(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #112, 10/15/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
STUDENTS FOR SENSIBLE DRUG POLICY, http://www.ssdp.org
URGENT ACTION ALERT:
STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY AND HELP SAVE DC'S NEW MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno this week urging her to forego the filing of a petition to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a rehearing of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club case. The appellate decision, as it now stands, calls upon the District Court to reconsider its ruling against the assertion of a medical necessity defense in cases of medicinal use of marijuana.
Locker wrote, in part: "As you know, the voters in my state have endorsed the medicinal use of marijuana and the court's decision holding that a citizen may present evidence that the use of marijuana, under certain narrow conditions, may be a lawful exception to the federal drug laws is consistent with that expression of their will."
Robert Raich, lead counsel for the Oakland CBC, said, "The significance of this letter is that it represents a concrete action Bill Lockyer has taken in support of legal access to medical cannabis, and by writing in an attorney-general-to-attorney-general capacity, it might actually have a positive effect with the Clinton Administration."
Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Lockyer, told The Week Online that while their office has no indication of how the letter will be received at Justice, they are doing all they can to resolve the federal/state dispute.
"The reality is that the voters of California passed an initiative which directly contradicts federal law," Barankin said. "Attorney General Lockyer is attempting to make the best of that untenable position. He is doing everything in his power to implement Proposition 215, and the 9th Circuit opinion, which is narrowly drawn, provides, in our opinion, the right sort of guidance on how to do that."
Read the 9th Circuit Court decision online -- the relevant portion is in the section entitled "Denial of the Motion to Modify."
The U.S. government has moved a step closer to placing a drug popular with club goers on its list of most-hated substances along with marijuana, heroin, crack cocaine and LSD. The Hillory J. Farias Date Rape Prevention Act, a bill that would make GHB, or gamma y-hydroxybutrate, a Schedule I drug passed the House of Representatives this week by a vote of 423-1. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the lone dissenter.
GHB is the latest in a wave of recently demonized drugs nicknamed "date rape" drugs by politicians and the media, after reports of young women who were attacked after men put the drug into their drinks. The bill itself is named after a woman who died after visiting a nightclub in 1996. An autopsy found traces of GHB in her system.
Although GHB has become a familiar presence at nightclubs and raves in recent years, the drug has also shown promise as a treatment for narcolepsy. Federal classification of GHB as a Schedule I substance would likely hinder future research, because Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no medicinal value and cannot be prescribed by doctors under federal law.
For DRCNet's previous coverage of this story, see The Week Online #102 at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/102.html#ghbact.
(from the Drug Policy Foundation' Advocacy Network, http://www.dpf.org)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a former federal prosecutor, introduced the "Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act" (S. 1701) on October 6. The bill, presented as a companion bill to Rep. Henry Hyde's (R-IL) "Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act" (H.R. 1658), is actually a substitute. It guts nearly all the reforms from the House bill and makes it easier for law enforcement to seize and keep private property. The Drug Policy Foundation recommends that you contact your Senators to urge them to oppose S. 1701 and to encourage them to introduce Rep. Hyde's bill in the Senate.
Sessions introduced his bill with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) as the lead co-sponsor. Other cosponsors include Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA). The Department of Justice, the FBI, the DEA and numerous law enforcement organizations support Sessions' bill.
A DPF analysis of S. 1701 finds that Session's bill does not adopt the reforms approved overwhelmingly in the House bill in June. Changes to forfeiture law in Sessions' bill, followed by comparison with the House bill, include:
(1) Increasing the burden of proof the government must reach to seize property from probable cause to "a preponderance of the evidence." S. 1701 contains an "After-Acquired Evidence Exception" (also known as "Seize Now, Fish Later"), which would allow the government to seize and hold property without cause until trial, when only then would it have to "justify" its seizure;
* The House bill would raise the burden to the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence." It has no "Seize Now, Fish Later" provision.
(2) Adding a property bond alternative to the existing cost bond required to contest a seizure;
* The House bill would eliminate the need to post bond to contest a seizure.
(3) Requiring the government to pay attorneys' fees in cases where an indigent claimant prevails;
* The House bill unconditionally provides an attorney to indigent claimants.
(4) Providing compensation in cases where seized property was damaged when damage was "the negligent result of unreasonable law enforcement actions"; and
* The House bill gives property owners the right to sue law enforcement for damages done to property due to handling and storage of seized assets. There is no requirement that a claimant must prove that law enforcement negligently or unreasonably.
(5) Providing limited release of property to avoid hardship. This release does not extend to cash, property that law enforcement deems to be evidence of a crime, property suited to use in a crime or likely to be used in another crime. DPF believes that this phrasing would mean that little or no hardship release would take place.
* The House bill has no such conditions.
Furthermore, the Sessions bill makes civil asset forfeiture law worse by violating financial privacy, including:
(1) Allowing the government to request tax returns for use in civil cases in the same way it can request and use tax returns in criminal cases; and
(2) Extending the time from one year to two years that the government is entitled to assume electronic funds in a bank account are fungible, and need not be traced directly to the alleged offense.
Other crucial reforms in the House bill are missing from the Senate bill, such as providing prevailing property owners with compensatory interest in certain situations.
DPF believes that S. 1701 will not be acted upon during this session of Congress, which gives those opposing the bill time to be heard. We expect hearings or markup on the bill to take place early next year.
Sometime in early 2000 DPF expects the Senate Judiciary Committee or its Subcommittee on Crime to hold hearings or a markup on S. 1701. DPF also hopes that other Senators can be moved to introduce true reform legislation modeled on the Hyde bill before any hearings or markups.
DPF believes that members of the Judiciary Committee should be especially targeted by their constituents. The following senators sit on Judiciary:
Orrin Hatch (Utah)Democrats:
Patrick Leahy (Vermont)Independent:
Bob Smith (New Hampshire)WHAT YOU CAN DO
Call or Write Your Representative -- The Drug Policy Foundation is urging you to contact your senators and ask them to oppose S. 1701. Encourage them to introduce the Hyde bill, H.R. 1658, in the Senate.
To Call Your Senator - Calling your senators is an easy way to make your views known to them.
The Honorable [name of your Senator]But be aware that letters sent by fax or snail mail and phone calls are still more effective than e-mail for registering your opinions with most elected representatives.
Visit http://www.dpf.org/html/listform.html to subscribe to DPF's Advocacy Network by email or fax.
Ted Bridges, Drug Policy Foundation, [email protected]
On Thursday, October 14, the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee (Chairman John Mica, R-FL) of the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) national anti-drug media campaign directed at youth. Rather than focusing on recent research indicating that the effectiveness of such media campaigns is dubious, the hearing dwelled instead on money management issues within the ONDCP.
Congressman Mica expressed concerns to ONDCP chief and "Drug Czar" Barry McCaffrey that ONDCP spending programs for media buys or purchased ad space were overly complex and burdensome. "The 'P' in ONDCP stands for 'Policy,' not 'Programs,'" said Mica. Among Mica's concerns were that the media buys were not being watched by other organizations, that the media buys involved too many subcontractors, that an Internet celebrity chat line was unnecessary, and that money ONDCP gave to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration represented a duplicated effort.
McCaffrey defended the media campaign, pointing out that sophisticated marketing approaches were more necessary than ever before in today's media environment. "The menu of social marketing activities... now includes media advocacy, interpersonal and group outreach programs, 'edu-tainment' initiatives, public/private and community partnerships, and the utilization of new media technologies like the Internet," said McCaffrey. McCaffrey demonstrated the media campaign by showing four 30-second commercials. Each commercial was based on the premise that more communication between children and parents decreases drug use.
Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) suggested that radio advertising might be more cost-effective than Internet chat lines, and expressed his strong wish to see McCaffrey himself as a celebrity spokesperson in those ads. McCaffrey responded that a 14-year-old is far more likely to be persuaded by another 14-year-old than by McCaffrey.
Barr also used the hearing as an opportunity to criticize President Clinton's veto of the FY 2000 District of Columbia Appropriations bill. The bill included a rider, sponsored by Barr, which would have blocked the implementation of a medical marijuana referendum overwhelmingly passed by District voters in 1998.
The only testimony of the day which called into question the effectiveness of the $185 million media campaign came from S. Shyam Sundar, an Assistant Professor and Director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State University. Sundar's research indicates that youths who had been exposed to anti-drug ads were more likely to express curiosity about experimenting with drugs than those who had not seen the ads, because the ads increased their awareness of drugs. Sundar urged further research on the matter.
California Governor Gray Davis, who earlier this year threatened to veto a bill that would have acknowledged the efficacy of syringe exchange programs and allowed them to operate legally throughout the state, signed into law Saturday (10/9) a watered down version of the bill. AB 136 will protect syringe exchange employees from prosecution, but only if the locality they serve has officially declared a public health emergency. Currently only the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Berkeley, and Marin County have made such declarations, heretofore in defiance of state law. Exchanges operating in San Diego, Alameda County, and elsewhere in California must continue to operate under threat of the arrest of their employees and the closure of their programs, which often represent the strongest link between users and the health care system.
Also absent from the text of the law are findings of the efficacy of needle exchange, which were included in the bill Davis would have vetoed. Davis has said he did not want to "send the wrong message" by acknowledging that needle exchanges successfully stop or slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases among intravenous drug using populations. Dozens of national and international health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, and hundreds of regional, state and local organizations have publicly endorsed syringe exchanges based upon research that demonstrates their efficacy.
By rejecting the first bill and signing a narrower one, Davis has followed the lead of the federal government, which tacitly acknowledges the effectiveness of syringe exchange yet forbids the spending of federal monies allocated for HIV/AIDS prevention on exchange programs. Harm reduction advocates are hopeful that some number of underground exchanges in California will now be able to convince their local governments to declare the requisite emergency and step into the half-light that Davis' new law affords. Many are concerned, however, that under this compromise legislation, others will continue to languish in the shadows.
For more information about needle exchange, visit DRCNet's Project SERO, Syringe Exchange Resources Online, at http://www.projectsero.org.
Dublin, Ireland: A frail and seriously ill AIDS patient, who was also an IV drug user, was punched and kicked to death by a pack of vigilantes who are now standing trial for manslaughter in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. The attack followed a community anti-drug meeting in the Dolphin's Barn neighborhood.
A decision made at the meeting to "engage" with drug dealers in the area apparently led the group, including the meeting's chairman, to embark on an angry rampage.
The victim, 41 year-old Josie Dwyer, was punched, struck with hammers and batons and kicked repeatedly. He was declared dead at the scene.
The killing is reminiscent of several incidents in the United States in the past two years in which groups of young people describing themselves as "straight-edgers" have physically attacked persons for drinking, smoking cigarettes or using drugs.
Diana McCague, Director of the Chai Project Community Outreach Center in New Jersey, told The Week Online that politicians and policy-makers must look inward to their own responsibility in cases such as these.
"The drug war, like any war, ultimately hurts the most vulnerable and fragile people. The propaganda that is being fed by governments to people who are genuinely concerned about the problems of drugs tends to cause hysteria and frenzy, as can be seen in the Dublin case. Drug users have been demonized and stereotyped in an effort to justify policies that if inflicted upon any other class of non-violent people would never be tolerated."
McCague went on the analogize the Dublin case with the situation in New Jersey where syringe exchangers have been arrested and programs put out of operation.
"Here in New Jersey, the Chai Project has been forced to halt our syringe exchange program after a series of arrests and escalating charges. The decision to do this in a state with one of the highest incidences of IV-related AIDS and HIV in the nation was astounding. But people who believe that drug users are expendable --less than human -- and that their deaths are an acceptable price to pay to be able to grandstand on the issue of the drug war. It is sad."
(The Chai Project is still doing community outreach, distributing AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis prevention materials and information, as well as working to bring marginalized populations into contact with appropriate health care providers. To make a donation to the Chai Project, please call them at (732) 247-7014.)
Last week, DRCNet reported that the Australian Capitol Territory had released its annual drug strategy, calling for a variety of harm reduction policies including safe-injection rooms and the eventual establishment of a heroin maintenance trial. This week we asked ACT Health Minister Michael Moore, a long-time advocate for public health-based approaches to drug problems, to comment for us on the strategy and his hopes for progress there. Below are our questions, and Moore's responses, submitted by e-mail.
The Week Online: The new drug strategy calls for a trial safe-injection room to be set up in the ACT, and recent news reports suggest that the issue will be debated soon in the Assembly. What do you think are the odds that legislation will be passed this month that will allow it?(You can read Peter Watney's story on the new ACT drug strategy in last week's issue of The Week Online, at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/101.html#newsouthwales. Also, check out our interview with Michael Moore last April 30, at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/089.html#michaelmoore.)
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
Oct. 14, 1999, Kingston, Jamaica: The Jamaican Senate has unanimously approved a resolution establishing a commission to explore the decriminalization of marijuana. Trevor Munroe, the Independent senator who sponsored the resolution, has also suggested that the commission look into legalizing medical marijuana and the clearing of criminal records for Jamaicans who were arrested with small quantities of marijuana intended for personal use.
"What it (the resolution) is saying is that it is unfair and wrong to make a criminal, particularly of a young person with a spliff in personal usage in private premises, so that there are disadvantages in applying for a visa in getting a job," Munroe said. "At the same time it is not illegal to consume alcohol and use tobacco, two substances which are in fact regarded as being even more dangerous than ganja."
This is not the first commission set up by the Jamaican Parliament to look at marijuana decriminalization. A similar commission concluded 22 years ago that there should be no penalty for private use, a $10 fine for public use and that doctors should legally be able to prescribe marijuana. Politicians refused to implement the recommendations in the 1970s for fear of offending its trade partners such as the United States.
"Clearly, if it were not for the United States' economic and military dominance of this hemisphere, Jamaica would certainly have reformed its American-inspired marijuana laws decades ago -- then again, most other countries would likely do the same," said Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director. The ruling People's National Party also favors setting up a similar commission to investigate the uses of industrial hemp.
Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Customs Service were sabotaging the legal hemp industry by illegally holding up and ordering recalls of legal sterilized hemp seed and other products (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/110.html#hempwar).
Two weeks later, the Hemp Embargo continues. The Hemp Industries Association of America has posted a web site including ongoing news reports on the situation, action alerts, evidence the DEA knows the products they're blocking are being legally imported and further discussion of the issue. Visit http://www.hempembargo.com/ to find all of this information regarding this extremely serious situation.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is still accepting public comment on its proposed changes to methadone regulations, but time is running out. Please go to http://www.drcnet.org/alerts/methadone.html for details, and respond before November 19th.
As DRCNet readers will remember, last week the Cato Institute held a one day conference, "Beyond Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century," featuring New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and a range of illuminating speakers.
Proceedings of the conference are now online. Visit http://www.cato.org/realaudio/drugwar/ to see the conference in Real Video or read the speakers' written statements. Visit http://www.cato.org/speeches/sp-ec100599.html to read Cato President Edward H. Crane's opening remarks.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has an immediate opening for an Administrative Assistant/Office Manager in their Washington, DC office. Pay is $25,000 to start, including health insurance. Candidates should be college graduates and have prior office experience with computer skills. Duties will include answering phones, daily data entry, processing mail, meeting planning and coordinating volunteers.
Send resumes to: Director, 1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 710, DC 20036, fax (202) 483 0057 or e-mail [email protected].
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
This week, front page, another enormous victory for the drug war establishment: Operation Millennium. After a yearlong investigation by numerous American and Colombian agencies, a bust. Thirty-one people were arrested, including the leaders of the Cali Cartel, a trafficking organization that U.S. officials claim was responsible for importing tons of cocaine into the U.S. each year.
What didn't appear in the story was any mention of whether this most recent "historic" bust would have any impact on the availability of drugs on our streets or even on the price of those drugs. The answer, based upon the long history of major, historic busts in this never-ending war, is certainly "no."
What will result is more fighting, more gunshots, more innocents caught in the crossfire along every stage of the Colombia-Mexico-U.S. distribution route as rival groups and remnants of the current group battle it out for a newly-available piece of the lucrative black market. Someone else will make the money now, and the cynical among us will not be blamed for wondering whether the new boss (same as the old boss) is perhaps more to the liking of the DEA, the CIA or the Colombian military.
Headlines, photo ops, rows of guns, stacks of cash, kilos of powder. It is all too familiar and all too absurd. A kilo of raw opium costs $90 in Pakistan and $290,000 in the U.S. Does it matter who brings it in? Is there any doubt, given the economics of Prohibition, that someone will? Are we supposed to believe, now, after all this time, all these busts, that given just a few more resources, better cooperation, a little more time, that these front-page arrests will stem the flow? Shield our communities? Protect our kids?
Cops, in any uniform, are trained to be cops. They are right to be proud when they topple large criminal enterprises. It is what we ask them to do. But we, as a society, have need for a broader perspective. These busts, these "victories," are an illusion. Oh yes, some very bad people will go to prison, and justice in this case may well be served. But in the end, after the shooting and the turf wars and the reorganization of the hierarchy of the supply chain, we are left exactly where we started, with an uninterrupted stream of black market drugs on our streets. Unregulated. Untaxed. Uncontrollable. Until the next front-page bust.
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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.