East, South Asia,Southeast Asia, Europe/North America). Papers must be relevant to harm reduction and policy.

Several types of contributions are invited: Scientific review papers (max 8,000 words) ; Original research papers (3,000 – 7,000 words); Short research reports (up to 1500 words); Descriptions of interesting (positive or negative) programmes or policies (2,000 – 5,000 words); Descriptions of problems (e.g. structural barriers) in gaining access to needed services or programmes (2,000 – 5,000 words); Policies and/or historical analyses (3,000 – 7,000 words); Commentaries (max 4,000 words); Editorials (1,500 - 2,500 words).

The deadline for outline abstracts or other short descriptions (not exceeding 400 words) is September 23, 2006; they should be sent to ssherman@jhsph.edu. If selected for submission, the deadline for completion of draft contributions will be in December, 2006. Submissions will be made on the Elsevier on-line electronic submission system and will be subject to peer-review.

Editorial: It's Time to Get Real About Opium in Afghanistan

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/28/06

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/borden12.jpg
David Borden
I wouldn't say that many countries are truly rational about drug policy yet, but some of them have more people, in more prominent positions, who have gotten there. When they do, it tends to transcend traditional political boundaries -- for example, Conservative party leader David Cameron in Great Britain, who suggested legalization during the run-up to his selection for the post, and others in his party who asked him this week to support a licensing scheme for Afghan opium as opposed to the current regime of total prohibition and sporadic and ineffective eradication efforts.

What some of the Tories are saying is that it's unrealistic to think we can be effective against an industry that makes up 50% of the struggling nation's economy, that when eradication efforts happen, they drive farmers into the Taliban's corner and seem correlated with outbreaks of violence, that instituting a legal opium crop (which could be used and is actually somewhat needed for the legal medical market) would reduce the illicit market and deal a blow to evil-doers by bringing the money above-board and reducing their access to it.

Given the substantial threats existing to security and the role movements operating from Afghanistan have played in some of them, I vote for realism. These Brits are right -- trying to pull the plug on Afghanistan's opium trade is a truly insane idea -- we would only find out how insane if we were actually to succeed. The war against drugs is a war that cannot be won -- too many people are determined to take them and are willing to pay the money that it takes to get them.

In that sense, the bad guys will always have more resources to work with then the good guys. In a larger sense, the lines dividing the bad guys from the good guys are more than a little blurred, when the enemy apparently include destitute third-world farmers who only want to save their families from starving, and ordinary American and European citizens who only want to be left alone to indulge in their pastimes in private.

Cameron, of course, is from the other side of the aisle as current British prime minister Tony Blair, and even if the Conservatives were in power, they doubtless don't all support his views about legalization. Doing something about it is even harder still than that. And of course the Afghans get to have some say in what happens in their country too, and they are not all on board even with the moderate proposal of licensing for the medical supply. (Our editor Phil Smith found that out when he attended last September's conference in Kabul on the idea.)

Still, you have to start somewhere, and a the top political leaders in a nation that is the US's closest ally seems as good a place as any. A desperate country like Afghanistan that urgently needs stability and to reduce criminality also would seem a worthy place, even more so in light of our own related interests there. It's time to get real about opium in Afghanistan.

Web Scan

Nightline blows it big time with khat bust report -- they actually liken khat to methamphetamine(!) -- coffee with a shot or two of espresso might be more like it -- and say the ring was connected with terrorism even though officials say they were only investigating whether it could have been.

Tony Papa debunks prosecutor's anti-Rockefeller Reform report, in Long Island's Newsday

DrugSense web section on drug reformers' electoral campaigns

New audio from the DrugTruth radio network:

Former Sheriff Earl Barnett, Chris Conrad marijuana expert, Black Perspective II, Official Govt. Truth

Radley Balko report on SWAT team abuse for Cato Institute, Black Perspective I, Terry Nelson of LEAP, Corrupt Cops Story, Poppygate, Drug War Facts

Medical Marijuana: In New York Democratic Gubernatorial Race, Spitzer Says No, Suozzi Says Yes

Running an uphill race for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination against state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi hoped to use a televised debate to heighten his profile and open some space between himself and Spitzer on the issues. He managed to do that on a number of issuing, including medical marijuana.

When asked by debate moderator Dominick Carter whether medical marijuana should be legalized in the Empire State, Spitzer answered "no," which generated booing from the audience, while Suozzi answered "yes."

The next question was whether the candidates had ever used marijuana. Both said "yes," but Spitzer's affirmative was followed by laughter, then clapping from the audience. Neither candidate elaborated on their monosyllabic responses.

While Spitzer opposes medical marijuana, he has been a staunch supporter of Rockefeller drug law reform. Neither candidate, however, mentions Rockefeller drug law reform as a major issue on their campaign web sites.

(Audio of the debate can be accessed on the WNYC web site -- the marijuana exchange is 57:47 deep into the file.)

Errata: Kershaw Not In Kershaw Anymore

Last week, one of the "corrupt cops" stories we reported on was from Kershaw County, South Carolina, or so we thought:

In Lancaster, South Carolina, a Kershaw County prison guard was charged with taking what he thought was Ecstasy from undercover agents to sneak into the prison, the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division announced in a July 12 press release. Joseph Sanders, 29, was arrested the night before and charged with misconduct in office, conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances and attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner. According to the arrest warrant, Sanders took the fake drug from the SLED narc with the intention of smuggling it into the prison.

A local journalist who saw our article on Google News set the record straight for us. It turns out that while the suspect is from Lancaster -- which is part of Lancaster County -- Kershaw Correctional Institute where he works (and which is in Kershaw) is also part of Lancaster County, hence he was a Lancaster County prison guard, not a Kershaw County prison guard as we misidentified him. The arrest, however, took place in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Camden -- part of Kershaw County -- Kershaw itself used to be part of Kershaw County, but removed itself from it decades ago and is now part of Lancaster County.

Drug War Chronicle regrets the error -- but hopes we'll get some slack on this one. The original story -- correct, we think -- can be found here.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Posted in:

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/appointmentbook.jpg
August 5-6, Spokane, WA, Spokane Hempfest, visit http://www.spokanehempfest.com for further information.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

October 28-29, 11:00am-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Wonders of Cannabis Festival," benefit for the Cannabis Action Network and Green Aid, hosted by Ed Rosenthal. At the Hall of Flowers, Golden Gate park, individual admission $20, 18 and over, contact Danielle at (510) 486-8083 or cannabisactionnetwork@gmail.com for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at santiago@harmreduction.org.

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Weekly: This Week in History

July 28, 2003: James Geddes, originally sentenced to 150 years for possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia and for growing five marijuana plants, is released.

July 29, 1997: A large number of Los Angeles sheriff's deputies swarm into the home of author and medical marijuana patient Peter McWilliams and well-known medical marijuana activist Todd McCormick, a medical marijuana user and grower who had cancer ten times as a child and suffers from chronic pain as the result of having the vertebrae in his neck fused in childhood surgery. McCormick ultimately serves a five-year sentence, while McWilliams choked to death on his own vomit in 2000 after being denied medical marijuana by a federal judge.

July 30, 2002: ABC airs John Stossels' special report "War on Drugs, A War On Ourselves."

July 31, 2000: In Canada, Ontario's top court rules unanimously (3-0) that Canada's law making marijuana possession a crime is unconstitutional because it does not take into account the needs of Canadian medical marijuana patients. The judges allow the current law to remain in effect for another 12 months, to permit Parliament to rewrite it, but says that if the Canadian federal government fails to set up a medical marijuana distribution program by July 31, 2001, all marijuana laws in Canada will be struck down.

July 31, 2003: Karen P. Tandy is confirmed by unanimous consent in the US Senate as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Tandy was serving in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forteiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

August 1, 2000: The first Shadow Convention convenes in Philadelphia, PA, with the drug war being one of the gathering's three main themes.

August1, 2004: The Observer (UK) reports: The US has blamed Britain's 'lack of urgency' for its failure to arrest the booming opium trade in Afghanistan, exposing a schism between the allies as the country trembles on the brink of anarchy.

August 2, 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed by Congress, enacting marijuana prohibition at the federal level for the first time. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger tells the Congressmen at the hearings, "Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."

August 2, 1977: In a speech to Congress, Jimmy Carter addresses the harm done by prohibition, saying, "Penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana for personal use. The National Commission on Marijuana... concluded years ago that marijuana should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations."

August 3, 2004: Sixty percent of Detroit’s residents vote in favor of Proposition M or “The Detroit Medical Marijuana Act” which amends the Detroit city criminal code so that local criminal penalties no longer apply to any individual “possessing or using marijuana under the direction... of a physician or other licensed health professional.”

Khat: Feds Arrest 62 in Crackdown on Mild East African Stimulant Herb

Khat, a shrub that grows in East Africa, has been used for centuries as a mild stimulant in the region, with a high similar to that obtained by drinking a lot of tea or coffee. Khat is legal thoughout Africa and most European countries, but US federal authorities consider it a dangerous drug. They struck Wednesday, arresting 62 East African immigrants on charges they smuggled more than 25 tons of the stuff into the United States.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/khatinvietnam.jpg
family khat use scene, Vietnam
Federal officials told reporters Wednesday they are investigating reports the khat smugglers may be linked to "war lords" in Somalia and Ethiopia, but they have not produced any proof of that, nor do any of the indictments allege any links to terrorist activities in the region, where Islamic extremism is on the march. Muslim fundamentalists linked to Al-Qaida are battling Western-backed "war lords" for control of Somalia.

"It is suspected that there are ties to some type of terrorist organizations," a federal agent demanding anonymity told the McClatchy Newspaper chain. While the indictments do not allege terror links, they do charge the group laundered money through hawalas, an informal network of remittances widely used in South Asia and the Middle East. Some of the money ended up in the Middle East financial capital Dubai, the indictments allege.

FBI Assistant Director Mark Mershon told a New York news conference Wednesday that the agency continues to seek "the ultimate destiny of the funds." According to Mershon, intelligence suggests the money was headed for "countries in East Africa which are a hotbed for Sunni extremism and a wellspring for terrorists associated with Al-Qaida."

Hmmm…They are also the countries from which those arrested hail and where khat is widely grown. Meanwhile, the man charged as ringleader for the group faces up to life in prison and the others face up to 20 years for using and dealing in an herb with which they grew up.

Feature: Holy Smoke Bust Mobilizes Interior British Columbia Cannabis Community

Although the owners of Holy Smoke, the Nelson, British Columbia, head shop and culture center, wouldn’t exactly put it this way, the raid on their shop two weeks ago tomorrow is igniting a holy war in the cannabis-friendly Kootenay region of the province. When Nelson city police ended a de facto truce by arresting Holy Smoke co-owner Paul DeFelice for allegedly selling marijuana at the store, Holy Smoke and its supporters started mobilizing to fight back, and they've only just begun.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/nelson2.jpg
Nelson, British Columbia: Conflict Amidst the Beauty, Thanks to the Drug Warriors
Just north of the US-Canada border above Spokane, Washington, Nelson, a city of 10,000 located along the shoes of Kootenay Lake's West Arm, is a veritable reefer redoubt. While official figures are naturally impossible to come by, marijuana growing is a major local industry, both in Nelson and in the nearby Slocan Valley. Area youths take it across the mountainous, forested border on foot and by mountain bike, on skis and on snowmobiles, while bigger operations may employ helicopters and sophisticated tracking devices. Area merchants have told DRCNet they know when the crops are coming in because that's when their sales increase.

Holy Smoke is the most visible symbol of the region's cannabis culture, but there are plenty more if one looks, from the hemp shop on downtown Baker Street to the dreadlocked young denizens of the town to the four marijuana grow supply shops -- the small town has twice the number of the entire Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area -- not to mention the smell of sativa and indica smoke washing through the air not infrequently.

The shop, co-owned by DeFelice, Alan Middlemiss, and attorney Dustin Cantwell, has been a center of the region's cannabis culture since it opened in 1996. A year later, Nelson police raided it, but were laughed out of court by a judge who demanded they learn how to properly do searches, and since then they have largely left the place alone. Even as whispers that marijuana was being sold from the store spread within the community, police failed to act. In fact, Nelson police told DRCNet off the record earlier this year that they believed selling at the shop had made street dealers scarce. If so, that has all changed now.

DRCNet attempted to speak with Nelson police this week, to no avail. The officer in charge of the raid, Sgt. Steve Bank, curiously warned that more arrests were coming, then went on vacation, and no one else at the department wanted to talk about the raid.

With DeFelice facing possible prison time for alleged marijuana sales -- something Holy Smoke is careful to neither confirm nor deny given the parlous legal situation -- and police threatening more busts in the near future, the shop and its supporters are rallying around the cause. "We are preparing to take a 'lowest law enforcement priority' measure to the city council," said Middlemiss, "and we are taking to the streets."

At the same time six Nelson police officers were raiding Holy Smoke and arresting DeFelice, a 15-year-old girl was dosed with Rohypnol and raped, Middlemiss said. "If the police had their priorities straight, that might not have happened."

Holy Smoke and its supporters will tap into the Nelson area's long traditions of nonviolent protest and counterculture activism, he said. "Nelson has a long and glorious history of nonviolent action, from the First Nations to the Doukhobors [a Russian sect that emigrated to the region a century ago] to the draft dodgers, even the Japanese who were interned in camps near here in World War II organized and protested. We have a rebellious nature here, but we've been lulled into complacency," he told DRCNet.

The Kootenay region cannabis nation will hold a mass march and protest in Nelson on August 5. "I think there is huge support for responsible marijuana use around here, for reordering police priorities, for making adult marijuana use the lowest priority," said Middlemiss. "But we need to be consolidating, we need a really large march, and we're hoping people will literally come out of the hemp woodwork for it. This will be a massive pro-marijuana rally, not a smoke-in, and we are expecting mass support," he said.

"Look, our community has had enough of US choppers flying around looking for a benign herb, we've had enough of illegal DEA operations in our country, we've had enough of wasting our tax dollars on nonviolent drug offenses," Middlemiss continued. "We want to get to the bottom of our drug problems, but the police are the worst way of going about it."

Support for Holy Smoke and marijuana legalization is not limited to the dreadlocked set. "Our supporters include bus drivers, janitors, mothers, lawyers, dentists. The chamber of commerce and local businesses will support us at the city council," said Middlemiss. "Heck, the chamber has even asked us to advertise because they get so many people coming to town and asking them how to find us."

With similar attacks on another cannabis café, Hamilton's Up in Smoke, and a new conservative national government rumbling ominously about toughening the marijuana laws, the Holy Smoke folks are feeling like they may be pawns in a larger, more sinister game. "The conservatives want to stifle the alternative culture, but here in Nelson, it is part of the fabric of the city and every business in town depends on the cannabis economy. We are wondering if the marching orders are coming from Washington," Middlemiss said.

"I think this is part of some sort of joint DEA-Canadian justice ministry operation," said Holy Smoke co-owner Dustin Cantwell. "The orders for this must have come from on high. The conservatives who came to power with Prime Minister Harper and his gang are embracing the American agenda, and they're starting with folks like us who stick out of the water. But we're the tip of the iceberg. Below the water line is our mass base."

Holy Smoke is still open and still smoking, both indoors in its smoking room and outdoors on the nearby public land turned into a mini-park by local cannabis consumers who enjoy looking across the lake at Elephant Mountain as they toke. And it remains headquarters both for the local cannabis community and the upcoming protests. Contact them via the web site if you want to help.

Reportaje: Grupo Bipartidario de Senadores Estadounidenses Presenta Proyecto para Reducir Disparidades de Penas para la Cocaína

Cuatro senadores estadounidenses - dos demócratas y dos republicanos - presentaron legislación el martes que reduciría la disparidad en las penas para aquellos atrapados con polvo de cocaína y aquellos atrapados con crack. Actualmente, son necesarias 100 veces la cantidad de polvo de cocaína para merecer la misma sentencia que un infractor por crack. Según el proyecto, la Ley de Reforma de las Penas para las Drogas de 2006 [Drug Sentencing Reform Act of 2006 (S. 3725)], esa disparidad sería reducida de 20 para 1.

Las leyes severas contra el crack fueron aprobadas aprisa en el verano de 1986, como parte de la promulgación de las sentencias mínimas obligatorias federales, después que la muerte del jugador de baloncesto, Len Bias, llevó el entonces Presidente de la Cámara, Tip O'Neill, a actuar. Irónicamente, Bias murió tras usar polvo de cocaína.

Las prisiones federales están llenas de personas, la vasta mayoría de ellas negra, cumpliendo largas sentencias mínimas obligatorias por condenaciones federales por crack. En 2000, por ejemplo, 84% de aquellos sentenciados de acuerdo con las leyes federales contra el crack eran negros, 9% hispanos y 5% blancos. Con el polvo de cocaína, 30% de los infractores eran negros, 50% hispanos y 15% blancos. Más una vez irónicamente, el polvo de cocaína parece ser actualmente mucho más popular entre los jóvenes que el crack.

Aunque sean necesarios 500 gramos -- más que una libra o 454g - de polvo de cocaína para merecer una sentencia mínima obligatoria de cinco años, son necesarios apenas cinco gramos de crack para recibir lo mismo. Según el proyecto, los senadores disminuirían ligeramente la cantidad para polvo de cocaína y aumentarían la cantidad para el crack. Los senadores proponen 400 gramos de polvo para precipitar la mínima obligatoria y 20 gramos de crack.

Los cuatro senadores que presentaron el proyecto son Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Cornyn (R-TX) y Ken Salazar (D-CO). Todos son ex fiscales generales y ellos citaron esa experiencia en el debate en pro de la reforma. El Sen. Cornyn le dijo a los reporteros en una rueda de prensa el martes que su experiencia como fiscal general de Tejas lo llevó a creer que "las leyes deben ser firmes, pero justas. No apenas necesitamos leyes justas, sino la apariencia y realidad de justicia".

"Este proyecto traería mejoramientos medidos y equilibrados en el sistema actual de condenación para asegurar un resultado más justo - sentencias más severas para los peores y más violentos infractores de la legislación antidroga y sentencias menos severas para los pequeños infractores no-violentos", dijo el Sen. Sessions en una declaración. "La disparidad de 100 para 1 en las penas entre polvo y piedra de cocaína no es justificable. Nuestra experiencia con las orientaciones me ha convencido de que estos cambios volverán el sistema de justicia criminal más eficaz y justo. Ya es hora de actuar".

"La cocaína presenta una amenaza considerable porque está prontamente disponible, es altamente adictiva y está directamente asociada con el crimen violento tanto en comunidades rurales como urbanas", dijo el Sen. Pryor. "Necesitamos enviar un fuerte mensaje a aquellos que compran y venden esta droga y eso incluye a arreglar las disparidades que existen en nuestras normas de condenación y mantener los infractores más peligrosos fuera de las calles".

El proyecto también disminuiría las penas para las personas periféricamente involucradas en las infracciones federales de la legislación antidroga y aumentaría las penas para los traficantes que se metieron en actos violentos o usaron niños como parte de sus transacciones en drogas.

"La disparidad de 100 para 1 en las penas entre el polvo y la piedra de cocaína ya no puede ser justificada", dijo el Sen. Salazar. "Este proyecto empezaría el proceso de asegurar que el castigo para el crack y la cocaína sea severo, pero justo. Como ex fiscal general, soy sensible al equilibrio que debe ser atingido para garantizar que la pena sea proporcional al crimen. La Ley de Reforma de las Penas para las Drogas es un paso importante para lograr este equilibrio y espero que el resto del Senado apoye a este proyecto de buen sentido".

Para el Sen. Cornyn, había la preocupación de que las leyes no acompañaran las tendencias actuales en el consumo de drogas. "Pese a que hemos dado grandes pasadas en la guerra contra las drogas en los últimos años, el Congreso debe seguir vigilante en el trato de este problema donde y cuando sea solicitado", dijo. "Hoy día, más estudiantes de secundaria consumen polvo que crack. En 2005, el índice de consumo de polvo de cocaína entre los estudiantes del último año de secundaria era casi tres veces más alto que el índice de consumo de crack. Es importante que nuestras leyes reflejen aquellas estadísticas preocupantes que es lo que esta legislación busca hacer".

Los defensores de la reforma de las penas están adoptando un punto de vista mensurado hacia la legislación. Por ejemplo, un boletín del grupo Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) llamó el proyecto de "medio correcto".

Lo que los senadores están proponiendo es apenas un primer pasito hacia la justicia, dijo Nora Callahan, directora ejecutiva de la November Coalition, un grupo de reforma de las políticas de drogas que se concentra en conseguir la libertad para los prisioneros de la guerra a las drogas. "Si se trama una lucha por el proyecto, me gustaría combatirlo y lograr disposiciones de retroactividad", dijo ella a DRCNet. "Sería la primera vez. Necesitamos una innovación en este respecto, cuando las leyes son mudadas, las personas que ya fueron condenadas no consiguen ningún alivio. Eso está mal".

No debería haber distinción en las penas para piedra y polvo de cocaína, dijo Callahan. "Disparidad ninguna seria justicia, pero tristemente, no es la 'manera estadounidense de ser'. Nosotros restauramos la justicia gradualmente en este país. La gente que lucha por las nociones de justicia en la ley y las penas tienen que tomar decisiones tácticas. Estamos esperando la contribución de aquellos presos por estas leyes y ellos van a preguntar qué hay en el proyecto para ellos. ¿Ellos van a dar alivio en las penas a aquellos condenados en la proporción de 100 para 1?"

Los reformadores de las penas y las políticas de drogas y las organizaciones de los derechos civiles han pedido hace mucho por más equidad en las penas para la cocaína, pero los intentos anteriores de desagraviar las disparidades no han ido a ningún lugar. Con el apoyo bipartidario de algunos senadores "duros con la criminalidad" de esta vez, la presión puede empezar a acumularse y eso puede resultar en cambios positivos reales.

Sentencing: Federal Judges More Likely to Acquit Than Juries

Federal judges are much more likely to acquit defendants than juries are, according to a review of some 77,000 federal criminal trials between 1989 and 2002. Juries convicted 84% of defendants, while judges in bench trials convicted only about half. The phenomenon is recent, with judges and juries convicting at about the same rate from the 1960s through the 1980s, and prior to that, judges were much more likely to convict than juries.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/gavel.jpg
The findings come from a paper published by University of Illinois College of Law professor Andrew Leipod, "Why Are Judges So Acquittal-Prone?," published in the Washington University Law Quarterly and discussed at some length at the Volokh Conspiracy blog. According to Leipold, he was puzzled at the shift and sought an answer.

"The core problem," he wrote, "is to find something about criminal trials that has changed since the late 1980s, something that would affect judges but not juries." The evidence suggests a likely culprit, Leipod argued. "I think the sentencing guidelines best fits this description. The guidelines took away a huge amount of sentencing discretion, which meant that judges were more often faced with cases where they knew that a conviction would result in a harsh - maybe too harsh - sentence. We don't have to say that judges were acting 'lawlessly' to reach the unremarkable conclusion that judges may hold the government even more tightly to its burden of proof when the stakes are high and unforgiving."

Because judges do not fill out forms showing what factors they weigh when they rule, any evidence of a link between conviction rates and the sentencing guidelines is necessarily indirect, but, Leipold notes, it is probably not coincidence that "with the Guidelines really hitting stride just as the judicial conviction rate started to slide." Many judges "were harshly critical of the how the guidelines made it harder for them to do justice in individual cases," he noted.

[Editor's Note: One might suppose that mandatory minimum sentencing is also having this effect on federal judges -- an equally, sometimes harsher federal sentencing system that is parallel to and interlocks with the guidelines. Congress enacted mandatory minimums very hastily, two years after creating the sentencing guidelines, following the 1986 overdose death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias.]

Feature: Medical Marijuana Crisis in San Diego as Feds, Locals Move to Shut Down Remaining Dispensaries

Already buffeted by a series of December raids and new raids and arrests of dispensary operators earlier this month, the San Diego-area medical marijuana community is now reeling under a new assault that is forcing the remaining dispensaries to close their doors. Last Friday, DEA agents visited dispensaries it had not already shut down and warned them they faced arrest if they stayed open. They shut down. The feds also seized any medicine they could get their hands on at the dispensaries they visited.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/mcwilliams2-reduced.jpg
July 2005 protest in Washington after suicide of Steve McWilliams, San Diego medical marijuana provider who was facing federal prosecution
The DEA and local officials claim the dispensaries were acting as de facto retail marijuana outlets and many "patients" were not really sick. But medical marijuana advocates say the dispensaries are permitted under state law and are serving sick and dying people. The battle is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, and people on both sides of the issue are looking to the courts or the legislature to clarify matters.

But in San Diego, patients and their supporters are also going after the local political establishment. Dozens of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in front of San Diego city hall to protest the shutdowns before entering the chambers to urge the city council to move to protect patients. So far, it hasn't worked.

"We need to stop raiding and start regulating," said Wendy Christakes, a medical marijuana patient and San Diego co-coordinator of Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana defense group. "Local officials are under both moral and legal obligations to develop a safe and secure system for the distribution of medical marijuana to eligible patients. Failing to do so has put us all at risk of DEA harassment and worse."

"We are facing a fairly serious situation down in San Diego right now," said ASA spokesman William Dolphin. "The DEA not only raided many dispensaries, they also paid visits to ones they hadn't previously shut down and warned them they could be arrested if they didn’t close. This is creating a serious access problem for patients in the San Diego area."

It's pretty clear that the local district attorney and law enforcement agreed with the DEA to go after what they've described as abuses of the medical marijuana law down there," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer. "The DEA operates in places where local authorities are willing to cooperate, and San Diego County has been in the forefront of opposition to the medical marijuana law. The city police chief and the county prosecutor are sympathetic to medical marijuana, but none of them are sympathetic to the pot club scene that emerged in San Diego."

"San Diego authorities are taking the position that the dispensaries shouldn’t exist at all," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken. "While there is arguably some ambiguity in the law, many communities have decided to permit and regulate dispensaries, and that is clearly what makes the most sense for patients. We think local authorities should give patients safe access to their medicine through a set of regulations communities can live with and use their police resources for something other than harassing the sick," he told DRCNet.

"This is frustrating and frightening," Mirken continued. "It seems like local officials in San Diego county have joined with the DEA to declare war on the dispensaries, and they feel like it is up to them to decide which physicians' recommendations are okay and which are not."

"This is an unacceptable action of the part of state and local officials, given the explicit will of the voters and the legislature," said ASA Dolphin. "We are pursuing legal action to force them to comply with state law. Along with the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, we are party to the lawsuit filed against the county to force local officials to implement state law."

"Our contention is that nonprofit co-ops and dispensing collectives are legal under California state law," said Dolphin. "There is a lack of explicit direction from the state as to how these are to be regulated. The legislature decided to put the burden on local officials, much like zoning and other regulations, and local communities have the right and responsibility to deal with these things. But because of the volatility of the issue and resistance around the state, the legislature may have to act again with more explicit directions. The key question is how do we ensure patients have legal access to their medicine?"

"The law does not permit dispensaries," maintained San Diego County Assistant District Attorney Damon Mosler. "The law allows people to grow medical marijuana or buy it through the black market, which is cheaper than what the dispensaries are selling it for anyway," he told DRCNet. "We've had some 20-odd stores open up in less than a year selling marijuana openly. We have citizen groups taking pictures of lots of young people coming in and out of the dispensaries."

Mosler and the county prosecutor's office don't have a problem with medical marijuana, he said, just with people abusing the law. "When the law was passed, people though only sick and dying people would get marijuana, and the doctors would decide, but we have some rather unscrupulous physicians making a lot of money off selling recommendations. One doctor testified he made a half million dollars in recommendations. They are not writing prescriptions, so the DEA can't do anything," he complained.

"There are mechanisms under the law as written," said Mosler. "You can have collectives or co-ops where small groups of patients or caregivers get together. If there are legitimate patients who can't grow it, cities can coordinate the collectives." Although Mosler stated flatly that dispensaries are illegal, he conceded that the law is unsettled. "Oakland is taxing the dispensaries, but other cities are doing the same thing we are. Eventually the courts will have to decide whether the dispensaries are legal or not."

The other option for clarifying the law is the state legislature. "The legislature could act to clarify the law," said Mosler. "It may take us getting people in an uproar like now for that to happen."

CANORML's Gieringer disagreed. "There will not be any new state law until federal law is changed," he predicted. "The only long term solution is to make marijuana an over-the-counter drug. NORML is generally pushing in favor of local regulated distribution, local option cafes, dispensaries, and cannabis shops. It's just not worth trying to sort out who is medical and who isn't."

"It's possible to address this at the state level," said MPP's Mirken, grimacing at the prospect. "We tried to address this before with SB 420, and that was the subject of much wrangling and produced mixed results. Just getting that passed was like pulling teeth, and I don’t imagine the legislature really wants to wade into this again."

It would be better if local communities could craft reasonable regulations, Mirken said. "It is not unreasonable for different communities to craft different standards, but local governments need to approach this with some level of common sense and decency. If that doesn’t happen, we will have to figure out what to do next."

California's medical marijuana law has evolved into a serious muddle. Something is going to have to happen to sort it all out. In the meantime, California dispensary operators should be looking over their shoulders.

MPP's Mirken had some advice for them. "Be very careful and understand that you could become a federal target," he warned. Operators should work with local officials to demonstrate community support, he suggested. "The most important thing is for local officials in communities supportive of medical marijuana to make clear this sort of DEA action is not welcome in their towns. Local officials need to start sending that message loud and clear. I don’t think the DEA is stupid enough to do a wholesale crackdown in places like San Francisco or West Hollywood, but San Diego rolled out the red carpet."

Search and Seizure: Five-Day Shackling in Colorado Prison to Find Swallowed Drugs Approaches Torture Level

Authorities at the Colorado state prison in Buena Vista kept an inmate shackled to a chair for five and ½ days without sleep or exercise, never turned off the lights, and strip-searched and cavity-searched him 17 times even though he was under the constant watch of a guard. Prison officials suspected inmate Brian Willert, 29, of swallowing bags of heroin and wanted to collect the evidence.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/jail1.jpg
They eventually did, but the judge hearing the case, Chaffee County District Court Judge Charles Barton, threw out the evidence, saying that prison authorities could have achieved the same goal in a few hours by obtaining a court order to administer a laxative. What prison officials did to Willert was an unreasonable search, Barton held.

"Forcing a shackled inmate to sit in a chair for over five days posed, in the court's opinion, an unreasonable risk to the life and health of the inmate," Barton said in his July 14 ruling. "It is difficult for the court to imagine a more intrusive procedure. Defendant was watched every minute for over five days. He was not permitted to meet the basic human need to lie down and sleep."

Barton also questioned what the repeated strip searches had to do with security and criticized prison officials for failing to check on Willert's health after he tested positive for methamphetamine on day four, suggesting a balloon had broken. But Barton rejected Public Defender Patrick Murphy's contention that what was done to Willert constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Willert was placed in a "dry cell" without a sink or toilet after his girlfriend told prison authorities she had passed balloons of what she thought was heroin to him during a visit. That is standard procedure for the Colorado Department of Corrections, director of prisons Gary Golder told the Rocky Mountain News. But "dry cell" stays rarely last more than a day, he said. Still, Golden said, the department's inspector general will investigate. "Did the staff violate the policies or do something inappropriate?" he asked.

Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Ballot Description Erroneous and Apparently Illegal

Organizers of South Dakota's medical marijuana initiative are in for a tough fight in the socially conservative Upper Midwest state. All they ask is that it be a fair fight, but South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long (R) apparently isn’t ready to provide them with an even playing field. Long's office this week issued the summary of the initiative that will appear on the ballot, and that summary contains biased and factually incorrect statements -- an apparent violation of South Dakota law.

The summary language provided by Attorney General Long and appearing on the South Dakota Secretary of State's election web page is as follows:

"Currently, marijuana possession, use, distribution, or cultivation is a crime under both state and federal law. The proposed law would legalize marijuana use or possession for any adult or child who has one of several listed medical conditions and who is registered with the Department of Health. The proposed law would also provide a defense to persons who cultivate, transport or distribute marijuana solely to registered persons. Even if this initiative passes, possession, use, or distribution of marijuana is still a federal crime. Persons covered by the proposed law would still be subject to federal prosecution for violation of federal drug control laws. Physicians who provide written certifications may be subject to losing their federal license to dispense prescription drugs."

While initiative supporters point out several examples of biased or irrelevant description -- referring to "any adult or child" instead of "anyone" in an attempt to raise the specter of youth drug use, referring repeatedly to federal laws against marijuana possession -- it is the final sentence of Long's summary that really leaps out.

Long writes that doctors "may be subject to losing their federal license to dispense prescription drugs in they write recommendations for medical marijuana use," and that's just wrong. The only federal court precedent in such matters, Conant v. Ashcroft, clearly states that physicians may not be punished by the DEA for exercising their First Amendment right to recommend a patient use marijuana. In Conant, the Supreme Court refused to hear the Justice Department's appeal of that US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion.

According to the South Dakota criminal code, "Publication of false or erroneous information on constitutional amendments or submitted questions is a misdemeanor. Any person knowingly printing, publishing, or delivering to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor."

Initiative supporters told DRCNet this week they are examining their options. Expect more news on this front next week.

Europe: British Conservatives Call For Legal, Licensed Afghan Opium Production As Troop Toll Mounts

Using the occasion of a visit to Afghanistan this week by Conservative Party leader David Cameron, several leading Tory Members of Parliament urged him to push for legal, licensed opium production in that war-torn country, The Guardian reported. The calls came as at least six British soldiers have been killed this summer battling a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan's southern opium-producing provinces and echo the position first elaborated last year by the Senlis Council, an international security and development group.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
In concert with the Americans, NATO forces have taken responsibility for security in Afghanistan's Taliban-friendly south, and now Tory MPs are complaining that the coalition's insistence on eradicating the opium crop is endangering the lives of British soldiers. With opium accounting for nearly half of the national economy, farmers and traffickers alike are fighting to save their livelihoods, and sometimes turning to the Taliban for protection.

"The poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem," Tory whip Tobias Ellwood told the Guardian. "We're in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working. Last year we spent $600 million on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country."

Instead, Ellwood said, opium farming should be licensed, with the harvest being sold legally in the open. That would help farmers, address a global shortage of opioid pain medications, and limit the supply of opium to the black market, where, after being processed into heroin, much of it finds its way into the veins of European junkies. According to Ellwood, the licensed opium plan has the support of several Conservative MPs and senior military figures in Afghanistan.

Conservative leader Cameron has been open to outside-the-box thinking on drug policy issues. He has called for prescription heroin and even urged the United Nations to consider legalizing drugs.

The Guardian quoted one unidentified NGO worker who has traveled extensively in Helmand province as saying that eradication efforts were merely driving peasants to join the Taliban. "The better-off farmers pay local commanders bribes so they don't have to eradicate, but the others have their main source of income cut off," said the worker, who did not wish to be named because of the danger of being identified in southern Afghanistan. "Then the Taliban come to their villages and say, 'We will pay your son to work for us and give him weapons and food.' If you look at the timing of the eradication programs and the flare-ups of the violence, often it happens in the same week."

The NGO worker said Taliban members had been spotted walking the streets armed in broad daylight in Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gar, and that Arab fighters had been spotted within 10 miles of the capital. "We're pouring gas on the flames of the violence with this eradication campaign. By alienating the locals we're playing into a sophisticated political plan on the part of al-Qaida and the Taliban to destabilize southern Afghanistan. The political naivety of the international community in doing this is mind-boggling," the worker said.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy. Cops getting arrested, cops pleading guilty, cops going to prison. And, of course, the ever-present drug-dealing prison guard. Let's get to it:

In Miami, three Boston police officers were arrested last Thursday after taking $35,000 to protect a cocaine shipment in an FBI sting operation. Ringleader Robert Pulido, 41, and fellow officers Carlos Pizarro, 36, and Nelson Carrasquillo, 35, traveled to Miami to celebrate their drug protection deal and plot more deals with undercover narcs they thought were cocaine traffickers, the Associated Press reported. Pulido allegedly got into a variety of criminal activities, with his junior partners sometimes joining in. Those offenses include protecting drug shipments, identity theft, sponsoring illegal after-hours parties with prostitutes, money laundering and insurance fraud, according to prosecutors. They are in jail awaiting an August 2 removal hearing.

In Deming, New Mexico, a Luna County Sheriff's Deputy was arrested Tuesday on methamphetamine possession charges after he took the dope off a man during a traffic stop, but never turned it in as evidence, the Luna County Sun-News reported. Deputy Tommy Salas, 33, turned himself in Tuesday afternoon and was release on $7,500 bail on one count of meth possession. Salas had been on paid administrative leave since June 9, when the sheriff's office and local prosecutors opened an investigation into "discrepancies" in the traffic case. Another officer at the scene had watched Salas take the drugs from the driver and heard him vow to turn them in, but it never happened.

In Lebanon, Ohio, a Warren County prison guard was arrested Monday for accepting drugs and money to be smuggled in to a prison inmate, Cincinnati's Fox19-TV reported. Corrections Officer Michael Miller, 37, went down after accepting marijuana and $600 from an undercover agent, capping what local police said was a three-month investigation. Miller is charged with two felony counts of conveyance of drugs and is in "mandatory incarceration" because he is a corrections officer.

In Laredo, Texas, a former drug task force deputy commander pleaded guilty last Friday to extortion charges for accepting tens of thousands of dollars from drug dealers to protect their operations. According to the Associated Press, Julio Alfonso Lopez, 45, accepted at least $44,500 from his middleman with the traffickers, Meliton Valadez, who has already been convicted for his role in the scheme. The pair were also accused of providing sensitive police information to traffickers and providing storage spots for cocaine shipments. Lopez pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis police officer has been sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy, the Associated Press reported. Former officer Antoine Gordon was convicted in an April trial of checking police databases to see if people buying heroin from the drug ring leader were working as snitches for police. Gordon was one of 19 people who have pleaded guilty to drug or weapons charges in the case.

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics/

July 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at ptpwong@shaw.ca or visit http://www.meaning.ca for information.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.

July 22, 1:00-4:20pm, Laguna Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Main Beach, Pacific Coast Highway and Broadway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

July 24, 7:30pm, Asheville, NC, fundraiser and art opening benefiting the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 20th Anniversary Celebration at Burning Man 2006. Space limited, tickets $45 minimum donation for first ten, $50 minimum for second ten, $50 for next fifteen. At the Flood Gallery, Phil Mechanic Building, 109 Roberts St., contact Logan MacSporren at (772) 708-6810 or glassbreather@hotmail.com to RSVP or for further information.

July 26, 7:00pm, New York, NY, book reading by author/illustrator Ricardo Cortés, "It's Just a Plant," with remarks by DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann, and discussion. At the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby Street (between Houston & Prince), admission free, visit http://www.itsjustaplant.com for info.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit http://www.hemphoedown.com for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail kandice@ocnorml.org or mark@ocnorml.org or visit http://www.ocnorml.org for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit http://www.harmreduction.org/6national/ or contact Paula Santiago at santiago@harmreduction.org.

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at http://www.ssdp.org online.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit http://www.methconference.org for info.

Jobs and Internships

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring for two full-time positions, a Director of State Policies and a National Field Director. Visit http://www.mpp.org/jobs/ for further information.

The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking a paid intern for research and writing assistance on the impact of drug prohibition. Visit http://www.cjpf.org/intern/intern.html for the full listing -- application deadline is August 18.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School