(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #46, 6/19/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Due to the UN activities, as well as other business that the DRCNet staff attended to in New York, we regret that we were unable to publish The Week Online last week. But we're back this week with issue #46. Thanks to everyone who participated in the many events held across the globe who helped to raise awareness of the growing opposition to the Drug War. To everyone who collected email addresses for DRCNet, please send them in (we'll pick up the postage costs) so that we can get those new subscribers onto the network.
Rather than provide a piecemeal account of the various events, we will endeavor, in the coming weeks, to post accounts of each event on the Global Days web page at http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/globalcoalition/. If you attended (or helped organize) an event and you would like to share your experience with others, please email us with your observations. This has been an important two weeks for reformers, and we at DRCNet are proud to be working with all of you in our efforts to bring this war, and its attendant human misery, to a speedy end.
Please also note that our local Internet service provider lost about a week's worth of e-mail sent to the DRCNet list manager account, [email protected] (This is the account to which your mail would go if you replied directly to one of our bulletins.) If you wrote to that address with an address change or removal, or because your copy of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts hadn't shown up, or for any other reason, please write us again at [email protected] and we will process your request this week.
Speaking of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, we've mailed out all but the last five copies ordered (we're waiting for the copies to show up here). If you think you have a copy coming to you, but haven't received it yet, please let us know, and we will check the database and resend it if necessary.
We are please to announce that Mike Gray's book, "Drug Crazy", has been officially released, and we have seen them prominently displayed on many bookstore shelves in the area. We urge you to go to your nearby store and purchase or order, or at least inquire about, this exciting new chapter in the anti-prohibition effort. (And when you do, check out page 203!) If you're not going to go the bookstore route, but might consider ordering it online, visit our site at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/5-22.html#drugcrazy and follow the link to amazon.com, and DRCNet will earn 15 percent from your purchase.
Dave and Adam
Table of Contents
On Wednesday, 6/17, Drug Czar and retired general Barry McCaffrey, in written testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations' Committee, warned that "There is a carefully camouflaged, exorbitantly funded, well-heeled elitist group whose ultimate goal is to legalize drug use in the United States."
McCaffrey didn't name names, but in the wake of an open letter to United Nations' Secretary General Koffi Annan, published in a two-page ad in the New York Times last week and signed by over 500 prominent individuals worldwide, he didn't really have to. Signatories to the letter included Ronald Reagan's former secretary of State George Schultz, former UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, former US Senators Alan Cranston and Claiborne Pell, Journalist Walter Cronkite, Nobel-winning economist Milton Friedman and Baltimore's mayor Kurt Schmoke. Earlier in the week, in response to the UN letter, McCaffrey scoffed that the reform movement was "the mouse that roared".
Also during the UN summit, a 30-second ad on CNN, paid for by Common Sense for Drug Policy, ran repeatedly in several major cities for the duration. The ad featured footage of President Clinton speaking at the UN, with an actor impersonating his voice, proclaiming the war on drugs a failure. The ad explained that Clinton wasn't really saying this, but that he should. (View the ad or read the text online at http://www.drugsense.org/unad.htm.)
McCaffrey also echoed a recurring theme of drug warriors in their assessment of the growing movement as somehow capable of misleading even the most astute of their supporters. "Through a slick misinformation campaign, these individuals perpetuate a fraud on the American people, a fraud so devious that even some of the nation's most respected newspapers and sophisticated media are capable of echoing their falsehoods."
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, responded to the controversy surrounding the United Nations' Special Session by calling for hearings on legalization.
"I believe that drug legalization would be a disaster," he said. "But today, many powerful voices in our society are supporting a variety of legalization policies. They say, 'Let's save money and trouble and just legalize drugs.' So I am suggesting that we on the Senate Judiciary Committee take a hard, unblinking look at drug legalization. I think it unfortunate that we must, but I believe it necessary."
Mark Rooney, a spokesman for Senator Biden, told The Week Online, "I'm not sure, at this moment what the senator's strategy on this will be, whether he'll push forward with it or not. Obviously, the chairman, Senator Hatch of Utah, will ultimately determine the committee's agenda. I do know that there's a lot already planned for the committee and so scheduling will have an impact as well."
Ethan Nadelmann, Director of The Lindesmith Center, a drug policy think tank which coordinated the open letter and placed it in the Times, told The Week Online, "When people look back at the UN Session on Narcotics of 1998, if they look back at all, it won't be for the platitudes uttered by president Clinton and the other heads of state, or because the new UN Drug Control chief issued an absurd plan to eradicate opium and coca from the face of the earth in the next ten years. It will be because it marked the moment at which a truly international movement for the reform of drug policy began, and the point at which serious, substantive criticism of the failures of drug prohibition became both credible and legitimate."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday (6/17), the Judiciary Committee held hearings on Teens and Drugs. Speakers included Barry McCaffrey, a teen who recently completed drug rehab, and an undercover narcotics officer who has posed as a high school student at two different schools and whose work led to numerous arrests in both cases. Among the insights that the officer provided to the committee was his assessment that drugs are "rampant" even in middle class and upper middle class high schools. In comparing undercover work at a school with undercover operations in the workplace, he made the point that while it might take 8 months to a year to net a dozen busts among workers, it takes just weeks to find large numbers of kids who are using and dealing drugs. He characterized drugs as far more prevalent in schools. No one on the committee asked whether Prohibition, and the black market which it creates, might have anything to do with such access.
(Senator Biden is featured in the Schaffer Library's "Chicken Page", for those who make noise but don't really want to come out and debate the issue, online at http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/debate/chicken.htm.)
Two weeks ago it was learned that a large chunk of the Republican-led "World War II-style" Drug War legislative package would be introduced as an amendment to the rapidly expanding tobacco bill in the senate. (See our alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/6-4.html.) Last week (6/9) that amendment passed along party lines (52-46). According to Trent Lott (R-MS), the amendment was essential to the tobacco bill's prospects in the senate. While news reports this week seem to indicate that the on-again off-again tobacco bill was finally dead, drug policy advocates see the passage of the amendment as an important indicator.
Alexander Robinson, director of legislative affairs for the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington DC, told The Week Online, "I think that whether or not the tobacco bill makes it out of the senate, the amendment is significant in that it is the first time that the republican proposal was voted on by either house. Its passage is a further indication that the hard-line Republican plan, as draconian as it is, will not go away. We can be sure that we will see this legislative package rear its head again in the near future."
On Saturday, June 13, an afternoon that began in searing heat but ended in a drenching thundershower, patients and physicians gathered at the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC to protest the undertreatment of chronic pain, the maltreatment of chronic pain patients and the persecution of doctors who prescribe narcotics for pain as needed. Signs and t-shirts read "stop pain now" and "get the DEA out of my doctor's office". Awards were presented to several physicians who have courageously stood up for the rights of patients.
One piece of good news that was reported was that the DEA, after two long years, has finally restored Dr. William Hurwitz's license to prescribe narcotics (see http://www.drcnet.org/guide10-96/pain.html). The Virginia Board of Medicine restored his state licenses several months ago, and in a dramatic about face, praised his method of pain treatment and encouraged him to continue.
Photos from the March Against Pain are online at http://www.widomaker.com/~skipb/Wash.html. Visit the American Society for Action on Pain (ASAP) at http://www.actiononpain.org for ongoing information on the subject.
- Alex Morgan for DRCNet
On Saturday, June 8, the New York Academy of Medicine hosted the First International Conference on Heroin Maintenance, sponsored by Beth Israel Medical Center, Columbia University School of Public Health, The Lindesmith Center of the Open Society Institute, Montefiore Medical Center, the New York Academy of Medicine and the Yale Center for Inter-Disciplinary Research on Aids.
The conference was the first major presentation in the United States of the results the Swiss research project that has maintained over 1000 addicts on heroin.
In the introduction to the research summary, Ethan Nadelmann, Director of The Lindesmith Center, said, "Oral Methadone works best for hundreds of thousands of heroin addicts but some fare better with other opiate substitutes. In England, doctors prescribe injectable methadone for about 10 percent of recovering patients who may like the modest "rush" upon injection or the ritual of injecting." In various countries oral morphine, codeine and buprenorphine have also been used as maintenance drugs.
Nadelmann noted that, "The Swiss study has undermined several myths about heroin and its habitual users...given relatively unlimited availability, heroin users will voluntarily stabilize or reduce their dosage and some will even choose abstinence; that long addicted users can lead relatively normal, stable lives if provided legal access to their drug of choice..."
Dr. Ambros Uchtenhagen, Principal Investigator of the Swiss National Project on the Medically Controlled Prescription of Narcotics, discussed the results of the three year study, which was conducted at seventeen out patient clinics and one penal institution. The project tracked 1,146 patients from January '94 to December '96, in order to study the effects of prescribed heroin on the health, social integration, and dependent behavior of the research participants.
The Swiss targeted the study at addicts who were doing poorly on methadone maintenance, continuing to use illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine and benzo-diazepams as well as alcohol. To participate in the study, the addicts had to be at least twenty years old with two years of addiction and a history of failure at other treatment modalities.
No take home heroin was provided and the patients had to come to the clinic to inject under supervision two or three times a day. They were also given counseling and appropriate social services, as needed.
The results were remarkable:
Also at the conference were researchers from the Netherlands, where a heroin maintenance study will begin next month, and Australia, where a study was set to begin a few months ago until the federal government withdrew its consent three weeks before the start date.
One of the main developments of the conference was a meeting held the next day at the Lindesmith Center, where researchers discussed the possibility of a North American heroin maintenance trial with cities in the US and Canada participating. The Baltimore Sun has run several recent stories about the possibility of such a program being set up at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
We will be posting a more detailed report on the conference over the coming weeks. Much more information on drug maintenance can found on the Lindesmith Center web site, http://www.lindesmith.org.
Last month DRCNet reported that some experts believe the significance of the Mexican money laundering banking sting, Operation Casablanca, in which 150 people were arrested and $50 million was seized, was overblown and that it was not likely to have a significant impact on the illegal trade (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/5-22.html#chumpchange).
The operation has, however, touched off an international incident. A June 7 Reuters story reported that Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo was planning to blast the United States for violating Mexico's sovereignty, during the UN Global Drug Summit at which he was to speak. In subsequent statements, the Mexican government has accused US agents of violating Mexican law, and has threatened to request their extradition to Mexico for trial.
- Kris Lotlikar
Montreal International Currency Center Inc., an undercover RCMP operation, inadvertently helped change over $120 million Canadian dollars in known or suspected drug money. The operation was put into place in 1990 to catch money-launderers looking to exchange Canadian for US currency and bank drafts. The operation investigated members of only two of the 25 suspected criminal organizations using the exchange. On August 30, 1994, the sting ended, and police seized $16.5 million in cash and property from suspects, making 57 arrests. The RCMP claimed it had broken one of the biggest money-laundering rings in Canada.
Due to inadequate funds and manpower, the police were not able to follow up on a majority of the transactions. Constable Mike Cowley, a RCMP investigator, was very frustrated with the lack of resources. He wrote a letter to his superior on Oct. 16, 1992, stating, "Without the necessary resources, it seems like our undercover officers are simply offering a money-laundering service for the drug traffickers." Cowley also asked to be reassigned out of the operation. The mob may have even known about the operation because a corrupt RCMP squad boss in Montreal. Inspector Claude Savoie took $200,000 in bribes in exchange for leaking sensitive information. Savio committed suicide in 1993 to avoid police questioning. The RCMP estimates that the money that moved through the undercover exchange was enough to buy almost 5,000 kilograms of cocaine from Colombian drug cartels. Once shipped back into Canada that could yield an estimated street value of $2 billion.
Many questions arise about this operation. Was the operation legal? If so much money is getting past an exchange run by police, how much is getting past other exchanges? How did the RCMP superior endorse this plan without needed funds? Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries is trying to get answers for some of these questions. At the time of the so-called "reverse sting operation", it was illegal for anyone to possess proceeds from criminal activities, including officers conducting an investigation. Undercover RCMP agents never made customers fill-out the proper forms and show identification required for exchanges for over $10,000 dollars. On Sept. 24, 1992, one man exchanged $959,720 in Canadian cash without being identified.
In a case against a man accused of laundering money, the government denied a Supreme Court Justice order to open files on the operation. Deputy RCMP Commissioner Terry Ryan and Jocelyne Bourgon each filed sworn affidavits stating that the documents about the police-run currency exchange are confidential. The Ottawa Citizen reports that in January 1998, Madam Justice Humphries handed down a ruling that officers knowingly possessed proceeds of crime and failed to get suspects to properly report large currency transactions as required by law. The operation made over $2 million in profits over the four years it was in existence.
- Kris Lotlikar
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse issued a report recommending decriminalizing marijuana possession to a civil violation. "The current law prohibiting cannabis possession and trafficking appears to have had a very limited deterrent effect, yet it entails high social costs and diverts limited police resources from other pressing needs," says the study.
Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in the US is not surprised by the findings. He told The Week Online, "Canada seems to be leading the way in opening up debate on the issue."
"Occasional use often occurs with relatively little or no subjective negative effects for the user," the study found. "The available evidence indicates that removal of jail as a sentencing option would lead to considerable cost savings without leading to increases in rates of cannabis use." A civil violation approach would entail a fine and no criminal record for the offender. Debate started after the decision to temporarily take away Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's Olympic gold medal for having trace amounts of marijuana in his system.
"It's about time," Eugene Oscapella, director of the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy, told The Week Online. Mr. Oscapella felt that this report was past due and that certain forces in the CCSA were trying not to raise debate about current legislation.
The study points out that decriminalizing marijuana would be within the boundaries of Canada's international treaty obligations to prohibit marijuana. The current penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana is up to six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine.
- Reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org
June 18, 1998, Paris, France: Smoking marijuana poses less of a threat to public health than the regular consumption of alcohol, determined a French government commissioned report Tuesday.
Marijuana has low toxicity, little addictive power, and poses only a minor threat to social behavior, researchers at the French medical institute INSERM concluded. The report identified alcohol, heroin, and cocaine as the drugs most dangerous to health. Tobacco, psychotropic drugs, tranquilizers, and hallucinogens were placed in a second, less harmful group. Marijuana was classified in a third category of substances defined as posing relatively little danger.
"This federally commissioned report concludes, just as the World Health Organization did earlier this year, that marijuana smoking does less harm to public health than drink and cigarettes," said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation.
Junior Health Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the report's findings would not encourage the federal government to consider decriminalizing the simple possession of marijuana. He called the report "toxicologically correct but politically wrong." Kouchner's office paid for the INSERM study.
Initiative 59, a medical marijuana campaign organized by the District of Columbia chapter of ACT UP, is seeking volunteers to gather signatures to help get the measure on the ballot. The deadline for securing the needed 17,000 valid signatures for the November ballot is July 6th. For more information, visit http://www.actupdc.org or call ACT UP at (202) 547-9404.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, when the Drug War is over and America's long, failed experiment with Prohibition is but a distant, unpleasant memory, historians of the era will likely look back upon the month of June, 1998, as something of a turning point. In every battle, and especially in those fought by a principled few against a seemingly omnipotent but ultimately doomed regime, there are such turning points, often unrecognized at the time, which mark basic changes in the terms of engagement and signal a step forward in the progression toward victory. Gandhi, who knew a bit about noble struggle against overwhelming odds, put it this way: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they crack you down, and then you win."
Over the past two weeks, several things have transpired which signal just such a step forward for the drug policy reform movement. First, on June 8th, the opening day of the United Nations' Special Session on Narcotics, a two-page ad was placed in the New York Times. The ad contained an open letter to UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, signed by over 500 prominent individuals, stating that the drug war is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself, and calling on the Secretary to lead a discussion of alternative solutions.
The response to the ad was global and immediate. From pained mutterings at the UN Session itself to editorial comment in many of the world's most widely-read newspapers. In response to that outcry came a second significant event, Barry McCaffrey, the US Drug Czar, addressed the issue of the reform movement itself. First, in response to reporters' questions, he denigrated the "small group of intellectuals" as "the mouse that roared." But just days later, in written testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, McCaffrey warned, "There is a carefully camouflaged, exorbitantly funded, well-heeled elitist group whose ultimate goal is to legalize drug use in the United States."
McCaffrey went on to say, "Through a slick misinformation campaign, these individuals perpetuate a fraud on the American people, a fraud so devious that even some of the nation's most respected newspapers and sophisticated media are capable of echoing their falsehoods."
Then, as the story grew, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), an inveterate drug warrior who has been known to publicly extol the virtues of "our first drug czar," the propagandist Harry Anslinger, suggested to the press that the time had come for the Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, to hold hearings on "legalization." Noting that "today, many powerful voices in our society are supporting a variety of legalization policies" Biden called for the committee to take a "hard, unblinking look" at the issue.
Now, it is indeed flattering that Barry McCaffrey believes that the reform movement is so intelligent and "carefully camouflaged" that it can "mislead" even the nation's most professional and well-informed editors and media elite. And it is certainly amusing that he ascribes to the modest and still nascent movement the properties of an "exorbitantly well-funded" operation. But what is truly significant in McCaffrey's comments is that despite the fact that the movement, which is in reality a collection of very different groups with very different politics and visions of reform, is neither brilliantly deceptive nor extravagantly funded, it has reached the point, finally, where it can no longer be safely ignored.
As to Senator Biden, there can be no doubt that the hearings he has in mind will be orchestrated for the purpose of prohibitionist propaganda. In fact, the only reason why such a "look" at the issue of drug policy reform by Senator Biden's Committee will be "unblinking" is that it is likely that its members will keep their eyes tightly shut to any and all evidence of the inherent flaws in the prohibitionist model. But here again, in raising the level of the prohibitionist response to the growing movement to such heights, there is an implicit acknowledgment that prohibitionists can no longer pretend that the debate does not exist at all.
A man who walks the streets in daylight, confident of his surroundings and sure of himself, will barely notice the footsteps approaching from behind. It is only the nervous, the timid, the one with something to fear, scurrying through the shadows in an attempt to conceal his mission who turns around to check his back. Let the record show that it was in June, 1998 that the prohibitionists, in the wake of an international gathering which was supposed to trumpet the solidarity of the entire world in service to their war machine, felt the need to look behind and take fearful note of the relatively tiny but steadily growing movement for reform striding purposefully toward them. And let there be no mistake that for reformers, engaged against a global war machine with nothing save truth and justice in their arsenal, that act, the simple but telling look over the shoulder, stands as the unmistakable marker of a new phase in the struggle. A road sign of hope on the path toward the defeat of a once seemingly invincible foe.
Adam J. Smith
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