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

Issue #136, 5/5/00

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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MEDIA FLASH: Sixty Minutes Covering "Three Strikes You're Out"
this Sunday, May 7th.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Gore Outlines Broad Crime Proposal
  2. When Will They Ever Learn? DRCNet Speaks With Jeremy Bigwood
  3. Reno Orders End to Hemp Seed Embargo, McCaffrey Hopes to Amend Controlled Substances Act to Outlaw Hemp
  4. George Washington University Students Approve Higher Education Act Resolution, but Student President Vetoes
  5. RAISE YOUR VOICE: Action Needed Against Higher Education Act Drug Provision
  6. Say No to Drug War Funding for Colombia's Abusive Military: Senate Committee Vote May 9th
  7. NEW YORK: Rockefeller Drug Law Protest Monday, and Letters Needed
  8. CALIFORNIA: Assembly Appropriations Committee Voting on Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License May 10th
  9. WASHINGTON: Legislators' Medical Marijuana Sign-on Letter
  10. NYC Forum: The People and the Police
  11. Spitfire Concert in Los Angeles to Raise Money for Imprisoned Medical Marijuana Patient
(visit the last Week Online)

(visit the Week Online archives)



1. Gore Outlines Broad Crime Proposal

In an apparent attempt to cut into his presidential rivalís advantage as a perceived tough-on-crime candidate, Vice President Gore used the occasion of a speech to law enforcement officers in Atlanta to present a mixed bag of old and new policy proposals. Among these was a proposal to spend $500 million to help states drug test prisoners and parolees.

"I believe that we should demand that criminals get clean before they get out of jail," said Gore, adding, "if you want to stay out, you have to stay clean." Gore spoke too about the importance of breaking up prison drug rings.

Gore's proposed package would also include money for job training and placement for those who are returning to communities after incarceration. While the prospect of increased support services for those seeking a fresh start was music to the ears of many drug policy experts, there was also a sense among many that these steps beg some larger drug policy issues.

"In calling for increased drug testing of inmates, and calling for the dismantling of prison drug rings, the Vice President implicitly highlights the flaws in the larger policy of drug prohibition," Dr. Al Robison, President of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas told The Week Online. "After decades of enforcement at a cost of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, we don't even have drug-free prisons. That should give the public an idea of the folly of achieving a drug-free America. Prisoners live under the most secure environment that we can create. Thus, even if Americans were willing to give up all of their rights and freedoms, we would apparently still be faced with the reality of drugs in our midst. At what point, then, do we as a society stop heading down that road?"

The most promising of Gore's proposals, in the eyes of public health professionals, was his call for treatment on demand, though the Vice President offered no specifics on making that a reality.

"I believe we should build a country in which every single addict who finds the power to reach out and say, 'Now is the time I want help and I want treatment' gets an immediate response," he said.

Under the current Clinton/Gore policy, less than one-third of the federal anti-drug budget goes to treatment and prevention combined. According to the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 50% of non-alcohol related treatment needs are currently unmet nationwide.

Dr. Peter Beilenson of the Baltimore, Maryland Department of Health told The Week Online that the availability of treatment outside of the criminal justice system is a primary issue.

"There needs to be a significant increase in funding for treatment on request. We don't provide enough of that," said Dr. Beilenson. "There is a place, I believe, for some coerced treatment, especially when it occurs in lieu of incarceration. That being said, I don't believe that we should have to arrest people in order to provide them with treatment. Here in Baltimore, 54% of our young (18-29) Black males are in the criminal justice system. 85-90% of those people are there for nonviolent drug-related offenses. We must make voluntary-side treatment dollars available."

The full text of the Vice President's speech can be found at http://www.gore2000.org/speeches/sp_05022000_ga.html. See DRCNet's major Al Gore story of this January at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/gore.html.


2. When Will They Ever Learn? DRCNet Speaks With Jeremy Bigwood

In all the recent talk about US plans to send guns and helicopters to fight the drug war in Colombia, there has been very little said about concurrent efforts to induce Colombians to allow their fields to be sprayed with a coca-killing fungus, even after concerned citizens in Florida successfully fought a similar plan last spring. The silence was broken this week when MoJo Wire ran "Drug Control or Biowarfare?", a story that details the human and environmental risks the US State Department is choosing to ignore in moving forward with this project. DRCNet is pleased to present an interview with co-author Jeremy Bigwood.

Please read "Drug Control or Biowarfare" at http://www.motherjones.com/news_wire/coca.html.

THE WEEK ONLINE:
First, tell us a little about your background.

JEREMY BIGWOOD:
I'm a photographer, and for awhile I worked in enthobotany. I was lucky enough to work around people like Dick Schultes and Art Gordon Wasson. But what I really studied was the chemistry of mushrooms. So that meant I had to study mycology and chemistry, so that's my scientific background.

On top of that, I used to make research trips to Latin America to collect plants which I would take back to the University of Washington and Evergreen State College where I was working, and extract and publish papers on them.

WOL: How did you get interested in the fusarium problem?

JB: I was in Peru in 1992, and I had heard about this epidemic that was affecting coca. At the time I was working as a photojournalist in the Huallaga Valley. I was covering the MRTA, who occupied a zone where coca was being grown. I heard about this wilt problem, and the theory was that a fungus might be causing it, as it had been suspected to have caused a similar disease in Hawaii.

Then a friend introduced me to the journalist Sharon Stevenson, who in 1991 had written about the problems with the fungus in Peru for the Miami Herald. In that article she had quoted campesinos and other people laying the blame for this fungus on the United States, so my interest was piqued.

WOL: The spread of the fusarium oxysporum fungus was responsible for the destruction of thousands of hectares of coca in Peru in the early to mid 1990's. But then one reads news stories where US anti-drug agencies take credit for the reduction in Peru's coca cultivation. Why the disconnect?

JB: The problem is that the way things work in government, the spokespeople are often not the people in the know. The people on the ground knew the fungus was responsible, and they also know the fungus in Peru mutated and spread to other crops, forcing whole populations to move somewhere else to farm.

WOL: You co-wrote the Mother Jones story with Ms. Stevenson. When did you begin working together?

JB: In 1999, we applied for and received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to investigate all aspects of the fungus and mycoherbicides in general, including the extraction of toxins from fungi that have been used for biological and chemical warfare.

But we had filed several FOIA's (Freedom of Information Act requests) before we knew that we had the grant, and we got good information. Maybe it was a mistake, but we got good information from the State Department saying that they were gung-ho on the Colombia issue.

WOL: So the State Department has been pursuing this for some time. Why has there been so little information made available to the public? Why hasn't the media paid more attention?

JB: First of all, a newspaper can't afford to pay a journalist to spend the amount of time we have just filing FOIA's and the like. In a democracy you have to have certain people looking into things. But with today's economics and the complexities of the issues, it's really difficult to do unless you have grants for journalists. These projects just take so long to do, and require so much time and work. Especially if you're working through the Freedom of Information Act -- I have FOIA's that went out in 1994 that I am still waiting on. So the tools that are to aid us in transparency aren't really working in this society. It's a real problem.

WOL: You went to Peru and Colombia this spring. What did you learn there?

JB: We had very little luck in our first week in Colombia, but then we had a series of interviews that were really good. We found that the issue of the fusarium fungus had been raised with the Colombians by two groups: the United Nations Drug Control Program, which had written up a contract at the behest of the United States, and Ag-Bio, the US company that wants to sell them the fungus. It was apparent that it was really the US ramming this concept down the throats of the Colombians.

We also found that the Colombians had done plenty of their own research, and had found a lot of things that we hadn't checked into. One of the things they found was the toxicity of fusarium in immuno-compromised patients. They had dug up a lot of medical papers on this. The research found that the rate of death among these patients with fusarium infections was around 76 percent. There is no medicine that really works very well for this. Once you get it in your system, and you're immuno-compromised, you're just like a plant. It's just eating you like it eats a plant.

WOL: What does this mean in a Colombian context?

JB: In the Colombian context this becomes very important, because the rest of the US plan for Colombia is about dislocating people. If it goes down the way it's written, we'll see the US building strategic hamlets -- or you could call them concentration camps -- where you round up the campesinos, and the ones that remain in the countryside are on the run. At the same time, you have this massive fusarium spraying operation.

What happens to those campesino people who may not be very well fed, they become the kinds of immuno-compromised people who could easily be killed by fusarium. And then what we're really talking about is biowarfare. We're no longer talking about wiping out crops. We're now talking about using a biological weapon against human beings.

WOL: Are the people at the US State Department cynical about this danger?

JB: I don't think they are. I really don't think they get it. I don't think we have the caliber of people at the State Department who have the interdisciplinary training that would enable them to think these things through. I'm afraid we don't have winners there.

Anyone who would research this would find out about the toxicity of this fungus to humans, or that the fungus mutates easily, and the toxicity of the compounds involved. All you have to do is a little bit of research. It isn't that hard.

Either that or they've been led down the path by Dr. Sands from Ag-Bio. Because basically, the more one investigates this, the more it looks like a very bad idea.

WOL: What can concerned citizens do about this?

JB: There certainly needs to be international pressure on this. The Colombians don't have an environmental group that can take this on. The scientists have put up an incredible fight, but it's not an easy thing to do there. It's going to be very hard if the reigns of power in Colombia are controlled by the US, it's going to be even more difficult. All criticism is going to be seen as talk from the FARC.

I'm surprised that we're reliving this. I went through this with Central America, and I went through it before that with Vietnam. And now I'm going through it again and I'm just asking, when are you guys going to learn?

Bigwood and Stevenson are publishing the results of their ongoing research into the proposed and actual uses of mycoherbicides on a new web site, http://www.mycoherbicide.net.

You can read DRCNet's past coverage of mycoherbicides here:
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/105.html#fungusresearch
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/100.html#mycoherbicides
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/077.html#fungi2
http://www.drcnet.org/wol/076.html#fungi


3. Reno Orders End to Hemp Seed Embargo, McCaffrey Hopes to Amend Controlled Substances Act to Outlaw Hemp

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

Washington, DC: The embargo ordered by US drug czar Barry McCaffrey on sterilized hemp seeds entering the United States from Canada has been lifted, but the drug czar is already plotting drastic methods to stop the trade.

US Attorney General Janet Reno has lifted the embargo in a letter that stated, "We lack legal authority to prohibit importation of hemp products unless the definition of marijuana in Title 21 U.S.C. Section 802.16 (c) [the Controlled Substances Act] is changed to remove the hemp exclusion." Reno continued to say in her letter that in the case of hemp, Congress made its decision clear not to restrict hemp imports and that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are too low to trigger psychoactive effect.

According to Hawaiian Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R-Kailua), who sponsored the bill legalizing industrial hemp in Hawaii, McCaffrey is now circulating proposed amendments to the Controlled Substances Act to officially ban hemp products from the US. The three proposed amendments state: Strike all exemptions, completely eliminating the importation, trade and possession of hemp products; exempt only hemp fiber which is used to produce paper, cloth, and other "legitimate" commercial products; or provide for an exemption for products not used for human consumption.

Thielen is urging a letter writing campaign to President Bill Clinton and other federal authorities and members of Congress, but not to McCaffrey.

"He (McCaffrey) is doing everything he can to destroy the industrial hemp industry, and with each setback, he simply comes back harder," Thielen said. "We need to ask President Clinton to reign him in for the good of America's farmers and businesses."


4. George Washington University Students Approve Higher Education Act Resolution, but Student President Vetoes

On April 27, The George Washington University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) introduced a resolution condemning the higher Education Act of 1998 drug provision, which denies or delays financial aid to anyone with a drug conviction. SSDP introduced the resolution with the endorsements of nine student groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Latinos for Progress. Hundreds of student signatures had been collected on petitions, far exceeding the student government requirement to introduce a resolution. After a period of debate, the Student Association Senate passed the resolution condemning the drug provision by more than 20-to-1.

But Student Association President Caity Leu vetoed the resolution several days later, citing lack of student support. "President Leu has conceded that the drug provision will have a racially and economically discriminatory effect," GWU SSDP President Kristy Gomes told The Week Online. "Yet she refused to rescind her veto."

GWU SSDP is now lobbying the Student Association Senators to reconvene to override the veto. "As the student body president, Caity Leu has a responsibility to speak for and serve the students," Gomes said. "By supporting this unjust law and ignoring the voice of the students, she has failed in her assignment and embarrassed the university."

For more information on the Higher Education Act drug provision and the student movement to overturn it, please visit http://www.u-net.org and http://www.raiseyourvoice.com online.


5. RAISE YOUR VOICE: Action Needed Against Higher Education Act Drug Provision

Hundreds of thousands of students are potentially affected, and thousands already known to have been affected, by a provision of the Higher Education Act (HEA) passed in 1998 that delays or denies federal financial aid to any drug offender, a law going into effect July 1. Several things are needed to help get this destructive law repealed:

  1. We urgently need to hear from students who have been affected by this law, especially students who are willing to go public.
  2. Educators are needed to endorse our sign-on letter to Congress. If you teach or are otherwise involved in education, or are in a position to talk to educators, please write to us at [email protected] to request a copy of our educators letter and accompanying activist packet -- available by US mail or by e-mail.
  3. We need students at more campuses to take the reform resolution to their student governments. Campuses recently endorsing it include University of Michigan, Yale University, University of Maryland, University of Kansas, the Association of Big Ten Schools, Douglass College at Rutgers University and many more. Visit http://www.u-net.org for information on the student campaign and how to get involved.
  4. All US voters are asked to visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to send a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 1053, a bill to repeal the HEA drug provision. Tell your friends and other like-minded people to visit this web site. Follow up your e-mail and faxes with phone calls; our system will provide you with the phone numbers to reach your US Representative and your two US Senators.
  5. Please contact us if you are involved with organizations that have mainstream credibility that might endorse a similar organizational sign-on letter -- organizations endorsing already include the NAACP, American Public Health Association, ACLU, United States Student Association, NOW, and a range of social, religious and other groups.
Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com and make your voice heard!


6. Say No to Drug War Funding for Colombia's Abusive Military: Senate Committee Vote May 9th

Colombia's armed forces have been implicated in gross human rights abuses through their covert association with Colombia's underground paramilitary forces -- also known as the "death squads." Yet through the dishonesty of drug czar Barry McCaffrey and some members of Congress, our government is preparing to send $1.7 billion of drug war funding to Colombia, the majority of it to go to the brutally corrupt army, much of it in the form of expensive high-tech Blackhawk helicopters manufactured in the district of one of the committee members who passed the bill.

The package has already passed the House, and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, May 9th. Please visit http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ to send a free e-mail or fax to your two Senators and to find out their phone numbers to call.

Funding this drug war bill will make American taxpayers complicit in the torture and murder of peace and human rights activists, labor organizers, anyone who stands up for the basic rights of all human beings in the troubled nation of Colombia. Yet it will have no impact on the availability of drugs in the US, anymore than the wasted billions spent over the last two decades.

So please take two minutes today and visit http://www.drcnet.org/stopthehelicopters/ before the Senate Appropriations Committee takes its vote on Thursday. Please follow up your e-mail with a phone call, using the numbers the web site will provide, or through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. And please tell your friends so they too can stand up for justice and sanity.


7. NEW YORK: Rockefeller Drug Law Protest Monday, and Letters Needed

Please join the May 8th, noon protest at the State Capitol in Albany, marking the 27th anniversary of New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. The protest will feature ex-prisoners, families of prisoners, actor/Green Party candidate Al Lewis (played "Grandpa" on the Munsters), and many more. Call (212) 539-8441 or visit http://www.kunstler.org/wmknewsletter.html for further information.

Write the legislature! Please visit our New York state web site at http://www.drcnet.org/states/newyork/ to send a free e-mail or fax to your own state senator and assemblymember, prewritten or your own version as you see fit. This web site is a collaboration of DRCNet and the statewide organization ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy, http://www.reconsider.org on the web.


8. CALIFORNIA: Assembly Appropriations Committee Voting on Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License May 10th

This Wednesday, May 10, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on Gov. Davis' "Smoke a Joint Lose Your License" bill, AB 2295. THIS EXPENSIVE, HARMFUL BILL CAN BE STOPPED IN COMMITTEE IF ENOUGH LEGISLATORS HEAR FROM THEIR CONSTITUENTS.

Please contact your legislators through our California web site at http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/ if you haven't already; please write down your assemblymember's number when our system presents it, and call him or her on the phone to express your opposition to Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License. And please call or fax the members of the Appropriations Committee, especially if you are a constituent of one of them. They are listed here, all numbers from area code 916:

Committee Chair: Carole Migden, D-SF, 319-2013, fax 319-2113
Bakersfield: Roy Ashburn (R) 319-2032/FAX 319-2132
Davis/Vacaville: Helen Thomson(D) 319-2008, fax 319-2118
Los Angeles: Gil Cedillo (D) 319-2046, fax 319-2146
Los Angeles: Bob Hertzberg(D-Van Nuys) 319-2040, fax 319-2140
Los Angeles: Gloria Romero (D) 319-2049, fax 319-2149
Los Angeles: Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) 319-2048, fax 319-2147
Los Angeles: Roderick Wright (D-S Central) 319-2048, fax 319-2148
Orange Cnty: Bill Campbell (R-Villa Park) 319-2071, fax 319-2171
Orange Cnty: Dick Ackerman (R-Fullerton) 319-2072, fax 319-2172
Orange Cnty: Marilyn Brewer(R-Irvine) 319-2070, fax 319-2170
Palmdale: George Runner (R) 319-2036, fax 319-2136
Sacramento: Darrell Steinberg (D) 319-2009, fax 319-2119
San Diego: Susan Davis (D) 319-2076, fax 319-2176
San Diego Cnty: Charlene Zettel (R-Poway) 319-2075, fax 319-2175
San Francisco: Kevin Shelley(D) 319-2012, fax 319-2112
San Mateo: Lou Papan (D-Millbrae) 319-2019, fax 319-2119
Santa Maria: Abel Maldanado (R) 319-2033, fax 319-2133
Santa Monica: Sheila Kuehl (D) 319-2041, fax 319-2141
Sonoma/Napa: Pat Wiggins (D) 319-2007, fax 319-2107

Following is further background information. Please note that we had incorrectly identified the bill number as AB 2595 in our alert of two days ago. The correct number is AB 2295. Please accept our apologies for the error.

In an unexpected development, the State Assembly Public Safety Committee, under pressure from Gov. Gray Davis, has approved AB 2295, a bill to mandate an automatic six month driver's license suspension for any drug offense. Federal law requires California to pass such a law or pass a law specifically opting out of it, or lose $100 million in federal highway funds. Gov. Davis has made known that he intends to veto any opt-out bill, to force legislators to impose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" in order to keep the highway funds.

AB 2295 is opposed by California NORML, who provided the information for this alert, and by the ACLU, California AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the California School Employees Association, the Service Employees International Union and other labor groups. 32 states, including every state west of Texas, have passed "opt-out" legislation, and a California poll by David Binder found that voters oppose "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License" by 2-1.

Please call or fax Gov. Davis to express your opposition to his support for Smoke a Joint, Lose Your License, and please visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/ to tell your legislators to "just say no" to this expensive, thoughtless law. Call the governor at (916) 445-2841, (213) 897-0322 or (415) 703-2218, or fax (916)445-4633 or (213)897-0319. And please use our "tell a friend" from at http://www.drcnet.org/states/California/ to spread the word at this crucial time for California's drug policy.

Visit California NORML at http://home.igc.org/~canorml/. Visit http://www.assembly.ca.gov/ and http://www.senate.ca.gov/ for ongoing legislative information. And please visit http://www.drcnet.org/states/california/ today to let your state legislators know your views!


9. WASHINGTON: Legislators' Medical Marijuana Sign-on Letter

Washington state residents, please support the legislators' call for a medical marijuana research program! Visit http://www.mpp.org/Washington/ for information and to contact your state representative and senator, asking them to sign-on to Sen. Kohl-Welles' sign-on letter.


10. NYC Forum: The People and the Police

The People and the Police, a free, public forum featuring William Bratton, Syd Schanberg, Zachary Carter and Norman Siegel, moderated by the Honorable Milton Mollen. Monday, May 8, 7:30pm-9:30pm, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th St. (at Central Park West). Sponsored by the New York Society for Ethical Culture with the Partnership for Responsible Drug Information.

William Bratton was appointed Police Commissioner of New York City by Mayor Giuliani in 1994. Currently, he is self-employed as a security consultant, a contributing columnist for APBnews.com, co-author of his biography, "Turnaround," and on the boards of the Rite-Aide Corporation and the Partnership for a Drug Free America.

Zachary W. Carter served as Executive Assistant DA, King's County, where he was responsible for all investigations and prosecutions involving official misconduct by law enforcement officers from 1982-1987. He is now a litigation partner at the law firm Dorsey and Whitney.

Sydney H. Schanberg received the Pulitzer Prize in 1975 for his reporting on political and social upheaval in Cambodia. The Academy Award-winning film "The Killing Fields" was based on his news reports and book The Death and Life of Dith Pran. He is currently Editor, Investigative Unit, APBnews.com.

Norman Siegel has been Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union since 1985. He has been involved in numerous civil liberties controversies.

The Honorable Milton Mollen was Chairman of the 1992-1994 Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Procedures of the Police Department. He is currently active with arbitration, mediation, and special counseling services.

Doors open at 7:00pm, panelists available for interviews. For more information, contact the New York Society for Ethical Culture at (212) 874-5210 or e-mail [email protected].


11. Spitfire Concert in Los Angeles to Raise Money for Imprisoned Medical Marijuana Patient

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

Los Angeles, CA: The House of Blues in Los Angeles will host a special Spitfire Tour concert, benefiting imprisoned medical marijuana patient Todd McCormick, at 7:00pm this Sunday, May 7.

"Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher, former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, X vocalist Exene Cervenka, publisher Larry Flynt, actor/comedian Andy Dick and Spearhead leader Michael Franti are scheduled to speak. Music will be provided by DJ Peretz a.k.a. Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros fame and members of Spearhead.

McCormick, a bone cancer patient, was arrested along with author and AIDS patient Peter McWilliams for cultivating marijuana plants in a mansion in the fashionable suburb of Bel Air, CA. McCormick and McWilliams have consistently claimed the marijuana was being grown to supply California "buyers clubs" that provide marijuana to patients who qualify under Proposition 215. McCormick pled guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison after the trial judge refused to permit him to raise a medical necessity defense. That decision is on appeal to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Proceeds from the benefit will go to McCormick's legal defense fund.

Tickets are $20 and are available through Ticketmaster. For more information, please contact Kate Andrews or Mark Satlof at Shore Fire Media at (718)522-7171. For more information on the Spitfire Tour please visit http://www.spitfiretour.com.


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

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