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Afghanistan, Plan Colombia and Drug Eradication: Problems and Solutions

Recent increases in opium production in Afghanistan presents a Catch-22 to U.S. policymakers. On the one hand, a November 2006 United Nations and World Bank report found that forced eradication of opium crops is driving poor Afghans into the hands of the Taliban, empowering crime syndicates and destabilizing the country. On the other hand, doing nothing about the heroin trade allows major drug traffickers to enrich themselves unfettered. Is there a third option? Rep. Carnahan has suggested licensing Afghan farmers to grow opium for legal pain medications, the way the international community diminished the drug trafficking problem in India and Turkey. Senator Sununu has suggested the U.S. buy the opium crops from the farmers and destroy them. Senator Biden has suggested switching the focus away from poor farmers towards disrupting the drug cartels that are moving the drugs. Some experts suggest building roads and schools and providing alternative employment to poor Afghans. Others suggest ending drug prohibition all together. This panel explores the problems posed by both opium production and opium eradication and offers possible solutions. It looks at not only what is going on in Afghanistan right now, but lessons that can be learned from eradication policies in Latin America and elsewhere. Speakers include: Vanda Felbab-Brown, Ph.D. - Research Fellow at the the Brookings Institution Ted Galen Carpenter - Vice President for Foreign Policy and Defense Studies at the Cato Institute Ethan Nadelmann – Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Sanho Tree – Director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Please RSVP to Grant Smith at gsmith@drugpolicy.org or 202-216-0035. Space is Limited. Snacks and beverages provided
Tue, 04/24/2007 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Washington, DC
United States

Opinion: Still seeking some relief

United States
The Record (CA)

Alert: Do You Live in AK, CO, CT, GA, IL, IA, KS, MD, MA, NH, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, RI, TN, UT, VT, WA or WY? If So, We Need Your Help

Earlier this week, DRCNet issued action alerts to our subscribers from 21 different states that are represented on the US Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, asking for phone calls to be made and e-mails sent in support of including full repeal of the Higher Education Act's (HEA) drug provision in the pending Senate HEA reauthorization bill. Special thanks to the hundreds of you who responded to this call to action -- we have reason to believe it has made a difference!

If you are from one of the applicable states, and have not yet e-mailed your senator who is a member of HELP, please visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/senate to speak up (or http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to learn more about the issue). Those states are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

Also, please call your senator's office to register your opinion that way too -- a phone call usually makes more of an impact than an e-mail -- and drop us an e-mail at borden@drcnet.org to let us know. Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/senate for talking points and further information to help with your call. The senator's phone numbers are as follows:

Alaska: Senator Lisa Murkowki, (202) 224-4654
Colorado: Senator Wayne Allard, (202) 224-5941
Connecticut: Senator Christopher Dodd, (202) 224-2823
Georgia: Senator Johnny Isakson, (202) 224-3643
Illinois: Senator Barack Obama, (202) 224-2854
Iowa: Senator Tom Harkin, (202) 224-3254
Kansas: Senator Pat Roberts, (202) 224-4774
Maryland: Senator Barbara Mikulski, (202) 224-4654
Massachusetts: Senator Ted Kennedy, (202) 224-4543
New Hampshire: Senator Judd Gregg, (202) 224-3324
New Mexico: Senator Jeff Bingaman, (202) 224-5521
New York: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, (202) 224-4451
North Carolina: Senator Richard Burr, (202) 224-3154
Ohio: Senator Sherrod Brown, (202) 224-2315
Oklahoma: Senator Tom Coburn, (202) 224-5754
Rhode Island: Senator Jack Reed, (202) 224-4642
Tennessee: Senator Lamar Alexander, (202) 224-4944
Utah: Senator Orrin Hatch, (202) 224-5251
Vermont: Senator Bernard Sanders, (202) 224-5141
Washington: Senator Patty Murray, (202) 224-2621
Wyoming: Senator Michael Enzi, (202) 224-3424

Thank you for taking action. DRCNet has been fighting against this law since it was passed in 1998, and with your help we could actually win it now!

Ten members of Congress spoke at the press conference we organized for the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform in 2002.

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

Normally when we publish a book review in our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 2,700 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.


David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Pain Medicine: Judge Dismisses Most Serious Charges in Hurwitz Retrial

The judge presiding over the retrial of prominent Northern Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz has dismissed the most serious charges against him. On Wednesday, as the defense rested in the month-long retrial, Judge Leonie Brinkema granted a defense request to dismiss charges of causing bodily injury or death. Hurwitz still faces dozens of drug trafficking counts linked to his pain management medical practice.

Dr. Hurwitz in 1996
Hurwitz was originally convicted in November 2004 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has been there ever since, even though the original verdict was overturned on appeal. While he could still face substantial prison time if found guilty again, he will not face the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence that the charge of causing bodily injury or death carries.

In dismissing the charges, Brinkema agreed with two arguments advanced by the defense. First was that prosecutors had not proven the pain relievers prescribed by Hurwitz caused death or injury. Second was that the US Supreme Court in its decision upholding Oregon's right to die law last year ruled that federal drug laws did not give the Justice Department the power "to define general standards of medical practice."

That is precisely what federal prosecutors have done in dozens of cases like Hurwitz's. Prosecutors repeatedly -- and often successfully -- argued that doctors prescribing high dose of opioid pain relievers were outside the bounds of "accepted medical practice," and thus drug dealers, not doctors.

Now it will be more difficult for prosecutors to win a new conviction against Hurwitz. They must show that he knew the drugs he prescribed would be resold or abused and prescribed them anyway. Hurwitz has steadfastly denied that. Now prosecutors will have to prove that his problem patients were so obviously drug addicts and dealers that he had to have known his prescriptions were being diverted.

Judge Dismisses the Most Serious Charges Against Dr. Hurwitz

United States
New York Times (blogs)

Drug agency remaining mum about raid on doctor's office

United States
Billings Gazette (MT)

Medical Marijuana: Feds to Retry Ed Rosenthal in Futile Prosecution

Federal prosecutors in the Ed Rosenthal medical marijuana cultivation case announced last Friday they will retry the guru of ganja, even though they cannot send him to prison and even though the presiding judge urged them to drop the case and admonished them for vindictively prosecuting him. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who has overseen the case from the beginning, demanded that prosecutors tell him who in the Justice Department had authorized this new prosecution.

Ed Rosenthal at courthouse, with supporters, September 2006 (courtesy indybay.org)
Rosenthal was convicted in federal court in San Francisco in 2003 on marijuana cultivation charges after Breyer ruled he could not present evidence showing he was cultivating medicinal marijuana legally under California law and with the approval of local authorities. When jury members heard the rest of the story after they convicted him, they held a news conference to denounce their own verdict.

In the wake of the juror rebellion, Judge Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to one day in jail, which he had already served. While his original conviction was overturned because of juror misconduct, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the one-day sentence, which prosecutors had appealed.

But that same ruling affirmed the federal government's right to prosecute medical marijuana violators, and the prosecutors, led by US Attorney Scott Schools, apparently irked by Rosenthal's high profile criticisms of them, decided to retry him on the cultivation charges and throw in four counts of money laundering and five counts of filing a false federal income tax return as well. Breyer threw out the new charges last month, saying they were solely to punish Rosenthal for winning his appeal.

"This isn't a criminal case, this is a political case," Rosenthal told reporters as he arrived at the courthouse dressed in a blue wizard's robe with a golden marijuana leaf emblazoned over the breast. "I may as well get my money's worth and have a trial."

Employers grapple with medical marijuana use

United States
USA Today

Federal Prosecutors Will Retry Ganja Guru (CA)

San Francisco, CA
United States
Associated Press

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