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Australia: NSW Greens' Call to Decriminalize Drug Possession Causes Pre-Election Stir

Drug policy is becoming a major campaign issue in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW). With an ongoing, highly publicized "epidemic" of methamphetamine use under way and elections now less than 10 days away, the NSW Green Party is calling for the decriminalization of drug possession -- even the dreaded ice, as meth is commonly referred to Down Under -- and Liberal and Labor party foes are attacking them for it.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/learhiannon.jpg
Lee Rhiannon
Although Greens hold only a handful of seats in the state parliament, by throwing their support to the governing Labor Party in some key districts, they could end up holding the balance of power in the Upper House. The NSW Greens' leading Upper House candidate, Lee Rhiannon, has been the party's main spokesperson in the increasingly nasty exchanges over drug policy.

The Greens' position on the decriminalization of drug possession is not ad hoc. It reflects the party's formal platform on drug policy, adopted last October after extensive consultations with party members. The platform also calls for the stronger embrace of harm reduction measures and the decriminalization of marijuana growing for personal use.

While the Greens' drug platform is not new, Rhiannon's public reiteration of it Monday ignited a firestorm of criticism and mischaracterization. The Daily Telegraph blurted to its readers that the Greens were "effectively saying that ice junkies should be free to buy as much of the deadly substance as they want." The Daily Telegraph also described the Green position that decriminalizing drug possession was less dangerous than prohibition as "a bizarre defense."

Liberal leader Peter Debnam was also caustic, writing in his blog: "Any Member of Parliament who thinks we should decriminalize drugs, including 'Ice', should take a good hard look at themselves, do the community a favour, and resign" and "This drug is death to young people and it is undermining a whole generation."

While Debnam accused the Greens and the Labor Party of cooking up some sort of "ice deal," there was little sign of that from Labor Premier Morris Iemma. He responded to the Green drug platform by saying: "It is just an absurd, ridiculous and disgusting policy." Any MP who supported such a policy was "completely out of touch with reality," he said.

Just to make things perfectly clear, Labor Party secretary Mark Arbib added that while Labor was willing to cut an electoral deal with the Greens, it does not endorse Green drug policy. "There will be no watering down of the (Labor) party's tough drug laws or positions on other social issues," he said.

But the Greens are fighting back, against both the political attacks and the yellow journalism. "The allegation in today's Daily Telegraph that the Greens policy would allow people to buy unlimited amounts of the deadly drug 'ice' is totally false," Rhiannon said in a Tuesday statement. "The Greens policy does not support unlimited supply of any drug, least of all crystal methamphetamine. This attack on the Greens is an election scare tactic which will distract from the urgent task of protecting young people from ice. The Greens do not support drug use and our policy does not condone people using the new drug known as ice."

Rhiannon also went after Premier Iemma for both failure and hypocrisy. "The Iemma government has failed to deal with the increased use of ice," she said. "The use of crystal methamphetamine has increased during the term of the Iemma/Carr government. There are now more than 17,700 regular methamphetamine users and 14,700 dependent methamphetamine users in Sydney and the number is growing rapidly," she noted.

"The drug policies of the Labor government are failing to deal with the epidemic," Rhiannon continued. "What is needed are prevention initiatives that educate the target populations to the dangers of using the drug and effective and accessible treatment programs for dependent and addicted users."

In fact, as the Greens noted in a Wednesday press release, Labor actually quietly supports many Green harm reduction notions and treatment and diversion programs for meth users. "The Premier is quick to put the boot into the Greens for our approach to ice. But the reality is Labor has instituted innovative ice programs, based on the harm minimization principles advocated by the Greens," Rhiannon said.

Among those programs is a stimulant treatment program at two hospitals, the safe injection room at Kings Cross, and the "MERIT" program that diverts meth users into treatment instead of jail. "If we really want to make NSW ice free, these programs need to be expanded and receive a massive increase in funding," said Rhiannon. "Premier Iemma should shout these initiatives from the rooftops instead of hiding behind his tough "law and order" policies. It appears that he is more concerned about a political backlash. To successfully eradicate ice politicians must be willing to take action that may be at first unpopular. Without brave policy from government, ice will continue to wreak havoc in our society."

Perhaps Debnam, Arbib and Iemma should listen to prominent Australian physician Dr. Alex Wodak's interview last year with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Among Wodak's quotes of note: "Prohibition didn't work in America in the 1920s and it won't work now."

Marijuana: Grassroots Protest in Small Town Wisconsin After Drug Bust

When police in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, wrapped up a 16-month investigation into the drug trade there, they patted themselves on the back for rolling up 62 people, mostly in their twenties, mostly for small-time sales of marijuana and prescription pills. But while police got some expressions of community support, not everyone was happy.

On Monday, for the second time in as many weeks, a handful of teenaged protestors gathered near the courthouse downtown to protest the busts and call for the legalization of marijuana. According to the Stevens Point Journal, the young demonstrators held up signs reading "Be Wise, Legalize," and "Hemp Can Save the World" as passing motorists honked in support.

"People should be able to choose what goes in their body," said Ben Eisner, 18. "Caffeine has more deaths per year than marijuana," he told the newspaper. Legalization would promote healthier user habits, he said. "With legalization comes responsibility," Eisner said.

"I think it should be used the same way alcohol is used," said Eryn Edelbeck, 17, adding that abuse of alcohol is more damaging to long-term health than marijuana.

And support is broad -- one of the demonstrators, Eleni Schuler, 16, said she has never even used marijuana herself. "I just support the idea," she said.

With their friends and colleagues facing possible long years in prison, the group is vowing to return every week to draw local support, "possibly with the goal of starting a chapter of NORML…" Add another handful to the ranks of the reformers. And with every small town bust, another handful.

Search and Seizure: Utah Supreme Court Holds Mere Odor of Marijuana Not Enough for a Warrantless Home Search

In a ruling last Friday, the Utah Supreme Court held that the odor of burning marijuana is not sufficient to allow police to enter a residence without a warrant. The ruling in Utah v. Duran means that in Utah, police will no longer be able to use the old "I think I smell marijuana" routine as a pretext for conducting warrantless searches of homes.

The case began in Price, Utah, in 2003, when police were called to a residence by relatives who claimed people were smoking marijuana inside. When police arrived, they reported that "marijuana smoke was leaking out the cracks of the trailer," thus giving them probable cause to seek a search warrant. But police feared the suspects were "in the process of smokin' up all the evidence," so they entered without taking the time to get a warrant.

Inside, they found three people, as well as marijuana. The three were arrested, and one of them, Bernadette Duran, sought to have the evidence against thrown out as the result of an unlawful search. Duran lost at the trial court level, but won in the state appeals court, and now that victory has been ratified by the state Supreme Court.

In its 4-1 decision, the high court said that while there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement, such as preventing the imminent destruction of evidence, smelling pot smoke is not one of them. "We decline to grant the aroma of burning marijuana a place on an exclusive, limited roster of exceptions to the requirement that a warrant be secured before a lawful search can occur," Justice Ronald Nehring wrote for the majority. "The aroma of marijuana must be accompanied by some evidence that the suspects are disposing of the evidence, as opposed to casually consuming it."

That was a step too far for the lone dissenter in the case, Associate Chief Justice Michael Willkins, who argued that the odor of pot smoke could at times justify a warrantless search. "In a case where illegal drugs are being burned out of sight but not out of smell, and where the quantity of drugs is unknown to the officers, a presumption that the drugs are being destroyed rather than merely consumed is not unreasonable," Wilkins wrote.

But thankfully, his was the dissenting opinion.

Editorial: Hail, Seizure! Government laughing all the way to the bank

Location: 
Colorado Springs, CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Gazette (CO)
URL: 
http://www.gazette.com/onset?id=20074&template=article.html

Drug Raids, Related Trauma, On the Rise

Location: 
NJ
United States
Publication/Source: 
Bergen County Herald News
URL: 
http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk1JmZnYmVsN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk3MDkyNDMyJnlyaXJ5N2Y3MTdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5Mw==

NY: Blacks and Hispanics Bare Brunt of Marijuana Arrests

Location: 
NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
New York Public Radio
URL: 
http://www.wnyc.org/news/articles/75153

UT: Court: Marijuana odor insufficient for warrantless search

Location: 
UT
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Salt Lake Tribune
URL: 
http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_5397956

Cory Maye Catastrophe Copied in Canada

Basile Parasiris is the latest seemingly innocent person to fire on police who he mistook for burglars during a drug raid on his home. He's now charged with 1st degree murder among other things, for the apparent act of attempting to defend his family. From The Montreal Gazette:
Lawyer Frank Pappas said his client was trying to defend himself and his family when he grabbed a loaded gun and shot Laval Constable Daniel Tessier - whom Parasiris mistook for a crazed thief.

"If he would've believed it was the police, do you think he would have taken them on?" Pappas said in an interview. "They have more firepower than him."

According to Pappas, police didn't find anything in the Parasiris home.

"There was no body, no drugs, no large quantities of firearms," he said. "They may have found one or two pills of Viagra that he didn't have a prescription for.

According to Pappas, the son called 911 after the police barged into the family home and bullets started flying.

"Do you think that if they knew they were police officers, they'd call 911?" Pappas said.
Much remains unknown at this point. But the apparent absence of drugs and the 911 call sound like strong indications that we're looking at another terribly misguided prosecution. Unfortunately, as we've learned from the Cory Maye case, there seems to be a mental block that prevents police, prosecutors, and judges from understanding that normal people are prone to shoot at intruders who burst into their homes.

The otherwise forgivable instinct to defend one's property becomes totally unacceptable when the intruders turn out to be police who mistakenly believe you've got drugs in there. It's mind-boggling that despite all the evidence to the contrary, police continue to insist that they must raid homes suddenly and unexpectedly…because doing otherwise would be dangerous.

How many innocent people must be tricked into shooting police officers before law-enforcement figures out that behaving like burglars is not a safe way to initiate contact with citizens?

As Radley Balko has often pointed out, these deaths occur in the course of a completely unsuccessful effort to stop people from getting high. As the frequency of these raids-gone-wrong increases, it's chilling to think that this ongoing theater of unnecessary death and destruction won't stop until the pile of bodies is too tall to ignore.


Location: 
United States

Editorial: Restore property rights stolen by drug warriors

Location: 
MI
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Detroit News
URL: 
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070307/OPINION01/703070313/1008

Op-Ed: Legalizing marijuana would save lives and money

Location: 
NH
United States
Publication/Source: 
New Hampshire Union Leader
URL: 
http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=Legalizing+marijuana+would+save+lives+and+money&articleId=024223d5-9226-4ec0-b32d-dffff83c2a7d

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