(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #41, 5/10/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Last week's issue incorrectly identified H. Res. 372, the "Sense of the House" resolution against medical marijuana, as H.R. 372, a different bill altogether. In the meantime, action on House Resolution 372 has been delayed again, perhaps due to the large response generated by activists. If you have not done so already, please contact your Representative and urge him or her to vote NO! Capitol Switchboard: (202) 225-3121.
Keep the calls flowing in to the bookstores for Mike Gray's DRUG CRAZY, the book that will blow the lid off of Drug Prohibition's conspiracy of silence. (See our alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/4-29.html.) Your phone calls to bookstores in your area -- whether big chains or local independent stores -- will make the booksellers look twice at Drug Crazy and help propel it to the bestseller list. Just call up, ask them if they have Drug Crazy, from Random House, and say thank you. (You don't even have to order a copy, though you may as well, because it's well worth the price.) Many of you have done this already, and we think it's having an effect. DRCNet is lauded and prominently featured in the book's appendix, together with an Internet directory of drug policy reform and informational resources, so building up Drug Cray will build DRCNet and the movement too! Some book chains that may be in your area: Crown, Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Border's, Doubleday, Brentano's, Scribner's, Waldenbooks -- let us know if we've missed any, so we can add them to the next alert. Call, call, call!
Nearly 300 DRCNet members have taken advantage of our offer for free copies of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts. We are planning to continue this offer until the end of May, and then move on. If you want your copy, make sure to send in $30 or more for membership to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036, or use our secure registration form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html to make a credit card donation. Contributions to DRCNet are not tax-deductible.
Table of Contents
65 counties in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee have together been declared a "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area" by the federal government, making it the 20th region in the country so designated. The designation, announced last Wednesday (4/29) means that $6 million in federal money will be spent on marijuana eradication and enforcement in the region. Marijuana has for years been considered the largest cash crop in Appalachia.
Senator Wendel Ford (D-KY) told reporters "If we're going to get serious about winning the War on Drugs, it's going to take an innovative, focused effort from all segments of our law enforcement and governmental agencies."
(reprinted with permission from the NORML weekly news, http://www.norml.org)
May 7, 1998, Washington, DC: Over 99 percent of the marijuana eradicated by the Drug Enforcement Administration's federally funded "Cannabis Suppression Program" is non-psychoactive hemp, reveals a 1998 Vermont State Auditor's report. "The national total of ditchweed eradicated compared to the total number of plants seized is 99.28 percent resulting in less than one percent cultivated indoor and outdoor plant eradication percentage at the national level," the report concludes. It further notes that each cultivated plant seized by the DEA costs taxpayers an average of $3.02. Nationally, the program spent over $9 million for marijuana eradication in all 50 states in 1996.
Wild growing marijuana patches -- known as ditchweed -- are common throughout the southern and mid-western United States. Many of the plants are remnants from government-subsidized plots grown during World War II when low-THC strains of marijuana were harvested for their fiber content. This strain of marijuana will not intoxicate users when smoked.
"The millions of taxpayers dollars spent targeting and eliminating ditchweed is a prime example of the type of government waste inherent to the War on Drugs," charged Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation. "It is further counterproductive when one considers the economic and industrial benefits hemp holds as an agricultural crop. While most Western nations are now encouraging their farmers to grow hemp, America blindly continues to support efforts to eliminate this proven worldwide cash crop."
Presently, farmers in over 30 countries -- including Canada, France, England, Germany, Japan, and Australia -- grow hemp for industrial purposes.
Vermont state legislator Fred Maslack (R-Poultney), who sits on the House Agricultural Committee, called the findings "damning."
"As far as the War on Drugs is concerned, they would be better off pulling up goldenrod," said Maslack, who sponsored a successful hemp research bill in 1996. "It is no wonder the DEA is fighting hemp tooth and nail, because that is what their whole campaign is against, in the form of ditchweed. [This] is a great fraud being perpetrated on the American people ... [and] it is high time to reallocate this law enforcement money."
According to the Associated Press, however, federal funding for the eradication program will almost double in 1999. Recently, members of Congress and Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey earmarked six million dollars to combat marijuana cultivation in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Of those three states, West Virginia currently spends the most dollars targeting ditchweed. The Vermont report found that more than 93 percent of the total plants eradicated there were hemp.
For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.
Daniel J. Yovich, a reporter for The Times of Northwest Indiana, was arrested last week (4/24) on a pair of four year-old misdemeanor bench warrants by two officers from Sheriff John Buncich's internal affairs office. For the past several months, Yovich has been investigating and reporting on allegations of corruption and mismanagement at Buncich's federally funded Lake County Drug Task Force.
After the arrest, Sheriff Buncich released a statement through his office which read, in part, "I have been advised that congressional funding may not be renewed because of negative reporting by The Times. I, as your sheriff, along with other police chiefs throughout Lake County, will not permit this to happen."
It was Yovich's investigative reporting that brought to light $11,000 in missing funds which were signed out by an officer who had been arrested weeks later by the FBI for attempting to extort $25,000 from a drug dealer. The eleven thousand was federal money, received by the Task Force as part of the region's designation as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). According to Yovich's subsequent reporting on the issue, Sheriff Buncich's office didn't tell federal officials that the money was unaccounted for until after Yovich's article was published, more than two weeks after the officer's arrest.
Ongoing investigation and reporting by Yovich and The Times has led to a widening federal investigation of mismanagement and the misappropriation of resources at the Sheriff's task force, as well as to questions of conflicts of interest in the state investigation of the matter. Two months ago, Yovich was searched for a wire by Sheriff's officers, who indicated that they believed that he was providing information to federal investigators.
Yovich indicated that he has been asked by his employer not to comment on the issue, but he did refer us to Times Executive Editor William Nangle, who told The Week Online, "There is no doubt in our minds that this is an effort by the Sheriff's office to intimidate both the reporter and the publication."
Yovich, 36, previously worked as a foreign correspondent for UPI in Bosnia from January, 1994 - June 1996, and then for the Daily Southtown in Chicago. He began working for The Times in August, 1997.
- Kevin Zeese, President, Common Sense for Drug Policy Foundation
I write today to pass along the sad news of the death of one of our greatest allies -- Wes Pomeroy.
Wes was an outspoken supporter of reform and brought with him the credibility of being a former police officer. He was the first recipient of Drug Policy Foundation's annual achievement award for police officials: The H.B. Spear Award for Achievement in the Field of Control and Enforcement. Below is the award statement, which was primarily written by his long-time friend Arnold Trebach, retired President of the Drug Policy Foundation.
"Wes Pomeroy has had a remarkable career in law enforcement and government. At the federal level he has served as the Associate Administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Special Assistant to the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Associate Director of the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy.
"At the local level, he has served as Undersheriff of San Mateo County, Chief of Police of Berkeley and Chief of Security at the Woodstock rock festival. Today, he is the Executive Director of the Independent Review Panel of Metropolitan Dade County in Miami. Thus he serves as the ombudsman for the people of an area much troubled by drug problems.
"Throughout his career, Wesley Pomeroy has demonstrated that he is a committed law enforcement professional who was sworn to uphold the law, including the drug laws. At the same time, he sought to seek compliance with the law by emphasizing persuasion and human relations skills. He also is an advocate of cautious drug law reform through open dialogue and the democratic process."
Editor's Note: For those who are interested in honoring Wesley Pomeroy, his family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the following organizations, earmarked Wesley A.C. Pomeroy:
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Unrepresented People's Positive Action Council (UP-PAC)
- Barrington Daltrey for DRCNet
Causing concerns about his impartiality, Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg on Thursday, May 7, 1998 refused to allow Dave Herrick to present a medical defense to charges of "selling" marijuana. Rejecting Herrick's effort to present a Proposition 215 or medical necessity defense, the judge sarcastically asked public defender Sharon Petrosino, "Does he think he's Mother Theresa?"
Herrick, a former police officer, has been in jail for a year on charges of selling marijuana in the course of volunteer work with the Orange County Patient / Doctor / Nurse Support Group. The volunteers gave away marijuana to patients with confirmed doctor's recommendations, requesting a $20.00 donation for the co-op, but providing the marijuana regardless of whether the donation was made.
Herrick reportedly suffers from chronic back pain due to a dislocated disc, but has been allowed only four Tylenol a week during his incarceration. His hearing was attended by about 30 medical cannabis supporters, who carried signs and wore buttons supporting the defendants. Canes and crutches of the participants were taken by the bailiffs, due to concern that these items could be used as "weapons." The judge further prohibited the signs and the wearing of the buttons in the courtroom and the hallways, possibly to avoid contamination of the jury.
Denied her proposed defense, public defender Sharon Petrosino indicated she would have no witnesses other than those called by the prosecution.
Proceedings are still pending for other defendants on related charges, Marvin Chavez and Jack Shacter.
- Troy Dayton for DRCNet
In what some believe was an act of political persecution, Shea Gunther, President of the Rochester Cannabis Coalition (RCC) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), was arrested last Thursday (4/23) on two counts of disorderly conduct by the Henrietta Police Department, and five counts of campus policy violations. Gunther was asked to leave an academic building -- otherwise open to all students -- where the Board of Trustees was meeting, but refused. He was dragged out in handcuffs without being arrested and was later charged. He has been suspended from the University for one year.
Last month, RIT President Albert Simone denied the RCC official university recognition even after it was approved by a student board. In a letter regarding the decision addressed to Gunther, Simone indicated that recognition of such a club would "send the wrong message" and that "local drug dealers" would see the club as a sign that "RIT students use drugs" and would descend upon the campus bringing with them increased violence and drug use. Following that decision, Gunther met with President Simone and his advisor, Barry Culhane, but got no relief. Next, Gunther asked if he could speak to the Board of Trustees and was denied. On Thursday, April 23, the Board of Trustees was meeting in the building from which Gunther was removed.
According to Gunther, Culhane spotted him on his way in the building and called Campus Safety. Within minutes, an officer arrived to warn him not to enter the building. Gunther asked what would happen if he did and the officer couldn't produce an answer. Shea entered and was soon surrounded by five officers. Gunther asked if he was being arrested and for what. They did not produce an answer and instead tried to force him out of the building. Gunther resisted and soon found himself face down on the floor with five officers forcibly holding him down and cuffing him.
"I knew the meeting was going on but was not planning on doing anything. I had no literature on me and was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. If I were planning on interacting with the Trustees, I certainly would have shown up armed with information and dressed appropriately," said Gunther.
The Week Online spoke with William McKee, Director of RIT News Services about the incident. Although the Buckley Amendment prohibits university officials from releasing information about student judicial hearings, McKee did have a statement. "Shea's account is at complete odds with what was reported by campus officials and Monroe County Deputy Officials. When asked to leave the building, he resisted and became violent," said McKee.
Approximately 300 students gathered outside during Gunther's judicial hearing, where he was given one year's suspension. When President Albert Simone left the building he was met with jeers from the protesters.
"RIT students are deeply concerned about the abuse of power. It's troubling that Barry Culhane would use Campus Safety as his personal S.S. troops. They are not finished with me. They have lost. They just don't know it yet," said Gunther. "I don't care how much a person might hate the idea of cannabis law reform, to go to these extreme measures to silence a voice of dissent is un-American. The thing that gets me is that if we were just approved as an official club, we might have made the six-o'clock news and they would have forgotten about us. As it is now, everyone knows about the Rochester Cannabis Coalition," Shea Gunther told Marijuana News (http://www.marijuananews.com). Gunther plans on taking a year off to start a drug policy reform graphics business and pursue litigation against RIT.
NOTE: Shea Gunther, who has been working closely with DRCNet throughout the past five months, has limited means and is attempting to raise $600 to cover the costs of his criminal defense. If you can help at all, please send (non-tax deductible) checks to:
And send us an e-mail indicating that you did so, and what amount. Any additional money will be either returned, or else used for related campus-based organizing, as per your request. Thanks.
Teresa Wilson admits that she sold a 3 oz. vial of a pharmaceutical morphine solution to an undercover officer for $150. In fact, she was caught on videotape. But neither the judge nor the jurors who found her guilty seemed to believe that the sentence of life without parole was reasonable for the drug addicted first-time offender.
"In this case the punishment definitely, definitely does not fit the crime," juror Keith Loftus told the Associated Press.
Mrs. Wilson, 30, got the prescription drug from a neighbor whose husband had cancer. She was to receive $80, with the other $70 for the neighbor. While the amount of morphine actually contained in the solution was about 0.01 grams, Alabama state law mandates life without parole for anyone who sells at least 56 grams (2 ounces) of morphine or a morphine mixture, as it does for anyone selling 1,000 pounds of marijuana or 10 kilos of cocaine.
Theo Lawson, the Birmingham D.A. who prosecuted the case, spoke with The Week Online: "In listening to the tapes, it was apparent that she had sold drugs before. I have no problem with the sentence or the jury's unhappiness with it. What I do have a problem with is the jury's indication that if they knew the sentence, they wouldn't have followed the law. That's not a decision for them to make."
Lawson continued, "She (Wilson) did indicate that she had an addiction problem stemming from some old injury when she was on painkillers or something, but we have a law in this state that tacks on five years to any sentence, without possibility of parole, for anyone selling drugs within three miles of a school, and an additional five years for being within three miles of a housing project, on top of a two year sentence for any distribution. There's nowhere in the City of Birmingham which falls outside of either of those conditions, which means that in this city, selling drugs of any kind is a minimum twelve year sentence. That applies to marijuana or anything else. She might not have known she would get life, but we've made it very clear down here that the penalties are severe. She broke the law. It's that simple."
Nora Callahan, Director of the November Coalition, told The Week Online, "This case is a perfect example of the thoughtlessness and the cruelty to which we have degenerated. So we put this woman in a cage for the rest of her life, with no hope and with no reason to contemplate self-improvement of any sort. And she goes right in next to hundreds or thousands of others who will also live the rest of their lives in cages. And we think nothing of this... absolutely nothing.
"I just received a memo from the US Department of Justice saying that in the federal prison in Sandstone, Minnesota, they are now housing people in corridors. We are stacking them up like so much plywood. My God, my God, what are we doing? Who have we become? What is the Drug War accomplishing to justify this? In service to this fruitless war we have become dehumanizers of people. And in doing so, we have dehumanized ourselves."
(The November Coalition is an organization of inmates and their families against the drug war. They do marvelous work and deserve our support. Check out their web site at http://www.november.org and tell them DRCNet sent you.)
A two-year study carried out by the Drug and Alcohol Council of South Australia found that there was no difference in levels of marijuana use between those states which had harsh anti-marijuana laws and those which had decriminalized personal possession of the substance. The study compared Western Australia, where jail sentences are the norm, with South Australia, where possession of up to 25 grams, or the cultivation of a small number of plants for personal consumption are met with either a warning from police or a small, on the spot fine.
Dr. Robert Ali, DASC clinical policy director, told The Australian this week (5/4), "The study showed there was no evidence that the introduction of expiation (small, non-criminal fines) for marijuana use has led to any increase in the prevalence or intensity and frequency of marijuana use."
As the twentieth century draws to a close, America finds itself embroiled in conflict over substances of all kinds. Newspapers, in fact, are starting to read like pharmacology textbooks. Ritalin, Prozac, marijuana, caffeine, Viagra, tobacco, cocaine, Phen-fen, heroin, Valium, methamphetamine, Thalidomide, MDMA, ginseng, ephedrine, alcohol, and guarana, to name just a few, have all been recent subjects of bitter debate: why or why not, how much is too much, who should have access, and what steps, if any, should be taken to control their use.
The past hundred years have brought advances in chemistry so dramatic as to have changed the boundaries of human life itself, and altered our concepts of health and well being. The pharmacopoeia has been radically expanded, and even our understanding of centuries-old substances has been broadened. But nothing comes without a cost, and just as each of these substances can have both desired and undesirable effects, the ability to create more diverse and more interesting substances has brought with it questions that we are obviously still struggling to answer.
While it is undoubtedly true that each substance poses its own unique issues, it is also true that arguing each of these issues anew, without reference to a common framework, is a hopeless and a losing battle. The inevitable, interminable arguments, as we are having today, condemn our society to a never ending battle over the science and the details, the risks and the benefits, the hopes, the fears, the morality, and inevitably, if obsequiously, the money. New drugs, new analogs, new substances are being conceived and created at an incredible pace by chemists and mavericks, in labs both corporate and clandestine, for fun and for profit, every single day. We have to start asking larger questions. We have to arrive at more inclusive answers.
There are two basic realities that we must decide to accept, if we are ever to become as sophisticated in living with our substances as we are in creating them. The first is that it is beyond the legitimate power of government to use force to control what a free adult citizen may ingest. As radical as that may sound, it is unequivocally true. There is no more sacred right than the right to control ones' body and mind. And the freedom to exercise that control only in ways of which the government approves, is no freedom at all. In matters of personal health and well-being, the government may suggest, it may cajole, it may inform, but it must not demand that individuals maintain themselves in accordance with its wishes. The right to be human is the right to err, or to be foolish, or to be stupid.
The second thing that we must come to agreement on is that the government -- state, federal or local, take your pick -- has the right to demand that the thing that is put into the marketplace is precisely what it claims to be, and that care is taken to disclose what it does, and how it does it. And, in addition, that those who bring new substances into the marketplace do ample testing and analysis, and make their best faith effort to be sure that what it says it does is all that it does, and that there are no horrific surprises. And that there are strict and certain penalties for anyone who risks the public health by ignoring these requirements. And that there is no level of wealth or of corporate power which can act as a shield against them. In an age of chemical wonder, and of equally awesome chemical danger, it is imperative that we as a people come to a sane and responsible relationship with the substances we create. That level of responsibility can only be personal and real, not state-mandated and enforced. It must be imbued by the family, by the norms of social groups, by information and by education. It can never be internalized at the point of a gun.
If a person, a free person, with full information, wants to trade twenty years of her life for the pleasure of tobacco, flirt with dependence to unwind with valium, or even risk a heart attack to party with cocaine, that is her choice. It is a poor choice perhaps, but a choice nonetheless. And when we come to agree upon that, then and only then will we as a people develop a mature relationship with "drugs", only then will be begin to make better choices, to choose better substances, or to choose none at all. The power of our science is wondrous indeed. But if our ancestors could have foreseen the day when their progeny would have elixirs for nearly everything, they most certainly would have thought that we'd have figured out how to deal with them.
Adam J. Smith
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