(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #93, 6/4/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Racial profiling of minority motorists is restoring Jim Crow justice in America, the American Civil Liberties Union said last Wednesday (6/2/99) in issuing a new report documenting the practice.
In the first comprehensive look at the problem, "Driving While Black: Racial Profiling On Our Nation's Highways," cites police statistics on traffic stops, ACLU lawsuits, government reports and media stories from around the nation in making the case that skin color is being used as a substitute for evidence and a ground for suspicion. Professor David Harris, of the University of Toledo law school in Ohio, was the principal author of the report.
"We are here today to demand an end to racial profiling," said ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser, who spoke at a news conference at the ACLU's national headquarters in downtown Manhattan.
Prof. Harris told the Week Online, "The key factor in DWB is that the courts have moved the law in the direction of allowing police more and more discretion to stop drivers, in order to fight the war on drugs; and police have used this discretion to stop more and more drivers in racially disproportionate ways."
Harris explained that racial profiling has always been a serious problem in this country affecting ethnic minorities, but largely invisible to whites. However, it is only recently that enough attention has been focused on the issue to bring it to the fore of the debate, and that adequate statistics have been compiled to provide objective, irrefutable proof of the problem.
Also, DWB has grown even more serious since the escalation of the "war on drugs" during the past two decades. Harris explained, "As political leaders demanded that law enforcement place an increasing priority on fighting the drug war, [the Driving While Black problem] became worse, and the techniques were honed."
Harris explained that much of the blame lies on a little-known highway drug interdiction program called "Operation Pipeline," operated since 1986 by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Operation Pipeline has trained approximately 27,000 police officers in 48 participating states to use pretext stops in order to find drugs in vehicles. The use of pretext stops was bolstered in the following decade by a series of Supreme Court decisions allowing the police to use traffic stops as a pretext to "fish" for evidence of wrongdoing. Harris told the Week Online that Operation Pipeline's manuals contain implicit and occasionally explicit racial bias, recommending that officers target ethnic minorities such as Mexicans, Blacks and Jamaicans -- even though the government's own statistics disprove the myth that minorities use drugs at greater rates than whites.
The 43-page report makes five recommendations to end DWB including a call for the US Department of Justice to end the use of racial profiling in federally funded drug interdiction programs, specifically:
See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/088.html#noequaljustice for a review of "NO Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System," by Georgetown University law professor David Cole, including an excerpted list of search pretexts used in drug cases.
Recent articles by David Harris include "'Driving While Black' and All Other Traffic Offenses: The Supreme Court and Pretextual Traffic Stops," 87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 544 (1997); "Superman's X-Ray Vision and the Fourth Amendment: The New Gun Detection Technology," 69 Temple L. Rev. 1 (1996); "Frisking Every Suspect: The Withering of Terry," 28 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1 (1995); and "Factors For Reasonable Suspicion: When Black and Poor Means Stopped and Frisked," 69 Ind. (Bloomington) L.J. 659 (1994).
The Australian Medical Association has come out in support of a heroin prescription experiment in that country. At their annual conference last weekend, delegates approved a motion put forward by Victorian doctors to endorse clinical trials similar to the one completed in Switzerland two years ago. The AMA is expected to lobby the Health Minister, the federal Attorney General, and Prime Minister John Howard to establish the trials, in which long-term addicts who have failed at other treatments will be given prescribed doses of heroin in a medical setting.
Australian harm reduction advocates were thrilled with the news. Dr. Alex Wodak, Director of Alcohol and Drug Services at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, responded to The Week Online's e-mailed request for comment on this story.
"The unambiguous support of the Federal body of the AMA for a heroin trial is very significant on several counts," he wrote.
"First, it is consistent with the stand the BMA, forerunner of the AMA, took in 1953 when heroin production and importation was first prohibited in Australia. The BMA opposed that overseas-instigated decision at the time (see Manderson D., 'From Mr. Sin to Mr. Big,' Oxford University Press, 1993). The AMA is right to lead the battle now to use scientific research to find more effective responses to an urgent problem."
"Second, it is consistent with the notion that independent, peer reviewed medical research following due scientific process and free of political interference is the bedrock of progress in medicine."
"Third, it is consistent with the notion that medicine, to be effective, must at all times be brutally realistic. The increasing number of deaths from drug overdose in Australia is an indictment of our community, calling for an honest appraisal of the costs and benefits of current measures and a fair consideration of alternative options. By any honest appraisal, current policies have failed to stem the increase in these deaths. (Overdose deaths doubled in Australia between 1991 and 1997.)"
"Next, it is consistent with the notion that health and social interventions are often effective in dealing with heroin dependence. Unfortunately, we must in all honesty acknowledge that law enforcement measures are often expensive, ineffective and counter-productive."
"It is also consistent with the impressive results of the Swiss trial (which was very much a preliminary study), the recommendations of the WHO Expert panel which reviewed the Swiss trial ('there is a need for further studies to establish objectively the differences in the effects of these different opioids'), the results of the Swiss national referendum on this subject in September 1997, the decisions by several European Governments to establish heroin trials and recent publications on the subject (Drucker, E., Vlahov, D. 'The Lancet,' 1999, Bammer, G. et al, 'Science,' 1999)."
"Finally, it is consistent with the needs of public health and crime prevention to develop effective interventions for that small population of treatment-refractory, severely dependent heroin users. [These are the users who] account for much of the heroin consumed and the drug related crime perpetrated, and for whom, at present, our community has no effective response."
The AMA's endorsement comes in the wake of a special five day drug summit held in New South Wales last month. Members of Parliament defeated a proposal to establish a heroin trial there by a margin of just 78-67. But Prime Minister John Howard, a proponent of US-style "zero tolerance" drug policies, has been outspoken in his opposition to any such experiment, insisting it would "send the wrong message" about drug use. And two years ago, clinical trials begun in the Australian Capital Territory were scuttled, reportedly in response to pressure from the US State Department, threatening to shut down Tasmania's pharmaceutical opioid industry if the trials proceeded.
Browse our past coverage of heroin prescription and other issues at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/archives.html.
The Lindesmith Center has compiled an excellent collection of research on heroin prescription, available online at http://www.lindesmith.org/library/focal1.html.
According to the federal government, almost twice as many high school seniors have had an alcoholic drink in the past year (74%) as have used marijuana (38%). This despite a survey taken in 1997 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse which showed that three out of four high school seniors list marijuana as easier to purchase than beer.
Alcohol, by almost any measure, is the drug of choice among America's young. So why, asked Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), is underage drinking entirely ignored by the federal government's $195 million Partnership for a Drug Free America ad campaign? She's not wondering anymore.
Roybal-Allard, along with co-sponsor Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) introduced legislation last week that would give the Office of National Drug Control Policy the authority to target underage drinking as well as illegal drug use in the campaign. "They're not getting to the root of the problem, which is underage drinking" she told the New York Times.
The legislation, however, has run up against strong opposition from the liquor lobby and their legislative allies. Rep. Anne Northrup (R-KY), who received more than $38,000 in campaign contributions from beer and liquor interests in 1997 and 1998 opposes the measure and has promised to kill it when it comes up for a vote. Ms. Northrup said that "there are a number of people that believe that drugs are unique and we shouldn't confuse the messages and diminish them."
Among the people who believe this is David K. Rehr, senior vice president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association. In a memo to Ms. Roybal-Allard, Mr. Rehr showed that his concern extended to the executive branch as well. "Your support for this amendment" he wrote, "would make the drug czar's position untenable and reduce his ability to wage the war on drugs."
Sandee Burbank, Director of the organization Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, told The Week Online that she is concerned about the artificial distinctions that are made between legal and illegal substances.
"All drugs are potentially dangerous, and they affect people differently. We, as a society have an interest in eliminating the abuse of any drug by young people. Alcohol kills more than ten times as many Americans as all illicit drugs combined. This focus on a small number of illicit drugs diverts resources from prevention and education efforts around all substances."
Ms. Burbank is also critical of the demonization of substances masquerading as drug education. "To the extent that we use scare tactics instead of consumer safety information when we discuss substances with our kids, we risk losing our credibility with them. And the moment that we assign morality to a substance, we confuse the issues of safety and danger."
As for the Drug Czar himself, after initially saying that he opposed the legislation, his office told the Times this week that, "We are neither endorsing nor opposing that proposal for inclusion of alcohol in the media campaign." But, they added, "Even if we were given the authority, we wouldn't immediately include alcohol," in order not to confuse the message of the campaign.
Another opponent of the measure
is the Partnership itself. Partnership for a Drug Free America is
actually a coalition of advertising and public relations firms, a number
of which do work for the alcohol industry, which spends almost $3 billion
per year on marketing and promotion. Steven Dnistrian, a spokesman
for the group, told the New York Times, "you can't simply assume that the
anti-drug campaign can be widened to include something as huge as underage
"We need a very strong national campaign on alcohol consumer safety, as we should have with regard to all drugs, legal and illegal" she said. "We are not doing nearly enough to teach either kids or adults about responsible alcohol use."
Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse can be found online at http://www.mamas.org. The Partnership for a Drug Free America is online at http://www.drugfreeamerica.org. The Partnership for a Drug Free America was unavailable for comment for this story.
It is a rare occasion when the Supreme Court rules against the government in a drug-related case, but on June 1 it did just that. The conservative court ruled by a 6 to 3 margin that in order to convict someone of operating a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE), jurors must agree on the specific drug offenses that were committed. The decision establishes a badly needed due process protection for defendants accused of operating a CCE, an offense that carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
The case, Richardson v. United States, involved Eddie Richardson, a.k.a. "King of all the Undertakers." Richardson was accused of organizing a Chicago street gang called the Undertaker Vice Lords beginning in 1970, which reportedly distributed heroin and cocaine from 1984 to 1991. In 1994, Richardson was charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise for his leadership role in the organization.
According to federal law, a person engages in a CCE if he/she: (1) commits "a continuing series" of federal drug law violations; (2) is in a position of leadership with five or more other persons in the operation; and (3) obtains "substantial income or resources" from the violations.
At the trial, Richardson argued that the jury should be instructed that it had to unanimously agree on which three illegal acts constituted the series of violations that made up the continuing criminal enterprise. The judge disagreed and instead instructed the jury that it "must unanimously agree that the defendant committed at least three federal narcotics offenses," but did not have to agree as to the particular offenses. Richardson was convicted.
Because the federal circuit courts have disagreed on the definition of a continuing criminal enterprise, the Supreme Court took the case. The question before the court was: Does a jury have to unanimously agree on the specific violations involved in the 'continuing series' of violations, or can it simply agree that a series of violations took place?
In the majority opinion written by Justice Breyer and joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Stevens, Scalia, Souter, and Thomas, the Court found that a jury "must unanimously agree not only that the defendant committed some 'continuing series of violations,' but also about which specific 'violations' make up that 'continuing series.'" Breyer warned that the breadth of the statute and the federal drug laws create "dangers of unfairness" if a jury was not required to agree on individual violations of law. Breyer noted that the Federal Criminal Code's anti-drug statutes consist of approximately 90 numbered sections, which vary in degree of seriousness. "[B]y permitting a jury to avoid discussion of the specific factual details of each violation will cover-up wide disagreement among the jurors about just what the defendant did, or did not, do."
In the dissenting opinion written by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg, Kennedy wrote that the ruling would be "disruptive" and would make convictions under the statute "remarkably more difficult." Justice Breyer countered that it should not be difficult to prove specific crimes in a continuing criminal enterprise, and if it was difficult, "would that difficulty in proving individual specific transactions not tend to cast doubt upon the existence of the requisite 'series'?"
Richardson v. U.S. is case No. 97-8629.
(reprinted from the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
June 3, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario: Canada's House of Commons passed a motion last week urging the government to "take steps" toward approving the limited use of medical marijuana.
Members of Parliament approved the measure, M-381, as amended, by a 204-29 vote. The revised motion implores health officials to develop guidelines for the medical use of marijuana, including the establishment of clinical trials and a legal supply.
Health Minister Allan Rock says that his office is already exploring the issue.
MP Bernard Bigras (Bloc Quebecois-Rosemont), who sponsored the bill, said that its passage "ensure[s] that the government keeps its word on this question." Bigras has repeatedly criticized Rock for his failure to follow through on promises to introduce regulations allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana.
Bigras' motion originally proposed the government to undertake "all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes." Bloc Party members opposed amending it, but eventually voted for the watered down version to put the House on record in support of medical marijuana. Bigras emphasized that he still favors making medical marijuana available to some patients before the completion of new clinical trials.
"I'm sure I'll have seriously ill people coming up to me in coming days, saying these [upcoming] clinical trials won't give them access to marijuana for three years, so what we're saying is we favor clinical tests but we [also] need immediate access to the drug," Bigras said.
Rock said he will announce details of the impending trials this month. His office has already received 26 formal requests from patients seeking legal access to the drug.
The November Coalition and Family Watch have produced a set of full-color postcards, raising awareness of the destructive impact of current drug policies on children and families:
CANADA: The Vancouver, BC Police Department this week proposed installing 22 video surveillance cameras in the Downtown Eastside, prompted by a recent increase in drug-related crime in the community. The residents of the area are debating if the cameras will be effective in reducing crime and if the increased security that the police expect the cameras will bring is worth undermining their civil liberties. Some believe that the cameras will only displace criminal activity and infringe upon personal privacy. Critics of the idea do not think that cameras are the answer. "We need more detox centers. We need more policemen on the beat," resident Lee Donough told the Vancouver Sun. Others contend that safe streets can justify the loss of privacy. The installation of the video cameras will cost area residents an estimated $400,000.
MEXICO: A report released this week by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) charges that a prominent Mexican family has ties to drug trafficking and money laundering. The report says it bases its findings upon information gathered by various federal law enforcement agencies about Carlos Hank-Gonzales and Carlos and Jorge Hank-Rhon's involvement in the drug trade. The family controls a multi-billion dollar transportation, construction and financial empire.
Carlos Hank-Gonzalez, who ended his career in politics in 1994, was mayor of Mexico City and held two positions in the cabinet of President Carlos Salinas de Gortori. He used his position as minister of agriculture to aid current president Ernesto Zedillo in his election. The Hank family has denied all allegations in the report and claims that the report is politically motivated and designed to embarrass the Zedillo government.
WASHINGTON, DC: The House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources has announced that it will conduct hearings on drug legalization and decriminalization on June 16. The hearings, entitled "The Pros and Cons of Legalizing Illegal Narcotics and Decriminalization," will be the first specifically devoted to the issue since 1988. Representatives from the Cato Institute, the ACLU, The Lindesmith Center, and the Drug Policy Foundation have reportedly been invited to speak.
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
A bipartisan effort by two members of Congress to add underage drinking to the list of terribles tackled by the federal government's drug free America advertising campaign ran smack into a sobering reality this week. For all the lofty rhetoric about the welfare of our children and the future of our nation, it turns out that the lucrative, taxpayer-funded, Madison Avenue drug war offensive is really driven by the same thing that drives all of the other lucrative, taxpayer-funded drug war offensives: Money.
No sooner had the amendment been introduced by Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) than the alcohol industry, their bought and paid-for legislators, and the Partnership For a Drug Free America (made up of heavy hitters in the very industries -- advertising and public relations -- that the alcohol industry enriches to the tune of some $3 billion per year) began campaigning against it. For the sake of the children, of course. Depending upon whom you were listening to, the reason that the ads, now airing in 102 cities, should not include mention of alcohol abuse is:
1. Drugs and alcohol are different and should be discussed separately (but note that alcohol kills ten times as many Americans per year as do all illegal drugs combined); 2. Anti-alcohol ads would take precious air time from important anti-"drug" ads, thus blunting the impact of those messages to children (but note that there are already separate ads for marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, inhalants and other substances, and the campaign is large enough that the government predicts that the average school-age child will see an average of four messages per week); 3. Adding anti-alcohol messages will make the drug czar's position "untenable, and reduce his ability to wage the war on drugs" (but the first goal of the administration's drug strategy is to reduce teen use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco); or 4. "The message about drugs is don't ever do it... that is not the message about alcohol" (But studies show that more than twice as many teens are using alcohol as marijuana).
To listen to this debate, one would think there is some solid evidence that the anti-drug ad campaign, as currently constituted, actually works. There is not. Or that there is some evidence that the drug war is being waged in the legitimate interests of vulnerable children. There is not.
None of which should be surprising to anyone who has taken even a cursory look at the competing interests and the real-world impact of our drug policies. In fact, there are precious few drug war strategies that do not carry the stench of profiteering off of the misery of families and the scaling back of constitutional freedoms by opportunistic corporate interests and the politicians they own.
Construction firms, the private prison industry, prison guards unions and the various sectors that service the institutions are realizing enormous profits. As in the defense industry, which arms and outfits the US military and which, since President Clinton lifted a long-term ban on their export there, once again has a Latin American market for its high-tech weaponry. The drug testing industry, which stands to benefit directly from new federal subsidies to small and mid-sized businesses that institute testing programs, is also raking it in. All are big political donors. And that partial list doesn't even begin to account for the entities that are profiting from the drug war illegally, including the banking sector which has profited handsomely from the laundering of hundreds of billions of dollars in illicit drug profits.
Sandee Burbank of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse says that what our kids -- and the rest of us -- really need is a national consumer-safety campaign involving all substances. That campaign, she says, ought to be based on science, information and common-sense, as opposed to politics and scare-tactics, without regard to a drug's legal status. Aspirin, after all, kills more than a thousand Americans every year, while marijuana has never been directly implicated in a single human death, from its pharmacological effects.
In the end, the tempest over adding warnings about underage drinking to the government's boondoggle ad campaign is illustrative of the real engine that is driving our nation's drug policy: Profits. How else to explain the expenditure of hundreds of billions of tax dollars, and the destruction of a generation of poor young men, and the wholesale rollback of individual liberties and the militarization of American law enforcement, balanced against our failure to create a single drug-free high school, much less a drug-free America? The politicians swear they are doing it all for the children, and perhaps in a limited sense they are telling the truth. After all, it's probably pretty cool when your dad raises enough money to win reelection.
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