(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #116, 11/19/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
While the furor over presidential candidate George W. Bush's alleged past cocaine use has temporarily abated, another prominent Republican has come under scrutiny for apparent inconsistencies between his public policies and family preferences.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported this week that Morgan Grams, 21-year old son of U.S. Senator Rod Grams, was driven home and released by Anoka Chief Deputy Peter Beberg, after ten bags of marijuana were found in the car he was driving. In addition to having marijuana, Grams was driving without a license and was on probation for drinking and driving.
Beberg said he pulled over Morgan Grams after receiving a call from the Senator, who said he "learned he might be in trouble, and asked the authorities to find him." Beberg, who is also the Mayor of Anoka, told the Tribune their was no special treament: "Just because it's Rod Grams' kid doesn't mean that I would back away from it. But there was nothing I could arrest him for."
There did seem to be sufficient grounds to arrest Grams' 17-year old passenger, however, who was charged with marijuana possession and spent over a month in a juvenile detention center. Nine of the ten bags were being carried by the passenger, but one was found under Grams' seat.
Marijuana aside, Grams' possible violation of his parole -- terms of which included a judge's order not to possess alcohol or other mood-altering substances -- could have netted him at least three months in jail. Beberg told the Tribune there were beer cans in the car, but they were full and unopened, including the one at Grams' feet. A worker at the car rental agency, however, said that five or six empties were found under the seat.
Senator Grams told the Tribune, "My son has struggled with addiction and behavioral problems for years and has received treatment for these problems... It is my primary duty as his father to set aside my disappointment and see to it that he gets treatment and continues to get help for his problems."
But while Grams was no doubt relieved to have his son at home and receiving treatment, he has taken a strong interest in seeing other drug users lose their homes entirely and get sent to prison. In 1997, for example, Grams championed legislation requiring eviction of public housing tenants upon discovery of any amount of any illegal drug, on or off housing grounds (http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/5-8-1.html). In January of this year, he cosponsored legislation to lower the quantities of powder cocaine that invoke five and ten-year mandatory minimum sentences, and last week he supported a similar amendment that passed the Senate.
Peter Erlinder, a professor of constitutional law and criminal justice at William Mitchell College of Law, told the Tribune, "It has all the appearances of a case of clear-cut preferential treatment" and "It would be easy to find thousands of African-Americans, Hispanics and working-class white males who are in prison for exactly the circumstances that occurred in this case." Neal Melton, executive director of the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which licenses peace officers, told the Tribune, "Normally, you'd arrest everyone in the car. They'd all be questioned separately, then booked on the appropriate charges."
Preferential treatment for family of members of Congress is nothing new. The November-December, 1998 issue of Newsbriefs summarized known cases, including the son Rep. Dan Burton, arrested twice on marijuana charges (see http://www.ndsn.org/NOVDEC98/PUBLIC.html).
This Monday (11/15), the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Youth Violence traveled to the New Castle County police headquarters in New Castle, Delaware to hold a hearing on resurgence of heroin use. Only two senators on the subcommittee were present at the hearing -- Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Senator Arlen Specter (R-PE), although Specter departed during the first panel of witnesses leaving Biden to chair the hearing.
In testimony, a New Castle police officer and a paramedic offered anecdotal evidence as to the increasing prevalence of heroin arrests and overdoses in the Delaware area. William R. Nelson, Acting Special agent in Charge of the Philadelphia Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Agency, testified that the Pennsylvania/Delaware region has been flooded with inexpensive and highly pure South American heroin, which is marketed with such street names as "TURBO," READY TO DIE," and "LANDROVER."
Senators Biden and Specter stressed that a greater share of the government's drug control budget must be devoted to demand reduction. "It is long-past due that we devote at least 50% of the resources to the demand side," said Specter.
The Senators' ideas for cutting back demand include reauthorizing and strengthening the drug court program -- a network of state and local special courts that offer non-violent drug offenders an alternative to prison if they participate in a program of coerced abstinence through a combination of treatment, drug testing, punitive sanctions, and case management. To this end, both senators endorsed S.1808, a pending Specter-sponsored bill entitled, "The Drug Court Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 1999."
Biden also called upon Congress to fulfill a commitment it made in 1992 under the Pharmacotherapy Development Act to provide $1 billion over ten years to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Medication Development Program, which researches new drugs that can be used to treat opioid addiction. Funds were authorized for the program by Congress in 1993 and 1995 but were never appropriated.
Witness Dr. Alan Leshner who heads the Medication Development Program was critical of the government's level of support. "In spite of all the rhetoric, we really don't have enough funding for treatment."
Specter, while supportive of the drug court approach, said he was not convinced of the power of medications to treat addiction. He quizzed Dr. Leshner about the Human Genome Project and informed the doctor that he would find better results curing drug addiction from a genetic angle. Specter's lesson in human physiology had no merit, however, according to another researcher from the Medical Development Division of NIDA who asked to remain anonymous. "[The Human Genome Project] is a long way off. Even when it's complete, what can you do for addiction with that information? You would still have to chemically alter the genome for there to be any effect."
Biden outlined other proposals for curbing heroin use in a report entitled, "HEROIN: Increased Use, Deadly Consequences." In the report, Biden endorses the bill S.324, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 1999, which is specifically targeted at increasing the availability of an anti-heroin addiction drug known as Buprenorphine. Biden also recommends incentives for private companies to develop opioid addiction medications. He suggests that pharmaceutical companies be allowed to extend their patents on their anti-addiction medications, and that the Food and Drug Administration's approval process be expedited.
By the end, the event began to take on the flavor of a town hall meeting more than a hearing. At one point, Biden asked panel members, "Why the heck won't these kids listen to me?" In response, spirited audience members shouted, "They're right here! Why don't you ask them yourself?" Two recovering heroin addicts from a local methadone clinic were ushered up to the witness table. Said one gaunt-faced youth to Biden: "The reason someone would listen to us and not to you is because we've been there. Yours is just textbook knowledge."
Last week, DRCNet reported that Leonilda Zurita Vargas, Bolivian activist who had recently participated in political demonstrations and press events in the United States, including events organized by drug policy reform groups, had been illegally arrested and jailed on returning to Bolivia (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/update11-12-99.html#leonilda). Parties who had worked with Leonilda sent the following letter of concern to the President of Bolivia this week:
November 18, 1999
We are deeply saddened to report the untimely death of Gil Puder, a decorated 18-year veteran of the Vancouver, Canada police force and a strong and energetic advocate of drug policy reform. Gil broke ranks with the prohibitionist establishment two years ago and became one of the few law enforcement professionals in North America to speak out against the drug war, successfully standing up to pressure from officials who wanted him to stop.
Gil backed up his public stance with encouragement and support to drug reform organizations. He proudly displayed a DRCNet "stopthedrugwar.org" bumper sticker on his police station locker, for example, and was pleased to find that the rank-and-file officers, unlike their top-cop politician bosses, didn't seem to have a problem with it.
Many reformers first heard him speak at the Drug Policy Foundation conference in Washington last May, and were impressed and heartened to have such a strong ally. Though at the time he seemed the picture of health, Gil passed away last Friday at age 40, after a brief bout with cancer, leaving a wife, two young sons, and numerous family and extended family.
Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy wrote, "Those who knew Gil saw his courage in standing up to the entrenched prohibitionist policies of senior police ranks and government. We have lost an intelligent and outspoken advocate of humane drug policy reform. We have also lost a gentleman whose strength of character would almost certainly have led him to become a highly principled holder of public office." A former police academy student of his wrote, "Gil filled many roles and did them with flair and style."
Gil's book, "Crossfire: A Street Cop's Stand Against Violence, Corruption and the War on Drugs," is scheduled for publication by Douglas and McIntyre next year. We reprint below an editorial of his, published less than a week before his passing.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the British Columbia/Yukon Cancer Society, http://www.bc.cancer.ca/. Correspondence to the Puder family can be addressed care of Vancouver City Police, 2120 Cambie Street, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 4M6, Canada.
THERE'S MORE TO DRUGS THAN 'JUST SAY NO'
by Gil Puder, published Sunday, Nov. 7, 1999, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, recently made an astounding public statement. He said America's war on drugs is a multibillion-dollar failure, that it has unjustifiably jailed thousands of people while lying about the dangers of marijuana, and that many illegal drugs should be legalized and strictly regulated.
Johnson is now the highest-ranking elected official in the United States to say, in effect, "The emperor has no clothes." I've spent my career in law enforcement, and I believe Johnson is absolutely right.
In 1984 an armed heroin addict robbed a bank. I fired a fatal round that cost that man his life. Two years later, another junkie with a gun took the life of my friend, Sgt. Larry Young. More recently, I had to tell a woman that her son had died from a drug overdose. The experience was devastating -- not only for her, but for me, as well. I don't dislike the drug problem; I hate it.
Yet, while the governments of both our countries spend billions of our tax dollars every year fighting the so-called war on drugs, the shameful truth is, it hasn't worked. It never will. I don't want to lose another friend or bring more mothers the same bad news. It's time for all of us to wake up.
When I deliver this message to local business leaders at Seattle Downtown Rotary Club's luncheon on Nov. 17, I expect many to be apprehensive. But perhaps the need for a change in policy will begin to sink in when my co-speaker, Dr. Alonzo Plough, director of Public Health-Seattle and King County, outlines the increasing gravity of the situation.
With some 10,000 addicts, King County has one of the worst heroin problems in America, and it's getting worse. Last year, according to data compiled by the state Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, more people died in King County from heroin-involved overdoses than died in motor vehicle crashes.
Who am I to be talking about your problems? Someone who recognizes we've got plenty of our own in Canada. In my city, Vancouver, B.C., residents are dying from drug overdoses at the rate of about four a week. An injection-drug HIV epidemic has drawn international attention to our neighborhood known as the Downtown Eastside. I know that good neighbors should tend to their own problems first, but this is a common problem, and I believe good friends should look for shared solutions.
Your neighborhoods and mine are under siege. Being a street cop, witnessing the tragedy firsthand, I've become convinced that drug prohibition -- not drugs themselves -- are driving the HIV epidemic and the systemic crime that has swamped our criminal justice systems. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to admit if you're a politician who built your "law and order" image by vilifying drugs and demonizing addicts as the epitome of moral decay.
Yet "rabid junkie" stereotypes are seldom reality -- certainly not the housewife addicted to prescription painkillers or the 14-year-old boy shot at a Vancouver-area high school.
People who have heavily invested in the status quo chant mantras of zero tolerance mandatory minimum sentences while both the supply and demand for drugs increases and jails burst at the seams. For 80 years, we've waged the war on drugs with a central focus -- criminal sanctions. Anyone who thinks we're winning has their eyes closed, or simply doesn't want to see.
I know there's no silver bullet for this monster, but there are more effective solutions.
First, we must accept reality: Drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, are here today. Not all drug users are abusers, and not all abusers become addicts. Once we acknowledge these fundamental truths, the responsible approach for dealing with drugs becomes clear -- shift most of our resources away from interdiction and punishment toward treatment and education.
Next, we must understand that drug addiction is, above all, a medical and public health issue. Like alcoholism, it is a form of disease that an be successfully treated to reduce harm to society.
Crime must be punished; violent crime and crimes against children must be punished severely. But we could dramatically reduce drug-related crime and its horrendous human and financial costs by decriminalizing and strictly regulating drug use.
The benefits of such reform would be immediate. Windfall savings on criminal justice dollars could be plowed into health care and rehabilitation, which are the only methods proven to correct substance abuse.
Not every drug should be treated the same. The sale or distribution to children, as well as trafficking, importation and exporting, should remain crimes, with perhaps even stronger penalties. By focusing law enforcement on these areas, police efforts might actually make a difference.
Finally, the messages we send our children should be based on facts, loving concern and useful guidance, and not on fear, threats and propaganda. Watching a televised documentary on drug abuse, including disturbing images of a man killed by his father, my 9-year-old son listened to addicts explain the disorder ruining their lives. Not once did he ask his father, the cop, why these criminals weren't in jail. His advice to me was, "Dad, these people are sick." Untainted by a lifetime of misinformation, our kids understand this problem better than many adults.
This is the message we should be sending: Drug abuse is unhealthy and wrong. We can't stop adults from getting drugs -- we only fooled ourselves in thinking that we could. We'll teach you how devastating drugs can be. If you make the wrong choice, we'll help you make better ones. But if you choose to use drugs, we will not allow you to harm others, or to make them available to children, and we'll punish you severely if you do so.
That's a message that makes a lot more sense than "just say no." And, it's a message our children are far more likely to believe.
Governor Gary Johnson received a standing ovation from more than 300 New Mexicans as he strode to the microphone to reiterate his stance on the need to end the drug war and legalize drugs. The forum, hosted by the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, also featured California Superior Court Judge James Gray and Debra Small of the Lindesmith Center in New York.
Johnson, who has captured the attention of both the national and New Mexico media ever since coming out for drug legalization several months ago, cited massive corruption, access to drugs by children, crime, violence and the strengthening of multi-national criminal organizations as proof that the drug war is "a massive failure."
Judge Gray, also a Republican, spoke eloquently about the cases that have come before him over his eighteen-year career on the bench. He, like Johnson, told of his strong disdain for the use of dangerous drugs, but went on to describe both the human and economic costs of a failed prohibitionist policy.
The forum followed an all-day conference that featured drug policy reformers from New Mexico and beyond. Speakers included Keith Stroup of NORML, several members of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy, Adam J. Smith of DRCNet and others.
On the morning of the forum (11/16) Darren White, Johnson's secretary of public safety, tendered his resignation from a post that he had held for five years, citing strong disagreement with the governor's stance on drugs. Last month, White told reporters that Johnson's call for legalization was hurting the morale of the state's law enforcement officers.
"My cabinet members are certainly free to disagree with me," Johnson told reporters. "There was certainly no pressure on Darren to resign. This is entirely his decision."
The following morning, the New Mexico media reported that John Dendahl, state chair of the Republican Party, had acknowledged privately going on record in support of the governor's assertion that the drug war is unwinnable and must be reevaluated. In 1997, Dendahl quietly authored an article titled "Whither the War on Drugs?," for a private conservative group of which he is a member. Dendahl wrote in that paper, "I have come to agree with those who advocate decriminalization of drug use. However, there are some caveats with that agreement." Still, Dendahl defended White, saying he has been taking hits from all sides, and that "The governor got ahead of his disciples" (see http://www.abqjournal.com/opinion/1call11-18-99.htm).
Steve Bunch, President of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, which has now sponsored two governor's forums on drug policy, told The Week Online that the response across the state has been very positive.
"Most of the politicians in this state have been slow to embrace the governor's position, and in truth, the governor has been far out in front of even many reform-minded people in calling for outright legalization. The people of New Mexico, however, seem to be very willing to discuss the issue, and there is a lot of support for the idea of ending the drug war as we know it."
But media coverage and forums will only go so far, says Bunch, unless that support is organized into a force for change.
"When the governor first came out on this issue, he said that he wanted to de-stigmatize the debate and to make it safe for people who are holding office or running for office to speak the truth. Our job at the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation is to educate and organize citizens in order to make that a reality."
IF YOU ARE IN NEW MEXICO OR HAVE FRIENDS OR FAMILY IN THE STATE: Sign-up at http://www.newmexicodrugpolicy.org or call the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation at (505) 344-1932.
Fox Network TV's "Judge" Judy Sheindlin shocked an Australian luncheon audience this week on the subject of syringe exchange, which she called a "liberal indulgence." "Give em dirty needles and let 'em die," she said.
It is estimated that there are nearly one million injection drug users in the United States. The use of shared and infected syringes has led to an epidemic of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis among this population, their sexual partners and their children. Nearly every major medical organization in the world, including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association have endorsed the practice of providing sterile syringes to users.
Keith Cylar is Executive Director of Housing Works, an AIDS services and harm reduction agency in New York City. Cylar told The Week Online that what Sheinman is advocating is the willful murder of millions of people.
"I assume that she means that if one of her children was unfortunate enough to get themselves addicted to drugs, or to sleep with someone who at one time injected drugs, that she is advocating that her child is not worth saving... even that we ought, as a society, to cause her death. The population at risk here numbers in the millions, including untold numbers of children yet unborn. She is advocating genocide."
CONTACT: Fox Network (national), (212) 822-7000
To get the address of your local Fox affiliate, visit http://www.fox.com. Look for your local listings of the time and station that airs Judge Judy in your area by entering your zip code at http://www.gist.com.
Judge Judy Sheindlin's website can be found online at http://www.judgejudy.com. We didn't see an e-mail address or general purpose web contact form. You can send her feedback toll-free at 1-888-800-JUDY (5839), or write to P.O. Box 949, Hollywood, CA 90078.
There are additional articles on syringe exchange below. To learn much more about this important life-saving measure, visit DRCNet's Syringe Exchange Resources Online at http://www.projectsero.org and the North American Syringe Exchange Network at http://www.nasen.org on the web.
(Steve Silverman provides a more detailed report on this month's student drug policy conference.)
On November 7, more than 215 student leaders representing 50 colleges from 22 states gathered at George Washington University for the first national conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Student Leaders in Drug Policy and Justice. The students in attendance embodied a wide diversity of backgrounds and political philosophies, but all agreed on one unassailable point: The drug war has failed.
The conference was hosted by the GWU SSDP group and was sponsored by the Drug Reform Coordination Network, the Drug Policy Foundation, the NAACP, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and the Balcom Group.
Kris Lotlikar, who was elected the first national director of SSDP during the conference, described the meeting's significance. "This was the first national gathering of student leaders who challenge the wisdom of drug prohibition," he told The Week Online. "We college students grew up during the 80's and are the ones whom the current drug war was supposed to protect, yet there is not a single drug-free high school in this country. We know the drug war is a failure and we came here to learn how to end it."
The plenary sessions presented an array of drug policy experts and anti-drug war activists whose testimony continuously reminded the students why they were there. Gus Smith told the story of his daughter Kemba, whose 24-year prison sentence has become a symbol of the injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing. Smith discussed the disproportionate racial impact of a drug policy in which African Americans, who comprise 12% of the population and a proportional percentage of drug users, make up 35% of those arrested, 55% of those convicted and 74% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. "Prisons," Smith exclaimed, "are slave ships that don't move."
Lynn Paltrow, a long-time
advocate for women's civil and reproductive rights, explained how prosecutors
have conspired with hospital employees to criminally persecute poor, drug-addicted
Saturday featured keynote speakers Ethan Nadelmann, Director of The Lindesmith Center, and Harvey Silverglate, famed civil rights and criminal defense attorney from Boston, as well as more workshops, meetings and many discussions.
Like many of the students in attendance, Brian Gralnick of The George Washington University missed his Friday classes to attend the first day of the conference.
"As I see it, I still went to class. The lectures and workshops were very intensive. And unlike my regular class time, I didn't see anyone falling asleep or goofing off. Everyone who was there wants to be here and we we're all paying serious attention because we've got a lot of work to do. The students are asking a ton of questions. It's all very interactive."
Sara Frank, who drove up the coast for two days with three of her classmates from Louisiana State University, recalls the tone of the weekend as a sense of impending change. "I just can't fully explain the atmosphere of the conference. I remember the constant feeling of chills running up and down my spine. It's like knowing that there is a big storm creeping up on the horizon and we, the students, are the ones who are at the center of it."
Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, who spoke at the conference, also sees the nascent student movement in drug policy as potentially earth-rattling. "The pressure to change drug policy is building like the pressure of a geological fault. Like an earthquake, nobody can predict the exact moment when the fault will crack, but one can confidently predict that within so many years it will crack. As with an earthquake, there will be a moment -- a flashpoint where the pressure snaps."
(Find our more about Students for Sensible Drug Policy at http://www.ssdp.org on the web.)
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
Nov. 18, 1999, Pain Court, Ontario: In a major victory for the hemp industry, the Drug Enforcement Agency has lifted a recent hemp seed embargo and is now allowing sterilized seeds from Canada into the United States. In August, the DEA instructed U.S. Customs to stop the importation of all hemp seed products into the U.S. The first seizure was a 53,000 pound load of sterilized birdseed imported by Kenex Ltd. That shipment remains in Customs' storage, pending an agreement between Kenex and the DEA.
Since THC is considered a controlled substance under US federal law, the DEA initially took a hard line stance on seeds containing as low as 14 parts per million THC. US Customs has now been instructed to allow shipments of hemp seed products containing trace amounts of THC to enter the country.
"The DEA tried to expand their jurisdiction by a twisted interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act, but their attempt to change the rules threatened to destroy the Canadian farmers and industries who invested in this remarkable crop and totally violated the NAFTA treaty," said Don Wirtshafter of the Ohio Hempery. "In the end, the DEA had to back down due to industry pressure and high level complaints from the Canadian Embassy in Washington. Hopefully, now the hemp industry can pick up the pieces and recover from this low blow." "We got the zero tolerance policy reversed, and basically got the DEA to abide by US law," said Jean Laprise, Kenex owner. "We accomplished our goal and are looking forward to doing a bigger business in the future."
Last week, we reported that a judge had ruled to not allow Peter McWilliams and Todd McCormick to mention medical marijuana in their upcoming federal trials (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/update11-12-99.html).
In light of this, McWilliams and McCormick have decided to plead guilty to federal charges against them in exchange for more lenient sentencing. The pleas will be entered on Friday, November 18, 1999, in the courtroom of Judge George King, Roybal Federal Building, Los Angeles at 2:00pm.
"We had no place else to go," said defendant Peter McWilliams. "We couldn't present our medical marijuana defense, so we would be automatically found guilty, taken into custody on the spot, and begin serving a mandatory 10-year sentence. By pleading guilty, we take the crime out of the mandatory-minimum category and permit the judge to use compassion in his sentencing. We believe Judge King will do just that."
The medical condition of the defendants can be presented to the judge at a sentencing hearing to be held in approximately two months. The precise wording of the charges is still being negotiated.
DRCNet will be posting a letter-writing alert on behalf on McWilliams and McCormick, if they and their attorneys feel it will be helpful.
The Lindesmith Center has recently published Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs, and Drug Education, by Marsha Rosenbaum. In this 17-page pamphlet, Dr. Rosenbaum, medical sociologist, parent, and director of the Lindesmith Center's west coast office, critiques school-based drug education. She suggests an approach which focuses on safety and is grounded in the reality of teenage life today.
If you would like to receive a complimentary copy, please contact the Lindesmith Center-West at [email protected] or (415) 921-4987. The pamphlet can be found online at http://www.lindesmith.org/library/safetyfirst.pdf.
To learn much more about drug education, visit http://www.lindesmith.org/library/focal20.html.
An informational forum sponsored
"... some areas of the state reported a higher proportion of HIV-infected drug users than anywhere else in the developed world."
"The Council has before stated its position that it is the moral responsibility of the government to pursue those interventions which can be demonstrated to save the citizens of our state the cost of the HIV epidemic and the lives which are at risk from it."
- New Jersey Governor's Advisory Council on AIDS, June 1999
WHEN: November 20th,
1999, 9:00am - 4:00pm
Dedicated to the memory of Senator Wynona M. Lipman
1. To present the latest statistics on the rates of HIV infection in the state of New Jersey;
2. To examine needle exchange as an effective tool to deal with this public health emergency;
3. To invite the public to express their ideas and views on needle exchange; and
4. To urge the municipal city council as well as other legislators to take action in the fight against HIV/AIDS, specifically by supporting legislation to implement a pilot needle exchange program in New Jersey.
Speakers include Councilman Luis Quintana, City of Newark Municipal Council, Assemblyman Alfred Steele, NJ State Legislature, Gary Paul Wright, NJ AIDS Education and Training Center, Dr. Denise Paone, NY Beth Israel Medical Center, Councilman Rev. Fernando Colon, Jersey City Municipal Council, Rev. Clinton Reynolds, Bethel AME Church, Paterson, Riki Jacobs, Executive Director, Hyacinth Foundation, Debra Edwards, Newark NAACP, Dr. Robert Johnson, UMDNJ, and Alma Candelas, New York State Dept. of Health.
A continental breakfast and a box lunch will be available for participants.
For information, call (973) 733-5880 or (973) 596-6066.
PRINCETON, NJ: Drug-injection-related AIDS continues to spread in the absence of syringe exchange programs. Many states and cities with the highest rates of injection-related AIDS do not have these programs, according to a new analysis by the Dogwood Center.
"Four of the top ten states with IV-drug-use-related AIDS do not allow needle exchange programs. None of the states provide adequate needle exchange," said Dawn Day, Ph.D., Director of the Dogwood Center, the study's author.
The study is based on a special analysis of the most recent data -- through 1998 -- obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Injection-related AIDS cases include persons who inject drugs and their sexual partners. According to the CDC, half of all new AIDS cases start with sharing syringes.
"New York, which leads the nation, historically has had the largest concentration of heroin users. Needle exchange programs in New York City have reduced the per capita HIV rate. But the number of exchange programs is completely inadequate to stop the spread of HIV," said Day.
The spread of HIV through shared syringes has increased for two reasons. First, the price of heroin has fallen and purity increased, making addiction more rapid and less expensive. Second, medical advances in AIDS treatment mean persons who inject drugs and are infected with HIV/AIDS are living longer and continuing to share needles.
"For effective AIDS prevention, substantial expansion and federal funding, of needle exchange programs are urgently needed," said Day.
The full report with additional key material about each state is available on the Dogwood Center web site at http://www.dogwoodcenter.org/report.html. For information on requesting Dogwood Center publications in print, call (609) 924-4797 or e-mail [email protected].
by Mike Tidwell
In the war on drugs, law enforcement bodies ranging from the U.S. Justice Department to rural sheriffs' offices have themselves become terribly addicted to an intoxicating substance. It's not crack or heroin they're strung out on. It's the money and property these enforcement groups seize each year from thousands of Americans under the often false assertion that the wealth is connected to the drug trade.
In truth, these seizures have as much to do with padding department budgets as with keeping streets safe. And they trample fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Constitution in the process.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois wants to rehabilitate our law-and-order officials. Mr. Hyde, no dove on crime issues, led the fight in Congress in June for passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act. The bill, now under debate in the Senate, would help prevent police and others from such acts as wrongfully seizing entire homes on little more than hearsay of drug involvement. It would stop the confiscation of cash and automobiles on suspicions of narcotics sales that are never proven and the taking of boats on discovery of a couple of marijuana joints brought on board by a guest without the owner's knowledge.
As outrageous as these seizures
are, they happen regularly in America under anti-narcotics statutes gone
awry. Innocent people suffer great pain and loss without ever being
accused of a crime.
But in truth, the Hyde bill permits civil forfeitures and recognizes their importance in the drug war while simply adding safeguards for the innocent. Currently, persons whose property or money is seized must prove their innocence at their own expense -- and without necessarily being charged of any crime. The Hyde bill would simply place the burden where it belongs: on prosecutors to provide clear and convincing proof that seized wealth is involved in wrongdoing whenever such seizures are challenged in court.
So reasonable is the Hyde bill that it passed the House by a vote of 375-47, and was cosponsored by key ideological opponents in the Clinton impeachment battle. This unlikely coalition of supporters also includes consumer and trade organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.
Nonetheless, the Senate Judiciary Committee threatens to derail the bill, thanks primarily to intense pressure from the Justice Department and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. They say the reform bill would allow dealers to file frivolous claims of innocence, hobbling prosecution efforts. But, as one House Judiciary Committee spokesman explained, this is highly unlikely given that any court challenge would expose a real dealer to legal "discovery" procedures that can be overwhelmingly damaging to guilty parties with something to hide.
Yet the Senate objections persist, suggesting that it's the seized wealth itself - which departments are routinely allowed to keep - that is the real issue. Enforcement groups, frankly, are showing signs of addiction. Last year, the Justice Department seized $449 million, dramatically up from $27 million in 1985. In 1990, when the agency was falling short of its forfeiture projections, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh candidly warned federal prosecutors: Every effort must be made to increase forfeiture income.
Steven Kessler, a trial lawyer
who once headed the asset forfeiture unit of the Bronx district attorney's
office, recently told the Associated Press: "Forfeiture laws have run amok.
The focus is no longer on combating crime... It's on fundraising."
(Mike Tidwell writes for the DKT Liberty Project in Washington, DC and is author of "In the Shadow of the White House," a book about drug addiction in the nation's capital. The Liberty Project can be found on the world wide web at http://www.libertyproject.org.)
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