(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #35, 3/27/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Medical Marijuana Protest in Pasadena, CA
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Table of Contents
(visit last week's Week Online)
1. LEAKED MCCAFFREY LETTER INDICATES OPPOSITION TO LIFTING SYRINGE EXCHANGE FUNDING BAN
On Tuesday, (3/17), a meeting took place between National AIDS Policy Director Sandra Thurman and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey over the issue of syringe exchange, and the ban on the use of federal anti-AIDS funds for their implementation. The meeting was held in the wake of the "no-confidence" resolution released earlier that day by the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV/AIDS (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/3-20.html#aidscouncil).
The result of that meeting was a letter, sent by McCaffrey to Thurman, indicating the Drug Czar's strong opposition to the lifting of the ban. While insiders had been aware for some time of McCaffrey's opposition, he had never directly made his feelings public. The letter, however, was leaked both to members of Congress and to the New York Times, which ran a story on it on Sunday (3/22). McCaffrey's now-public opposition to lifting the ban is seen by proponents as a serious blow to the chances that Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala will make the determination, a prerequisite for lifting the ban, that syringe exchange slows the spread of AIDS without a concomitant rise in drug use. This despite overwhelming scientific support for the programs.
Robert Fogel, a member of the President's Advisory Commission told The Week Online: "The joint statement issued by AIDS Policy Director Sandra Thurman and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey indicates that they will leave it in the hands of HHS Secretary Donna Shalala to decide whether or not to make the required determination. This is just as it has been. Secretary Shalala has assured the commission that her office is almost finished with their review, and that her determination would be based on the science, and not on the politics surrounding the issue. At this point, we have faith that those assurances were made honestly. We await the Secretary's determination."
2. 17 YEAR-OLD POLICE INFORMANT KILLED, GIRLFRIEND RAPED AND SHOT IN CALIFORNIA
- Barrington Daltrey for DRCNet
The use of juveniles by law enforcement agencies pursuant to plea bargains has come under scrutiny in California this week. How extensive is the practice? No one knows, since the records of such agreements are subject to the privacy laws protecting juveniles.
Earlier in the week, Southern California was shocked by the disclosure that the death of Chad McDonald, a 17 year old boy, and the brutal rape and attempted murder of his 15 year old girlfriend, might have resulted from the Brea police department's use of the boy as an informant. The Brea police department steadfastly denies any involvement, pointing out the incident took place in Norwalk, an area outside the Brea P.D.'s jurisdiction. But an attorney for the youth's mother claims that she allowed her son to act as an informant in return for having him released into her custody. The attorney also has stated that the mother tried to send the boy to relatives on the east coast in order to get him away from the streets of L.A., but that the Brea police wouldn't allow it. "They kept wanting more and more" from him, she said.
Coverage of the incident began after the discovery early in the month of the boy's body in an alley in South Central L.A., and discovery of the girl, left for dead, in the nearby mountains. The most recent disclosures came after the girl recovered from her injuries sufficiently to discuss what had happened.
Lloyd Charton, attorney for Cindy MacDonald, the boy's mother, was widely quoted as suggesting the two minors had entered a "drug den" in Norwalk in order to please Brea PD supervisors. It was reported that the boy, Chad MacDonald, had agreed to work as an informant in the course of a plea agreement in juvenile court.
Brea P.D. Chief Bill Lentini has indicated his department was not involved in the Norwalk incident and expressed frustration at his inability to comment further due to the privacy laws concerning juvenile court proceedings. In fact, according to Lentini, his department filed a petition for review in the Orange County Superior Court, Juvenile Division on March 25, 1998. The petition seeks authorization to discuss the matter with the press.
The unanswered question is what specific court orders were imposed upon Chad MacDonald in trade for his release from the system. It should be noted that under California law, juveniles are not "prosecuted", but made "wards of the court" in order to protect them. Release of the court documents might provide insight into just how the court intended to rehabilitate and protect MacDonald. Did it in fact approve a plea bargain whereby MacDonald would be involved in undercover narcotics investigations, as alleged?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question remains shrouded by the secrecy laws designed to protect minors from disclosure of their wrongdoing. The documents remain in the court file, marked "confidential."
3. PLANO, TEXAS UNDERCOVER POLICE BOUGHT HEROIN SIX TIMES FOR 16 YEAR-OLD RECOVERING ADDICT
- Marc Brandl for DRCNet
"Operation Rockfest", an undercover investigation by the Plano, Texas police to battle a growing heroin epidemic, netted 84 cases against 33 adults and four juveniles. The operation was considered a success, but some citizens have become outraged at how the police attained their results. One of the juveniles busted by "Rockfest" was Jonathan Kollman, now 17, who is a recovering heroin addict. Before Jonathan was arrested, undercover officers drove him six separate times to a heroin dealer, gave him cash for the drug, and then allowed him to consume the controlled substance. Before Jonathan succumbed to the undercover officer's offer, he had tested negative for drugs 12 times and was enrolled in drug treatment and family counseling. Plano, an affluent community of just under 200,000 people, has been the source of more than a dozen teen heroin overdoses in the last 18 months.
The Plano Chief of Police, reacting to the story told the Dallas Morning News "We... are confident this investigation was handled in a professional manner." The Kollman family disagrees and has hired a lawyer who is requesting a grand jury investigation of possible criminal conduct by the undercover officer. The family is also considering a lawsuit. Jonathan's father, Victor Kollman, aware of the fatal overdose potential, told the Dallas Morning News, "I just can't understand how they would put him in danger of that."
Notes from the undercover officer show she knew of Jonathan's heroin use. "I stopped, and Jonathan went into the building to use the one cap of chiva. Jonathan returned to my vehicle and said that this heroin was better than the last heroin we bought." Jonathan has now reentered a drug rehabilitation program.
"This is a perfect illustration of the craziness of the war on drugs," Al Robinson, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, and a retired professor of pharmacology, told The Week Online. "Police officers should be protecting kids, not hooking them on drugs."
(The Drug Policy Forum of Texas is online at http://www.mapinc.org/DPFT/.)
4. A STRONG DAY IN COURT FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN CALIFORNIA - FURTHER ARGUMENTS TO BE HEARD APRIL 6
(Article reprinted with permission of Dale Gieringer, California NORML, [email protected], http://www.norml.org/canorml/)
SAN FRANCISCO, March 24, 1998: Medical marijuana advocates beat back the government's efforts to obtain an injunction against California's cannabis clubs today, as U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer called for further arguments to be submitted on April 16th. Breyer indicated that he would render some sort of decision thereafter. Earlier in the day, medical marijuana supporters were blessed by a break in the rainy weather, allowing patients, providers, and sympathizers from around the state to gather for a rally and protest march under sunny skies in San Francisco. Addressing the rally were S.F. District Attorney Terence Hallinan, West Hollywood Mayor Steve Martin, S.F. Supervisors Gavin Newsom and Tom Ammiano, and representatives of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Oakland City Councilman Nate Miley.
At the court hearing, Judge Breyer repeatedly expressed skepticism about the government's sweeping claims of supremacy in the face of opposition from 56% of California voters, the mayors of four cities, and amicus briefs from S.F. District Attorney Hallinan, the city of Oakland, and the town of Fairfax. Breyer posed a series of probing questions to the government:
Federal attorney Mark Quinlivan insisted that Proposition 215 had no bearing on the case, since state law is superseded by federal authority. He said that courts have ruled that there is no substantive due process right to any particular form of medicine, citing a case involving the purported cancer cure Laetrile. Asked by Judge Breyer whether there might not exist a fundamental right to relief from extreme pain, Quinlivan replied that only individual patients, not clubs, would have standing to make this argument. He said that the defendants could seek redress by petitioning the government to re-schedule marijuana.
Asked by Breyer whether it would be sufficient simply to enjoin the clubs from engaging in interstate commerce in marijuana, Quinlivan insisted that Congressional findings specifically mandate that all commerce and distribution be enjoined. Defense attorney William Panzer likened the government's argument to maintaining that the world is flat, accusing it of engaging in an "arbitrary and capricious" conspiracy to cover up the facts. Defense attorney Carl Shapiro argued that Section 903 of the CSA allows states to pass their own laws regarding controlled substances, so long as there is no "positive conflict" with federal law. In a forceful and elegant presentation, Santa Clara Univ. Professor Gerald Uelmen argued that Section 903 permits state and federal laws to be reconciled. In particular, he argued that the clubs' activities do not constitute distribution, as maintained by the government, but "joint purchase for consumption," which is equivalent to possession under the CSA. Insofar as the government is asking to enjoin distribution, not possession, Prof. Uelmen invited the court to issue an injunction against distribution with the understanding that cooperative purchase by medical marijuana patients not be included. In another impressive presentation, defense attorney Tony Serra argued that the government's case was irrevocably soiled by its own "dirty hands," that is, the unethical tactics used to enforce its laws. Appearing as an amicus of the court, San Franciso District Attorney Terence Hallinan argued that closure of the clubs would be harmful to public health and safety. (Hallinan's amicus brief was joined by the city of Oakland and a separate brief by the town of Fairfax). Hallinan declared that he favored keeping the clubs open or, failing that, that any injunction be tailored so as to permit distribution of medical marijuana by the city. Medical marijuana supporters were heartened by the day's proceedings, sensing that Judge Breyer was in no way predisposed to granting the government carte blanche to shut off distribution of medical marijuana.
5. ALERT: HOUSE DELAYS VOTE ON ANTI-MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESOLUTION
House Resolution 372, a "sense of the house" resolution which would proclaim Congress' adamant opposition to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use, will not be voted on this week, as was originally scheduled. Instead, lawmakers have put off the vote until sometime after they return from spring recess on April 21.
Many DRCNet subscribers wrote to their representatives in response to our Alert, which can be found at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/3-18-1.html. If you have not yet done so, you now have almost another month to voice opposition. The resolution itself is laden with misinformation and circular reasoning. You can read it online, on the web site of the Marijuana Policy Project at http://www.mpp.org/HRes372.html. You might also want to take this opportunity to pay a visit to your Congressional representative while he or she is at their home office during this recess. Personal visits are the most effective way to get your rep's attention. If you do, please drop us a note to let us know how it went at [email protected] and thanks for making a difference!
6. CAMPUS CLUB ADVOCATING MARIJUANA LAW REFORM DENIED RECOGNITION BY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT
- Troy Dayton for DRCNet
The newly formed Rochester Cannabis Coalition (RCC), an organization dedicated to educating the public about the need for marijuana law reform, is being denied club recognition by the President of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on the grounds that it would "send the wrong message". While the club's constitution explicitly states that it does not condone drug use, RIT President, Albert Simone, claimed in a letter to RCC President, Shea Gunther, that "the recognition of the Rochester Cannabis Coalition as an official RIT club will be interpreted by students and the general public as RIT officially condoning the use of drugs on this campus."
"Simone is denying us because he does not agree with what we have to say. He does not want to send the wrong message, well, now he is sending the message that students cannot make decisions," stated Shea Gunther in a written response to the President's letter.
Two weeks ago, Shea Gunther met with President Simone and his advisor to discuss the matter. Shea left the meeting when his advisor asked "what's to stop a club from advocating date rape?" "They couldn't understand the difference between advocating a change in public policy, and advocating drug use. We were just going in circles," said Gunther.
Simone goes on to claim in the letter that recognizing the RCC will cause drug dealers who sell marijuana and other drugs to target RIT campus. The Week Online asked William McKee, the director of RIT University News Services if this assertion is backed up by experiences on any of the over twenty campuses that currently have recognized drug policy reform groups. He could not point to any evidence.
Richard Cowan, editor of Marijuana News, said that Simone's letter uses the costs of marijuana prohibition to justify its position. "It explicitly recognizes that marijuana is sold in the same distribution channels with hard drugs by criminal elements. It is cited as a reason not to recognize a group that advocates the only way to end it." The complete text of the letter is available at the Marijuana News site, http://www.marijuananews.com/.
The RCC is currently collecting signatures for a petition to reverse Simone's decision. "Most students take extreme offense to Dr. Simone's blatant overruling of the will of the students, even if they disagree with our goals," said Gunther. They are also drafting a letter to the Board of Trustees that has the power to overrule President Simone.
"The drug war depends upon stifling discussion of alternative policies. We are not going to give up. We will fight until we get recognition," said Gunther.
DRCNet is currently in discussions with the RCC as well as other activist groups to determine the most effective way to impact the situation. Please expect a DRCNet Alert on the topic in the coming week.
You can contact Shea Gunther at [email protected]. Students and other members of campus communities are invited to join our national campus-based drug policy discussion list. To do so, send a message to [email protected] with the line "join U-net" in the body of the message.
7. PENN STATE PROFESSOR APPEARS AT HEARING - CONTINUES PROTEST
- Alex Morgan for DRCNet
On Thursday (3/25) Professor Julian Heicklen and three other anti-prohibition advocates were ordered to stand trial for offenses stemming from the Feb. 12 "Smoke Out" at the Pennsylvania State University. Prof. Heicklen, Andrew Burke, Jennifer Corbett and Ken Keltner had their Preliminary Hearings at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Heicklen and Burke each had separate hearings while Corbett's and Keltner's cases were heard together.
Heicklen, who wants a jury trial to nullify the marijuana laws, is challenging not only the drug war but also the manner in which criminal defendants are treated by the courts, demanding that he be accorded "basic human courtesy".
Heicklen walked out of the courthouse last week (3/18) when it became obvious that his scheduled 1:00pm hearing wouldn't take, place till much later. He was arrested a few hours later and although the "Failure to Appear" charge was dropped, he is planning to sue District Justice Alan Sinclair for false arrest for issuing the Bench Warrant.
This week, however, Judge Sinclair called Heicklen's case at 1:27pm, just three minutes before Heicklen's self-imposed deadline. After the judge told the Commonwealth to proceed, Heicklen interrupted, introduced himself and asked the Judge and the prosecutor to introduce themselves. The judge complied with Heicklen's request and instructed the prosecutor to do likewise. The prosecutor reluctantly complied.
Heicklen then asked Judge Sinclair to recuse himself because Sinclair had issued the Bench Warrant from the previous week and therefore would not give him a fair and impartial trial. Sinclair denied the motion that he recuse himself.
After several other motions were denied, Heicklen, though representing himself, sat mute throughout the remainder of the hearing, ignoring Judge Sinclair's offer to cross examine the police officers and make a closing argument.
Jennifer Corbett and Ken Keltner had their hearing next and were represented by State College attorney Joseph Devecka. They are charged with possession of paraphernalia.
On Thursday (3/26,) the day after the hearing, Heicklen and co-defendant Alan Gordon once again smoked pot in front of a crowd of about 125 supporters and four pro-drug-war counter demonstrators.
No one was arrested, but the Penn State Police were present, and they confiscated a joint from Heicklen. Penn State Police said that they will test Heicklen's joint as well as one they confiscated at last week's rally. If the tests come back positive for marijuana, police said they would cite Heicklen for two counts of possession.
Prof. Heicklen told the crowd that "Magistrate Sinclair has trampled on the U.S. Constitution and denied us our basic legal rights. He has committed treason. We will continue our Smoke Outs and make our case in the streets..." Heicklen later told the Week On Line that if necessary he will take his demonstrations to the Bellefonte Courthouse, the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg, and the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The Professor also said that he has been contacted by anti-drug-war activists from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Oklahoma University, and the University of Texas at Austin. "I've been holding them back. I told them they should wait (until the next school year) and learn from our mistakes."
8. BASKETBALL LEGEND KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR BUSTED FOR POT AT CANADIAN BORDER - CLAIMS MEDICINAL USE
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's leading all-time scorer, known and feared for his patented and nearly indefensible sky-hook, was detained at the border as he tried to re-enter the US last week (3/20) while carrying 6 grams of marijuana in a glass vial. A drug-sniffing dog was credited with detecting the pot. The 7'1" ex-center, a California resident, claimed that the marijuana was for medicinal use, and that his doctor has recommended it for migraine headaches.
Jabbar was detained for several hours while his name was entered into a customs database and was released. No charges were filed, although he was fined $500 by U.S. customs. It is unclear at this time whether or not he will be allowed to re-enter Canada in the future.
9. DRCNET SPECIAL REPORT: COLOMBIAN SITUATION WORSENS - U.S. MILITARY INVOLVEMENT STEPPED UP - BACKSLIDING TOWARD A QUAGMIRE?
With the rout last week of an elite squad of the Colombian army by rebel forces who control much of the southern half of the country, both President Ernesto Samper and the Colombian military have conceded that they cannot win the three decades-old civil war by themselves. In response to recent developments, the Dallas Morning News (3/17) reports that the U.S. has recently doubled the number of military advisors stationed there. According to The DMN, the U.S. now has 223 military personnel in Colombia. This doesn't include the unknown numbers of DEA, CIA and other federal agents in the region.
US military aid to Colombia, in the form of both hardware and manpower, is supposed to be used for anti-narcotics operations, rather than in the military's ongoing conflict with southern rebels. "I suppose everyone knows that U.S. assistance to Colombia is strictly for the fight against drug trafficking," James Rubin, a State Department spokesman told the Associated Press. But those distinctions are difficult, if not impossible to make and enforce.
General Manuel Jos Bonett, Colombian armed forces commander stated last December: "For me, all of those in the FARC (the largest and most powerful rebel faction) are narco- guerrillas because they live off the drug trade."
For his part, FARC commander Fabian Ramirez told Reuters' Television, "All the aid to the Colombian army, both economic and military, is being directed against the guerrillas. In most of the battalions, there are US army advisors helping to fight the guerrillas."
And the U.S. military has been aware of the problem for some time. In a memo dated April 8, 1994, Staff Judge Advocate Warren D. Hall of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) told the Defense Department, "USSOUTHCOM is vulnerable to criticism because of the similarities inherent in the counterdrug and counter-insurgency efforts in Colombia... It is unrealistic to expect the military to limit use of the equipment to operations against narcotraffickers."
Several issues complicate the picture. First, the Colombian military's record on human rights has drawn widespread criticism, forcing the US to withhold several shipments of military hardware until the army can find a unit with a clean record. But aid flows from numerous sources, including direct aid, regional aid and defense draw-downs, not all of which are subject to such restrictions. Carlos Salinas, Latin American program officer for Amnesty International, told the Christian Science Monitor (1/16/98) "I doubt anybody really knows how many different programs result in the transfer of military equipment and assistance to Colombia." According to a letter sent by Salinas to the Washington Post (12/29/97), "since 1989, Colombia has been the number one recipient of US security assistance in the Western hemisphere."
The second complicating factor are the right wing paramilitaries, who often work with, and sometimes do the bidding of, the Colombian army. These are generally private groups, but they too are profiting off of the drug trade. Francisco Thoumi, one of the world's renowned experts and author of several books on the situation in Colombia, told The Week Online, "The guerrillas and the paramilitaries are essentially fighting each other for control of the trade." The paramilitary groups have also been blamed for numerous massacres of civilians, and in a number of cases it has been reported that the military was aware of or complicit in these actions, some of which went on over several days.
Finally, it is in no way clear that the Colombian government or its military are themselves independent from the drug trade, which seems to overshadow Colombia's legitimate economy. According to the U.S. government, President Samper himself received over $6 million in campaign funds from traffickers. While he was acquitted of those charges by a loyal legislature, his hand-picked successor, a strong contender in this August's election, Horacio Serpa, is also believed by many U.S. officials to be corrupt. Francisco Thoumi likens Serpa to "a typical American local politician. To Serpa, all politics is local. He has a constituency and he knows how to get elected."
The recent buildup of American forces in Colombia, and the worsening situation for the government and the military, has drawn concern about the possible implications of U.S. policy. According to the Dallas Morning News, at least two separate congressional hearings have been scheduled to address the issue.
An unidentified Republican staffer told the DMN, "Right now we're backing into (the conflict) by default. One way or another, you're increasing your presence there. You're increasing the level of equipment, you're increasing the level of personnel. We're putting our people in harm's way, and you can't do that without having a clear idea of your policy." Coletta Youngers of the Washington Office on Latin America told DMN, "You can look at case after case over history where the U.S. gets involved and then slides down this slippery slope, from Vietnam to Central America."
But some legislators seem eager to increase American involvement in Colombia. In a report issued last Thursday (3/19), Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY) said that the army's most recent defeat "signals the military situation for the fate of Latin America's oldest democracy may be lost. The narco- guerrillas now have only one institution standing between them and a full-blown 'narco-state' - the Colombian National Police."
But getting involved militarily in Colombia might not be such a good idea. Joseph Miranda, author and former instructor at the American School for Special Warfare, told The Week Online, "People don't realize how difficult and how dangerous it would be to send American troops into the rain forests of Latin America. Colombia is far larger than Vietnam, and the guerrillas seem to be well-financed, with the ability to buy off a lot of people whom we would otherwise assume are our allies. Plus, since the Colombian military has shown over several decades that it can't control the region, there would seem to be no end-game. If we left and handed the region back to the Colombians there is little to assure us that the situation would not revert. Would we end up chasing people, following them into Peru, Ecuador, Brazil? I would also note that our military is not set up to operate in the high Andes. Ironically, it's likely that the only way that our troops could sustain themselves at the altitude would be to chew coca, like the locals do. We also would have to seriously consider the likely reaction throughout Latin America of an invasion by Americans."
That reaction, the potential anti-American backlash, seems to be something that the rebels are counting on. FARC commander Ramirez told Reuters that the rebels will begin to target U.S. embassy personnel as "military objectives". He claimed that "it is clear that Colombian rage will explode at any moment, and the objective will be to defeat the Americans."
Francisco Thoumi told The Week Online, "It's not clear that a simple increase in military aid will cause a great backlash. But if America decides to send fighting troops in, look out. The reaction will be strongly anti-American, and not only in Colombia, but across Latin America." Thoumi added, "The problem, it seems to me, is that America has an empire without an imperialistic mentality. By our sheer size and strength we must lead in the world, but instead, we only react. Our leaders seem to respond only to the demands of local constituents, which makes us very reactive on the global stage. It is a very dangerous situation for America, and for the world."
Additional information for this article was taken from The Weekly News Update on the Americas, published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012, 212-674-9499, [email protected]. The Washington Office on Latin America is online at http://www.wola.org/. Joseph Miranda is the author of War on Drugs: Military Perspectives and Problems, written for DRCNet, http://www.drcnet.org/military/.
10. CLASSIFIED DEA REPORT SAYS DRUG CORRUPTION IN MEXICAN MILITARY MORE SERIOUS THAN PREVIOUSLY BELIEVED
According to the New York Times (3/26), a classified DEA report suggests that ties between the Mexican army and drug traffickers are more pervasive than had been believed. The Times quotes unnamed U.S. officials who said it is now believed that the arrest last year of Mexico's "Drug Czar" Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo followed secret meetings between traffickers and Mexican officers at which protection payments were discussed. One official told the Times, "The bottom line is that all this goes deeper than we thought." Another was quoted as saying "it points to much of our work in Mexico being an exercise in futility." The Mexican army has been counted on more and more in recent years for anti- narcotics work because US officials believed that the country's police force was too deeply corrupt to be trusted.
11. SWISS GOV'T ANGERED BY WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION'S DELAY IN EVALUATING HEROIN MAINTENANCE TRIAL
The March 21 issue of the British medical journal Lancet reports that the Swiss government is "irritated" at the World Health Organization (WHO) for delays in evaluating the success of the Swiss heroin maintenance trials. The trials, which have been proclaimed a dramatic success by the Swiss government, began in 1994.
A UNDCP report, released last month in Vienna, stated: "The board is not convinced that the limited positive results claimed can be attributed solely to distribution of heroin itself, as many factors, such as prescribing of other controlled drugs and intensive psycho-social counseling and support, were involved." The report also states that no other maintenance trials should be commenced, anywhere in the world, "until the Swiss project has undergone a full and independent evaluation." Trials are scheduled to begin shortly in both The Netherlands and Germany. Swiss officials have invited UNDCP officials to come to Switzerland to make their own determinations.
The Swiss criticism of the WHO comes on the heels of charges, originally published in New Scientist magazine, that the organization had suppressed a portion of a cannabis report which found that the use of marijuana was less harmful to society that the use of alcohol or tobacco (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/2-20.html#who-report). The UNDCP's actions come at a time when that body is preparing to present its international strategy to the first-ever UN Special Session on Narcotics in New York in June.
(GLOBAL DAYS AGAINST THE DRUG WAR, JUNE 6-8, PROTEST/SIGN-ON LETTER: http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/globalcoalition/)
12. EDITORIAL: War crimes and quagmires... how low can we go, and where are we headed?
The news from the Drug War front this week is both illustrative of the depths to which we have fallen, and informative as to where we might be heading. The evidence of the former points to a malignancy of the soul typical of a nation at wrongheaded conflict with itself. The evidence of the latter points to a slippery slope toward armed conflict by a nation at war with forces that it has created and nurtured.
From California and Texas come the stories of two teenage boys, used by police with less regard for their lives than for the cops' next bust. In California, Chad McDonald was released into his mother's custody by the juvenile court on condition of his ongoing cooperation with the Brea police department. His mother claims that the Brea police assured her of Chad's safety. She also claims that even after helping to bring about arrests in several cases, the police continued to insist on Chad's services as a narc.
In the end, however, word of Chad's cooperation apparently got out on the street, and upon entering a known drug den on March 1 with his fifteen year-old girlfriend, the two were kidnapped, held and tortured for two days before the girl was raped, shot and left for dead in a forest outside of Los Angeles by area drug dealers. Chad was strangled to death, his body dumped unceremoniously in an alley. Details of the boy's involvement in undercover operations were not revealed until the girl recovered sufficiently to begin telling her story. Until then, the police had been silent. Although the Brea police have refused comment on the case, they do acknowledge that minors are in fact used as informants.
In Texas, an undercover agent building his case drove 16 year-old recovering heroin addict Jonathan Kollner to the home of a dealer, not once, but six times. Each time the officer waited as the boy used the heroin. Prior to becoming ensnared in the operation, Jonathan had tested clean for twelve months.
It is an unholy war, this War on Drugs. It has led a nation -- not just any nation but the self-proclaimed "leader of the free world" -- to routinely commit acts which should be, by anyone's standard, abhorrent. We have police, across the country, who are so deeply enmeshed in unwinnable and never- ending day-to-day combat on the streets of our cities that they apparently think nothing of risking the life of a seventeen year-old boy, or re-addicting a sixteen year-old boy, sending both of them back into a world and an atmosphere that each had already proven was beyond their ability to resist, in service to their next small-time bust.
How many busts have there been? How many more will there be? Has any of it, will any of it make the drugs disappear? Will it take the money out of the market? Will it put an end to the limitless supply of kids and criminals who are lured every day to take the place of the last one to be carted off? Is any of this worth the fact that we have become a society so poisoned by the effects of our own policies that the lives of our children are worth less than the next worthless arrest report?
It would be nice to think that we have hit bottom, but the fact is that most likely, we have not. There are plenty of freedoms yet to be surrendered and plenty of kids left to be sacrificed to our tragic folly. In our country's last futile and ill-conceived war it was said that sometimes you have to burn a village to the ground in order to save it. In the current futile and ill-conceived war, it is becoming apparent that we have taken this approach to our entire society.
Adam J. Smith
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