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Asia: Drug Users Form Regional Drug User Organization

In a meeting in Bangkok last weekend, more than two dozen drug users from nine different countries came together to put the finishing touches on the creation of a new drug user advocacy organization, the Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD). The Bangkok meeting was the culmination of a two-year process began at a meeting of the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2007, and resulted in creating a constitution and selecting a steering committee for the new group. ANPUD adopts the principles of MIPUD (Meaningful Involvement of People who Use Drugs), and in doing so, aligns itself with other drug user advocacy groups, including the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), of which ANPUD is an independent affiliate, the Australian Injection and Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL),the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, and the Nothing About Us Without Us movement. ANPUD currently has more than 150 members and sees its mission to advocate for the rights of drug users and communities before national governments and the international community. There is plenty to do. Asia has the largest number of drug users in the world, but is, for the most part, woefully retrograde on drug policy issues. Not only do drug users face harsh criminal sanctions—up to and including the death penalty—but Asian has the lowest coverage of harm reduction services in the world. Access to harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges and opioid maintenance therapy, is extremely limited. "People who use drugs are stigmatized, criminalized and abused in every country in Asia," said Jimmy Dorabjee, a key figure in the formation of ANPUD. "Our human rights are violated and we have little in the way of health services to stay alive. If governments do not see people who use drugs, hear us and talk to us, they will continue to ignore us." The Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team, Dr. Prasada Rao, spoke of the urgent need to engage with drug user networks and offered his support to ANPUD, saying that "For UNAIDS, HIV prevention among drug users is a key priority at the global level," said Dr. Prasada Rao, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team. "I am very pleased today to be here to see ANPUD being shaped into an organization that will play a key role in Asia's HIV response. It is critical that we are able to more effectively involve the voices of Asian people who use drugs in the scaling up of HIV prevention services across Asia." "When I go back home, I am now responsible for sharing the experiences with the 250 or so drug users who are actively advocating for better services at the national level," said Nepalese drug user and newly elected steering committee member Ekta Thapa Mahat. "It will be a great way for us to work together and help build the capacity of people who use drugs in Asia." "The results of the meeting exceeded my expectations," said Ele Morrison, program manager for AVIL's Regional Partnership Project. "The participants set ambitious goals for themselves and they have achieved a lot in just two days to set up this new organization. The building blocks for genuine ownership by people who use drugs is definitely there." While the meetings leading to the formation were organized and managed by drug users, the process received financial support from the World Health Organization, the UNAIDS Regional Task Force, and AIVL.
Location: 
Bangkok
Thailand

Southwest Asia: Afghan Opium Trade Wreaking Global Havoc, UNODC Warns

Southwest Asia: Afghan Opium Trade Wreaking Global Havoc, UNODC Warns The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned Wednesday that the traffic in Afghan opiates is spreading drug use and addiction along smuggling routes, spreading diseases, and funding insurgencies. The warning came in a new report, Addiction, Crime, and Insurgency: The Threat of Afghan Opium. "The Afghan opiate trade fuels consumption and addiction in countries along drug trafficking routes before reaching the main consumer markets in Europe (estimated at 3.1 million heroin users), contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases," the report said. Neighboring countries, especially Iran, Pakistan, and the Central Asian republics, are among the hardest hit, said UNODC. According to the report, Iran now has the highest opiate addiction rates in the world. "Iran faces the world's most serious opiate addiction problem, while injecting drug use in Central Asia is causing an HIV epidemic," UNODC said. But the impact of the multi-billion flow of Afghan opiates could have an especially deleterious impact on Central Asia, UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa warned in remarks accompanying the report. "The Silk Route, turned into a heroin route, is carving out a path of death and violence through one of the world's most strategic yet volatile regions," Costa said. "The perfect storm of drugs, crime and insurgency that has swirled around the Afghanistan/Pakistan border for years is heading for Central Asia." In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the opium trade is funding violent radicals. "The funds generated from the drugs trade can pay for soldiers, weapons and protection, and are an important source of patronage," the report said. In Afghanistan, the Taliban generated between $90 million and $160 million annually in recent years, the UNODC estimated. In Pakistan, the UNODC estimated the trade at $1 billion annually, with "undetermined amounts going to insurgents." Although Afghan opium production declined slightly last year, the country is producing—and has produced—more opium needed than to meet global supply. As a result, the UNODC estimates that there is an unaccounted for stockpile of 12,000 tons of opium—enough to satisfy every junkie on the planet for the next three to four years. "Thus, even if opiate production in Afghanistan were to cease immediately, there would still be ample supply," the report said. Unsurprisingly, the UNODC report did not address the role that global drug prohibition plays in exacerbating problems related to opiate use and the opiate trade. Prohibitionist attitudes restrict the availability of harm reduction programs, such as needle exchanges, that could reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases. And it is global drug prohibition itself that creates the lucrative black market the UNODC says is financing insurgencies and spreading political instability.

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches All-Time High; A Majority in the West Say Free the Weed

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Reaches All-Time High; Over 50% in the West Are in Favor According to the most recent Gallup poll, 44% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, while 54% oppose it. The 44% figure is the highest since Gallup began polling on the issue nearly 40 years ago. In 1970, only 12% of respondents favored legalization. That figure climbed to 28% in 1977, then declined slightly and reached a plateau with support holding at around 25% for the next two decades. But in the past decade, public opinion has begun to shift, with support hitting 34% in 2002, 36% in 2006, and now, 44%. Conversely, opposition to legalization is now at an all-time low. It was 84% in 1970, 66% in 1977, and around 73% for most of the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton eras. But beginning in about 1996, opposition began to decline, dropping to 62% in 2002, 60% in 2006, and now, 54%. A related question—whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed to raise revenues for state governments—won similar support levels in the Gallup poll. Some 42% of respondents said they would favor such a move in their state, while 56% were opposed. In the West, however, support for tax and legalize has gone over the top; 53% favor such an approach. Looking at various demographic groups, support for marijuana legalization is highest among self-described liberals, at 78%. Only 26% of conservatives and 46% of moderates supported legalization. Similarly, 54% of Democrats, 49% of independents, and 28% of Republicans supported legalization. There is also a clear generational divide. Half of those under age 50 support legalization, compared to 45% aged 50 to 64, and only 28% of seniors. Support for legalization has swollen among certain demographic groups since the last Gallup poll on the issue in 2005. The number in favor of legalization jumped more than 10 points among women (+12), young people (+11), Democrats (+13), liberals (+15), moderates (+11), and residents of the West (+13). If these rates of increase in support for legalization continue over the medium term, the world as we know may indeed end in 2012.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A sheriff shaking down motorists under the guise of asset forfeiture gets a slap on the wrist, and so does a narc who stole the cash from a drug raid. A drug investigation nets two New Jersey cops -- among others -- and another Florida deputy goes down for extorting a pot grower. And sometimes, a cop may not be as corrupt as she first seems. Let's get to it:

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cash in the evidence room -- who's counting?
In Rochester, Minnesota, two of five charges against a Rochester police officer charged with drug corruption were dismissed on October 8. Officer Vanessa Mason was accused in April of tipping off drug dealers and taking money to deliver drugs, and was put on administrative leave then. The two charges were dismissed after a jailed Rochester man said he lied when he told investigators he helped Mason transport drugs last year -- he said he felt pressured by investigators. She still faces one felony count of warning a subject of a surveillance operation and two misdemeanor counts of misconduct by a police officer.

In Jersey City, New Jersey, a Hoboken police officer and a Jersey City police officer were among 17 arrested over the past month in a year-and-a-half long joint operation by the DEA and Jersey City police against a local cocaine trafficking organization. Jersey City Police Officer Mark Medal, 52, who was already suspended for problems with a drug test, was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, as was a ranking Hoboken Fire Department official, Battalion Chief Henry Setkiewicz, 59. Both were described as regular customers of the network, although it is not clear if it was for personal use or to resell. Hoboken Police Officer Ralph Gallo, 25, was charged with computer theft -- criminal computer activity -- and official misconduct for allegedly checking a license plate against a law enforcement database for one of the network members. A Hoboken Parking Utility employee, Monica Thorpe, 42, faces similar charges for doing the same thing.

In Miami, another Broward County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Friday in a drug extortion scheme against a marijuana grower that saw Deputy Manuel Silva arrested Oct 2. This week, it was Deputy Fausto "TJ" Tejero's turn. He is accused of acting as Silva's accomplice in offering to ignore the grow in return for cash payments. Tejero was at the scene with Silva when Silva searched the grower's home, found the pot, and offered silence for cash. He is charged with extortion, attempted bribery, burglary and unlawful compensation and is being held without bail.

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis police detective was sentenced last Friday to one year and one day in prison for stealing money seized during a June 2008 drug raid along with two other officers. Vincent Carr, 47, also has to pay back $28,000. He pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy, wire fraud, making false statements, and obstruction of justice. The two other police detectives involved in the theft have also pleaded guilty. Leo Listen was sentenced in September; Bobby Lee Garrett will be sentenced next month.

In Muskogee, Oklahoma, the former McIntosh County sheriff and undersheriff were sentenced September 23 to 27 months in federal prison for stealing money from motorists under the guise of asset forfeiture and keeping it for themselves. Former Sheriff Terry Jones, 36, and Undersheriff Mykol Brookshire, 38, pleaded guilty to "conspiracy under color of law to interfere with interstate commerce" for repeatedly seizing money from drivers under threat of arrest and then keeping either all or part of it for themselves. They went down in May of this year when the driver they pulled over and shook down turned out to be a federal agent in a sting directed at them. They found six bundles of cash, but when they called in the "bust," they only reported five.

New Zealand: New Anti-Meth Measures Set to Go Into Effect -- Tough Luck, Flu Sufferers

Under an anti-methamphetamine package announced last week by the government of New Zealand, popular cold and flu remedies containing pseudoephedrine will soon be available only by prescription after a visit to the doctor's office. The popular sinus treatment is also considered a precursor chemical for manufacturing meth.

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"We're asking New Zealanders to band together and to accept using alternatives to treat their colds and flus to ensure New Zealand no longer becomes one of the countries most heavily affected by P [as the Kiwis refer to meth]," said Prime Minister John Key as he announced the a series of moves to combat meth use and production.

In addition to restricting access to precursor chemicals, the government will spend more money on drug treatment programs, create a 40-man police anti-meth task force, and charge police with drafting a new anti-meth law enforcement strategy by next month. The government said it would pay for the programs with asset forfeiture funds.

The pseudoephedrine announcement in particular brought a mixed reaction from the public. Some, especially those who had friends or family members who had had problems with meth, were supportive. But others were "annoyed," asking why law-abiding people had to suffer for the actions of drug users and some "voiced concern that it was a bit over the top."

Unsurprisingly, New Zealand police were happy with the new meth package. In a statement greeting the package's announcement, Assistant Commissioner Viv Rickard praised the "whole of government approach" as "more effective" in the battle against meth, but, as always, the police wanted more.

"Police support the control of pseudoephedrine as it would allow us to concentrate resources and work with Customs on preventing the importation of precursors from overseas," Rickard said. "Precursor control is a vital part of disrupting the supply of methamphetamine, but no one action on its own will solve the methamphetamine problem. Stronger legislation around gangs, the ability to seize assets and profits of organized criminals and enhanced treatment programs will all contribute reducing the supply of methamphetamine and making our communities safer."

Australia: Western Australia Premier Vows to Roll Back Marijuana Reforms, Reenergize Drug War

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Demagogue Rising: Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett
Leading a Liberal-National Party coalition government, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett is introducing legislation this week to roll back reforms to the state's marijuana laws. Passed by an earlier Labor government in 2003, the changes decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot and allowed for the growing of up to two plants without fear of arrest and prosecution.

In a media statement Sunday and another one Monday, the "tough on crime" premier gave clear notice he was cracking down on pot and other drug offenders, and was willing to extend police powers to do so. He said he would introduce legislation to repeal the state's Cannabis Control Act of 2003 and to amend the 1981 Misuse of Drugs and Youthful Offender Act.

"The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation," Barnett said. "Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs," he maintained, treating highly controversial and discredited claims as if they were fact.

According to Premier Barnett, his legislation will:

  • Prosecute those in possession of more than 10g of cannabis.
  • See subsequent offenses for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences.
  • Prosecute people for cultivating even one or two cannabis plants.
  • Extend the ban on the sale of pot-smoking implements to minors to include everyone.
  • Increase the fine for selling smoking implements to $5,000 for sale to adults and $10,000 for sale to minors. Corporate entities could be fined up to five times those amounts.

Barnett also wants to "reform" the Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme (CIN), or ticketing and fines for decriminalized amounts, by replacing it with a Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS) that would require anyone ticketed to attend "drug education" classes. It would also mandate that anyone who failed to pay his fine would be prosecuted, something that has not been the case under the current law.

Barnett's scheme would also allow for the criminal prosecution for marijuana possession of juveniles after two decrim tickets and adults after one. The current law has no such measures.

There's more to come, Barnett promised. "The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply," he said. "Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offenses for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants. The government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits."

But, he said Monday, he's going to start by soon introducing legislation to allow police to stop and search anyone without probable cause. The police commissioner would designate certain "stop and search" zones with advance public notice, especially in entertainment areas.

"Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Barnett said. "It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane."

Medical Marijuana: Wisconsin Bill to Be Filed

Wisconsin legislators will get another crack at passing a medical marijuana bill. State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) announced October 8 they were sponsoring LRB 2517, the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, named after the long-time Mondovi patient and activist. They are currently looking for cosponsors.

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IMMLY march last week, Madison
Rickert famously led a 210-mile march in her wheelchair to the state house in 1997 seeking to bring attention to her cause. Since then, she and the group Is My Medicine Legal Yet (IMMLY) have worked tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed in the Cheesehead State. A 2007 bill died in committee. This year, IMMLY communications director Gary Storck and terminally ill disabled veteran Mary Powers have been leading weekly delegations of patients to the capitol to meet with and educate lawmakers.

Under the proposed legislation, terminally or seriously ill patients could obtain a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana. Possession of either the recommendation or a state ID issued by the Department of Human Services would protect patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution. Patients and caregivers could grow up to 12 plants and possess up to three ounces of marijuana. The bill also provides for a dispensary system similar to the state-regulated one recently set up in Rhode Island.

"It's a situation that makes a lot of sense and it's also a situation dealing with compassion -- how can you not have compassion for someone who says, 'look the nausea is really upsetting, the chemo treatments are really tough and this is the only way I can find a little bit of relief from the pain,'" said Erpenbach at a press conference announcing the bill.

The legislators' action came a week after IMMLY led a demonstration of hundreds of patients and supporters at the state capitol in Madison. Now, with the bill circulating and about to be filed, it will be time to return to the mundane art of state house lobbying.

Visit http://www.youtube.com/1Rx100372 for IMMLY video selections.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,800 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Wednesday, October 7

Three men were killed in the state of Guerrero in different parts of the city of Tecpan de Galeana. Police believe that armed men travelling in two vehicles were involved in all three incidents, which occurred the same night.

Thursday, October 8

A pregnant Guatemalan woman was killed along with her mother in Chiapas. The two Guatemalan women were found dead on a farm outside the city of Tuxla Chico. Additionally, five people were killed in Guerrero, three in Durango, and three decapitated bodies were found in Sinaloa. In the northern city of Monterrey, two people were killed and a third was wounded after a firefight took place inside a restaurant. Fifteen people were reported killed in Ciudad Juarez during the same 24 hour period.

Friday, October 9

In Tijuana, the mutilated body of a state official was found hanging from a bridge. The official, Rogelio Sanchez, was kidnapped Wednesday, and was suspected by police of giving fake drivers licenses to drug traffickers. Tijuana is currently the scene of a violent turf war between the Arellano-Felix Cartel and a breakaway faction led by Teodoro Garcia Simental.

In Guerrero, ten people were found executed, all bearing signs that read "This is what is going to happen to thieves and extortionists. Respectfully, the Boss of Bosses." Local authorities offered no explanation for the notes. (The same appellation was used in a September 12 killing in Acapulco.) Authorities were alerted to the bodies -- many of whose heads were found bound in masking tape -- by a series of anonymous phone calls. In recent months many low-level criminals have been killed by vigilante groups thought to be working with the support of drug traffickers or members of the police.

In the state of Jalisco, four suspected cartel gunmen were killed in an hours-long gun battle with the Mexican army. During the battle, a police helicopter which had been called to the scene was struck by gunfire. A helicopter gunship was also called in. In the state of Chihuahua, a soldier was killed and several wounded after being ambushed near the small hamlet of Colonia LeBaron. The area has been heavily patrolled following the July killing of an anti-crime activist and his neighbor.

Monday, October 12

In the waters of the port city of Mazatlan, four men were arrested after the ship in which they were travelling was found to be carrying approximately 500 kilos of cocaine. After catching sight of an American naval vessel in the area, the men were seen began throwing the drugs overboard, set fire to their ship, and jumped into the water. American naval personnel rescued the men and turned them over to Mexican military authorities.

Tuesday, October 13

In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were killed in drug-related violence. Among them was a woman who was found beheaded. The woman was in her late twenties and had a tattoo of Santa Muerte, or "Saint Death", a symbol popular among Mexican criminals. In a separate incident, four men were killed when gunmen attacked a mechanics workshop, and three others were killed in other shootings.

In Navolato, Sinaloa, a group of armed men kidnapped and killed the brother-in-law of a brother of Vicente Carillo Fuentes, the reputed head of the Juarez Cartel. The man, Jacobo Retamoza, 34, was the lawyer who represented the La Guajira farm, where in November 2008 a group of armed men dressed in military uniforms kidnapped 27 people. He was driving on a highway when he was intercepted by a group of heavily armed gunmen who spirited him away in a truck. Several hours later he was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds.

In Chiapas, a vast arsenal was discovered after the arrest of four men, who ranged in ages from 21 to 41. The men had in their possession 21 AR-15 rifles, 18 AK-47's, and five pistols, one of which was jewel encrusted. Additionally, law enforcement officers found 17, 212 rounds of ammunition, over 300 grenades, several blocks of TNT, a sniper rifle, nine vehicles, and confiscated two race horses found on the property.

Total body count for the week: 178
Total body count for the year: 5,815

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Africa: Liberia Institutes Draconian New Drug Sentences

The West African nation of Liberia, still struggling to emerge from years of bloody civil war, is now turning its attention to the war on drugs. Voice of America reported Wednesday that Liberian lawmakers have approved tough new anti-drug measures aimed not only at South American and Nigerian drug traffickers, but also at the country's own marijuana farmers.

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Liberia
Under the old law, drug trafficking offenses typically earned between five and 10 years in prison, but now the minimum sentence has quintupled. "If you are arrested and sent to court and convicted, you could be sentenced to jail for not less than 25 years and not more than 60 years," James Jelah, head of the Liberian DEA, told VOA.

Under the new law, drug offenders will no longer be eligible for bail while awaiting trial. Police and prosecutors have also been granted new asset forfeiture powers.

The hard line comes as Liberia and other weak West African nations grapple with cocaine trafficking. The poorly policed countries provide an enticing stopover point for South American loads on their way to the European market.

But like neighboring countries, Liberia also has a substantial -- and militant -- marijuana farming population. "The DEA is trying to uproot the marijuana farms," Jelah said. "And as a result, they were attacked by the townspeople. They put a blockade. They attacked them. Some shot single-barrel guns in the air. People came with machetes and sticks and they started beating up the DEA men. These guys had to jump in the bush."

In a country with 80% unemployment, marijuana production is a lucrative economic activity. So is the retail drug trade. One young Liberian told VOA the drug trade wasn't going away no matter what the government did.

"I sell it to foreigners, and I also sell it to Liberians," he said. "This is a money-making business. I do not care how much the government can do, this is our business. This is how we survive. So we cannot just do without drugs."

But the Liberian government is reading from the US drug war playbook.

Sentencing: Sen. Durbin Introduces Bill to Eliminate Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) Thursday introduced the Fair Sentencing Act of 2009, which would eliminate the 100:1 sentencing disparity in federal crack and powder cocaine cases. Under current laws, in place since the crack hysteria of the mid-1980s, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, but only five grams of crack to earn the same sentence.

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Sen. Durbin at May hearing on crack sentencing
The Fair Sentencing Act would eliminate that disparity. Companion legislation has already passed the House Judiciary Committee. Ending the disparity is also supported by President Obama.

Pressure to remedy the injustice of the sentencing disparity has been building for years. The US Sentencing Commission has reduced sentences for crack offenses and has argued for years that the disparity needs to be eliminated. It has been joined by a growing coalition of faith-based, drug reform, criminal justice, and other interest groups. Now, finally, something is moving in Congress.

"Drug use is a serious problem in America and we need tough legislation to combat it," Durbin said in a statement Thursday taking a very mainstream line. "But in addition to being tough, our drug laws must be smart and fair. Our current cocaine laws are not," the statement continued. "The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of whites and to the United States' position as the world's leader in incarcerations. Congress has talked about addressing this injustice for long enough; it's time for us to act."

"Sen. Durbin's bill will not only restore judicial discretion, which has been undermined by the statutory mandatory minimum sentences that Congress enacted 23 years ago, but will directly address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and ensure that there is, in fact, 'justice for all'," said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The House and Senate should move quickly on this issue, 23 years is too long to wait for justice to be served."

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NAACP's Hilary Shelton addresses ''Crack the Disparity'' coalition Congressional Briefing Tuesday
The act is cosponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and six other Judiciary Committee members: Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Russell Feingold (D-VT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward Kaufman (D-DE), and Al Franken (D-NM). Also cosponsoring the bill are Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT). Some Republican senators have expressed support for reforming the sentencing disparity, but none have yet signed on as cosponsors.

"Today, the criminal justice system has unfair and biased cocaine penalties that undermine the Constitution's promise of equal treatment for all Americans," Leahy said. "To have faith in our system Americans must have confidence that the laws of this country, including our drug laws, are fair and administered fairly. I believe the Fair Sentencing Act will move us one step closer to reaching that goal. I commend Senator Durbin for his leadership in fixing this decades-old injustice. We should do what we can to restore public confidence in our criminal justice system. Correcting biases in our criminal sentencing laws is a step in that direction."

Click here for C-Span footage of a Tuesday Congressional briefing held by the Crack the Disparity coalition.

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