(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #43, 5/22/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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COUNTDOWN TO DRUG CRAZINESS: Mike Gray's new book from Random House, Drug Crazy, continues to get rave reviews from everyone we talk to who has seen it. You can help Drug Crazy go big by simply visiting or calling bookstores in your area and asking them if they have it. You don't even need to place an order or leave your name (though doing so is even better, and you may as well, because the book is fantastic). Your calls will make the stores look twice at Drug Crazy and get the book displayed more prominently in more places. DRCNet is lauded and featured in the intro to the book's appendix, so supporting Drug Crazy will build the movement as well as educate the public. Some book chains that may be in your area: Crown, Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Border's, Doubleday, Brentano's, Scribner's, Waldenbooks, Pyramid -- let us know if we've missed any, so we can add them to the next alert. Call, call, call!
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Table of Contents
This Monday, the US Treasury Department announced the results of "Operation Casablanca," a three year investigation into drug trafficking and money laundering that has culminated in indictments against three Mexican banking institutions and the arrest of more than two hundred individuals, many of them mid-level banking officials representing twelve of Mexico's nineteen largest banks. In addition to the indictments, seizures of more than a hundred bank accounts in the US and Europe are expected to net more than 130 million dollars.
In a press release, Treasury Department Under Secretary for Enforcement Raymond Kelly noted that the success of Operation Casablanca was "extremely significant, because of the sheer volume of the amounts of money involved," and because "it exposes a link between the Cali and Juarez Cartels and their relationship with Mexican banks."
At a press conference, Kelly was asked whether the Mexican authorities had cooperated with Operation Casablanca. He responded, "We had a lot of undercover officers involved who were at great risk, so this information was not shared with the Mexican government."
Attorney General Janet Reno added, "When I talked with the Attorney General of Mexico today, they indicated that they wanted to cooperate in every way possible."
So far, most of those arrested are Mexican citizens. No US citizens have been charged with any crime, nor have any US banking institutions been implicated in the sting--although one of the Mexican Banks, Banca Confia, was recently purchased by Citibank, and many of the seized accounts were located in US banks. Spokespersons for Citibank have said that Citibank was not aware of Confia's involvement in illegal activities.
The Week Online asked Ian Vásquez, an expert on money laundering and Director of the Cato Institute's Project on Global Economic Liberty, whether Operation Casablanca had made a dent in the cartels. "Unfortunately," he said, "seizing a few million or even a hundred million dollars is not going to have much of an effect on a 50 billion dollar industry. In fact, it is more likely that in attacking the drug problem from the money laundering side will result in an even greater profit motive for the traffickers, more violence, and stronger incentives for institutional corruption."
The Global Days Against the Drug War is an international series of events to be held June 5-10 in response to the United Nations Special Session on Narcotics. As of this writing, forty separate events are planned, meaning there's likely to be one in a city near you. We urge you to participate and to make the Global Days a turning point in the international debate over an increasingly global and militaristic Drug War.
For those who have asked about the New York event, there will not be a demonstration at the UN due to several logistical and strategic factors. But there will be a large demonstration in favor of syringe exchange taking place at Bryant Park (42nd and 6th) at 5 PM on Monday, June 8th. This event is not yet officially part of the Global Days, although that may change. Further announcements may be forthcoming.
Events in cities other than New York, however, are all of the public-attendance variety! Event and contact information, as well as the Declaration (please sign it, if you haven't already) can be found at http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/globalcoalition/.
Participating cities include:
Alsfeld, Amsterdam, Auckland, Berlin, Bonn, Brussels, Christchurch, Colville, Dallas, Dunedin, Eugene, Hamburg, Houston, Ilmenau, Jena, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Munich, New Orleans, Paris, Rome, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Schengen, Seattle, Sidney, Stockholm, Tallinn, Tel Aviv, Trier, Tuscon, Washington, Wellington, and Winnipeg.
In New York last week (5/12), the victim of yet another "wrong apartment" raid filed suit against the city. The plaintiff, a 29 year-old Latino woman with four young children, is seeking $20 million in damages.
The raid occurred on June 5, 1997 at 8:30 AM when 15 narcotics agents stormed the Brooklyn apartment, pulled the nearly-naked woman from her bed, held a gun to her head and repeatedly demanded to know where the guns and drugs were. Susan Karten, the plaintiff's attorney, told United press International that the police refused to let her client comfort her 2 year-old child, and that other officers interrogated her 7 year-old about the woman and her boyfriend. Karten also claims that her client was told to "shut up" when she asked to see a warrant.
The warrant, which the police apparently did have in their possession at the time of the raid, indicates that the wrong apartment was being searched, and, upon closer inspection, that the officer who swore to its contents was either indifferent to, or unaware of the facts to which he attested.
Attorney Susan Karten spoke with The Week Online. "The warrant, which was issued on a tip from a confidential informant, of whom the officer states he has had 'personal knowledge and conversation'. In the warrant, the officer states that he has 'observed the premises' at 396 New Jersey Avenue, and that it is a 'four-story brown brick building.' In fact, 396 New Jersey is a three-story gray brick building."
"The warrant also reads, 'I am informed that apartment 2-M can be reached by ascending the stairs at the front of the building to the second floor and turning left,' and that it is the only gray door in the building. Well, first of all, the apartment that my client lives in, that the police kicked in the door of, with guns drawn, was apartment 2-L, and it has a red door. In fact, there is no apartment 2-M in the building at all. However, if you follow the directions in the warrant, ascending the stairs in the front and turning left, you will find apartment 1-L which, coincidentally, has the only gray door in the building, and which, according to published reports, was raided, and heroin was found there, a month later."
Karten continued, "My question is, someone, apparently operating under NYPD guidelines, made the decision to kick in the door anyway. We, and by 'we' I mean the citizens of New York City, have a right to see those guidelines and to evaluate why it is that these obvious mistakes were ignored, and a door was kicked in by fifteen officers with guns drawn, and an innocent family was terrorized."
New York City police commissioner Howard Safir, addressing reporters, claimed that "it was the correct apartment as designated by the search warrant." Safir also dismissed the recent rash of "bad raid" lawsuits, saying, "It's just like a number of other cases that are popping up as people line up to see if they can sue the city for big dollars."
Neither the NYPD Press Office, nor the NYPD Commissioner's Office responded to requests for comment on this story.
On Tuesday (5/19) during an appearance on "Inside City Hall" a local cable television program on news station "New York 1," Reverend Calvin Butts of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, one of New York City's most powerful and well-respected African American leaders, said of New York City's Mayor, "I don't think he likes black people." Then, on Wednesday, speaking at a news conference along with other religious leaders and several Harlem residents who say they've been harassed by police, Butts added "People say 'Reverend, why are you speaking out? The city is cleaner and safer.' What I want to tell people is that it's not happening in our community."
Reverend Butts claimed that Giuliani's leadership has led to an atmosphere among police whereby more young blacks and Harlem merchants are being harassed and brutalized. He also stated at the press conference that he would "be big enough to admit I was wrong about calling you a racist" if the mayor would address his concerns.
In response, Mayor Giuliani told the Associated Press "I think it's really a shame for him to be name-calling like that, particularly since he's a religious person. So I think this is a reflection on Calvin Butts."
- Barrington Daltrey for DRCNet
Sen. John Vasconcellos, chair of the California State Senate Committee on Public Safety, has responded to the need for a reliable medical marijuana distribution system by scheduling a "summit" on Tuesday, May 26, 1998 in Sacramento.
The meeting, officially entitled "Medicinal Marijuana Distribution Summit," was announced by teleconference Monday, May 18, 1998, and further specifics have now been made available by Vasconcellos' office. Speakers will include representatives of law enforcement organizations, district attorney's offices, the medical profession, and cannabis providers. Vasconcellos is promoting statewide participation.
Recognizing the seriousness of the situation and responding to the will of a majority of Californians expressed in Proposition 215, Vasconcellos released a press advisory with the following statement:
"Pursuant to Californians declaring via Proposition 215 our will to allow medical uses of marijuana, a number of courageous, passionate Californians have endeavored to fill a void left by the inability, unwillingness of government to address the issue of distribution. To varying degrees of success, they provide the essential service to otherwise law-abiding citizens whose only other option is to purchase marijuana from street dealers. However, many of these courageous citizens have become targets of the state and federal criminal justice system."
Consistent with their antagonistic stance toward the California law, federal law enforcement and Dept. of Justice officials have reportedly declined to participate. Nevertheless, notable speakers are scheduled from around the state. Among the many announced speakers are George Kennedy, President of the California District Attorneys' Association; Terence Hallinan, San Francisco County District Attorney; Glen Craig, Sacramento County Sheriff; Dr. Neil Flynn, UC Davis Medical Center; Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Los Angeles County Health Officer; Peter McWilliams, author/publisher; and Scott Imler, Los Angeles Cannabis Buyers Club.
The agenda reflects an apparent "pro-medical marijuana" stance, in accord with the goals stated in the press advisory. Among the topics are, "What County Health Directors are Doing and Need to Do," "Implementing Prop. 215 Without Jeopardizing Public Safety," and "What Needs to Happen after Marijuana is Recommended."
The summit will be open to the public and will include a public comment period. It is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Room 112, State Capitol building, Sacramento.
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
May 21, 1998, Washington, DC: The House overwhelmingly approved legislation this month denying convicted marijuana offenders from receiving federal student loan assistance. The language, introduced by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) as House Amendment 582 to the Higher Education Programs Authorization Extension Bill (H.R. 6), mandates that "An individual student who has been convicted of any offense under any Federal or State law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance shall not be eligible to receive any [federal] grant, loan, or work assistance."
NORML National Campus Coordinator Aaron Wilson said that the legislation unfairly punishes marijuana users. "It is outrageous that Congress would pass this law denying financial aid to students for minor non-violent drug offenses, while a felony conviction for a serious violent crime brings no such penalty," he said. "What kind of message is Congress sending?"
Souder's amendment suspends first time drug offenders from receiving student aid for a period of one year. Second time offenders will be ineligible for two years, and multiple repeat offenders will be barred indefinitely. Drug sellers will be ineligible for two years after their first conviction, and indefinitely prohibited from receiving aid upon a second conviction. Students may resume eligibility before the completion of their suspension if they participate in a drug rehabilitation program and pass two random drug tests.
Wilson questioned how fairly the new law would apply to marijuana offenders. "In many states, marijuana possession is decriminalized (a civil violation punishable by payment of a small fine), while in others it's a misdemeanor or a felony. Depending on which state students live in, this legislation may or may not apply to you."
The House approved H.R. 6 by a vote of 414 to 4, far exceeding the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto by President Clinton. The bill now awaits action from the Senate.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup, Esq. of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Aaron Wilson @ (212) 362-1964.
Felipa Mamani, a peasant farmer in Shinahota, in the Chapare region of Bolivia, lost her leg after being wounded on November 15, 1995, in a confrontation between the UMOPAR (Bolivia's DEA) and townspeople. The UMOPAR had occupied a hall, preventing a cocalero (coca growers union) meeting, as well as a campaign meeting for a local mayoral candidate, from taking place. During the several hour confrontation, the UMOPAR used large quantities of tear gas and rubber bullets and fired off warning rounds with automatic weapons. About 20 people were arrested and nine police were wounded, although none by gunfire. Mamani, who was one of six civilians wounded, was hit in the right thigh by a bullet which severed her femural artery. A doctor at the local clinic determined that she needed specialized medical care and would have to be transported to a larger clinic in a nearby town. While the doctor was looking for transportation to the other clinic his clinic was surrounded by UMOPAR agents and bombarded by gas delaying the removal of patients for at least half an hour.
In the hospital in Ibuelo it was determined that Mamani needed to go to Cochabamba due to the severity of her wound. She waited more than two weeks in the public hospital while the coca growers union and the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights negotiated with the government to pay for the treatment of her leg. By the time the government had agreed, the leg had to be amputated. In agreeing to pay for Mamani's medical costs, the government assumed no responsibility for the incident in Shinahota and refused to pay for any of the medical follow up that she needed. (The incident is described in reports by Human Rights Watch -- see http://www.hrw.org/hrw/summaries/s.bolivia965.html and http://www.hrw.org/hrw/summaries/s.bolivia957.html.)
Earlier this year, the Andean Information Network, an organization that monitors and disseminates information on the impact of the anti-narcotics effort in Bolivia, raised funds for Mamani to purchase a new prosthesis to replace her old artificial leg that had become non-functional after three years of use. According to AIN's appeal, "Felipa has been an invaluable resource not only for AIN but for international human rights organizations as well. She has always been willing to allow interviews, photos and countless retellings of the fateful events of that day. We have found her to be a tireless defender of human rights in the Chapare."
On April 29, AIN's Lee Cridland visited Mamani at the union headquarters to let her know that they had raised sufficient funds and that she was now on the company's waiting list. Mamani told her that on the previous day, government soldiers, now installed in the Chapare to forcibly eradicate coca, had entered her property and eradicated all of her coca plants. The soldiers had also eaten all of the fruit that was ready for picking, leaving her with no source of income. Says Cridland, "I could hardly believe what she was saying and you can imagine her fear as the soldiers entered the property from the back and she could not get back there to see what they were doing. Once she calmed down a bit we took her back to her land 15 kilometers away and confirmed with our own eyes what she had told us."
(Those of you who have been with us for awhile might recall the alert we redistributed for AIN last year, archived at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/4-23-1.html. AIN can be contacted at [email protected].
"The available evidence indicates that our attempt to deprive individuals of the freedom to use drugs such as heroin and cocaine has done far more harm than good. It has filled our jails, corrupted our police, deprived people of their civil liberties and imposed unbelievable horrors on other countries such as Mexico and Colombia. On just this last issue -- the effect of our drug policy on other countries -- I have never found anyone able to give me a plausible answer on what right the U.S. has to destroy a country like Colombia just because we can't enforce our own laws. If we could enforce our laws, there would be no drug cartel there, no black market, no endless string of drug killings and less instability in the government. Because we can't enforce our laws, the country is being destroyed."
- Milton Friedman, San Jose Mercury News, 5/17, "Leading Question" weekly feature
Brandweek, the sister publication to Adweek, the advertising industry's leading trade publication, featured an analysis of the effectiveness of anti-drug advertising in its April 27 issue. The discussion decried an absence of evidence for the campaigns' efficacy, and scolded the ONDCP and the Partnership for a Drug Free America for taking shortcuts and not doing the research that any company embarking on a multi-billion dollar ad campaign would perform. Senior Editor David Kiley points out that there is a lot at stake -- keeping kids off drugs and making effective use of taxpayer money -- and that the standards for planning should therefore be higher than they are for private clients' accounts, not lower.
Reportedly, Kiley and Brandweek have since received an onslaught of negative criticism about their coverage. Please send letters of support to: David Kiley, Senior Editor, Brandweek, 1515 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10036, fax: (212) 536-1416, [email protected].
The articles can be accessed on the web in full at http://www.marijuanamagazine.com/toc/051898.htm.
The proponents of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act have created a web site with the full text of the legislation and an extensive set of links to informational resources. Check OMMA out at http://www.teleport.com/~omr/.
In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a series of articles by reporter Gary Webb, titled "Dark Alliance", discussing evidence of possible connections between the CIA, the Nicaraguan Contras, and cocaine trafficking rings operating between Central America and inner-city Los Angeles. Webb, who is no longer with the Mercury, has written a book with the same name, detailing the rest of the information that the Mercury, under pressure, declined to publish. Though the CIA has denied engaging in drug trafficking, earlier this year they acknowledged that they did work with drug traffickers and did not report them to the DEA or other law enforcement agencies.
You can order Dark Alliance by following the link to amazon.com. DRCNet will earn a 15% commission on your purchase.
Another important book of relevance to the cocaine problem is Crack in America, edited by sociologists Craig Reinarman and Harry G. Levine, a compilation of 17 essays by renowned experts (including the editors) providing a comprehensive look into the latest "demon drug". Follow the link to purchase.
Land of Opportunity: One Family's Quest for the American Dream in the Age of Crack, by William Adler, narrates the gripping history of a family that made it big in the crack world only to fall later. A revealing look at the real world behind the rhetoric. Follow the link to purchase and earn DRCNet 15%.
12. JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: DPF Seeks Communications Associate/ Assistant Editor
The Drug Policy Foundation seeks a media-savvy person to assist Communications Director to generate media coverage, produce policy journal, monitor news sources, and post Web info. Applicants must be detail-oriented, write clearly/ concisely, know standard proof-reading and editing practices, and possess talent for layout/artistic design. Media experience a must; knowledge of drug policy reform a plus. BA with 2+ yrs exp.
Duties and Responsibilities:
Full benefits, mid-$20s starting salary. Send resume, writing sample to: Comm Search, The Drug Policy Foundation, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008-2328. No emails please.
It's 8 AM, your family is up and about, the kids are getting ready for school, someone's in the shower, and your mind is already focused on all that awaits you at work today. Suddenly -- your front door explodes inward –- there's an explosion and a flash of light, and smoke, and men, men with guns are everywhere, rushing into your home screaming and cursing and pointing their weapons -- grabbing everyone in the house -- putting them on the floor -- screaming orders -- questions -- demands -- your children! Where are the children?! You hear them screaming and crying "don't shoot my mommy!! Don't shoot!! Daddy, Help!! Help!! But you can't help. You've been pinned to the floor by three of the men and there's a gun pressed up against the back of your neck.
It is not until the first few agonizing minutes of terror have passed that you realize that these are not outlaws, these are the police. You, apparently, are the outlaw. At least as far as they're concerned. So you sit helpless as you are all handcuffed, and screamed at, and threatened, and cursed and manhandled. As your children are interrogated. And for hours that seem like days you watch as your residence, and your belongings, and your life are torn apart, and broken, and scattered across the floors of this place that up until this morning was your home... and your castle.
Over the past three years, in cities all across the United States, a very curious thing has happened: crime rates have dropped precipitously. There are many reasons for this trend. Demographics have changed for one, meaning that there has been a dip in the number of 15-24 year-old males, a trend which will soon reverse itself with a vengeance. There is also the fact that after watching a generation of their elders suffer through the misery of crack dependence, fewer young people in poor neighborhoods will touch the stuff. And yes, community policing, at its best, has had an impact as well.
But there is one factor, perhaps the most important of all, which has been little remarked upon. Over the past three years, the drug trade, be it cocaine or heroin or marijuana, has, to a large extent, undergone an important change in its standard operating procedure. Over the past three years, in most large cities across America, the drug trade has moved indoors.
Open air drug markets, persistent throughout the seventies and eighties, have given way to beepers and cell phones. Transactions which used to be done out in the open are now done, to a large extent, behind closed doors. Orders are placed, deliveries are made, and business is transacted out of public, and police view.
This has made a tremendous difference in the quality of life of many communities. In parts of Los Angeles, in Manhattan's Washington Heights, children can play outside without the constant threat of erupting gunfire. People walk their streets without having to negotiate a phalanx of street dealers and their customers. It hasn't happened everywhere, and drugs are still sold on the streets in some neighborhoods, but to a large extent, in a lot of places, it has changed.
But with this change in the drug trade has come a change in the policing of the drug trade. Narcotics officers used to be able to appear in certain neighborhoods, put everyone on the ground and begin making arrests. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. And while all of those arrests did little or nothing to limit the availability of drugs in the community, at least there were statistics, body counts, tangible evidence that the police were doing something.
So, soon after it became apparent that the drug trade had moved in off of the street, the police followed. And if watching a street sweep, with dozens of neighborhood residents lying spread-eagle on the pavement, was troubling to those Americans still enamored of freedom and liberty, the sound of doors being kicked in at private residences by armed narcotics squads is truly heartbreaking.
In 1991, the New York City police department executed 1,174 narcotics search warrants. Less than five months into 1998, they have already executed 1,357. In narcotics cases, a large percentage of warrants are granted, and executed, on the word of confidential informants. These are usually people who have been charged with crimes of their own, and who have decided, often under enormous pressure, to turn snitch. In fact, in many jurisdictions it is standard procedure to offer to drop charges in exchange for five names, with the alternative being near a certain long-term prison sentence.
Not surprisingly, reports are beginning to surface in New York about a growing number of "bad" raids. Either the wrong door was kicked in, or the informant took a guess, or perhaps the he simply had a grudge against someone living in the apartment. Whatever the reason, it doesn't much matter to those whose homes and lives have been irreparably violated. In recent months, at least six lawsuits have been filed against the NYPD for bad raids. These are just the ones who have come forward. And there are doubtless numerous other cases where the raid netted but a small amount of a banned substance, an eighth of an ounce of marijuana perhaps, thus legally justifying the invasion and eliminating any chance of civil recourse.
There is very little to compare with the abject terror of a family whose home is suddenly invaded by a large group of angry, armed men. And it makes little difference who they are working for when they come. The process of search and destroy, the verbal and physical abuse, the broken possessions and shattered sense of security are a judgment, and a punishment of their own. And the aftermath, even for the innocent, can be a long and enduring nightmare. Children who are afraid to go to sleep, bumps in the hall that make entire families jump, and the sense that the police, paid with your tax dollars, are agents of harm. And if you should be so unlucky as to have anything suspicious in your home; too many Ziplock sandwich bags, a scale that weighs in grams or ounces, or perhaps even a gun to protect your family from "real" invaders, charges are likely to be held over your head for a good long while. Perhaps until you have signed away your right to sue.
Howard Safir, the commissioner of the NYPD said recently, "the drug trade has moved inside, and we're going to go in and get it." But the innumerable consensual transactions that make up "the drug trade" will not be eliminated by kicking in even hundreds of thousands of doors, any more than it was eliminated by hundreds of thousands of street-corner arrests over the past twenty years. We will simply slide steadily down the path toward even greater police powers, and even less regard for the sanctity of the home against incursion by the sovereign. That sanctity was once a very important concept for Americans. But that was a long time ago. Before the war.
Adam J. Smith
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