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Alert: Stop the DEA Subversion of Elections (DrugSense)

STOP THE DEA SUBVERSION OF ELECTIONS *********************PLEASE COPY AND DISTRIBUTE************************* DrugSense FOCUS Alert #335 - Tuesday, 29 August 2006 Sunday we learned that the Drug Enforcement Agency is encouraging its agents to use government time and equipment to oppose the Colorado marijuana initiative. They claim that this action is legal, not a violation of the Hatch Act. Our government considers the direct government interference by the governments of other countries in their elections to be unfair -- an ethical standard which should apply equally in the United States. Please contact your elected representatives at both federal and state level to demand that the DEA and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, including the Drug Czar, refrain from the subversion of the initiative and referendum process in the cities and states where marijuana initiatives will be on the ballot. Our tax dollars should never be used to undermine initiatives. Please also contact the DEA offices in your area to let them know what you think of their unethical political activities. Phone numbers are on this webpage http://www.dea.gov/contactinfo.htm You may remind them that the news reports puts the lie to their often stated position that they only enforce the laws - that they do not write the laws. The article, reprinted in other Colorado newspapers, that exposed DEA Agent Michael Moore's unethical activities is at http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v06/n1137/a09.html. Please also do what you are able to do to support the various marijuana related initiatives. Below is a list of initiatives pending a vote at the state and local level. Please use the links to find out how to donate or otherwise support the initiatives. Thanks for your effort and support. It's not what others do it's what YOU do CALIFORNIA: Santa Barbara Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Policy Ordinance http://sensiblesantabarbara.org Santa Cruz Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Policy Ordinance http://www.taxandregulate.org/sc06/index.htm Santa Monica Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Policy Ordinance http://www.sensiblesantamonica.org COLORADO: The Colorado Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative http://www.saferchoice.org/safercolorado/ MICHIGAN: The Flint Coalition for Compassionate Care will have a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in first city wide election of 2007, possibly in February or May. Details will be posted to this webpage when they are available http://www.drugsense.org/caip MONTANA: The Missoula County Lowest Law Enforcement Priority initiative has just been approved for the November ballot http://www.responsiblecrimepolicy.org NEVADA: Question 7 on the Nevada ballot http://www.regulatemarijuana.org SOUTH DAKOTA: The only state wide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year http://www.sdmedicalmarijuana.org Notes: Updates on local initiatives will be added to this webpage as we receive additional information http://www.drugsense.org/caip Your letters to the editor help move public opinion towards supporting change in marijuana policies and law. Every day new targets for your letter writing efforts may be found at http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm Prepared by: Richard Lake for DrugSense
Location: 
CO
United States

Fall is On the Way: It's Time for Football, the Changing of the Leaves, and...

helicopters over America. Yes, the time for the annual outdoor marijuana harvest draws near, and newspapers from Kentucky to California are full of stories about cops flying out to spy out the pot fields, rip up the crops, and bust the farmers. It is, of course, an exercise in futility. Massive outdoor eradication programs have been funded for the past two decades--can anyone point to a reduction in the availability of marijuana? Officials in California have been crowing lately about how they destroyed $40 million worth of marijuana in recent days. Well, that's $40 million that will not make it's way into the state's economy, will not have a multiplier effect on local businesses, will not increase local economic activity. Thanks, guys. These annual eradication campaigns are nothing more than a jobs program for cops who would otherwise have to earn an honest living and a price support program for the majority of farmers who don't get busted. Personally, I'd rather have cheaper pot and smaller law enforcement budgets.
Location: 
United States

DEA Raises Cash to Fight Drug Issue

Location: 
CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
Rocky Mountain News
URL: 
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/local/article/0,1299,DRMN_15_4949933,00.html

Feature: Pain Doctor William Hurwitz to Get New Trial

In a closely watched case with national implications, a federal appeals court has granted a new trial to a well known Northern Virginia pain doctor sent to federal prison for 25 years as a drug dealer. Pain patient advocates and medical associations praised the ruling in the case of Dr. William Hurwitz, who was convicted in late 2004 of 50 counts in a 62-count indictment, including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.

Hurwitz appealed his conviction, arguing that trial Judge Leonard Wexler erred by not instructing the jury that Hurwitz should not be convicted if he acted in "good faith." Typically in cases where the quality of medical care is in question, such matters are decided by medical boards or civil courts in the form of malpractice suits. Only doctors who are not prescribing in good faith that they are in line with accepted medical practices face criminal charges. In his jury instructions, Judge Wexler removed Hurwitz' only effective defense.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hurwitz.jpg
Dr. Hurwitz in 1996 (photo courtesy Skip Baker)
For federal prosecutors, who pointed to multiple examples of high-dose prescriptions Hurwitz had written and who claimed he should have recognized some of his patients to be addicts or dealers, Hurwitz was nothing more than a Dr. Feelgood, no different from -- or perhaps worse than -- the kid slinging crack on the street corner. But for patient advocates and a growing number of medical professionals, the case was the highest-profile example yet of a Justice Department and DEA creating a chilling climate toward doctors' willingness to treat chronic pain with opioid pain medications.

That is why even though even some questioned Hurwitz's prescribing practices, his appeal nevertheless won the support of professional organizations like the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Foundation, and the National Pain Foundation, all of which filed briefs in his support. Also joining the fray was the Drug Policy Alliance, which filed its own brief on behalf of pain specialists.

A three-judge panel in the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond agreed with Hurwitz and his allies in its opinion Monday. The panel held that Judge Wexler had erred when he told jurors they could not consider whether Hurwitz had acted in "good faith" when he prescribed large doses of opioid pain relievers like Oxycontin to patients.

"A doctor's good faith in treating his patients is relevant to the jury's determination of whether the doctor acted beyond the bounds of legitimate medical practice," wrote Judge William Traxler. "The district court effectively deprived the jury of the opportunity to consider Hurwitz's defense." That was a fatal error, the panel held. "We cannot say that no reasonable juror could have concluded that Hurwitz's conduct fell within an objectively-defined good-faith standard," wrote Traxler.

"We are very gratified by this decision," said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the libertarian-leaning Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that has been in the vanguard of the medical profession on the issue of protecting pain doctors and patients. "Overturning one of these verdicts is something that almost never happens, and we hope it represents a tipping point," she told DRCNet. "We hope that the courts will finally begin to pay attention to the fundamental issues of justice involved here. A doctor is not a drug dealer, and neither is he a policeman. Doctors cannot be held responsible for patient misbehavior."

"I'm delighted," said Dr. Frank Fisher, a California physician originally charged with five counts of murder over his prescribing practices by overzealous prosecutors and state agents, but who was eventually completely exonerated. "This means they will have to let Billy out. The appeals court was absolutely correct in its decision," he told DRCNet.

The appeals court decision is a victory for Hurwitz and his supporters, but it is only one battle in a larger war over who controls the prescribing of pain medications -- the medical profession or the cops -- and in the meantime, doctors and patients are the casualties.

"They are still harassing and investigating doctors," said Orient. "And that in itself can destroy your practice. There are still doctors languishing in prison because they tried to do their best for their patients and there are still patients having difficulty finding physicians willing to do the pain treatment necessary to make them functional instead of bed-ridden suicidal people in severe pain," she said. "More doctors are aware of the extreme risk they take in getting involved with chronic pain patients. The DEA wants them to treat patients like they were suspected criminals."

Fisher pointed to the case of Dr. Richard Heberle, an Ohio physician, of how devastating even defending oneself from such charges can be. "Look at what happened to Dr. Heberle," he said. "He won, but his practice is ruined, his reputation is ruined, his life is ruined. The only thing worse than winning one of these cases is losing one, or maybe coming down with a bad case of chronic pain."

Latin America: US Feds Bust Major Mexican Trafficker, Expect Violence, Continued Drug Trafficking as Result

Javier Arellano-Felix, a major player in one of Mexico's powerful and violent drug trafficking organizations, was arrested by the US Coast Guard in international waters off the coast of Mexico's Baja California. But even as federal law enforcement officials risked serious injury from all the back-patting going on at their celebratory press conference Thursday, they acknowledged that his arrest would amount to little.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/arellano-felix.jpg
DEA poster
The Arellano-Felix organization controls the Tijuana drug trade franchise, or "plaza" as it's called in Mexican slang. It grew in the 1980s into a major cocaine trafficking group, but was dealt a harsh blow in 2002 when one older Arellano-Felix brother was killed and another arrested. In the past two years, since the most recent disruptions of the Mexican cartel structure, the Arellano-Felix organization has been a key player in the bloody vendettas among traffickers that have left more than 1,500 people dead.

"El Tigrillo" ("The Little Tiger"), as he is known in Mexico, was one of several organization members indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego in 2003 on charges they conspired to smuggle tons of cocaine into the US. He faces life in prison here.

"In the world of drug law enforcement, it doesn't get any better," John Fernandes, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego office, sat a mobbed news conference. "This is huge. The opportunity to capture a drug lord the caliber of Javier Arellano Felix is a unique event." His capture marks "the end of two decades of the most... powerful and violent drug-trafficking organization," he added.

And what that means in Mexico is a new round of violence as competing trafficking organizations fight to take advantage of the opening. Fernandes acknowledged as much, saying that violent jockeying for power is the likely result of Arellano's arrest.

Nor do authorities expect his arrest to make any significant difference. "In drug trafficking we're not naive enough to think that drug trafficking is going to stop," said FBI Daniel R. Dzwilewski, special agent in charge of the FBI's local office.

Still, it was a nice photo-op.

Feature: SSDP, Drug War Rant Blog Score Media Hit with Attack on DEA Drug-Terror Exhibit

For more than four years -- since the day of the first anniversary of the 9-11 attacks -- the US Drug Enforcement Administration and its museum have hosted an exhibit that attempts to link drugs and terrorism. Known as Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause, the traveling exhibition has aroused much grumbling and sneering from people who argue that it is not drugs but drug prohibition that generates the illicit profits sometimes used by violent political groups.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/deatargetsflyer.jpg
DEA Targets America flyer
There was some sniping against the exhibit when it played Dallas, Omaha, Detroit, and New York, when two years ago, Patricia Perry, mother of NYC police officer John Perry, who lost his life on 9-11, criticized the exhibit in this newsletter. But it was only when it hit Chicago last week that drug reformers succeeded in hitting back with a carefully planned and well-executed counterattack that managed to generate critical media attention toward the exhibit.

It all started with some home-town concern on the part of Illinois State University theater arts professor and Drug War Rant blog author Peter Guither. After publicizing the exhibit's impending arrival on his blog and creating a new web site, DEA Targets America, the response from readers galvanized Guither, and allies began to arrive. By the time the exhibit hit Chicago last week, activists were on hand to hand out flyers in front of the museum and Guither and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) had issued press releases in an effort to draw media attention.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/dea-exhibit.jpg
DEA's offensive exhibit
"Back when they first showed this exhibit, I remember thinking is the DEA propagandizing at a science museum?" said Guither. "I grew up with the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology, and I remember thinking my museum would never do that. Then, a couple of years later, I look at the upcoming exhibits and I see the DEA exhibit. This is so clearly propaganda that I had to do something," he told Drug War Chronicle. "I mentioned it on my blog, and one of my readers volunteered to pass out flyers, then I produced the press release and the web site, and then SSDP got involved -- they're a great group! SSDP's Tom Angell helped with the flyer and with getting the press interested, and then it was up to the press to do its job."

"I e-mailed our members in the Chicago area, and we were able to get some people to hand out flyers," said Angell. "We have some good people in the area."

The gambit paid off handsomely with a Washington Post story last Saturday titled "Drug-Terror Connection Disputed." That story, which was also picked up by newspapers in Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Tampa, quoted both Guither and SSDP's Angell, as well as Chicago teacher Jeanne Barr, who is also a member of SSDP. Congressional Quarterly also ran a story about the exhibit mentioning the contention that it is drug prohibition -- not drugs themselves -- that feeds terrorism, and even UPI ran a short piece mentioning the controversy on its international wire, a story that was picked up by the Washington Times.

The stories put the DEA on the defensive, with spokesmen Steve Robertson telling the Post: "We're a law enforcement agency -- we enforce the laws as they are written. Congress makes the laws. People say if we didn't have drug laws there wouldn't be a problem, but there was a problem before and that's why laws were established."

"I think we got the DEA flatfooted," said Guither. "You have that agent saying they just enforce the law, but they're out there lobbying for those laws. I don't think the DEA was ready for this."

"We did a little bit of judo on the DEA," said SSDP's Angell. "We took their message and spun it right back around on them. Reporters were intrigued by what we were saying. On the one hand, we were agreeing with the DEA's main point -- that profits from the black market drug trade can finance terrorism -- but we highlighted the fact that they are leaving out a large part of the story," he told the Chronicle.

"I was disappointed in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, though," Angell continued. "They just toed the DEA line. They didn't mention us by name or give us any quotes; they just had a line or two about 'critics say this.'"

Guither said he didn't really expect anything better from the local press. "Since both the Sun-Times and the McCormick Tribune Corporation were sponsors of the exhibit, I didn't expect either paper to do much criticizing. The mere fact that they mentioned critics saying the exhibit is propaganda is a victory in my view."

Activists were careful to target their ire at the DEA, not the Museum of Science and Technology. "We didn't want to protest the museum but the DEA," said Guither. "And we didn't feel like we could get into picking their implied falsehoods apart, so our focus was on the inappropriateness of the DEA connecting drugs to terrorism since it is prohibition that makes drug trafficking and its profits possible. Also, since this is Chicago, we have the whole Al Capone legacy. Mayor Daley invited this exhibit, yet he seems to have missed the whole connection between drug prohibition and alcohol prohibition and how the latter made Al Capone. What we have with this exhibit is a federal agency with a failing scorecard blowing its own horn and linking itself to the war on terror, when it is really the problem."

While the DEA lists no more cities on its traveling exhibit schedule, SSDP will be ready to go if and when the DEA show hits another city. "Since we already have the materials and the press releases, we'll just follow it wherever it goes," said Angell. "If we have people on the ground, we will organize them to pass out materials. They should know we're coming after them. If we annoy them enough, maybe they'll go away one of these days."

"I'm very pleased," said Guither. "This was fun. If we hadn't done what we did, it would have been the standard announcement: Here's a new educational exhibit. Bring your kids to learn about the dangers of drugs and how the DEA is saving you. But because of the work we did here, we've managed to turn this around on the DEA. That feels good."

More Than 130 Arrested in Breakup of Heroin Ring

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/us/16heroin.html

DEA Puts Brakes on Big Ecstasy Ring

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Contra Costa Times
URL: 
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/crime_courts/15250355.htm

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."

Dozens Arrested in US Crackdown on Khat Smuggling

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
McClatchy Newspapers
URL: 
http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/nation/15129489.htm

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