Media Racial Profiling stopthedrugwar.org
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search

The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #89, 4/30/99

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

subscribe for FREE now! ---- make a donation

Patti Smith giving benefit concert for Drug Policy Foundation in NYC this weekend! See item 9. Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis protest in NYC, forfeiture reform conference in DC, next week, see item 10.

Sign DRCNet's petition at http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com!

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Arizona Supreme Court Study: Proposition 200 Has Saved the State Millions
  2. Renting While Non-White
  3. Canada: Heroin Prescription Experiment Debated in Parliament
  4. Canadian Police Chiefs Call for Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession
  5. Swiss Panel Calls for Decriminalization of Cannabis Possession, Sales
  6. Heroin in Australia, Part Two: A Conversation with Michael Moore, ACT Health Minister
  7. Government's Drug Test Ruled Inadequate, Todd McCormick Remains Free Pending Trial
  8. Media Alert: May Issue of Harper's Magazine Cover Story: Good Drugs, Bad Drugs
  9. Patti Smith to Play NYC's Bowery Ballroom to Benefit the Drug Policy Foundation
  10. Forfeiture Reform Conference in DC, Justice Reform Protest in NYC and Nationwide
  11. EDITORIAL: Arizonans Ignore Rhetoric, Reap Benefits

(visit last week's Week Online)

or check out The Week Online archives


1. Arizona Supreme Court Study: Proposition 200 Has Saved the State Millions

When the voters of Arizona overwhelmingly passed Proposition 200 in November of 1996, United States Senator John Kyl stood in the well of the Senate and told his colleagues that his constituents had been "duped." By December of that year, Arizona's state legislature had passed bills which essentially gutted the measure. A signature drive got the measure placed back on the ballot, however, effectively blocking the state's government from overturning the will of the voters until another election had been held. In November of 1998, Arizona voters once again approved the measure which forbids the incarceration of first and second-time non-violent drug offenders, and provides funding for treatment, allowing judges to divert other offenders, whose primary problems are linked to substance abuse, into treatment rather than jail.

This week, the Arizona Supreme Court released a study of the impact of Proposition 200 which provides solid evidence that the people of Arizona knew very well what they were doing when they went to the polls -- twice.

According to the study, diverting first and second time drug possessors to treatment and drug education courses saved the state over $2.5 million in its first year of operation.

"And those numbers are conservative" says Sam Vagenas, director of "The People Have Spoken," the group that put the initiative back on the ballot in 1998. "The study only calculated the savings from first and second time drug possessors, who make up about 25% of the people diverted to treatment under the law. What it didn't count was the savings from diverting other non-violent offenders into treatment."

Proposition 200 provided for a $4 million fund for drug treatment, with that money coming out of taxes on the sale of alcoholic beverages.

"One of the important lessons that we've learned here in Arizona is that treatment itself de-incarcerates," Vagenas told The Week Online. "Judges, who see the impact of the drug laws, and who don't have to face elections, are predisposed to send someone to treatment rather than prison where appropriate, assuming that there's a treatment slot available."

Proposition 200's impact in this regard was felt immediately. When it was passed in 1996, there were more than 200 people sitting in Arizona jails because there were no treatment beds available.

Opponents of the new law argue that the report does not truly reflect the impact of the new policy. Broderick Lotstein, a special assistant Maricopa County Attorney, told the Arizona Daily Star that the report's findings were "silly. No judge will send a first-time offender to prison." Maricopa County, which boasts over 56% of all arrests for drug possession or sale in the state of Arizona, had a program in place prior to the passage of Proposition 200 called "Do Drugs, Do Time."

According to Vagenas, continued intransigence displayed by the law's opponents in the face of such a report is laughable.

"The funny thing is that they had two arguments against us during our campaign to get this passed," Vagenas told The Week Online. "The first was that Proposition 200 would signal the end of civilization as we know it, and the second was that it wasn't needed because we are doing these things anyway. The truth is that this law has done our state a world of good, and that the people of Arizona ought to be commended for seeing through the rhetoric and passing it not once, but twice."

Arizona Appelate Court Judge Rudy Gerber, contradicting the Maricopa County Attorney's office, says that "opponents of Proposition 200 said that this was a 'pro-drug' initiative. As it turns out, the Drug Medicalization Act (Prop. 200's title) is doing more to reduce drug use and crime than any other state program -- and saving taxpayer dollars at the same time."

Norman Helber, Chief Adult Probation Officer of Maricopa County, said that he believes that the report may have significance far beyond the state's borders. "This report firmly supports a new paradigm of drug control for the nation," he said.

Among the report's findings:

  • Cost savings to Arizona taxpayers of over $2.5 million.
  • A total of 2,622 offenders diverted into treatment rather than jail.
  • Over 98% of offenders placed in recommended programs.
"All of these factors are resulting in safer communities and more substance abusing probationers in recovery," concludes the report. "The outcome benefits of this intervention over time will reveal not only fiscal and crime reduction benefits, but an increase in the quality of life conditions of this population such as improved family and social relationships, increased work productivity and wages, and decreased health system costs."

The treatment funding mandated by the law is responsible for the rate of success in matching people with treatment or education programs. Before the law was passed, 12-step programs had been the only ones available to most offenders, whether they were appropriate or not. According to the report, "the 98.2% matching between recommended and actual placement is remarkable and probably would not have happened without the Drug Treatment and Education Fund."

Senator Kyl's office did not respond to requests for comment for this story.


2. Renting While Non-White

Issue #87 of the Week Online reported that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) had reintroduced the Traffic Stops Statistics Act, addressing the problem of racial profiling in highway searches, popularly known as "Driving While Black" (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/087.html#profiling). An article in the 4/29 issue of the New York Times revealed that New Jersey state troopers are aggressively expanding the scope of their anti-drug surveillance operations into the private businesses surrounding the highways, bringing the same profiling and general privacy problems to the area of overnight hotel and motel rentals.

"New Jersey Police Enlist Hotel Workers in the War on Drugs" reports on the "Hotel-Motel Program," an initiative in which hotel staff are trained by troopers to scrutinize guests and asked to provide troopers with access to credit card receipts and registration forms without a warrant. Troopers offer $1,000 rewards to hotel workers whose tips lead to successful seizures and arrests.

Several hotel employees and union leaders have reported that troopers have suggested that hotel staff use racial profiles. Clo Smith, a clerk at the Holiday Inn near Newark Airport, told the New York Times that a state police detective said Spanish-speaking guests should be treated with more suspicion than guests who speak English, when she attended the one-hour seminar three years ago.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has a class action lawsuit pending against the New Jersey State Police for racial profiling in traffic stop searches. Lenora Lapidus, ACLU-NJ legal director, told the Week Online, "I think this demonstrates one more example of the state police using race-based tactics in enforcing the drug laws."

In a remarkable concession, New Jersey's Attorney General, Peter Verniero, announced the state would not appeal a 1996 ruling that state troopers demonstrated racial bias in pulling over motorists. A report released by the Attorney General's office found that complaints leveled by African American and Latino motorists were "real, not imagined," and recommended that the department monitor traffic stops more closely. Lapidus told the Week Online that "the Attorney General's report noted a circularity: If you only search minorities, you'll only find minorities who are engaged in drug trafficking. But you'll go by all the whites who are trafficking drugs, and worse, will have unfairly subjected large numbers of innocent minority motorists to searches."

Hotel-Motel has also raised concerns about privacy. Robert Field, owner of the Days Inn near Newark Airport, told the New York Times that he and his manager agreed it would be intrusive for troopers to have permission to arbitrarily search through registration cards and credit card slips. "It's like a tactic out of some dictatorship," said Field. "When a person checks into a hotel, he or she has a reasonable assumption that the place of business will protect their privacy, not treat them like a criminal."

Jan Larsen, president of the New Jersey Hotel Association, who runs the East Brunswick Hilton, told the New York Times, "We wouldn't allow the police to look through our records without a subpoena, period. We have an obligation to protect people's privacy. I would think there's a civil liability if we start giving our information." Some hotel chains, including Hilton, forbid their managers from allowing police to inspect the records of their guests without a subpoena. Some chains allow the individual managers to make that decision.

While hotel owners may voluntarily allow police access to their guest records, and searches based on voluntarily-provided information are legal, some have questioned whether participation in the Hotel-Motel program is fully voluntary. Lapidus commented, "Some hotels may feel coerced into going along with this program." Indeed, David Feedback, president of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 69 in Secaucus, told the New York Times that some of his members have complained that troopers have pressured them to participated and to report any hotel patrons who speak Spanish and pay in cash.

Last week, Attorney General Verniero announced that two troopers had been indicted for falsifying documents in order to make it appear that some of the African American motorists they stopped were white. The two troopers are facing possible criminal charges from an incident in which they shot three unarmed men during a traffic stop. Investigators into this incident noticed that the license plate numbers the officers reported did not always correspond with the motorists they stopped.

The state of North Carolina passed a state version of the Traffic Stops Statistics act, becoming the first state in the nation to formally require monitoring of traffic stops patterns.

The ACLU has a "Driving While Black" feature section on its web site at http://www.aclu.org/features/dwb.html.


3. Canada: Heroin Prescription Experiment Debated in Parliament

Should Canada set up clinical trials to provide hard-core addicts with heroin under medical supervision? This was the subject of a heated debate Wednesday (4/28) in the House of Commons, prompted by a private motion by New Democratic Party MP Libby Davies (East Vancouver) that Parliament resolve to support the implementation of a heroin maintenance experiment.

Davies' motion did not receive a warm welcome from every MP. "We are talking about free heroin for addicts," complained one MP, Gurmant Grewel (Surrey Central, Ref.). "What the New Democratic Party is proposing is a recipe for disaster. This is the kind of solution that was adopted in Switzerland. Addicts from all across Europe went to Zurich to live with their addiction and it created a mess." Grewel concluded, "Still, [Davies] introduces the motion we are debating today as if there were the remotest possibility that the government would listen to her and take action. How sad."

But other members praised the motion. Pauline Piccard (Drummond, BQ) said its purpose was to "make sensible and regulated treatment options available to health professionals and the injection drug users under their medical supervision... with the ultimate goal of reducing street drug related crime, protecting the community, and saving lives." Abstinence is a valid goal of drug treatment, but may not be a reasonable short-term objective, she said.

Davies told the Week Online she introduced the motion to promote awareness and discussion of heroin maintenance and other harm reduction initiatives among members of parliament. "Along with all the other initiatives that are taking place, it contributes to the momentum and the debate that has to take place to reform our drug laws and our attitude toward drug users," she said.

Heroin overdoses are the leading cause of death among adults aged 30-49 in British Columbia, with 178 deaths in 1998 in Vancouver alone. In addition, injection drug use is now believed to be the leading cause of HIV infection, and as many as 70 percent of injection drug users carry the hepatitis C virus. The Canadian Medical Association, as well as a national task force on HIV and AIDS, has recommended a heroin trial.

Under Canadian parliamentary procedure, private motions must receive unanimous consent by a committee to be "votable," before they may be submitted as resolutions. Davies' motion did not meet this requirement, but she said the debate itself was key. "Even to get people more familiar with the reality of what happens to people when they're users, and how they're criminalized and marginalized, is very important. And I've had lots of MPs come up to me and tell me 'good for you for raising the issue, it needs to be raised, it needs to be debated.'"

Ultimately, parliamentary approval is not necessary for a heroin prescription experiment in Canada. Under current regulations, such decisions fall under the purview of the Minister of Health, Alan Rock. "Of course, politically, he's not going to do it if he thinks it's very risky and it's going to leave him in a vulnerable position," Davies said.

Elinor Caplan, Rock's parliamentary secretary, said during the debate that while she believes Davies' proposal is "well intended," the Health Ministry does not support heroin maintenance "at this time." Instead, she said the Ministry would continue to promote the expansion of methadone maintenance and other alternative therapies.

Davies, who has set up a working group on harm reduction policies that includes more than a dozen MPs and several senators, said she believes it's her job to create political cover for her colleagues and the Health Minister. "Building political support across party lines is a very big part of the work, so that when someone like Alan Rock sticks his toe out to test the temperature he's not going to feel like he's going to get trashed for doing something like this," she said.

Davies is keenly aware of harm reduction as a life-or-death policy. "Downtown on the East side in Vancouver, which is a part of the riding (district) I represent, people are literally dying on the street," she said. "And there are all kinds of things that have to happen. We need better housing, we need social support, we need other treatment options, prevention, education. What I don't want to see, though, is people just being further criminalized by the judicial system."

Davies applauds the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police's decision to support the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. "They're basically saying this is not a police issue anymore, it's a social issue, it's a health issue," she said. "I just hope that people like Alan Rock and our Justice Minister, Anne McClellan are listening. The debate is there. I see my job is just to push like hell."

Transcripts of Canadian House of Commons debates are available online at http://www.parl.gc.ca. Read much more about heroin maintenance and other drug substitution programs at http://www.lindesmith.org/library/focal1.html.


4. Canadian Police Chiefs Call for Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession

While it "stands firm in opposing any type of legalization of any and all currently illicit drugs in Canada," the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) announced its support for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana and the medicalization of all illegal drugs. Such was the curious admixture of conservative rhetoric and progressive policy recommendations in "Drug Policy 1999," a report released last week by the group.

Brockville, Ontario police chief Barry King, who chairs the CACP's drug abuse committee, explained. "Over the years, there have been a lot of definitions used and interchanged, and in an improper sense in many cases, from decriminalization to harm reduction to legalization to medicalization," he told the Week Online. "What we wanted to do as the Chiefs of Police was to have a foundation for the partners we deal with -- we deal with Health Canada, with Justice, which writes the laws, we deal with addiction research centers, and police -- so we decided to come up with our definition, to put it on the table so that we have a foundation we can all talk from."

One of the reasons the CACP opposes legalization, even for small amounts of marijuana, King said, is because the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs precludes such a move. Instead, the CACP wants the existing penalty for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana changed from a summary conviction, which is similar to a misdemeanor but results in a criminal record, to a ticketable offense.

"Our intent was not to change the law, but to give police officers on the front line an option so that they may use discretion like in other investigations," King said. "They'd have the opportunity, depending on the circumstances to give a ticket. The person would have thirty days to pay the ticket and avoid a criminal record. If they failed to do that, then we would enact the same law we have now and apply the criminal charge."

King said the lighter penalties make sense for first time offenders. "There are a lot of people who experiment, and after a short period of time, or if they get caught, they quit. And that's our long term objective, is to get people off it," he said. "But what's happened of course is that under the existing law, even though it's a misdemeanor or summary conviction, it's a barrier to employment. We think there's a far better message given out, not that we're lightening up drugs at all, but that we spend more time on traffickers, distributors, on organized crime. It seems like a reasonable alternative in the '90s."

Last year, some 70,000 people were charged with drug offenses in Canada. 70 percent of those charges were marijuana-related, and 60 percent of those were for possession. "Every time a police officer has to go in and write up a report and dictate a Crown brief, that is time off the road. That's valuable time," King said. Court time and legal fees also add up.

King stressed that CACP's recommendations for decriminalization were made with the proviso that any changes in the law must be accompanied by an increase in spending on prevention, education, and treatment.

The report also clarifies CACP's position on the medical use of marijuana and other drugs. In response to Health Minister Alan Rock's announcement that Health Canada would conduct clinical trials on marijuana's medical use, a policy statement accompanying the report states, "The CACP fully supports it... We realize this is not the first step towards the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes."

"People say, 'why don't we legalize drugs for medical use?' We're saying, 'bad word.' Don't use 'legalization.' It's 'medicalization,'" King said. "We have morphine today, we have codeine, we have a number of other tranquilizers that are addictive but they have been authorized for medical use. We have no problem with that. Instead of trying to draw us into arguments over medical use of marijuana or heroin or cocaine, we're pointing out that Health Canada has a regulatory responsibility, an approval process, and a scientific based assessment. And if they determine that a given drug is beneficial, that's their responsibility. We're not doctors."

King said CACP's recommendations, which will be presented for approval by the full membership at an annual meeting this August, and then to the Ministries of Justice, Health, and the Solicitor General, and are just common sense. "We were not trying to be radical," he said. "We were not trying to reinvent anything."

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is online at http://www.cacp.org.


5. Swiss Panel Calls for Decriminalization of Cannabis Possession, Sales

Those radical Swiss are at it again. In a report released last Friday (4/23), a federal commission recommended that the possession and sale of cannabis be decriminalized, and proposed that regulations be drawn up to license merchants who would be permitted to sell the plant only to Swiss citizens.

"Cannabis is a drug, and the committee isn't intending to trivialize it or say that its consumption is without risk," panel member Anne-Catherine Menetrey told Swiss radio. "But consumption is rising, especially among young people." The panel concluded that occasional use of marijuana does not lead to the use or abuse of other drugs. Moreover, it noted that the current prohibition of marijuana is inconsistently enforced, which may be contributing to the "growing loss of credibility" of Swiss drug policy.

A national referendum would be required to implement the proposed changes to the law, the panel said. Last year, a referendum to legalize the sale and possession of all drugs was defeated by voters amid concerns about health risks and worries that the country would become a magnet for drug tourism.

But in 1997, Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative to continue a heroin maintenance experiment after a scientific review found the program significantly cut the crime, disease and unemployment associated with heroin addiction. The Swiss heroin trial limited enrollment to Swiss citizens, and the proposed rules for the sale and possession of cannabis would require similar restrictions.

The commission's plan calls for the development of a mandatory training and licensing program for merchants who sell cannabis, and customers would have to produce identification proving they were Swiss citizens. As in the Netherlands, where marijuana possession and sales have been decriminalized since 1976, the panel recommended strict controls on the production and distribution of the drug, and said cannabis merchants should not be allowed to advertise their wares.


6. Heroin in Australia, Part Two: A Conversation with Michael Moore, ACT Health Minister

Last week, we spoke with Brian McConnell of Family and Friends for Drug Law Reform on the state of drug policy in Australia (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/088.html#ffdlr). This week we spoke with Michael Moore, Health Minister of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Moore has been a key advocate for harm reduction policies in Australia, and instrumental in engaging his colleagues in the debate over drug policy in general. He is the creator of the Australian Parliamentary Group for Drug Law Reform, the inaugural president of the Drug Law Reform Foundation, and a founding member of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. In 1994, he was awarded the Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for achievement in the field of law from the Drug Policy Foundation.

Moore has been a vocal proponent for a heroin maintenance experiment that would provide addicts with heroin under clinical supervision. In addition, his most recent initiative would permit health workers to set up "safe injection rooms" where intravenous drug users can inject their drugs with clean needles and without fear of criminal prosecution, and receive access to treatment. Mr. Moore spoke with us by phone from his home in Canberra, ACT.

WOL: How are you perceived by the public and other politicians when you call for heroin trials, safe injection rooms and other harm reduction policies?

MOORE: My first election in 1989 was as a prohibitionist. I was appointed chair of a select committee on HIV, illegal drugs and prostitution. I was responsible for setting up probably the most liberal prostitution laws in the western world -- they are still in place and giving us very little trouble. Then I proceeded down this path in terms of drugs. As I changed my views, and did so very publicly, every other politician that I knew said I could never be re-elected with this stance. Since then, I've been re-elected three times and more than a hundred other Members of Parliament have joined the parliamentary group, and they come from right across our political spectrum. I'm an Independent member, and we have Liberal members, Labor members, Greens and Democrats.

WOL: What is the status of safe injecting rooms in the ACT, and what has been your involvement?

MOORE: As Minister for Health I put the proposal to cabinet, have gained approval of cabinet, and have put one piece of legislation and a motion before legislative assembly. The legislation I put up is to protect workers from civil liability, from being sued if something goes wrong other than in cases of negligence. And the motion is to get the approval of the Assembly to proceed because I am a member of a minority government.

WOL: Why are safe injection rooms needed?

MOORE: We know that the methods we are using to deal with illicit drugs are not working. We believe safe injection rooms will reduce the spread of disease. We believe they will improve the health of the community as well as the health of the individual drug users. But because we are not absolutely positive of that, we want to insure we have an appropriate evaluation conducted by the Australian National University. So we are conducting it as a scientific trial. The scientific trial also makes it work within the context of the international treaty.

WOL: So the ACT can proceed with safe injection rooms, even without the approval of the federal Commonwealth government?

MOORE: There are some complications. There was some debate as to whether we have an international treaty that would prohibit this, the UN International Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance. Our federal government has responsibility for international treaties, and where they've signed an international treaty, the states' or territories' laws must comply with that treaty. We do have legal advice that we can proceed with safe injection rooms, provided we do it by directive to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that they won't prosecute in the public interest.

WOL: How does heroin maintenance fit into a harm reduction or harm minimization strategy?

MOORE: When somebody becomes semi-dependent on heroin, they have four choices. Remember, they are becoming semi-dependent, they are really enjoying the use of their heroin, but they are needing more money. They can try prostitution, they can try crime, they can make huge demands on their family, or they can find three or four other people willing to use heroin, sell to them and cream the top off. And it's that fourth choice that almost all of them make. So those four other people find sixteen, those sixteen people find sixty-four more. So what we have is a network marketing system akin to Amway or Avon. We know that it is the second most effective marketing system in the world.

If you run a heroin trial and there is no increase in harm, we then have a policy option for a fifth choice and it's the fifth choice that is critical. The fifth choice is that instead of doing all of those things, a semi-dependent person who needs more and more money can go to a clinic and say, "I'm semi-dependent, I need heroin, what can I do?" At that point we can provide heroin and we can also provide what we are interested in, and that is the treatment and to reach out to them when they are ready to move away from heroin. It has all those advantages, but the most important of all is that they don't use that forth choice. They don't drag other people into the network and expand the black market. It's quite a persuasive argument, isn't it?

WOL: What needs to change politically for the heroin maintenance trials to take place?

Minister Moore: I think that we will have a heroin trial in Australia, and it will happen in one of two ways: either the Prime Minister will change his mind, or we will change the Prime Minister. I don't mind which it is, provided it happens quickly.

WOL: Should abstinence be the ultimate goal of any heroin trial?

Minister Moore: The critical part is to not get an increase in harm. Our goal is to undermine the black market. It's not to do with whether the individual is abstinent or not abstinent. Every policy option we have in front of us fails to do that, to undermine the black market. Surely even blind Freddy can see that the critical issue for us is to undermine the black market.

The trouble is, the rhetoric gets caught up in puritanical approaches, judgmental approaches. It gets caught up in the notion that the only treatment is a cure. Yet we don't apply that to diabetes or asthma, we don't apply that to most medical treatments. But for puritanical reasons we do apply it to drugs. It is interesting to observe how successful we are with abstinence programs. But it is certainly not the key question. The key question is do we increase harm, do we reduce harm; if we have not increased harm then we have a policy option to undermine the black market.

WOL: Are you optimistic about the future of Australian drug policy?

MOORE: There is no doubt in my mind that Australia will continue with harm minimization. We will trial a provision of heroin to dependent users. The reason is that when we look around the world, we see that harm minimization works best. When you cut through the hype, when you look at it in an academic way, a heroin trial has the best potential for undermining the black market. I do realize there are certain groups that disagree with me, like our Prime Minister. But then, he took advice from the FBI -- say no more.

(Read about Australia's long-running drug policy debates on heroin maintenance, safe injecting rooms and other issues, in DRCNet's special report by Greg Ewing from last summer, archived at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/049.html#australia. The Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation is online at http://www.ozemail.com.au/~petercle/druglaw/. Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform can be found online at http://www.adca.org.au/ffdlr/. The ACT government home page is online at http://www.act.gov.au/government/.)


7. Government's Drug Test Ruled Inadequate, Todd McCormick Remains Free Pending Trial

Todd McCormick, a medicinal user of marijuana and activist, remains free on bond today after a federal judge ruled that a newly-developed urine test -- designed to distinguish between marijuana and the legal pharmaceutical Marinol -- did not pass muster. McCormick, who is free on $500,000 bond -- money that the government would have kept had they been able to prove that McCormick used marijuana, awaits trial in September on charges relating to his cultivation of marijuana in Bel Air, California.

The test, which purportedly distinguishes metabolites found only in the urine of people who have ingested marijuana from the ones present in the urine of people who have ingested Marinol, was created specifically to test McCormick. After two days of testimony, however, the government could not convince the court that the test was scientifically valid, and that based upon its findings, the government ought to be allowed to keep McCormick's cash bond and incarcerate him.

"The judge made a fair and a just decision," McCormick told The Week Online. "I was the first person in history to have the test administered to me, and it clearly wasn't valid."

In a stroke of irony, one of the urine tests that McCormick was forced to undergo was administered on July 4th, 1998. The connection was not lost on McCormick.

"[Being drug tested on Independence Day] is just another sad example of where America has come to" he said. "I've battled a potentially fatal disease for most of my life. I've had over 25 surgeries. For years, before my arrest, I'd used marijuana with the support of my doctors. I've never hurt a soul. And here comes the government on July 4th to make me pee in a cup so that they can determine if my body chemistry is up to their standards in an effort to steal both my money and my freedom. I would say that their behavior was outrageous, but the truth is that to me, a person who loves and believes in the principles embodied in the nation's founding, it was really overwhelmingly sad."


8. Media Alert: May Issue of Harper's Magazine Cover Story: Good Drugs, Bad Drugs

If you have a chance this month, pick up a copy of the May edition of Harper's Magazine (on newsstands now) and read "Good Drugs, Bad Drugs" by Joshua Wolf Shenk. The piece raises very interesting and very important questions about an American culture in which millions of people ingest perfectly legal mood altering drugs to battle everything from depression to hyperactivity, while other drugs, many with identical effects on the brain, are outlawed and demonized and their users imprisoned. The piece tackles the hypocrisy of our policies from a thought-provoking and informed perspective.

Good Drugs, Bad Drugs is simply a must-read, beautifully written by one of the nation's finest and most intelligent young writers. And after you read the article (assuming you are as impressed as we were), consider sending a note to the editors to commend them for publishing it.

If you can't find Harper's at your local newsstand, you can order a copy by calling (212) 614-6508.


9. Patti Smith to Play NYC's Bowery Ballroom to Benefit the Drug Policy Foundation

On Saturday, May 1, Patti Smith & longtime bandmates Lenny Kaye, J.D. Daugherty, Tony Shanahan & Oliver Ray will perform a benefit concert at New York City's Bowery Ballroom to benefit the Drug Policy Foundation. Prior to getting her start at New York City's CBGB's in the mid-1970s, Smith made a name for herself as a poet, and as an actress and playwright in underground theatre. In 1975, she released the critically acclaimed album, Horses, a classic still today. Since then she has recorded six other albums, including collaborations with Bruce Springsteen and REM's Michael Stipe, and recently published Complete, a collection of rare photos, song lyrics, and journal entries. Today she is considered to be one of the key figures in the history of American indie-rock.

The Bowery Ballroom is located at 6 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002, (212) 533-2111. Tickets are $15.

For more information about Patti Smith, check out http://www.arista.com/aristaweb/PattiSmith/ and http://ubl.com/ubl/cards/003/6/35.html.


10. Forfeiture Reform Conference in DC, Justice Reform Protest in NYC and Nationwide

May 3, 9:00am - 1:30pm, Washington, DC. Forfeiture Reform: Now, or Never? A half-day conference sponsored by Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies featuring Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Stefan Cassella, Ira Glasser, Gordon Kromberg, James H.Warner, Samuel J. Buffone, and Roger Pilon. For further info, visit http://www.cato.org/events/ccs99/ on the web, call (202)218-4633 or e-mail [email protected].

May 7, 9:00am, New York, NY. Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis: Rally to highlight the need for in-house drug rehabilitation as an alternative to prison for mothers with dependent children, 100 Centre St., 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.

See http://www.justiceworks.org/html/mothers.html-ssi for contact info for other Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis rallies around the country.


11. EDITORIAL: Arizonans Ignore Rhetoric, Reap Benefits

Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]

A report released this week by the Arizona State Supreme Court has found that Proposition 200, passed by voters in 1996 and again, after the state legislature had gutted the provision, in 1998, has in fact been an overwhelming success. Prop. 200, which mandates treatment or drug education rather than incarceration for first and second-time non-violent drug offenders, and which required that $4 million in alcohol tax revenues be set aside in a "drug treatment and education fund," was anathema to many politicians. After its initial passage, in fact, US Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) stood in the well of the Senate to apologize to his colleagues, saying that his constituents had been "duped" by "legalizers."

Not so, says the report. In fact, the Supreme Court used words like "very favorable" and even "remarkable" to describe the new law's impact in only its first year of operation. Among the report's findings were that 2,622 non-violent drug offenders were diverted from jail into treatment or drug education, at a savings of more than $2.5 million to the state. Supporters point out that the report did not even take into account the savings from the thousands of others who were arrested for other non-violent offenses who were diverted into newly-available treatment slots at judges' discretion.

Critics of drug policy reform have long depended upon fear-mongering in the absence of evidence in support of punitive drug policies. Newspaper columnists, public officials and others have felt free to cast any reform idea as a dark plot by "the legalizers," out to bring down western civilization. Words like "cabal" and "nefarious," accusations of seeking to addict the nation's children to drugs, and gross misrepresentations of both act and intent characterize much of the rhetoric used to turn citizens against reform.

The truth, however, is far less intriguing but far more devastating for those with a vested interest in the status quo. The truth is that people, lots and lots of people, are fed up with the excesses and abject failure of America's drug policies and are willing to vote to change it, despite the most dire warnings from on high. In Arizona, the people had to vote twice on essentially the same initiative. The second time, for good measure, they also passed an initiative requiring a 2/3 vote of the legislature to overturn the letter or intent of an initiative passed by the voters.

So here we are, a legally-mandated report on the new law's operation in its first fiscal year completed, and it appears as if the sky is not falling in Arizona. Locking up non-violent offenders under that state's previous "Do Drugs, Do Time" policy was not, it would seem, the finger in the dike holding back a flood of addiction and misery. In fact, it's likely that a whole lot of addiction and a whole lot of suffering could have been averted if only the politicians were willing to deal with these issues as intelligently as were the citizens of Arizona. With the truth out, let us hope that the next time Senator Kyl feels the need to apologize about his state's drug policy, he addresses his remarks to, rather than about his constituents.


If you like what you see here and want to get these bulletins by e-mail, please fill out our quick signup form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/WOLSignup.shtml.

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]