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

Issue #130, 3/24/00

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Innocent, Unarmed Man Shot by New York City Drug Unit
  2. National Drug Strategy Released, and Testimony by Eric Sterling
  3. Dump Judge Judy Campaign Growing, Needs Volunteer Monitors, Pain Patients Speak Out
  4. Another Medical Marijuana Bill Goes Before Maryland House Committee
  5. Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Forfeiture Reform Bill, Colombia Aid Package Stalled
  6. Medical Marijuana Patients Begin Northern Florida "Journey For Justice"
  7. Breaking News: UK to Legalize Medical Marijuana
  8. No Hemp for the Masses
  9. High School Anti-Drug Lesson Daringly Different
  10. Link of the Week: "Lost Political Causes" by William F. Buckley
  11. OP-ED: No End in Sight in Los Angeles Police Scandal
(visit the last Week Online)


1. Innocent, Unarmed Man Shot by New York City Drug Unit

In what is becoming a depressingly regular occurrence, a young, unarmed black man was shot and killed by New York City police officers last week in mid-town Manhattan. The victim, Patrick Dorismond, 25, was the son of well-known Haitian singer Andre Dorismond and was himself the father of two small children.

Undercover Detective Anderson Moran approached Mr. Dorismond as part of a "buy and bust" marijuana operation, part of NYC's "Operation Condor." While eyewitness accounts of the incident are differing and incomplete, what is known is that Detective Moran asked Dorismond, who had just come out of a bar with a friend, if he would sell him some marijuana. Dorismond had no marijuana, nor is there any evidence that he was selling or had ever sold marijuana. Dorismond apparently took exception to Moran's insistence and a scuffle ensued, at which time two back-up plain clothes officers approached.

One shot from Detective Vasquez' service revolver struck Dorismond in the chest, killing him.

Within hours of the shooting, NYC Police Commissioner Howard Safir released sealed juvenile records indicating that Dorismond had been arrested -- the charges were subsequently dropped -- for burglary and assault when he was thirteen years' old. The release of that information, and NYC Mayor Giuliani's subsequent negative portrayal of Mr. Dorismond in the media, has prompted outrage from community leaders and some city and state officials.

According to press reports, the primary discrepancies between the officers' account and that of Kevin Kaiser, Dorismond's friend and another eyewitness, were as to who threw the first punch in the altercation and whether or not the officers ever identified themselves as such. Manhattan DA Robert Morganthau's office is handling the investigation.

At the center of the outrage over this most recent shooting is the Haitian community, of which Dorismond was member, as is police brutality victim Abner Louima. Jean Vernet of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights in New York told The Week Online that these incidents have raised multiple concerns.

"People are very angry and upset," said Mr. Vernet. "Their concern revolves around three areas. First, every time that a member of a minority group -- not just Haitians -- has been beaten or killed by the police, Mayor Giuliani automatically heaps blame on the victim, calling him a criminal, or disturbed, and praises the police. It is as if he assumes that if you are black or a member of some other minority group or if you are emotionally disturbed, as was the case with a young Hasidic man who was shot by police several months ago, you are automatically to blame for whatever happens to you."

"What does that mean about the justice that you can expect if you are a member of a minority community, and particularly if you are a young, black male?"

"Second, people are very concerned that some of us are not even getting to be judged by the system, with police acting as judge, jury and executioner. The job of the police is not to execute people in the streets."

"And third, we are approached on the streets by people who look like thugs themselves, but are actually undercover police offices, and asked for drugs or information on where they can get drugs. It is assumed by the police, it seems that if you are black, you must therefore be somehow involved in the drug trade. And even after the person, in this case Mr. Dorismond, is shot and killed, he is made out by the Mayor and the police commissioner to be a criminal, even if he had done nothing wrong. For the family, especially a Haitian family, this is like having your child killed twice. In Haiti, we do not speak ill of the dead, and doing so, especially in a situation such as this, only adds to the pain of such a tragic loss."

But, Vernet noted, it will not be enough to hold a demonstration or to make the community's voice heard in the media.

"At this point, with all that is going on and continues to go on between the police and the community, we must use this tragedy as motivation to organize politically, to make ourselves part of the process for the long term. It is only through organizing that our interests will be represented and the necessary reforms put into practice."

The National Coalition for Haitian Rights is online at http://www.nchr.org.


2. National Drug Strategy Released, and Testimony by Eric Sterling

This week (3/23), Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey released the annual National Drug Control Strategy. The strategy itself contained no surprises, but McCaffrey's assessment of the drug war's success did raise some eyebrows.

"For those who call this a war," said McCaffrey, "We are winning."

But the document revealed that despite confident rhetoric, centered mainly around a modest overall decline in the number of young people who admit to past month drug use, by some measures the situation is worse than ever. Most notable among the failures documented in the strategy is the fact that both heroin and cocaine are more pure and less expensive than at any time in history.

The National Drug Control Strategy can be found online at http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov.

Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and former Council to the House Committee on the Judiciary from 1979 to 1989, submitted testimony to the House this week in response to the Strategy. Sterling is one of the most knowledgeable, and certainly one of the most articulate critics of US drug policy in the world today. With his permission, that testimony has been reprinted below. The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is on the web at http://www.cjpf.org.

STATEMENT OF ERIC E. STERLING, PRESIDENT, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY FOUNDATION, TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON TREASURY, POSTAL SERVICE AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT OF THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

March 23, 2000

Chairman Kolbe, Mr. Hoyer, members of the Subcommittee, the National Drug Control Strategy, presented to you today, attempts to sweep monumental failure under a rug. General McCaffrey insists that 'we are winning' our fight against drug abuse, but his scoreboard must be broken ­- deaths are up, high school kids can get drugs more easily than ever, drug use by junior high kids has tripled, drug prices are at historic lows, drug purity is as high as ever, and we are still not treating most of the millions of addicts desperate for help.

I have been following closely our national anti-drug strategy since 1979 when I became the counsel to the House Judiciary Committee principally responsible for anti-drug matters. I set up for the Committee dozens of hearings on every aspect of our anti-drug effort, and accompanied the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico and Jamaica in 1983. I have heard almost every top Federal anti-drug official testify since Peter Bensinger headed the DEA. In 1986 and 1988, I was a principal aide in developing the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988 which created the source country certification requirement, the mandatory minimum sentences, the Federal crime of money laundering, and the drug czar's office, among hundreds of provisions. In 1989, I left the committee, and have continued to work extensively on narcotics control matters as President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.

Mr. Chairman, sadly, I don't believe that General McCaffrey can be trusted to give you an accurate appraisal of our drug situation.

Gen. McCaffrey is claiming progress with declines in coca production in Peru and Bolivia, just as he did when he unveiled the 1999 strategy a year ago. But when he testified before a House subcommittee on August 6, 1999 he confessed, "In Peru, the drug control situation is deteriorating... Peruvian coca prices have been rising since March 1998." (Clifford Krauss, "Peru's Drug Successes Erode as Traffickers Adapt," The New York Times, Aug. 19, 1999).

I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that the indices that Gen. McCaffrey are most proud of are the least important ­- the declines in casual use of cocaine and marijuana by adults. Casual drug users are not the cancer at the core of America's drug crisis.

What is most important for our anti-drug policy to achieve? Saving lives, keeping drugs out of the hands of kids, and keeping as many people as healthy as possible.

What are the facts? Deaths from drugs have more than doubled since 1979, from 7,101 in 1979 to 15,973 in 1997 as reported in the latest strategy. Why aren't we more effective in saving lives? How can we be winning when more people die each year than the year before?

Our policy is not keeping drugs out of the hands of kids. High school seniors report that heroin and marijuana are more available now than at almost any point since 1975. Marijuana was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 90.4% of seniors in 1998, the highest point in history. Heroin was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 35.6% of seniors, compared to 24.2% in 1975, and 18.9% in 1979, at the height of the modern drug epidemic. Availability of heroin to high school students has increased by 1/3 since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, when it was 22.0%.

Ecstasy availability has almost doubled since 1989 from 21.7%, to 38.2% in 1998. LSD availability is greater than at any point in the 1970s or 80s, and at 48.8%, is easily available by half our high school seniors. PCP availability is near record highs, at 30.7%.

More kids in 8th grade -- junior high school -- report that they are using illegal drugs according to the Monitoring the Future Survey. Use in past 30 days of marijuana among 8th graders tripled from 1991 to 1997, from 3.2% to 10.2%. Cocaine use almost tripled from 0.5% in 1991 to 1.4% in 1998. Use of LSD by 8th graders almost tripled from 0.6% in 1991 to 1.5% in 1997. How can General McCaffrey, with a straight face, tell you and the American people that we are winning?

In the streets, our policy is a failure. As best we can reckon, the street prices of heroin and cocaine are near historic lows. A pure gram of cocaine was $44 in 1998, down from $191 in 1981. Heroin prices have fallen from $1200 per gram to $318 per gram over the same period. This means traffickers are discounting the risks they face. This means the traffickers are finding it easier to get drugs to our streets, not harder.

Purity of cocaine, even for the smallest quantities, has increased on average from 40% in 1981 to 71% in 1998. Heroin street purity has increased from 4.7% in 1981 to 24.5% in 1998. How can the "drug czar" tell the American public that "we are winning" when there has been a 500% increase in heroin purity?

This high purity is sending more people to hospital emergency rooms -­ the 1998 number of drug-related ER admissions was the greatest recorded.

Despite repeated promises, we are failing to help the people who are most hurt by drugs -­ the addicts. The crudely estimated number of persons needing drug abuse treatment has grown from 8.9 million in 1991 to 9.3 million in 1996. The number of hard core addicts needing treatment has grown from 4.7 million in 1992 to 5.3 million in 1996. The are still 3 million untreated hard core addicts, more than in most of the 1990s. And it is the untreated drug addicts who are the core of our drug abuse problem. Their tragedies rip American families apart. Their desperation drives them to crime. Their demand finances the Mexican and Colombian cartels, and pays the farmers of coca and opium around the world.

Treating the addicts is not only the most humane thing we can do, it is the most effective. Our failure to adequately treat the drug addicts, independently of the criminal justice system, is a national disgrace.

Gen. McCaffrey will tell you his strategy is based on hard data and he has promised measurable results described in so-called "Performance Measures of Effectiveness." Several years ago he announced 12 Key Drug Strategy Impact Targets. He promised, for example, to:

  • Reduce the number of chronic drug users by 20% by 2002, and by 50% by 2007.
  • Reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the US by 25% by 2002, and by 50% by 2007.
  • Reduce the rate of shipment of illicit drugs from source zones by 15% by 2002, and by 30% by 2007.
  • Reduce the domestic cultivation and production of illicit drugs by 20% by 2002, and by 50% by 2007.
His documents reveal that for each of those important objectives, there is no actual US government estimate for the base.

Regarding the number of chronic drug users, "At this point [February 1999], no official, survey-based government estimate of the size of this drug-using population exists." (National Drug Control Strategy 1999, Performance Measures of Effectiveness: Implementation and Findings, p. 15, hereafter PME:IF).

Regarding the availability of illicit drugs in the United States, "The problem is that there are no official government estimates of the available supply of drugs in the United States." (PME:IF, p. 16).

Regarding the rate of shipment of illicit drugs from source zones, "There is no official US government estimate for the outflow of drugs from source zones." (PME:IF, p. 17).

Regarding the domestic cultivation and production of illicit drugs, "Currently there are no estimates of drugs of U.S. venue available in the U.S. for distribution." (PME:IF, p. 18).

Mr. Chairman, how can a cabinet-level official look a Member of Congress in the eye and say that he has a strategy to reduce a complex problem by a precise percentage by a certain year, when he does not know -- with any precision -- the size of the problem he is promising to address?

These are all worthwhile objectives, but as presented to you and the nation, they are fraudulent. This is a Potemkin Village anti-drug strategy, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I urge you to hold a follow up hearing on this "strategy" to look at it in detail, and to invite a broad range of experts to testify.

Americans can no longer tolerate a strategy that brazenly insists that our "National Anti-Drug Policy is Working" because the trend of anti-drug spending is up. (1999 National Anti-Drug Strategy, p. 9). It is time for a completely different emphasis.


3. Dump Judge Judy Campaign Growing, Needs Volunteer Monitors, Pain Patients Speak Out

Since the launch of our web site, DumpJudgeJudy.com (http://www.dumpjudgejudy.com) two weeks ago, nearly 400 people have used the site to write to Judge Judy show sponsors, and the campaign continues to garner publicity. The Dump Judge Judy campaign, and DRCNet itself, are reported to have been mentioned on the Howard Stern show last Friday, and DRCNet Executive Director David Borden has been a guest on radio programs from Fargo, North Dakota to Los Angeles, California.

WE URGENTLY NEED YOUR HELP TO TAKE THE CAMPAIGN TO A HIGHER LEVEL. Our greatest need right now is to gather more sponsor names and track who is advertising where. If you have access to the Judge Judy show on TV, please watch the commercials, as often as you can, and let us know which companies are advertising which products in which parts of the country. EXPANDING THE LIST OF SPONSORS WILL INCREASE OUR CHANCES OF GETTING MORE SPONSORS TO DROP, WHICH WILL INCREASE THE HEAT ON JUDGE JUDY AND GARNER MORE FAVORABLE PUBLICITY FOR OUR ISSUES. The Judge Judy show station and schedule in your area can be found through a search at http://www.gist.com.

WE ALSO NEED MORE OF YOU TO TAKE ACTION. Please visit http://www.dumpjudgejudy.com if you haven't already, register your displeasure with some of her advertisers, and use our state legislative contact form to send a letter to your local politicians supporting needle exchange.

(For background on the Judge Judy controversy, which is related to her remarks about drug addicted people and injection-related AIDS -- she is reported to have said "Give 'em dirty needles and let 'em die" while promoting her book in Australia -- visit http://www.dumpjudgejudy.com and our two previous Week Online articles at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/128.html#dumpjudgejudy and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/129.html#judy in our archive.)

As reported last week, the Dump Judge Judy campaign, which began last fall around the issue of needle exchange and drug-related blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, has expanded to include the efforts of pain patient advocates, led by the American Society for Action on Pain (ASAP), who were deeply offended by Judge Judy's prejudiced treatment of a pain patient on her show last month.

With the help of ASAP president Skip Baker and other ASAP members, posts made to ASAP's list about the Judge Judy show last month have now been located. We include them here because they are educational about the plight that pain patients face in the "war on drugs" and the damage that a TV personality can cause. Over the next week we will be offering a new section of DumpJudgeJudy.com dealing with the pain issue.

(The pain patient letters follow here; note that the apparent time discrepancies are due to the senders living in different time zones.)

Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 01:00
From: [email protected] (Jo)

Did anyone see Judge Judy Tuesday night? I am livid about her reaction to the plaintiff! This woman takes 20-25 Vicodins a month and Judge Judy said that she was too drugged up to know what was going on. This jerk that took this lady for a small amount of money, was let off. Judge Judy was more concerned about the woman's prescription pain meds. She asked the woman if she took pain pills everyday. The woman said "No." Judy screamed at her, saying "If you get 25 a month, then you must be taking them almost everyday, considering there are only 30 days in the month!"

DAH, maybe on her painful days she takes 4-6 and then doesn't take them for days in a row. She treated this woman like a drug addict. I can only imagine what she would say to me! I take much more than 20-25 pills a month. Does this mean if someone does an injustice to me, I would not have any rights? I think the plaintiff was so stunned she couldn't think fast enough to defend herself. She shouldn't have had to. She did tell her that she is on the pain meds for an injury from previous domestic violence. Didn't matter to Judy. So many people watch that show and she just reinforced their backward thinking, that there is never any excuse to take pain meds everyday.

I for one am writing a letter to Judge Judy to explain that many people NEED pain meds everyday and that does not make them a "bad" person or a drug addict. Judge Judy has changed this past year. She went from being funny to just being plain mean. I was her number one fan, but her name calling, her telling people to shut-up and her one way thinking has left me cold. Sorry if I have offended any of her fans out there, but this was wrong. The plaintiffs prescribed medication should have had nothing to do with this case. If someone saw this show, and you think I missed a point, please let me know.

Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2000 03:25
From: Bob [email protected]

I agree 100% -- I saw that show also and was insulted. This would be a great opportunity for ASAP as a whole (with Skip's permission of course) to fight back where there would be media coverage. Whatcha all think????

Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 07:18
From: (name not listed yet, pending permission)

Jo,

I AGREE WITH YOU WHOLE HEARTEDLY!!!!!!! I did see that and felt just like you. Heck, I take 50 pills a day. I wonder what she would have thought of me, yet my thinking is clear, and I know when I have been violated, etc. This was totally unfair, and I always loved to watch Judge Judy, like you I am going to write her also. So sad how we constantly get humiliated for having pain, glad you brought this up!!!!!!! Take care and GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 08:19
Mary Webb [email protected]

Hi Skip,

I too was absolutely livid about the Judge Judy show that aired Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2000. She has no insight into folks with chronic pain, or for that matter, folks who take pain meds after surgery or a car accident like the girl on her show. I watch her show faithfully everyday and usually go along with her judgments, but last night she truly showed her stupidity and her lack of compassion. Skip, please let me know how we can write a letter and voice our complaints and maybe teach her about chronic pain.

Thanks in Washington.

From: (name withheld by request)
Date: Tues, 8 Feb 2000 22:06

YES, I did see it and YES I was very angry... I have always liked Judge Judy as well, but she is WAY out of line in a lot of ways. First, what medications she took PRIOR to this incident is irrelevant, and this young lady did NOT have to tell her what she took, in my opinion. I was furious at her reaction! God Forbid any chronic pain patient needs her help someday!

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:50
From: Sue Moskowitz [email protected]

I am writing to express my disgust at comments made by Judge Judy about a woman who as taking pain medication. here are millions of us in this country who must take opiate edication for chronic pain conditions. How dare that woman with no medical knowledge ut down a woman who is in pain? 28 vicodin per month is nothing... As a matter of fact, that is much less than a normal weekly dose for someone in chronic pain. I will be participating in a boycott of Judge Judy's sponsors until she apologizes publicly for humiliating millions of law-abiding Americans who are taking opiate-based medications to survive from daily debilitating pain. We struggle constantly to obtain the pain relief that we need, we don't need a national television celebrity telling us that we are "stoned."

Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:50
From: Judith L. Tymec [email protected]

Skip, I am sending you a copy of the letter I have sent to many news agencies, both local and national, in an effort to bring some publicity to our pain situation. Here it is:

To Whom It May Concern: My name is Judi and I am a chronic pain patient in Chicago. I am writing to you because I am tired of being discriminated against by doctors, pharmacies, and other medical and non-medical people. Many in my shoes have committed suicide. Thank God I have not gotten to that point, but after dealing with this issue for over many years I could see how many have come to this point.

The last straw for me was the other day, I was watching Judge Judy berate a woman for taking Vicodin without once asking her why she was taking the medication and then cut the lady's judgement in half (in my opinion) only because she was taking this med. Now I know her show is purely for entertainment, but when she makes this pain medication an issue it creates a horrific nightmare for those of us dealing with this on a daily basis.

I have been yelled at by pharmacists, wrongly been accused of being an addict (I have records to prove I'm not) by some doctors, and almost shamed into isolating myself in my home due to my medical problems, and anyone who says the war on drugs is only on the streets has never had to try to get their pain under control, because even with a wonderful doctor's help I still have to fight the stigma of being on strong pain medication. I am on a medication called Kadian, which is time released Morphine, and I still hold down a wonderful part time job, am on PTA, and coach an academic team for my nine year old son.

I am far from being addicted, but the pain meds I am on have allowed me to live, not hole up in a dark room in pain and tears. I and the other million people in pain would like you to look into our plight and please see whether you could help shed some light on our life threatening issues. I have many facts and people willing to help. We need to be heard, or I am afraid others may follow the road to suicide. Thank you for your time and in advance for your efforts to bring this subject to the public.


4. Another Medical Marijuana Bill Goes Before Maryland House Committee

Medical marijuana is still alive in Maryland as this issue of the Week Online goes to press. The same House Judiciary Committee that two weeks ago voted 11 to 7 against a bill proposed by conservative Republican Senator Don Murphy that would have protected patients suffering from diseases like AIDS and cancer from arrest is poised to vote on a slightly different bill.

The new bill, sponsored by Del David Valderrama, a Democrat, was originally less ambitious in its scope than the proposal that failed earlier this month. Initially, the bill called for changing state law to allow local jurisdictions to approve their own medical marijuana measures if they chose to do so. But before that version of the bill made it to committee, Valderamma amended it to look more like Murphy's bill, with a few key exceptions.

The major difference in Valderrama's bill, Murphy told The Week Online, is that voters in local jurisdictions would have the opportunity to opt out of the state medical marijuana law. This way, "If the people of Baltimore County decide they're against medical marijuana, they can put a measure on the ballot and the people can decide," Murphy said.

Another change from Murphy's bill is that Valderrama's limits how much marijuana a patient may possess. Such a provision could preempt concerns that an open-ended amount would cause headaches for law enforcement.

Murphy believes there is a chance the committee will approve Valderamma's bill. "The voter aspect makes it more difficult to oppose," he said. Murphy added that he doubts a local jurisdiction would exercise its right to amend out, because most voters are likely to support a state law legalizing medical marijuana. A recently conducted poll found that 73 percent of Maryland residents are in favor of such a law.

When asked why politicians would be so wary of supporting something that has so much public support, Murphy explained that opposition to medical marijuana carries little risk with voters, while public support of it is relatively untried. "The fear is that you're more likely to get whacked if you voted for it and people are against than if you voted against it and some people are for it," he said. "This isn't a litmus test issue. There are a lot of people who would say, 'Yeah, I think it is a good idea but I would not vote against a guy who didn't think the same way.'"

Robert Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Week Online that medical marijuana advocates are more optimistic this time around because last Tuesday's hearing on the amended Valderrama bill went very well. "We're back in action," he said. "It was a super successful day. We'll have at least eight votes and we need twelve. I would be so happy if we pushed this to the House floor, after all we've been through."

Valderrama began the hearing by playing the recorded endorsement of his ophthalmologist, Dr. George S. Malouf, a past president of the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi). "MedChi has more clout on this issue than any other medical group in Maryland," Kampia noted.

Malouf's endorsement was followed by testimony from Valderrama's sister, who suffers from glaucoma and is dying of cancer. She told the committee that she is a card-carrying member of a cannabis club in New York City. Valderrama was to follow her with his own statement, but was too overcome with emotion and asked Kampia to speak instead

Kampia said he expects the committee to vote on the measure Friday (3/24).

But shepherding this bill out of committee this year may be asking too much. Many drug policy reformers have been wondering why medical marijuana has so far fared better in Hawaii, where a bill supported by the Governor has passed both houses, than in Maryland.

According to Kampia, who has worked closely with local advocates on both the Hawaii and Maryland bills, the deciding factor has been time. "The most important difference between our experiences in the two states is that medical marijuana legislation has been percolating in Hawaii for years now, while this was our first try in Maryland. In the former state, legislators have gotten used to the idea of a state medical marijuana bill. In the latter state, legislators saw our campaign as shockingly new, untried, and potentially dangerous or embarrassing for them," he said.

Regarding the Maryland bill's untimely death in committee, Kampia said, "Everyone in Maryland tells me it is virtually impossible to introduce a bill and push it through the legislature in just one season. People are telling me this is going to take four years, which is about what it took in Hawaii. The four year rule might be a good rule of thumb for us."

Even if Valderrama's bill doesn't make it out of committee, the prospects are promising for future attempts. A few days after the vote on Murphy's bill, Maryland State Senator Ulysses Curry, a democrat, expressed sympathy for the bill in a letter published in the Washington Post. He concluded his letter saying, "Opposition to doctor-recommended use of marijuana seems to be based on a distorted perception that somehow if we let sick people use marijuana to improve their quality of life, we will pave the way to legalization. But that is not what the medicinal use of marijuana is about. It is about whether we want seriously ill people to be arrested for seeking physician-recommended relief from their illness."

Curry wants to introduce a new medical marijuana bill in the Senate next year. In the mean time, Kampia hopes to set up a bipartisan House and Senate working group to hammer out a bill that will make it out of committee during next year's session. This will be an opportunity to educate legislators not just about medical marijuana, but about the subtleties of state versus federal drug legislation.

"The focus will be that the state government actually has the authority to change state laws, and patients should be protected under state law," Kampia said. Even though medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, Kampia said, he wants to remind Maryland legislators that the state is responsible for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.


5. Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Forfeiture Reform Bill, Colombia Aid Package Stalled

Forfeiture

A bill to place some restrictions on the federal government's ability to seize property was passed yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. S. 1931, which was sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would require the government to makes its case "by a preponderance of the evidence," would enable judges to release property to the owners while a case is in process, if government possession would create substantial hardship, would extend the period of time an owner has to challenge a seizure in court, and ends the requirement that such an owner post a bond with the court.

The House version of the bill, H.R. 1658, required the government present "clear and convincing evidence" in order to seize property. The lesser standard of "preponderance of the evidence" was a compromise made with the Clinton administration and some senators. H.R. 1658 was sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), and passed the House last year in a 375-48 vote.

Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/forfeiture/ to let your Senators know you'd like them to support S. 1931 when it comes to a vote.

Colombia

The latest report on the Colombia military drug war aid package is that it has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Sen. Trent Lott. Lott is not opposing the Colombia funding, but other measures that were tacked onto it, and says all the measures should be debated during the regular appropriations process next fall.

Nothing is certain on Capitol Hill, however, and it could still come back, and only substantial public opposition will have a chance of blocking it in September. Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ to add your voice to those opposing aid to this brutal military.


6. Medical Marijuana Patients Begin Northern Florida "Journey For Justice"

(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)

Starke, FL: A caravan of medical marijuana patients, including several in wheelchairs, will begin a 160 mile, week-long journey at 9:00am tomorrow, from a state prison in Starke to the capitol in Tallahassee. The Journey for Justice caravan will travel 3-4 miles per hour and will pause to hold vigils at 13 correctional facilities along the way to the capitol.

"I am making this journey in the wheelchair I have to live in because marijuana has extended and improved my quality of life," said Cathy Jordan, a patient who suffers from Lou Gehrig's Disease. "The people of Florida are compassionate, and I want them to ask Governor Jeb Bush and the legislature why am I still considered a criminal for saving my own life?"

Journey organizer Kay Lee said, "Too many non-violent offenders are being incarcerated and abused because of our drug laws. I know the people of Florida care about human rights for everyone and that is the message we will take to Tallahassee."

(Journey for Justice urges supporters in Northern Florida to come out and march and rally. The trip's itinerary can be found online at http://www.fairlaw.org/j4j3/Itinerary.htm.)


7. Breaking News: UK to Legalize Medical Marijuana

According to reports in London newspapers on Friday (3/24), the British government is prepared to legalize marijuana for medical use. The move would mark a drastic departure for Tony Blair's Labour government, which has to this point enthusiastically pursued a more punitive, US-style drug prohibition policy.

Both The Independent and the London Times reported that the lift in sanctions against medical marijuana users is a compromise between Blair and Home Secretary Jack Straw, who favor a zero-tolerance approach, and Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam, who has called for a royal commission to review the effectiveness of current drug laws. Blair and Straw have rejected that proposal, reportedly for fear its conclusions would lead to increased support for decriminalization.

DRCNet will continue to monitor this story.


8. No Hemp for the Masses

US News and World Report revealed this week that Drug Enforcement Agency officials are puzzling over the latest directive from the Drug Czar. It seems Gen. Barry McCaffrey's office sent the agency a letter on March 5 insisting that the DEA find a way to seize all products entering the United States that contain industrial hemp. The letter reportedly cited concerns that certain hemp-infused products like shampoo and beer might cause Americans to inadvertently fail drug tests at school or work. The US News story said the letter has customs officials worried that compliance could spark an international trade war. McCaffrey's office ordered an embargo on the importation of hemp seeds last month.

(See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/122.html#hempembargo for further background information.)


9. High School Anti-Drug Lesson Daringly Different

Teachers and administrators at St. Clairsville High School in Mertins Ferry, Ohio were shocked last week when a team of local, state and federal law enforcement officers conducted an unannounced drug sweep at the school.

According to the Mertins Ferry Leader, officers, some in S.W.A.T. gear, entered the school last Friday (3/17) while police cars surrounded the building and blocked nearby roads. An undisclosed number of students were rounded up and arrested for their alleged crimes in connection with a six-month investigation.

Mertins Ferry schools Superintendent Lorrinda Saxby told the Leader that she had been notified of the impending raid about an hour before it occurred, but she had not expected it to be so dramatic.

"I was under the impression that it was going to be done quietly," she told the Leader. "When I got up there and saw the men in combat gear, I was stunned."

Local county sheriff Tom McCort told the Leader the raid was justified because he believes the school has a drug problem -- even though, according to Saxby, McCort had never been to the school before nor contacted administrators there to discuss his concerns.

McCort also told the Leader that the Clairsville students needed to learn a lesson about drugs. He said, "There is more to education than what's in books, slides and films. The students need to see there is no tolerance."


10. Link of the Week: "Lost Political Causes" by William F. Buckley

Regular DRCNet readers should recognize some familiar names in this Buckley column published earlier today. Visit: http://www.sacbee.com/voices/national/buckley/buckley_20000324.html


11. OP-ED: No End in Sight in Los Angeles Police Scandal

Steve Beitler, special to DRCNet

Six months after the first allegations of widespread police misconduct in the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) Rampart division, statistics that give an overview of the scandal are like one of those chalk-drawn body outlines at a crime scene: they hint at the mayhem without conveying the depth of the disaster.

As of mid-March, 40 convictions have been thrown out and scores of other cases involving members of the Rampart division's anti-gang unit are under review. Twenty LAPD officers have been relieved of duty, been fired or have quit, and dozens more are being investigated. More than 15 civil suits have been filed, with estimates of the ultimate price tag for settlements of such suits ranging from $125 million to more than $1 billion dollars.

On February 25, former officer Rafael Perez, whose arrest for pilfering cocaine from an evidence locker touched off the revelations, was sentenced to five years in prison. On March 2, a remarkable report by the LAPD's Board of Inquiry sparked some public bickering among city officials and intensified calls for a civilian-based, independent review of the events. The FBI and the US Department of Justice are investigating civil rights violations, and the outcome of their efforts is far from clear. In addition, a group of prominent attorneys with extensive experience in police misconduct cases began discussions on a possible strategy for legal action whose goal would be systemic reform of the LAPD.

These developments suggest the complexity of the still-unfolding scandal and the many intriguing subplots that feed into the main story line. What has been largely missing so far is a compelling articulation of how systemic forces -- America's perpetual state of war against drugs and gangs -- make such misconduct not only possible but inevitable.

Ironically, former officer Perez came the closest so far to articulating this idea. "My job became an intoxicant that I lusted after," Perez said, according to an account of his sentencing by Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Glover. "The 'us against them' ethos of the overzealous cop began to consume me, and the ends seemed to justify the means. I can only say I succumbed to the seductress of power. Whoever chases monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster himself."

Perez had taken an incredible route to his newfound moral high ground. In hours of testimony in his attempt to win a lighter sentence, Perez told investigators how he had stolen cocaine from an evidence room for several months without a problem and was caught only after he got careless. Beth Barrett and Greg Gittrich of the Daily News of Los Angeles reported that Perez told investigators he replaced stolen cocaine with flour on at least three occasions and lifted about $1 million dollars worth of cocaine. "I could have been anybody," Perez is reported to have said. "Anybody can walk in there." Perez was caught when he used the badge number of another Officer Perez, who was cleared in a subsequent investigation.

Soon after Perez's arrest in August, 1998, the LAPD tightened procedures that govern access to evidence. Police can no longer take narcotics, guns or money from evidence facilities, according to Lt. Sharon Buck, a department spokeswoman.

Sgt. Leo Jones of Irvine, California, who supervises narcotics investigations in that city, told the Orange County Register that the system that allowed a police officer to steal $1 million in cocaine says as much about the system as the officer.

The LAPD's Board of Inquiry report on the Rampart scandal is a 362-page tome that makes more than 100 recommendations amounting to a laundry list of procedural changes -- better screening of recruits, more effective supervision, performance evaluations for officers that actually mean something, and greater power for the chief of police to discipline and fire officers. These are surprisingly tame steps in light of a scandal that the report describes as having "devastated our relationship with the public we serve and threatened the integrity of our entire criminal justice system." As the Los Angeles Times' coverage noted, conspicuous by their absence were recommendations to create outside systems for subjecting the LAPD to consistent, independent scrutiny.

Such scrutiny might have uncovered a 1992 incident in the Rampart division's anti-gang unit at the end of the Rodney King riots. A supervisor found several members of the unit playing cards and working out when they were scheduled to be on patrol. The supervisor complained to his superior, and two days later the supervisor's tires were slashed. He bought new tires that soon suffered the same fate.

Many of the LAPD's procedural shortcomings that were noted in the Board of Inquiry report are strikingly similar to what the Christopher Commission described in its report after the Rodney King beating. That group was headed by former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher (prior to becoming Secretary), who told the Los Angeles Times on March 12 that it was "troubling to find that matters of real importance that were discussed in our report of nine years ago remain unaddressed or not fully resolved today."

That gap didn't seem to bother Mayor Richard Riordan, who praised the Board of Inquiry report on the day it was released but before he had finished reading it, a fact the Mayor discounted by saying he had been thoroughly briefed on the report and had finished the executive summary.

The Board of Inquiry report sparked new calls for an independent review of the Rampart events. LA Councilman Joel Wachs told the Daily News of Los Angeles that while the LAPD's self-diagnosis was a positive sign, "the magnitude and seriousness of their findings underscore why a broad-based, outside review should be welcome as a helpful tool in resolving this."

Wachs's colleague on the City Council, Rita Walters, was more forceful. "This is something we really must look at independently," she told the Daily News. "We have to dig it up, root it out and be certain there are no Ramparts in our future."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California was pretty blunt in its rebuke of Mayor Riordan's assertion that an outside review of the LAPD is unnecessary. "It's time for the Mayor to wake up," said the ACLU in its statement. "Relying on the Police Department to ferret out all of the underlying problems is like having a cancer patient operate on himself."

A step in this direction was taken on February 24th, when the FBI and US Justice Department joined the LAPD investigators to look into possible civil rights violations. Pressure from City Council members, civil rights groups and, ironically, from the LA police union contributed to the decision to bring in the Feds. The police union has expressed "growing concern for due process, protection against a witch hunt and security against scapegoating" of individual officers, according to Rick Orlov of the Daily News of Los Angeles.

At the same time, a February 26 meeting hosted by attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. brought together Mark Rosenbaum of the ACLU and a number of attorneys who are veterans of the "police brutality bar," according to the Los Angeles Times. The attorneys didn't reach any formal agreements but did discuss how the courts and legal system, which were so widely abused in the Ramparts scandal, might be a vehicle for bringing about meaningful police reform.

"This is a situation that is tailor-made for reform," said Rosenbaum, in part because of the breadth and severity of illegal conduct revealed to date. Dan Stormer, an attorney who has considerable experience with police misconduct cases but was not at the meeting, said that one aspect of the Rampart situation that makes it different from other police misconduct cases is "a district attorney acknowledging that there was wrongful, unlawful conduct that deprived someone of their civil rights." Rosenbaum added that "this is not a case of a few bad apples; it is the case of a poisonous tree." That larger perspective on the Rampart scandal is a welcome change from the few-bad-apples explanation that LA Police Chief Bernard Parks has favored.

It remains to be seen whether a legal challenge to the LAPD's long-standing, entrenched immunity from public accountability can succeed. It's also not clear whether the Rampart events will become an issue in the state's high-profile Senate race between Republican Tom Campbell and incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein. To this point, six months of Rampart revelations have yet to ignite widespread public outrage, and, given what has come out to date, it's hard to imagine what it will take for this to change. Without such outrage, politicians would probably be happy to steer clear of the issue, especially in light of the political muscle that law enforcement has in California. That doesn't bode well for people who would like to see the Rampart scandal become a turning point in the struggle for law enforcement that plays by the rules it is sworn to uphold.


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