(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #47, 6/26/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
As the 2nd quarter of 1998 roles to a close, we at DRCNet need to call out for your help once again. While new paying members have continued to sign up every week, we have not yet matched during this quarter the rate of growth that we had last quarter. We need 43 new paying members by the end of the month, Tuesday, to keep pace. The more of you vote for DRCNet by officially joining, the more our major funders will feel that their financial support is matched by your participation and enthusiasm. We are hopeful that the right level of support will enable us to grow our current 6,000 person subscription list by orders of magnitude, creating a potent political force capable of shifting the political tides in our favor. Will you make a vote today to build DRCNet and the movement?
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If you're not sure whether you want to donate to DRCNet at this time, maybe the following selection of some of our recent media highlights will help you make up your mind. And then, of course, on to this week's news.
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Table of Contents
(visit last week's Week Online)
1. German Police Call for an End to the Drug War
Twelve German Police Chiefs joined medical experts and politicians last week (6/16) in calling for an end to the drug war, while a survey of members of Parliament showed support for a new direction on drug policy across the political spectrum.
Dr. Ingo Flenker, a member of the board of the Federal Chamber of Doctors, told The Guardian (UK) on 6/17, "The Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberal Free Democrats have long been signaling that they would welcome a change in drugs policy." Gerhard Schroeder, a Social Democrat, is the heavy favorite to win the Chancellor's seat in September's national elections.
Dierk Schitzler, Bonn's Police Commissioner, told the gathering, "Even if we had four times as many police officers, we could not solve the drug problem. We would only push the prices up and the dealers will make even bigger profits. Humanity dictates that we should help addicts, who are sick people."
The cities of Frankfurt, Cologne, Karslruhe, and Hanover
- Rob Stewart, Drug Policy Foundation
On Thursday, June 18, the nonprofit Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE, www.prideusa.org) released its annual, end-of-the-school-year surveys of adolescent drug use and gun possession.
PRIDE president Thomas Gleaton, top White House drug advisor Barry McCaffrey, and senators Paul Coverdell (R-GA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Joe Biden (D-DE) took part in the Capitol Hill press conference. The bipartisan group announced that the students overall reported a decrease in illegal drug use, including alcohol and nicotine. But the 11th PRIDE survey found that some of the older students, in particular 12th graders, reported slight but statistically significant increases for cigarettes, cocaine, uppers and downers, and designer drugs (PRIDE's terms).
The survey also shows that illegal drug use is less likely to be correlated with school activities, good grades, parental involvement and discipline, and "religiosity." About 30.1 percent of students said that their parents
Gleaton's statement about the drug use survey was guardedly optimistic. He attributed the decline in part to the 1996 presidential campaign debates and parental involvement. Gleaton said in a statement, "We have made remarkable progress in the past two years, but to return to drug use levels of 1990, we would have to cut today's usage in half."
Gleaton summarized his warning for USA Today (June 19, p. 6A) as follows: "When drug use drops out of view of the American people, that allows the bad guys to flourish again." But, according to the White House's Summer
PRIDE's survey of students and guns found that the percentage of students reporting that they carried guns with them to school had dropped 36 percent over the last five years -- to 3.8 percent for the 1997-1998 school year
The gun survey adds to the dark reputation of drugs. "With this volatile mixture of guns, bad attitudes, and drugs," Gleaton said, "it only takes one student to create a national nightmare like Jonesboro, Arkansas, or Springfield, Oregon." Students gunned down fellow students in both towns this year.
The PRIDE survey leaves the association of guns and drugs alone. There is no explanation about the black market's influence nor a suggestion that kids who break one set of laws are less inclined to be stopped by other laws banning a particular behavior.
(Rob Stewart is director of communications for the Drug Policy Foundation, and editor of DPF's Drug Policy Letter. You can find them on the web at http://www.dpf.org/.)
3. U.S. Pressures Colombia to Spray Dangerous Herbicide in Eradication Efforts
Dow Chemical, the makers of Tebuthiuron, warns that the herbicide should only be used "carefully and in controlled situations" and that "it can be very risky in situations where terrain has slopes, rainfall is significant, desirable plants are nearby and application is made under less than ideal circumstances." But that is exactly what the U.S. government has pressured Colombia to agree to do.
The warning quoted above, conditions under which Tebuthiuron, marketed under the name Spike 20-P, should not be used, essentially describes the terrain in which coca is grown. American officials have long lobbied for the use of Tebuthiuron because it comes in pellet, rather than spray form, and can be dropped by high-flying planes, thus reducing the risk to pilots, if not to the people on the ground below. But Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, formerly makers of the defoliant Agent Orange, released a statement saying "Tebuthiuron is not labeled for any use on any crops in Colombia, and it is our desire that the product not be used for coca eradication as well."
But Dow's reluctance matters little. Their patent on the herbicide has run out, allowing other companies to manufacture it.
No one knows what the long-term effects of Tebuthiuron are in groundwater or on farmland, and critics, including Colombia's environmental minister, Eduardo Verano, question whether such risks are worth taking with the lives of his countrymen. "We need to reconsider the benefits of the chemical war" he told the New York Times. "The more you fumigate, the more the farmers plant. If you fumigate one hectare, they'll grow coca on two more. How else do you explain the figures?"
The plan, which was drawn up by the State Department's acting assistant Secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, calls for the Colombian military to drop the defoliant, and then only in the southern, rebel-controlled part of the country. The Colombian military, long acknowledged as one of the world's leading abusers of human rights, and more recently as flouting civilian control by the Colombian government, has been engaged in a 35 year-old conflict with rebel guerrillas in the region. It is a war which they have recently admitted they cannot win.
4. Pastrana Elected President of Colombia
In a wave of anti-corruption sentiment, Conservative opposition candidate Andres Pastrana was elected President of Colombia over Liberal Horacio Serpa. Serpa, the former Interior Minister under outgoing President Ernesto Samper, was Samper's hand-picked successor.
Serpa was an ardent defender of Samper in the wake of a scandal in which he was accused of taking over $6 million in campaign contributions from the Cali cartel during his successful race against Pastrana in 1994. The reverberations of that scandal led to the arrest and conviction of over 30 government officials and members of Congress. Samper was eventually absolved of wrongdoing by the congress, in what was widely perceived as a whitewash.
Pastrana's election also paves the way for meaningful negotiations between the government and the rebels who control nearly 50% of the country. Late in the campaign, Pastrana met with rebel leaders, and has repeatedly said that a peaceful, negotiated solution is essential to Colombia's future. Such talk would seem to fly in the face of a burgeoning American policy towards Colombia in which an executive order banning the sale of high-tech weapons to the region has been lifted and the Republican-controlled Congress has put pressure on the Clinton Administration to send more weapons and military aid to Colombia.
Lisa Haugaard of the Latin America Working Group told The Week Online, "Pastrana's statements have been very positive with regard to peace and negotiations, and it's very important that U.S. policy back those efforts. There is certainly a window of opportunity with the momentum from the election. And while there have been previous efforts at peace, there are several factors that indicate that now may be a better time. The violence has been greater, people are tired, and there is a broader mobilization than there has been in the past.
"But U.S. policy doesn't seem geared toward encouraging peace. There are a number of American politicians, led by Senator Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), who are very narrowly focused on sending arms to fight the drug war. As a matter of fact, just today (6/26) the approval went through for the $36 million in helicopters. Not the Blackhawk helicopters that Gilman seemed so intent on providing, but upgraded Hueys." (See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/44.html#copters.)
"The violence that is taking place in Colombia is appalling. The paramilitaries, in particular, are out of control, and every time that the U.S. tries to do something to insure that aid does not go into the hands of human rights abusers, it goes awry. It's just impossible to draw those kinds of lines down there. It will be interesting to see what kind of a role the U.S. plays in any peace efforts. Our best hope is that there is a debate going on within the Clinton administration, and that those who would like to foster peace efforts can win out over those who insist on further arming the conflict."
5. California Legislature to Debate Measure Providing Medical Marijuana Distribution By Local Communities
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
June 25, 1998, Sacramento, CA: The California Assembly will debate legislation next week that authorizes local governments to establish medical marijuana distribution programs.
The bill also argues for federal rescheduling of the drug. "There is widespread consensus among physicians, law enforcement, patients, providers and other stakeholders that the most effective solution [to the question of medical marijuana distribution] is for the federal government to reschedule marijuana so that it can be prescribed under the same strict protocols as morphine and cocaine," the bill reads.
The Assembly Health Committee will hear S.B. 1887 on Tuesday.
6. Professor Julian Heicklen in Jail
- Alex Morgan
Professor Julian Heicklen is in the Centre County Prison in Bellefonte, PA, following his arrest for smoking a joint during a demonstration outside the county court house last Monday (6/22).
Heicklen, who has been holding weekly "Smoke Outs" at the Penn State University Main Gate in State College since January, moved his protest to the county seat on June 7 when he made a speech at the county prison door before serving a 48 hour sentence for contempt of court.
The contempt sentence was imposed during a May 6 hearing on his previous arrests. Heicklen had objected to Magistrate Lunsford's questioning of prosecution witnesses and also the court's decision to combine his February 12, March 19, March 26 and April 2 arrests into one case. The objection was overruled.
Heicklen declined to cross examine the police officers or present any evidence, but he asked to read a statement into the record. Magistrate Lunsford denied the request, saying Heicklen was only going to repeat the statement he made during his hearing for the February arrest. Heicklen asked him how he knew that and then began his statement anyway. Lunsford ordered Heicklen to stop and threatened him with a contempt citation. Heicklen finished his statement, and Lunsford imposed the 48 hour sentence for contempt.
On June 7, just prior to entering the county prison, Heicklen read a long statement summarizing his struggle with the court system and the pretrial motions he had filed with the court. "... I made a short statement of about one minute in length requesting indictment by a grand jury ... Magistrate Lunsford objected to me saying anything at all on my own behalf and found me in contempt of court. I had thirty days to appeal the contempt citation. I could not do so in good conscience because I am in contempt of this court, in absolute and utter contempt. The Centre County Court is not a court of law; it is a court of inquisition."
The full statement, entitled "SPEECH AT THE PRISON DOOR," can be found at http://www.personal.psu.edu/jph13/, Prof. Heicklen's web site.
Heicklen is still in jail waiting to see if attorney Joseph Devecka can get his bail reduced to $500.00 and also get the court to drop the bail requirement that he refrain from committing further crimes. Meanwhile, he is going ahead with plans to lead a major protest at Penn State's Main Gate during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. It will span 30 hours over four days, with thirty different speakers for an hour each.
For a complete list of speakers check Heicklen's web site listed above. To make a donation to Professor Heicklen's campaign, contact him at [email protected] or contact Carla Moquin at [email protected].
7. FEDS: Drug Lords Attempted to Buy Russian Submarine
The Los Angeles Times reports this week (6/21) that Ludwig Fainberg, owner of two Miami nightclubs, was acting as a broker between Russian organized crime figures and South American drug traffickers. The deals that Fainberg allegedly attempted to put together would have netted the drug organizations a Soviet Tango class submarine to be used to ship cocaine into the U.S. Fainberg went so far as to arrange a meeting with a retired Russian naval officer and a tour of a secret Russian navy base for the purpose of selecting the sub.
The Times reports that U.S. authorities say the case is illustrative of the forming alliances between powerful organized crime organizations in Russia and South American drug traffickers. This partnership would combine access to vast Cold War military assets with the drug trade that has all but inundated the U.S. despite the best efforts of prohibitionists.
8. First Amendment Rights of Alternative Media Threatened in Austin, Texas
While the following is not directly drug policy related, we believe it is important, especially to those of us who rely, to some extent, on alternative media for important information (like The Week Online).
Last weekend, the Grassroots News Network held its first annual "Grassroots News and Media Conference & Culture
On Sunday evening after the conference, members of the Austin Police Dept. in an APD police car took photographs of the house of GNN organizer Paul Odekirk, which was witnessed by Odekirk and several other organizers. According to Odekirk, "the curtain was half way open and we saw a big flash and a police car was out front. They were taking pictures of my house. I walked out front and the police were standing in the street taking my picture and pictures of the house. Then they got into their car and drove off."
The spectre of police spying on activists is evocative of the FBI's infamous COINTELPRO program, in which government operative infiltrated anti-Vietnam war groups and other political organizations. Surveillance of activists by police can be a method of intimidation used by authorities to squelch activism (and hence democracy).
Surveillance of government, on the other hand, is good for democracy. The following e-mail addresses of Austin city officials and other personnel have been provided, so that interested parties can let the city know they are being watched over the Internet. Ask the city to investigate possibly spying by police and whether it was an appropriate enforcement activity.
Mayor Kirk Watson, [email protected]
Find the Grassroots News Network online at http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Studio/1082.
9. "Coincidences at Pain Patient March"
Last week, we reported that pain patients had rallied at the U.S. Capitol to call for adequate pain medication for all who need it and to protest the state medical boards and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for interfering with the objective. (See our story at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/46.html#painmarch.)
Skip Baker, President of the American Society for Action on Pain (ASAP), has reported that while he and other activists were setting up for the event, three women whom he didn't recognize approached him and asked for t-shirts. Skip pointed them to a suitcase that held the shirts. Another activist asked them if they had paid for the shirts, and one of them responded that "David Baker said they could have them." They proceeded to remove four or five ASAP t-shirts. Skip was stunned to hear this, because while his real name is in fact David, virtually no one knows this, and the only way to find it out is to examine certain official documents. (DRCNet's David Borden has known Skip Baker for three years, and had no idea until last week that his real name was anything other than Skip.) Though Skip didn't recognize the women, another attendee was reminded of three female DEA agents who attended when patients rallied in support of Dr. William Hurwitz at the Virginia medical board's hearings two years before (http://www.drcnet.org/pain.html).
Also, one of the pain physicians who was to receive an award at the rally had his license to prescribe controlled substances revoked by the DEA and was too upset to attend. His offense -- failure to file a change of address form. The doctor had moved several months before, but the DEA only took action against him one week before the rally.
It should be stressed here that there is no hard evidence that these coincidences were anything other than coincidences -- but they do seem fairly suggestive.
(Visit ASAP at http://www.actiononpain.org/.)
As the debate over the efficacy of the Drug War moves toward center stage in the political arena in the United States, the primary tactic of the prohibitionists has become clear. Anyone who espouses any measure of drug policy reform, no matter if it's medical marijuana, syringe exchange, chronic pain control, mandatory minimum sentence reform, opiate maintenance, or even industrial hemp, is being labeled by prohibitionists, from Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey to Senator Joe Biden, as a "legalizer." It is the new "L-word," and the prohibitionists hope that it will do for them what the old "L-word" did for Republican candidates beginning in the 1980's, tar their opponents as extremists while simultaneously forcing them to disavow their own beliefs.
This strategy, like virtually every political strategy adopted in the last days of the twentieth-century, is based not upon guesswork, but upon polling. Polls show that when the American people are asked the question "should the United states legalize all drugs?" the majority of respondents will answer "no". In fact, depending on the poll, a negative answer will be given by between 75 and 85% of those questioned. There are several problems with these numbers, however. First and foremost is that there is no single definition of "legalization". Does it mean that methamphetamine will be sold out of corner stores? No one is advocating that, but to many people, that is the image conjured up by the question.
A second and related problem is that up until now, the American people have had virtually no exposure to the serious and common-sense arguments against prohibition. Most people believe that advocates of "legalization" are exactly what the drug warriors portray them as, drug using extremists who would unleash a torrent of dangerous substances onto society with no thought to the consequences. But judging from the respected names who have recently come out to publicly question the status quo, that is most certainly not true either.
But in systematically hurling the new "L-word" at any and all reformers in tones reminiscent of those used in conjunction with other quasi-epithets such as "racist" or "communist," or "pervert", the prohibitionists are achieving, perhaps intentionally, an even more important victory: they are tempting, even forcing reformers to refute the label as a perceived precondition of effectively advocating their position. "I am not a legalizer." Once that has been accomplished, reformers are left backpedaling, rather than attacking. And rather than launching a full-scale assault on the inherently flawed and globally disastrous policy of Prohibition, reformers are left arguing for harm-reduction in one form or another, essentially surrendering to the notion that of course, criminal prohibition is the right thing to do, if only you'd let us make it a bit more humane in this or that specific area.
The sound of reformers backing away from the air-tight arguments against prohibition must be music to drug warriors' ears. There is no defense, historically or logically, for prohibition. It simply does not work. And worse, it invariably corrupts, it systematically infringes on individual liberties, it grossly enriches and empowers criminal enterprises, and it insures that we, as a society, have no control over who is selling what to whom. Especially with regard to children.
But to acknowledge, explicitly or otherwise, that prohibition is indeed the right system, and that we are only advocating reforms to its implementation, puts logic, or at least the appearance of logic, back into the drug warriors' court. If we agree that drugs should remain illegal (prohibited) then it is rational, or so it would seem, to argue against reforms -- syringe exchange, sentencing reform, low-priority enforcement -- which would weaken that system. Prohibition, were it possible that it could succeed, would certainly require strict enforcement. Especially if are talking about the theoretical (under that system) elimination of access to drugs by children.
As reformers, we must not fall into this trap. Prohibition does not, cannot, will not work. Oh, it works just fine if your goals are to consolidate power in the hands of the state, control minority populations by imprisoning an enormous percentage of their young males, funnel wealth to a privileged few in the defense, corrections, pharmaceutical and other industries, use it as an excuse to infringe on the sovereignty of poorer nations, justify enormous government expenditures on law enforcement and the military, insure a steady source of untraceable cash for secret operations or drastically increase the ability of governments at all levels to seize cash and property from citizens without due process. But in the areas that prohibition is claimed to address, preserving communities, reducing crime and protecting children, it is -- and by the ironclad laws of economics will always be -- an utter and disastrous failure.
This is the argument that must be made. It is an argument for which there is no answer, and one which the prohibitionists are desperate to avoid. It has been the prohibitionists' refusal to publicly debate the facts, their unwillingness to defend their system in any forum in which there is articulate opposition, that has delayed their day of reckoning for so long in the first place. It is only now, when the reform movement, through the power of prominent supporters, the work of dedicated activists, and yes, the advent of electronic communications, has reached the point that it can no longer be ignored, that they are being forced to come out in public, in the mainstream media, and defend themselves and their system.
The fascinating corollary to the numbers which say that 75-85% of the American people "oppose legalization" is that nearly the same number believe that the Drug War is not working. And keeping in mind that our current president was elected by just 22% of eligible voters, surely, given the national stage which has so recently become open to us we can activate those who already understand the issue, and educate a small percentage of those who see the current failure but are nevertheless afraid of the amorphous "L-word." For the first time in the 80-year history of Drug Prohibition, those of us who advocate reform are being called upon to explain to the American people why the prohibitionist system is antithetical to the results they seek. And it is up to us to do just that.
"Are you a legalizer"?
"Well, it's funny, there are almost as many different visions of a sane drug policy as there are reasons to get rid of the one we have. In truth, I'm an anti-prohibitionist, and I'll tell you why..."
Adam J. Smith
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