(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #79, 2/19/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
ERRATA: Last week's article on the Mexican drug war and the congressional certification debate stated that Mexico was decertified last year but granted a national security waiver (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/078.html#totalwar). This was incorrect -- Mexico was in fact certified, though amid controversy and opposition from some members of Congress. It was Colombia that was decertified last year and granted the waiver.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Three weeks ago, we reported on the FDIC's controversial "Know Your Customer" banking rules proposal, and provided addresses for you to voice your objections to federal regulators (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/076.html#kyc). "Know Your Customer" is advocated by people who are frustrated at the failure of supply-side interdiction efforts to restrict the illicit drug supply, but who haven't yet admitted that anti-money laundering programs like KYC are also doomed to failure for extremely similar reasons.
Fewer than 20 days are now left to contact the FDIC and demand that it drop the proposed "Know Your Customer" rule. The Libertarian Party has put up a new web site to make this especially easy -- http://www.defendyourprivacy.com -- so please take a few moments right now to sign the online petition, and then to forward this message to any friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or other people you know personally who may be interested. Your petition will be submitted directly to the FDIC, and a copy will also be sent to your representative in the U.S. House and to both your U.S. Senators.
Please also send us an e-mail at [email protected] to let us know that you've taken action -- we need your feedback to assess our impact and demonstrate our effectiveness to our funders.
In a report released in Washington this week, an American Bar Association panel admonished Congress to stop generating federal criminal statutes as a way to prove they are tough on crime. The findings of "The Federalization of Criminal Law" echo a warning from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who said in his State of the Judiciary address this year that "the pressure on Congress to appear responsive to every highly publicized societal ill or sensational crime" has led to massive increases in federal caseloads and changed the relationship between federal and local law enforcement (see previous Week Online article at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/073.html#rehnquist).
The ABA report notes that 40 percent of federal criminal laws passed since the Civil War were passed after 1970. During the same period, the number of federal prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys offices increased from 3,000 to 8,000. From 1982 to 1993, federal criminal justice system expenditures grew by 317 percent -- nearly double the rate of increase in state spending during that time. Some of the laws, rushed through Congress in response to widespread media attention on crimes like car jacking and drive-by shootings, have rarely been used. Others are more popular, such as federal drug trafficking statutes, which accounted for a full 28% of federal charges against individuals in 1997. Overall, the report says, the federalizing trend has hurt civil litigants, who must endure longer waits because priority is given to criminal trials. Yet the federalization of crime has failed to have a significant effect on the violent crimes of most concern to the public, "because in practice federal law enforcement can only reach a small percentage of such activity."
According to the report, one of the greatest dangers of making federal statutes which duplicate existing state laws is that it threatens to undermine "the careful decentralization of criminal law authority that has worked well for all of our constitutional history" by creating confusion about the roles and responsibilities of federal law enforcement in local criminal matters. Former Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who led the ABA panel which produced the report, told the Week Online, "There's a real danger of the concentration of federal police power in the national government. We've always been opposed to a national police force because there's much less control. We've always believed in local control, where the police are closer to the people." The impact of a loss of this control on constitutional rights and individual liberties, he said is "a serious threat. And it also diverts congressional attention and other federal agencies from those criminal activities that only the federal government can handle."
Meese was Attorney General during the second term of the Reagan presidency, when lawmakers responded to public outcry over the cocaine-related death of college basketball star Len Bias by including severe mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in the 1986 omnibus crime bill. The ABA report does not mention mandatory minimums, which Meese said were brought on in part by frustration with judges who were "unduly lenient" in their sentencing practices. Meese said he was not a fan of rigid minimum sentencing, but felt that federal sentencing guidelines alone were not enough at the time. "I feel that there should be guidelines for judges, but that judges should have a certain amount of discretion and flexibility for unusual cases," he said. "But this was something the judges in effect had brought on themselves." He added, "I think now might be a good time, roughly 10 or 15 years later, to take a look at the sentences and see what the impact has been."
Ultimately, Meese said, the panel hopes that its report will help create a climate in which congress can consider the effects of federalizing crime without the political hazards of being labeled "soft on crime." "We're trying to provide both statistical data and convincing arguments that would support members of congress and other public officials who are willing to stand up for constitutional fidelity as well as realistically appraising what federal crimes do and don't do."
Copies of "The Federalization of Criminal Law" are available from the American Bar Association for $10 apiece. To order, call (312) 988-5000. A report released by the ABA two weeks ago found that increased prison sentences don't deter drug use (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/077.html#abastudy). Visit the ABA on the web at http://www.abanet.org.
A bipartisan effort is underway in the Connecticut General Assembly to address reports of racial disparities in the ways that drug laws are enforced and prosecuted, according to Mike Lawlor, House chairman of the Assembly's judiciary committee. Studies conducted for the Assembly's Office of Legislative Research have found that African Americans, who constitute only 8 percent of Connecticut's population, make up 39 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 58% of drug convictions. Whites account for 62 percent of the population and nearly 50 percent of drug arrests, but only 11 percent of convictions.
"I think it's no secret that in recent years, racial tensions have been exacerbated around the criminal justice system," Lawlor told the Week Online. "Between the racial profiling on the highways, some of the recent police shootings, and what's clearly a huge disparity in the prison population. We know that there's a problem. People can disagree about what has caused it and what might solve it, but for the moment at least we know that this crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system is undermining the system's ability to function properly."
Lawlor said the Assembly hopes to change both the perception and the reality of the problem without affecting public safety by increasing funding for programs with proven effectiveness, like drug courts, community-based diversion treatment, and drug treatment within prisons. On the enforcement level, he said, the Assembly is working with police to develop alternatives to arrest, such as writing referrals to drug treatment. In terms of the courts, he said, "We're talking about giving the judges more discretion with mandatory minimum penalties."
Lawlor said the bi-partisan atmosphere of legislative work on drug policy in Connecticut doesn't surprise him, but he realizes it's unique given the tenor of the debate on the national stage. "My experience has been that behind closed doors, even the most outspoken drug warriors will acknowledge that 'it's not doing any good, but we have to be tough on crime.' But wouldn't you rather be doing something that's going to work?" In Connecticut, he said, "we have an unusual coalition of frustrated police officers, crime victims, conservative republicans and liberal democrats, all saying that we could do a much better job if we could just de-politicize this issue a little."
Nick Pastore, research fellow in police policy for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former police chief of New Haven, Connecticut, applauded the efforts by the Assembly. "We can prove fiscally, as well as developmentally, that alternatives to incarceration work. And 'alternatives to incarceration' starts a philosophical mind-change that breaks away from the mind set of draconian, lock 'em up punishment." He said he hopes this will lead to real changes in policing. "The way the police do business in America has to be continually under the microscope. We've got to say we're going change the way we do police work, and especially how we treat people with different backgrounds -- including people who have been arrested."
The Connecticut Law Revision
Commission, empaneled by the General Assembly, conducts an ongoing review
of state statutes. Their reports and recommendations are on the web
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is on the web at http://www.cjpf.org.
You'll also find an interview with Nick Pastore from the Spring, 1998 issue
of the Drug Policy Letter on the DRCNet web site, at http://www.drcnet.org/cops/.
The U.S. Customs Service, in a report to Congress this week (2/16), admitted that it was unsure of just how pervasive the problem of corruption in its ranks had become as illicit drugs continue to pour over the border.
"The large amounts of illegal drugs that pass through U.S. Customs land, sea and air ports of entry and the enormous amount of money at the disposal of drug traffickers to corrupt law enforcement personnel place Customs and its employees at great risk to (sic) corruption" the report said.
The U.S. Customs Service, which monitors points of entry to and departure from the U.S. has over 12,000 agents in the field. According to the New York Times, eight Customs agents have been convicted of taking bribes from drug traffickers in the past ten years, but the report indicated that the agency's internal investigations have not kept up with demand, and that it is likely that much corruption that does occur goes unnoticed.
The report pointed to a "long history of strife and infighting" between the agency's investigative unit and its internal affairs division, which has had "a debilitating effect on their (internal affairs officers') ability to perform their jobs diligently." The agency also announced that the head of their IA division, Homer J. Williams, would be replaced this week and replaced by former federal prosecutor William A. Keefer. Williams had been under investigation for allegedly tipping off another Customs agent that she was under investigation by his division.
The report was compiled by the Treasury Department, and is not yet available to the public. A spokesman for the Customs Service told The Week Online that the report suggests that corruption is not occurring systemically, but rather in isolated incidents. The report's main concern, according to Customs is the service's "vulnerability to corruption." When asked whether the it was Customs' opinion that corruption in its ranks could be kept under control, given improvements in its internal affairs division, he answered "yes."
But the vulnerability described in the report is endemic to the Drug War, as according to the Times, more than 17 million cargo shipments are processed each year, and corruption is often a simple matter of waving a specific car or truck through a check point, nothing different than is done with countless other vehicles day after day on the border.
Willie Heard, 46, of Osawatomie, Kansas was shot dead in his home on Saturday (2/13), by officers who were enforcing a no-knock search warrant. Officers from the Osawatomie and Paola police departments as well as sheriff's deputies from Miami County took part in the middle of the night raid.
The search warrant indicated crack cocaine, pipes, scales and paraphernalia as the items sought, but a search of the house after the shooting, including the use of a drug-sniffing dog, turned up only "two or three" marijuana cigarette butts.
According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the officers announced their identities upon entering and found Mr. Heard in his bedroom with a .22 caliber rifle. Heard's 16 year-old daughter told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the officers never identified themselves.
"When they came in, all I heard them say was 'get down! Freeze!'" she told the Journal. "I screamed, 'Daddy!' and I think he thought (I) was in danger. He didn't know they were police officers, because he wouldn't hurt a police officer."
William Delaney, spokesperson for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, told The Week Online that his office was just beginning its investigation, but that video and audio tapes of the raid were made by police, which he had not seen yet. Delaney did confirm that none of the items specified by the warrant were found in the home.
Dick Kurtenbach, executive director of the Missouri chapter of the ACLU, told The Week Online that the judgment shown by the Kansas police was questionable.
"For some reason, the police in this case felt that it was necessary to enter the home at 1:30 in the morning, when the family was sleeping, on a no-knock warrant. Mr. Heard, one would have to assume, thought that his home was being violated and grabbed his rifle to defend it, for which he was shot to death. On top of that, it would appear that the evidence with which the police attained the warrant was faulty as they found none of what they were looking for. No cocaine, no cocaine paraphernalia, just traces of smoked marijuana."
Mr. Kurtenbach noted that drug law enforcement in the region seems to be getting more aggressive. "Most of the complaints that we get here have to do with state police stops on I-70 in Kansas and Missouri and on I-44 in Southern Missouri. Typically, the police have made an alleged traffic stop and then seek permission to search the car. Motorists are often threatened with arrest if they refuse to consent to a search, which is their right. These complaints seem to be on the upswing around here."
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
February 18, 1999, Portland,
OR: Legislators in Oregon and
"This is completely unnecessary," said Oregon initiative backer Geoff Sugerman. "This is an effort to open the door to wholesale changes to a law the voters passed just a couple of months ago."
Robert Killian, a Tacoma physician who spearheaded the Washington campaign, voiced similar concern. "It's a blind-sided attempt to basically bring the government back into regulation of patients' and doctors' relationships," he said.
Oregon's new law allows patients holding state permits to possess limited quantities of medical marijuana, and provides a legal defense for non-registered patients who use the drug under a doctor's supervision.
The state Health Division is responsible for issuing registration cards to patients, but has not yet done so. Proposed legislative changes to the law drafted by Rep. Kevin Mannix (R-Salem) would remove legal protections for patients who possess more than one ounce of medical marijuana or cultivate more than three mature plants at one time. House Bill 3052 also eliminates provisions requiring police to return medical marijuana to patients if they seized it improperly.
Washington's law allows patients who have a doctor's recommendation to possess up to a 60 day supply of medical marijuana. Proposed changes to the law in S.B. 5771 would require physicians who recommend marijuana to a patient to notify the state each time they do so. It would also allow law enforcement access to the records of all patients and physicians who use or recommend medical marijuana.
"Senate Bill 5771 will make it as difficult as possible for patients and doctors to use medical marijuana," said Dave Fratello of Americans for Medical Rights. "This bill is all about regulating and intimidating doctors and patients so severely that they will not take advantage of Washington's new state law."
President Clinton, congressional leaders and members of the press were among those heading home from Mexico aboard Air Force One on Monday (2/15), after a day of high-level meetings on the issue of the drug war, when stewards on the aircraft began taking food and drink orders. Ironically, among the beers being offered was a new label from the Frederick Brewery in Frederick, MD, called Hemp Golden Beer (http://www.hempenale.com). Hemp Golden Beer, as the name suggests, is brewed with seeds from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana (with only trace amounts of the high-inducing THC), the cultivation of which has been outlawed in the United States for decades.
Hemp, once a staple crop in many parts of the country, has a growing following among American farmers searching for alternative crops in an age of falling commodities prices, as well as environmentalists, who tout hemp's versatility end eco-friendliness. Industrial hemp production is legal in many parts of the world and in 1998, Canada instituted an experimental program under which farmers are growing the crop. Under pressure from the DEA, however, the U.S. federal government has thus far refused to consider legalizing its production, contending that hemp's resemblance to its psychoactive cousin will make marijuana eradication more difficult.
Interestingly, the Air Force, which operates Air Force One, recently instituted a policy forbidding air force personnel from ingesting any food or nutritional supplement containing hemp, on concern that such substances can lead to false-positive drug tests. The Week Online spoke with a representative of the Air Force and was told that the White House was responsible for all food and beverage services aboard the presidential aircraft. When asked whether hemp beer was included in the recent ban, Lt. Col. Worley said that the Air Force was operating under the assumption that it was, but that they were waiting for official word from their attorneys.
Despite increasing calls for the legalization of industrial hemp in America by farmers in a number of states, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and its director, Barry McCaffrey, have repeatedly insisted that hemp is not a viable crop, and that support for its legalization is little more than a thinly-disguised attempt to legalize marijuana.
When asked about hemp beer being served on Air Force One, Bob Weiner, spokesman for ONDCP would say only "we have spoken with the people responsible for these things and it will not happen again."
The White House told The Week Online that despite the Air Force's denial, it is in fact the Air Force, and not the White House Travel Office, that is responsible for ordering food and beverages aboard AF1. They also noted that the beer would not be served again aboard the craft, saying that despite the beverage's legality in the U.S., its appearance on the President's plane was "inappropriate".
(Read about the University of Kentucky's recent report on the viability of industrial hemp, in the 7/2/98 issue of The Week Online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/048.html#ky-hemp. Also read about the Vermont State Auditor's report on the federal government's marijuana eradication program at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/041.html#ditchweed -- the report found that over 99% of the "marijuana" eradicated was wild hemp.)
A new program in Portland, Oregon school districts rewards students who inform on their classmates. Campus Crime Stoppers, a spin-off of the Crime Stoppers programs operating around the world, provides students with a hotline to call school police, and offers kids up to $1,000 for anonymous tips about classmates involved with drugs, weapons, vandalism, or other criminal activity.
Sergeant Larry Linne, the Portland school police officer in charge of the program, told the Oregonian newspaper that district standards will insure that students' Fourth Amendment rights are not violated, but some students are wary of a program they say could turn classmates into narcs and snitches. "I don't trust the authorities," one 17-year-old told the paper. "It depends on if someone got hurt or not."
Crime Stoppers International is online at http://www.c-s-i.org.
Rally on Friday, May 9, to highlight the need for in-house drug rehabilitation as an alternative to prison for mothers with dependent children, 9:00am, 100 Centre St., New York, NY, sponsored by the JusticeWorks Community. For further information, call (718) 499-6704, fax (718) 832-2832, e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.justiceworks.org on the web.
Adam J. Smith, DRCNet Associate Director, [email protected]
Last week the New York Times carried an item about a woman in New York City who shows up every time there is a protest against the use of unreasonable force by police. She comes alone and carries a sign, always the same one. Her sign reads simply, "Another Isolated Incident." The fact that this woman and her ironic sign have become well-known is a testament to the truth of the point she is trying to make.
Attending each and every anti-police brutality protest in New York City can certainly keep a person busy, but with the aggressive prosecution of the drug war a political priority across the country, that woman might want to consider starting a franchise.
In the town of Osawatomie, Kansas (pop. 4,500) last week, Willie Heard, a forty-six year-old man, was shot to death in his bedroom at one-thirty in the morning by police who had stormed into the home to execute a search warrant. Heard's sixteen year-old daughter claims that the officers failed to identify themselves other than to shout "freeze!" and "get down!" The police, after kicking in the front door, entered the bedroom and came upon Mr. Heard clutching his twenty-two caliber rifle. They shot. He died.
The warrant said that the police were to search for crack cocaine and related items. None was found. A probe is underway by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to determine whether police acted improperly in killing Mr. Heard.
Whatever that investigation reveals, there should be no question that when Americans are being killed in their homes by agents of the government, something is inherently wrong. The investigation of the shooting will not call into question the impact of the issuance of no-knock warrants in pursuit of drugs; nor will it likely question the methods used by law enforcement agents across the country to gather the evidence to obtain such warrants; and it will certainly not delve into the question of why, after decades of experience which shows it to be ineffective in reducing the amount of drugs on our streets or our children's access to them, we are still fighting a war against our own citizens and endangering both police and civilians by our ever more aggressive efforts and intrusions.
The killing of Willie Heard in his own bedroom may well have been a first for the tiny town of Osawatomie, but it is hardly an isolated incident. Tragedies such as this are endemic to the drug war. They are the product of the errant notion that if we just crack down hard enough, build enough prisons, kick in enough doors, then certainly the drugs will disappear. But they haven't. And they won't. And we are left with the blood of hundreds of innocents on our collective hands, slain by police, or caught in the crossfire, or killed in the line of duty. They are the casualties of our dirty little war, their families its refugees. It is highly unlikely that the shame of these senseless deaths will ever be acknowledged by those who perpetuate the war. But in New York City, a solitary woman carries a sign marking their passage. They are all just isolated incidents. Again and again and again.
(Read Adam's May '98 editorial, on a similar topic, "Bad Raids," http://www.drcnet.org/wol/043.html#editorial.)
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