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

Issue #171, 2/2/01

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Drug Arrests on New Jersey Highways in Freefall in Wake of Racial Profiling Scandal
  2. Sen. Dodd Introduces Bill to Suspend Certification Process, Supports Move Toward Multilateral Drug War Evaluation Mechanism
  3. Interview: Sanho Tree on Colombia
  4. And the Meaning of "Traffic" Is...?
  5. Drug Testing Declines Among Private Employers, but Testing Industry is Ready to Fight
  6. Drug Bills in the Virginia Legislature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  7. Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in New Mexico Legislature
  8. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court Tosses Out HUD "One Strike and You're Out" Eviction Policy
  9. Newsbrief: MS Sufferer Guilty in DC Medical Marijuana Case
  10. The Reformer's Calendar: Portland, Philadelphia, New York, DC, SF, Minneapolis, St. Petersburg, Fort Bragg, Miami, Amsterdam, New Delhi
  11. Editorial: Moving Forward with Open Eyes
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)



1. Drug Arrests on New Jersey Highways in Freefall in Wake of Racial Profiling Scandal

According to figures released this week by the New Jersey State Police, drug arrests on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway have fallen dramatically since the state's racial profiling scandal blew wide open in the summer of 1998. That April, New Jersey state troopers wounded three young, unarmed black and Hispanic men in a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, unleashing a storm of protest over discriminatory policing.

In 1998, the last year of unfettered race-based traffic stops, state troopers filed 1,269 drug counts on the Turnpike and 1,279 on the Parkway. In 1999, as New Jersey arrest practices were scrutinized by the Department of Justice, those figures fell to 494 and 783, respectively, and declined even further last year, to 370 arrests on the Turnpike and 350 on the Parkway.

In other words, there has been a two-thirds reduction in drug arrests on New Jersey highways since the state began to take action to halt racial profiling.

The decrease was also aided by a consent decree with the Department of Justice mandating reforms and monitoring of highway traffic stops, and a change in state drug enforcement policy now in effect for more than a year. In December 1999, state Attorney General John Farmer Jr. announced a shift in enforcement from focusing on highway drug couriers to going after large-scale trafficking organizations. At the time, Farmer said troopers would continue to attack trafficking on state highways, but that aspect of enforcement would not be "as prominent."

As reported earlier in the Week Online (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/163.html#profilingappeals), the racial profiling scandal has already resulted in hundreds of drug cases being dropped and opened the door to appeals from hundreds more people currently in prison.

At a Tuesday press conference, State Police Superintendent Col. Carson Dunbar attributed the continuing decline to widespread fear among troopers that their jobs could be endangered by overzealous policing and to uncertainty about when cars could appropriately be searched.

"It's a normal reaction for people who have been criticized for being too aggressive," said Dunbar. "I don't think anybody can question the fact that everybody is examining everything that we do, and the troopers are being prudent in the sense that they want to make sure they do the job the right way."

"They've got to be sure about search-and-seizure," said the police commander. This is a normal reaction." "For the first six months or so, there's confusion as to what you should do, what you shouldn't do," he said. "We've had them retrained on what is probable cause, what is not probable cause... Guys are very sure in making sure that they protect themselves, and that's important. They should be very cognizant of what they do."

"There are guys that are more hesitant today than they were years ago," Dunbar added. "That's not all bad."

Troopers who had for years been trained to aggressively pursue drug busts and to target certain ethnic groups were suddenly confused about when to make searches, said Dunbar. But, he added, by the end of 2000, all troopers had been retrained on traffic stops.

"As we go down the road and troopers are more comfortable with probable cause and how far they can go, the numbers will come up," he predicted.

The troopers remain embittered and uncertain, a union representative told the Newark Star-Ledger.

"Clearly, this is a manifestation of the chilling effect of what has transpired over the past couple of years with the State Police," said Dave Jones, vice president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey.

"No guy in this day and age is going to risk his livelihood, his career, his liberties for a dope dealer who's going to make an allegation that the stop was improper or problematic, and hence the trooper ends up being on the defensive," Jones said.

Jones complained to the Star-Ledger that drug couriers continue to use the state's highways, which, he said, were now more attractive to drug runners.

"Every drug dealer in America high-fives when they see someone get in trouble over racial profiling," he said. "Nobody has profited over this more than the drug dealers. They love it."

"And so does every law-abiding African-American in New Jersey," retorted one observer. "White drug dealers, on the other, probably are not high-fiving."

Neither was ACLU of New Jersey executive director Deborah Jacobs impressed with Jones' remarks.

"I find that comment to be disheartening for a number of reasons," she told DRCNet. "All of society benefits from not using racial profiling, and that includes police officers. If they care about the integrity of what they do, they don't want to rely on discriminatory police practices."

"My hope is that a police union representative would respond favorably to solving this problem because he would care about police professionalism," Jacobs continued. "If you care about professionalism, you care that the police enforce the laws equally and use factual standards, not stereotypes or racial profiles."

"And it's really sort of silly, isn't it? I can't imagine where he got his information that drug dealers are happy about this scandal," Jacobs mused. "As for drug dealers, I imagine they would react like every other member of society who cares about equality. And if they're well-educated drug dealers, they would know that the war on drugs has not been enforced equally when it comes to skin color and class."

"One reason most Americans think of a young African-American male when they think of a criminal is because this country's drug policies have been primarily enforced among the poor and racial minorities," Jacobs concluded.

(Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/njprofiling/ to view the 91,000-page New Jersey Attorney General's Office racial profiling archive, made available online by DRCNet.)


2. Sen. Dodd Introduces Bill to Suspend Certification Process, Supports Move Toward Multilateral Drug War Evaluation Mechanism

The US Congress' 15-year experiment with "certifying" foreign countries' adherence to the US drug policy agenda could be put on hold if Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) has his way. On Wednesday, Dodd introduced S. 219, which would suspend certification for the next two years and direct the administration to develop alternative, multilateral methods of weighing each nation's drug control efforts. The bill was cosponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Ernest Hollings (D-SC).

Since 1986, Congress has directed the State Department to annually certify other countries' compliance with US drug enforcement goals, which are strongly weighted toward law enforcement and militarization of drug enforcement efforts. Countries that fail to win certification are then barred from receiving US foreign assistance (except anti-drug aid), and American representatives to lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are compelled to vote against their loan requests.

The annual ritual has aroused bitter condemnation from leaders in Latin America and elsewhere, who view it as high-handed, unilateral interference in their internal affairs. Latin American leaders have also been quick to point out that the region's drug trade is largely driven by US consumer demand.

"How does the country which figures as the principal market for narcotics get off certifying the efforts of other nations in this area?," asked Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel at the 1999 Organization of American States General Assembly.

"What comes to mind is how arbitrary, unilateral and lastly absurd this whole certification mechanism is," editorialized El Tiempo (Bogota) one of Colombia's leading newspapers, during the 1999 certification round.

"[Mexico] rejects mechanisms such as the certification process which violate principles founded in international law and respect for the dignity that should exist between countries," then-Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo Cuellar, told an international conference on corruption in Mexico City earlier that year.

The new Mexican government of Vicente Fox and Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who is on record calling for an end to drug prohibition, has indicated it will press for an end to certification. Fox told the Mexico City daily El Universal on Monday that he would ask Bush to scrap what the Mexican press commonly refers to as a "humiliating" process.

They may find a sympathetic hearing from Bush, who cultivated close ties with Mexican leaders during his Texas governorship, and from his new Secretary of State, Colin Powell. During his confirmation hearings, Powell asked senators to reduce the use of sanctions and certifications as a foreign policy tool.

The Dodd bill is also winning applause from activist organizations concerned with Latin America. Gina Amatangelo of the Washington Office on Latin America (http://www.wola.org) told DRCNet that WOLA supports the bill.

"This is an important first step," she said. "Getting rid of certification will not change what is wrong with current drug policies, but it will move toward a multilateral strategy where the US cannot so easily continue to impose a unilateral, militarized strategy."

Amatangelo referred to the Organization of American States' (OAS) Multilateral Exchange Mechanism (MEM), a hemispheric effort to monitor and evaluate drug control strategies where the US would be but one vote. (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/164.html#oasmeeting).

"The MEM is in its first year of development," said Amatangelo, "so we're waiting to see if that becomes an effective tool. We're hoping the Dodd initiative will create space for debate about a variety of alternatives."

And in its latest legislative update, the Latin America Working Group (http://www.lawg.org), a coalition of 60-odd religious, human rights, policy, and development organizations, called for its members to support the bill. The group said US drug policy in Latin America in general and certification in particular had a "negative impact on human rights and has not been the least bit effective in stemming the flow of illegal drugs into the United States."

Still, as DRCNet reported earlier, Congressional drug war hard-liners have vowed to fight an effort to end certification.


3. Interview: Sanho Tree on Colombia

As one of his last acts, outgoing President Bill Clinton waived human rights conditions attached to the last tranche of Plan Colombia aid released under his administration. The incoming Bush administration, by all indications, plans to continue if not deepen US assistance -- primarily military -- to the Colombian government as it attempts to eliminate the Colombian coca and cocaine industry while simultaneously prosecuting a 35-year-old guerrilla war.

Much of the killing, and the vast majority of the horrendous massacres that usually merit a paragraph or two in the US press, is done by the "paramilitaries," armed groups whose origins lie as vigilantes for Colombian landowners and cocaine barons. By their own admission, the paramilitaries profit hugely from the drug trade. Also by their own admission, and by the record, they are warriors in a civil war pitting the Colombian elite and portions of its frightened urban middle class against a mass of poor urban workers and rural peasants.

Human rights groups, both Colombian and international, have for years loudly and convincingly made the case that the paramilitaries work in alliance with the Colombian military. Even as they "soften up" the coca fields as the vanguard of Plan Colombia in the south, they do battle against the leftist FARC guerrillas, or more accurately, the FARC's potential civilian supporters, elsewhere in Colombia. Most recently, an AUC paramilitary column marched into the northern Colombian town of Chengue, dragged 24 men and boys from their beds, and smashed their skulls in with large rocks before leaving threatening graffiti and burning dozens of houses to the ground. A Washington Post reporter who visited the town days later reported it almost deserted, its residents having fled in terror. Survivors told the Post reporter military helicopters had overflown the area just prior to the attack. The military claimed no knowledge, despite earlier written requests for help from town residents who feared paramilitary attacks.

Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), visited Colombia on a fact-finding trip from January 5-17, including a week in Bogota, the nation's capital, and four days in Putumayo province, where Plan Colombia's coca-eradication program is in full swing and the first US-trained Colombian army anti-drug battalions are on the verge of moving in. The Week Online spoke with Tree this week about what he found.

WOL: With what sorts of groups and individuals did you meet?

Tree: A broad range of organizations. We met with people working on human rights issues, on indigenous rights -- there is tremendous pressure on the Uwa, for instance, from the people who want their natural resources. We met with drug policy experts, Colombian government officials, officials at the US Embassy. We talked to peasant organizations, too.

WOL: What is the atmosphere like in Colombia?

Tree: The human rights situation is god-awful. Being perceived as being for one side or the other is a death sentence. Coming from the US, it's hard to imagine. As you know, thousands have been killed, but its much deeper than that. We met with one person -- not a guerrilla, but an academic -- who was working with indigenous groups on mineral and oil issues. He hadn't slept in the same bed for two nights in a row for two years because his name was on a death list. There were 20 people on that list, which was handed out at traffic lights in downtown Bogota, and most have left the country. He chose to stay, but the price he has to pay is the loss of all routine if he wants to save his life. The Embassy says it is monitoring the situation, it takes human rights seriously, blah, blah, blah.

WOL: The "paramilitaries" are broadly condemned for their massacres and other atrocities. The US government officially sees them as the enemy, and the Colombian government has vowed to crack down on them, while critics say they are linked to the Colombian military. What have you seen on your trip that supports or belies either position?

Tree: Carlos Castano, the head of the AUC, the largest and most notorious of the paramilitaries, goes on national TV and is constantly interviewed and says he gets 70% of his funding from the drug trade. And there are charges pending against him in Colombia. Why can't the Colombian government or the DEA find him when any journalist can? I asked the Embassy, "Have you tried calling his press agent?" He's a self-admitted major drug trafficker, but they don't care. And the Colombian military won't say they work together, but there are countless press stories where the military people say "anonymous" paramilitaries are fighting the same enemy. That's the problem.

It's very difficult to tell the difference between the paramilitaries and the military -- and the rebels, for that matter. There's a popular Colombian cartoon with three identically dressed soldiers, and the caption is "Guess which is which. Guess wrong, you die." But you could see the paramilitaries on the streets of Puerto Assiz [the capital of Putumayo] -- they were the ones who didn't have a Colombian flag on their shoulders. Sometimes they put on an AUC armband. You can sometimes tell by the type of shoes they wear. If you're a peasant in the countryside and armed men show up wanting food and shelter, you can't say no. "You must be on our side," the armed men tell then, but you don't know whose side that is.

WOL: What was the situation in Putumayo?

Tree: The region is incredibly poor -- there was one stretch of paved road on the main street of Puerto Assiz, and all the rest was dirt. The province's main highway was a 1 1/2-lane dirt roadfull of rocks. My back still hurts! Now imagine trying to get your pineapples to nonexistent markets on inadequate roads to a marketplace where you can't complete because of globalization. I was horrified to learn that because of free trade, Colombia is now a net importer of coffee. Juan Valdez went from the coffee farms to the coca fields.

The further away from the main highway, the more evident it becomes that this is a region historically abandoned by the state. There is no infrastructure for development, no electricity, no running water, no street signs, no police. Now they're finally getting serious attention from the Colombian government, but it's helicopters and planes coming to destroy their crops. They don't understand why. We export the most lethal crop around. Should Colombia say to the United States, "You lack the political will, and we are coming in to fumigate North Carolina and wipe out tobacco?" Jesse Helms says those poor farmers have no viable alternative. What about the campesinos of Colombia?

WOL: US and Colombian officials say the spraying is carefully targeted and is not affecting other crops. What are people on the ground reporting?

Tree: That's what the guy at the Embassy said. If you want a good example of their accuracy, look at what happened to Senator Wellstone. That was a demonstration fumigation, the area was already pacified and pre-selected, they had the best planes and best hot shot pilots, and they still sprayed the group.

The most disturbing testimony I heard was from a 71-year-old widow whose crops were destroyed by the fumigation. She was from La Hormiga, a town about two hours from Puerto Aziz controlled by paramilitaries. She wasn't growing any coca. This older woman is crying and asking, "Who will feed me, I wasn't growing anything wrong, who will take care of me?"

The Embassy says there are Colombian channels to help such people, but given the role of the Colombian state and para-state actors in forcing peasants off the land whenever there was something to be gained, you have to be skeptical. The history has been, if you're a campesino, and especially if you're an indigenous campesino, you're screwed. There were so many reports of non-coca producing farms being destroyed that one has to ask whether they are being forced off their land under the pretext of coca eradication. Given the history and the non-coca targets, this bears close attention.

I watched a meeting where local officials tried to persuade peasants to sign voluntary eradication pacts where they agree to manually tear up their fields to avoid being sprayed. They must all sign collectively or they get sprayed. The government would promise a little bit of aid, but when they promised it last year, it didn't show up. Being there and having those people look at me with their incredibly sad eyes as they're forced to sign what amount to their own bankruptcy papers was horrible. I never felt so ashamed to be an American.

They don't understand the US drug problem. But they know they can't compete with bananas. They know they're facing starvation or joining the almost two million "internally displaced" Colombians -- you can't call them refugees because they haven't crossed a border. The local officials were putting on a brave face, but no one wants to eradicate their crops. And the fumigation planes were flying all day long.

After that, I met with the counternarcotics officer at the US Embassy, and he made the mistake of trying to tell me the peasants have to learn they can't make easy money growing coca. I'm afraid I lit into him. "Easy money?!," I shot at him. "Where do you get off calling that easy money?" The only person making easy money was that guy in the Embassy, with his high salary and hazardous duty pay, riding around in his chopper.

WOL: Does anyone in Colombia see Plan Colombia as a peace plan?

Tree: No. Some think it might be a victory plan. They are the desperate middle class, relatively well-off, but not necessarily well-informed on geopolitics or military strategy. They think that, with enough US assistance, they might actually succeed in defeating the guerrillas, but no one can win this civil war. The country is enormous and half of it is undeveloped; it can sustain any number of guerrilla armies. The Colombians don't maintain those Clintonian distinctions about how this is not a war against the guerrillas but a war against cocaine -- except when the gringos are around.

We didn't talk to anyone who identified themselves as guerrillas or guerrilla supporters. You don't do that if you want to live. But many people we spoke with oppose Plan Colombia, and you can see that opposition on the walls of Bogota, too. "Plan Colombia Equals Plan Death," read one graffito; another, referring to President Clinton's holiday visit to celebrate US military assistance, said, "Santa Claus Clinton, take your presents and go home."

The idea of thinking we can win the hearts and minds of peasants when the first thing the government does is destroy their livelihoods, that's not a smart idea. Neither is the idea that we can win the drug war this way. There are 1.2 billion people on this planet who live on less than dollar a day, and we're talking about illicit crops that grow in most climates and whose values are inflated by prohibition. The idea that we have this extreme poverty and prohibition of some crops that causes higher prices -- of course people are going to resort to growing those crops.

WOL: What have you been doing on Colombia since you returned?

Tree: I'm on a speaking tour. I went to Oregon -- Portland, Salem, Eugene -- and had an overwhelmingly positive reaction. In Eugene, maybe 350 people showed up for a 4-hour teach-in on Colombia. I'll be going to New England next, and I just participated in a forum on Capitol Hill. I'll be speaking out.

WOL: What is your sense of the state of opposition to Plan Colombia here in the US?

Tree: There is a fast-growing constituency in this country which is fed up with this. It's different from earlier solidarity movements, before the Internet. Then, you'd find out about something long after the fact, if somebody xeroxed an article from the New York Times or Boston Globe, but now we're learning about these atrocities in real time. Each massacre arrives in your computer mailbox, and people are responding. That's what I told the Colombian press: We are watching the human rights situation, we don't have to go out of our way to dig it up, it comes to us in our e-mail, and people are revolted.


4. And the Meaning of "Traffic" Is...?

Christian Ettinger for DRCNet

"Traffic," the widely viewed and seemingly even more widely commented on Hollywood hit about a day in the life of the drug war, carries a mixed message, and that is turning out to be a mixed bag for drug policy reformers. While director Steven Soderbergh's latest film shows the futility of the drug war, its overheated depiction of drug use has become fertile fodder for drug warriors who ignore the film's anti-drug war message.

Early on, some drug policy reformers thought that with "Traffic," they had a red-hot vehicle for advancing the cause. Activists from the November Coalition (http://www.november.org) held vigils outside movie theaters where the film played. One participant at a Nevada vigil told DRCNet her group passed materials and photos of nonviolent drug prisoners.

And it is working. She wrote that since the vigil, four people actually called her to find out how they could get involved in stopping the drug war. "Having a human face to look at makes the issue seem more real," she wrote.

Meanwhile, Shawn Heller, National Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) has also been using the film as a teaching tool. "I point out the recent trends in the reduction in education spending vs. the increase in prison spending," he told DRCNet. He said students connected with SSDP are going to movie theaters around the country distributing flyers and assembling groups to go see the film as a formal outing.

But while drug policy reform activists see the film as an opportunity to end the drug war, some drug warriors also view the film positively. One hard-liner goes so far as to say that "Traffic" is a call to increase the drug war's intensity. Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying organization, has only good things to say about "Traffic."

For Maginnis, the film is a call to arms. In an editorial titled "Traffic' Provides a Wakeup Call for Bush," Maginnis wrote, "Hollywood is rarely helpful when it comes to formulating policy for a new administration, but President elect George W. Bush could glean some important ideas about America's 30-year-old drug war from the hit movie "Traffic."

And what might those be? What Maginnis gleaned from the film is testimony to the mutability of its messages (and, to be fair, the immutability of certain strongly held beliefs). "Legalization is not the answer," Maginnis discovered. "Legalizing drugs will cause social costs to skyrocket, with increases in homelessness, unemployment, lost productivity, medical care costs, accidents, crime, school dropouts and child neglect."

Some progressives have lambasted the film. Louis Proyect of the Black Radical Congress both decried the film's portrayal of black America as racially insensitive: "In a search for his daughter, which has all the hyped up intensity of a Charles Bronson revenge melodrama, Wakefield (the new drug czar, played by Michael Douglas) descends into the black community, which takes on all the characteristics of the Casbah. Blacks on the street appear menacing to Wakefield as if each had a knife in one pocket and a drug stash in the other."

Others view it as a clarion call for an end to prohibition.

Arizona Republic columnist Ricardo Pimental, in an essay quoted at length in a subsequent William F. Buckley column, wrote: "We see that the monkey on our back is not drugs but the addictive need to get tough on an issue that demands far more finesse than a wiretap, a SWAT team and border blockade. Soon President Bush's agenda will be the appointment of a drug czar. Before he does that, however, he, his cabinet and the drug czar designate should see 'Traffic.'"

Salim Muwakkiil of In These Times agreed. "'Traffic' lays bare the futility of a destructive war on drugs that has gridlocked our culture in the logic of law enforcement. The film should be mandatory viewing for Congress and the incoming Bush Administration."

That disparate voices like Maginnis and Muwakkiil, with their wildly differing interpretations of the movie, are calling on the new president to ponder this film, is testament both to its power and its ultimately confused message. As Soderbergh himself told the Village Voice, "Traffic" may not be the windfall reformers hoped; instead it seems to act as a Rorschach ink-blot of a film where viewers see what they want.

"The funny thing is everybody who sees it thinks it puts their point of view across and I was expecting exactly the opposite," said Soderbergh. "We had a screening in Washington for Customs, the DEA and the Department of Justice and they all came out saying they really liked it. The following night there was this hardcore leftie NPR PBS screening in LA and some guy stands up and goes, 'Thank you for making the first pro-legalization movie.' Then the other night former New York City Police Commission Howard Safir (the architect of the city's no-tolerance anti-marijuana campaign) came to a screening and said he thought it was the most accurate representation of law enforcement he'd seen in a long time."

The movie's star, Michael Douglas, seconded that analysis. "Everyone who has seen the movie comes out of it with a different reaction. We screened it for the DEA and Customs and they're happy with it, believing it shows how tough their job is. Other people see it and think the message is that the war on drugs is futile."

A mixed bag, perhaps, but "Traffic" is stirring debate, and the activists are taking advantage.


5. Drug Testing Declines Among Private Employers, but Testing Industry is Ready to Fight

"Don't ask questions if you don't want to hear the answers," is Eric Greenberg's explanation of why employer drug-testing of applicants and current employees is on the decline. A tight job market and an upsurge of job-seekers who refuse to submit to pre-employment testing are making big companies less likely to do drug testing, he told the Dallas Morning News.

Greenberg, director of management studies for the American Management Association presided over that group's latest annual survey of corporate testing practices, conducted last summer (http://www.amanet.org/research/pdfs/medicl2.0.pdf). According to that survey, drug testing among "major US corporations" has declined steadily over the past four years, from 81% in 1997 to 66% last year.

"There has been a statistically significant decline in testing," Greenberg told the Morning News. "It seems logical to assume that it comes, in part, because of concerns over recruitment and retention."

In a press release announcing its research results, the association's global human resources practice leader, Ellen Bayer, confirmed the decline in testing, but noted that more companies are monitoring employees for productivity and compliance issues.

"The data suggests that in today's tight labor market, employers may be more concerned with bottom line, on-the-job productivity and compliance matters than with actuarial issues, off-the-job habits or potential medical problems."

"AMA encourages companies to create testing programs that zero in on specific competencies and behaviors that are really important for day-to-day job performance," said Bayer.

Vail Resorts in Colorado is one example of the trend. Last summer, it announced it was ending pre-employment drug testing at its Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas. Rick Smith, vice president of human resources at Breckenridge, told the Summit Free Press (Breckinridge) the company spent about $150,000 annually, but did not find significant drug use in the six years it used the pre-employment tests.

"We thought that money could be better spent on guest services training, more recruiting, advertising and job fairs," Smith said.

That's anathema to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), the leading lobbying organizing for the drug testing industry. For the last five years, it has lobbied Congress to broaden and deepen drug testing, barely bothering to hide its members' financial self-interest beneath the cloak of a "drug free workplace" campaign.

It helped persuade Congress last session to create the Drug Free Workplace Grants Program, administered by the Department of Labor, in 1998, and last year convinced Congress to increase its funding to $5 million annually through 2003. Aimed at increasing the use of employment drug testing among small businesses by providing tax incentives, the program stands to bring large benefits to drug testing corporations.

But the industry group isn't resting on its laurels. A round-up of the group's legislative agenda on its web site promises that "DATIA will continue to actively work with Congress to create and endorse new drug and alcohol testing legislation that could open new markets and change the way in which the drug and alcohol testing industry conducts business."

To that end, DATIA vows not only to pursue more widespread workplace drug testing, but also to work for expanded testing elsewhere and to criminalize efforts to defeat drug tests. It will lobby the new Congress to expand drug testing in schools, says the web site, and it will move against "adulterants," substances that are used to mask evidence of drug use.

Complaining that "under federal law, no such prohibitions exist," DATIA lauded laws in four states (Texas, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and South Carolina) making it a crime to use adulterants to beat a drug test, and said it would work for such legislation at the federal level.

It also anounced a two-pronged strategy to combat the use of adulterants. First, DATIA recommended, its members should contact their state Attorneys General to complain about the ease with which adulterants have been purchased. They should also, said DATIA, contact Internet search engines, "informing them of the potential illegality of listing such sites."

Second, the trade organization will lobby Capitol Hill to ban the sale and use of adulterants. It said it will do so through "cooperative efforts" with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and various executive branch departments.


6. Drug Bills in the Virginia Legislature: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As the two houses of the Virginia legislature, the GOP-dominated Senate and the Democratic-controlled House of Delegates, roll up their sleeves for the Old Dominion's brief and frenzied legislative session, they confront a raft of drug-policy related bills and resolutions.

On one side, representatives have introduced bills that would require Virginia state police to keep racial profiling statistics and would reduce the penalty for first-time marijuana possession, and a number of resolutions expressing the sense of the assembly on drug policy issues have also been introduced.

At the same time, drug policy hard-liners have introduced proposals to extend the drug war and further punish its victims.

For Lennice Werth of Virginians Against Drug Violence (http://www.drugsense.org/dpfva/), the diverging policy proposals mean another session in the trenches.

"These bills are a real mixed bag," she told DRCNet, "it's going to be a weird year for us. How do you deal with someone who wants to make selling urine or spray paint a crime?"

Werth was referring to House Bill 2478, which would make it a misdemeanor "for a person to distribute or market urine in the Commonwealth or transport urine into the Commonwealth with the intent of using the urine to defeat a drug or alcohol screening test." Its companion, Senate Bill 508, makes a misdemeanant out of any store clerk who sells inhalants to a minor he "knows or has reason to know will be inhaled or smelled by the minor to intoxicate, inebriate, excite, stupefy or to dull his brain or nervous system."

"The urine replacement bill is a bad bill, but we'll be lucky to stop it," Werth said. "It passed out of committee in the House this week, it'll be difficult to stop in the House, and even more difficult in the Senate."

"We need help on this one," she said.

There will also be a fight over penalties for marijuana possession. Senate Bill 1400, "a destructive holdover from last year," as Werth puts it, would raise simple possession to a class one misdemeanor and allow judges to suspend drivers' licenses for up to a year. But House Bill 2751 moves in the opposite direction; it would reduce penalties for first-time offenders from 100 hours of community service to 24 hours.

Unhappily for marijuana reform advocates, the bill has been referred to the dreaded House Committee on Militia and Police. This week Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher described the committee as "the killing field" or "the place bills go to die."

He quoted Delegate Karen Darner (D-Arlington) on the committee's function. "Anything the Speaker wants killed, he sends there," she said.

Some favorable bills and resolutions that have not yet been assigned such a dire fate include:

  • House Joint Resolution 673, which expresses the sense of the legislature that the drug war sacrifices the rights of all. The resolution calls on the Virginia Attorney General to educate citizens about the rights guaranteed through the US and Virginia constitutions.
  • House Joint Resolution 605, which calls for legalization of industrial hemp.
  • House Joint Resolution 687, which calls for a rewrite of the criminal code regarding sentencing for drugs and other offenses.
There is danger as well as opportunity any time sentences are being debated, and reformers already have to fend off a measure, Senate Bill 1178, that would ratchet up penalties for methamphetamine offenses to equal the state's harsh cocaine penalties. But the indefatigable Werth is optimistic. "We are well positioned to work within this process to affect some very desirable reforms," she said. "I'll be there to testify for that."

"And against the Archie Bunker bill, I suppose," she sighed. That bill, introduced in both houses, is named after the character played by actor Carroll O'Connor, who embraced such tactics after his drug-using son committed suicide. It would make any drug seller civilly liable for financial and emotional damage suffered by any user of drugs.

Time is short, said Werth. "This is a whirlwind session; it'll be over in early March. If you can help, now is the time."


7. Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in New Mexico Legislature

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

Santa Fe, NM: Both a medical marijuana and a marijuana decriminalization bill were introduced in the New Mexico state legislature yesterday.

Sens. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) and Roman Maes III (D-Santa Fe) introduced Senate Bill 319 and Rep. Joe Thompson (R-Albuquerque) introduced House Bill 431, which would allow seriously ill patients to legally use marijuana as a medicine. The bills would cover patients suffering from such debilitating diseases such as cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, and severe muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease. The proposals would revise the "Lynn Pierson Act," a long dormant New Mexico medical marijuana law originally enacted in 1978 that allowed for the medical use of marijuana only in a research setting.

Sen. McSorley also introduced Senate Bill 315, which would decriminalize the possession of marijuana for recreational use. Anyone over 18 years old who possesses an ounce or less of marijuana would face a $100 civil fine enforced with a citation and no arrest.

Gov. Gary Johnson (R) proposed the two marijuana law reform proposals in January, based on a report prepared by the New Mexico Drug Policy Advisory Group, which called the "war on drugs" a failure, said that sick and dying patients should be allowed to use marijuana medicinally and called for decriminalizing minor marijuana offenses.

Over the past two weeks, NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor at the Harvard Medical School (Emeritus) and Dr. John P. Morgan, professor of pharmacology at the City University of New York Medical School, have traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to meet with legislators and to build support for the two proposals.

"It's an exciting time to be working with the New Mexico legislature," Stroup said. "The individual members seem aware that current drug policies aren't working, and are interested in learning more about the governor's proposals. New Mexico has a short 60-day legislative session, so we'll know soon whether these proposals enjoy majority support."


8. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court Tosses Out HUD "One Strike and You're Out" Eviction Policy

On January 23rd, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that public housing officials cannot evict tenants merely because their guests or household members used drugs.

According to housing advocates, thousands of public housing tenants have been evicted for that reason since President Clinton announced the policy in 1996. Under Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations, tenants could be evicted if their guests or family members used drugs or committed drug-related crimes, even if the tenant was unaware of any illegal activity.

The case arose when four elderly tenants of the Oakland Housing Authority challenged the federal policy after receiving eviction notices:

  • Pearlie Rucker, 63, her mentally disabled daughter, two grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter were informed they would be evicted after the daughter was caught with cocaine three blocks away.
  • Willie Lee, 71, and Barbara Hill, 63, received eviction notices after their teenaged grandsons were caught smoking marijuana in an apartment complex garage.
  • Herman Walker, 75 and disabled, was given an eviction notice after his caretaker and the caretaker's guests were caught with cocaine.
A federal circuit court judge issued an order blocking the evictions in 1998, but a three-panel 9th Circuit panel later reinstated the evictions. The tenants appealed to the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where they won last week.

The ruling is binding only in the nine Western states covered by the 9th Circuit, but tenants' rights advocates expect it will shape court decisions across the land.

"This will have a substantial impact nationwide," Catherine Bishop, a staff attorney for the National Housing Law Project told the Los Angeles Times. "And hopefully, housing authorities will wake up and realize they cannot evict innocent tenants."


9. Newsbrief: MS Sufferer Guilty in DC Medical Marijuana Case

A District of Colombia Superior Court Judge has found Michigan multiple sclerosis patient and medical marijuana user Renee Emry Wolfe guilty of possessing marijuana in then-Rep. Bill McCollum's (R-FL) Capitol Hill office in 1998.

Wolfe lit up in McCollum's office during a protest against a resolution he introduced in the House that day saying that marijuana is a dangerous drug and should not be legalized for medical use. Wolfe was part of a larger demonstration and carried a banner that said: "I use marijuana for medical purposes."

Wolfe's attorney, Jeffrey Orchard, told the court that Wolfe originally intended only to communicate her views about the issue to the congressman, but the tense environment in the hostile office caused Wolfe to believe she was about to suffer another episode of spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis. She then lit up a joint to reduce the symptoms, Orchard said.

Orchard told the judge Wolfe had a medical necessity defense, but Judge Stephanie Duncan-Peters rejected that argument, ruling that there was little evidence that Wolfe was suffering a spasticity attack and that Wolfe had not exhausted legal alternatives.

"I do believe Mrs. Wolfe is guilty of possession," Duncan-Peters said. "I don't think a necessity defense has been made out in this case."

But Judge Duncan-Peters went easy on sentencing Wolfe. She will have to pay $50 court costs and do 50 hours of community service. The judge did not sentence Wolfe to any sort of judicial supervision, which could have sent Wolfe back before the court for smoking marijuana.

"I would prefer that (Wolfe) return to her home and deal with her medical condition in whatever way she and her doctor deem appropriate," Duncan-Peters said.

"If part of her purpose or all of her purpose is to educate, I certainly consider myself educated during the process of this trial," the judge said after sentencing.

Wolfe told the Associated Press she was encouraged by the judge's remarks.

Nearly 70 percent of District of Columbia voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998, but successive Congresses have blocked the will of voters in the nation's capital.


10. The Reformer's Calendar: Portland, Philadelphia, New York, DC, SF, Minneapolis, St. Petersburg, Fort Bragg, Miami, Amsterdam, New Delhi

(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)

February 2, 8:30am-5:30pm, San Francisco, CA, "The State of Ecstasy: The Medicine, Science and Culture of MDMA." One day conference, sponsored by The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, at the Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco. For further information, call (415) 921-4987 or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/ecstasy/ on the web.

February 10-11, Fort Bragg, NC, Demonstration for Peaceful Solutions in Colombia. Organized by Peace Plan Colombia, call (919) 928-9828, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.peaceplancolombia.org for further information.

February 13, 5:30-8:30pm, New York, NY, "Yes in My Backyard." Premiere screening of the first documentary portrait of a rural prison town. At the Open Society Institute, 400 W. 59th St., RSVP by 2/2 to Jennifer Page, (212) 547-6997.

February 18, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Emperor of Hemp," the story of activist Jack Herer. Movie Night at the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., free, seating limited. RSVP to (215) 386-9224 or visit http://www.whitedog.com for further info; restaurant service available before, during and after movie.

February 22-24, New York, NY, "Altered States of Consciousness" conference. At the New School, e-mail [email protected] for further information.

March 5, 6:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "The Quagmire in Colombia: Addressing the Drug War Habit." Table Talk with Prof. Ken Sharpe of Swarthmore College, at the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., $30 includes three-course dinner and discussion, $25 for full-time students registering in advance. For further information visit http://www.whitedog.com or call (215) 386-9224; students may call between for 4:00 and 5:30pm on event days for standby registration, $15 (dinner) or free (discussion only, 7:30).

March 7, 10:00am, Philadelphia, PA, Philadelphia Prison System Tour and Lunch. At the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center, 8301 State Road, will include discussion with inmates and drug treatment staff. Lunch provided by the Hard Time Cafe, a culinary arts training program for prisoners. Reservations required, call (215) 386-9224, $6/person for lunch and tour, carpooling available.

March 9-11, New York, NY, Critical Resistance: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex. Northeast regional conference, following on the large national gathering in 1998, to focus on the impacts of the prison industrial complex in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC. Visit http://www.criticalresistance.org for further information, or call (212) 561-0912 or e-mail [email protected].

March 11, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, "The Drug Dilemma: War or Peace," with Walter Cronkite, and "War Zone," film examining police state tactics in the drug war. Movie Night at the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., free, seating limited. RSVP to (215) 386-9224 or visit http://www.whitedog.com for further info; restaurant service available before, during and after movie.

March 15-18, Miami, FL, "Reason Weekend," sponsored by the Reason Foundation. For information, call Amber Trudgeon at (310) 391-2245 or e-mail [email protected].

March 23-24, New York, NY, "Widening Destruction: A Teach-In on the Drug War and Colombia." Four panel, two-day seminar sponsored by NACLA and Colombia Students for Enacting Humane Drug Policies, at Columbia University Law School, 435 West 116th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue). Pre-register online at http://www.nacla.org for $8 through 5:00pm, 3/21, or register on site for $10. Contact Anne Glatz at [email protected] for further information.

March 26, 6:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, Hemp Dinner with Richard Rose, of Hempnut, Inc. and author of "The HempNut Health and Cookbook." Book and the Cook night at the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., $45, includes three-course dinner and discussion. Reservations required, RSVP to (215) 386-9224, visit http://www.whitedog.com for further information.

April 1-5, New Delhi, India, 12th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Coalition, for information visit http://www.ihrc-india2001.org on the web, e-mail [email protected], call 91-11-6237417-18, fax 91-11-6217493 or write to Showtime Events Pvt. Ltd., S-567, Greater Kailash - II, New Delhi 110 048, India.

April 9, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, Storytelling Night with Families Against Mandatory Minimums Communications Director Monica Pratt and members of families affected by mandatory minimum sentencing. At the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., optional a la carte dinner at 6:00pm. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit http://www.whitedog.com for further information.

April 19-21, Washington, DC, 2001 NORML Conference. Visit http://www.norml.org/calendar/conf2001intro.shtml to register or for further information, or call (202) 483-5500.

April 25-28, Minneapolis, MN, North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, for further information call (253) 272-4857, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.nasen.org on the web. At the Marriott City Center Hotel, 30 South Seventh Street.

May 20-27, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Study Tour of Dutch Drug Policy, organized by the White Dog Cafe. Particularly for persons with a background in health and social services, legislation, activism, drug law or policy. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit http://www.whitedog.com for further information.


11. Editorial: Moving Forward with Open Eyes

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

One of the late pieces of news this week was the final confirmation of John Ashcroft as US Attorney General. The US Senate gave Ashcroft the nod by a vote of 58-42, the closest margin ever for an approved Cabinet official.

As US Senator, Ashcroft had one of the worst, most extreme records on drug policy issues, as DRCNet has discussed in its pages recent weeks. As Missouri Governor, he appears to have given the okay to state police to ignore the state constitution's asset forfeiture clause and launder seized funds through the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and back to their own treasuries, rather than turning the money over to Missouri's schools as the constitution requires.

Still, reformers should keep hope. John Ashcroft is entering office and beginning his job as perhaps the most controversial, highly scrutinized Attorney General ever -- he will be watched, closely. Given the level of attention he has drawn, the nation may be better off than if he had been defeated and someone less controversial but realistically almost as bad been appointed.

Though drug warrior Ashcroft is a Republican appointee, let's all be clear that the drug war holds enough blame to go around. Indeed, two of this week's articles point to ugly drug war policies where Democrats played the leading role.

It took the 9th Circuit Court, for example, to overturn a Clinton Administration policy of evicting public housing tenants if anyone living in a unit uses drugs -- anywhere, not just in the building -- with or without the knowledge of the renters. And one of the outgoing President's last actions was to waive human rights requirements written into the Colombia funding package and send the last piece of aid to a military that works closely with some of the world's most savage killers.

Indeed, the Bush Presidency could help to bring some needed clarity to drug policy. Many liberals were lulled by soft Clinton/McCaffrey rhetoric about treatment and drug prevention, masking a reality made up of ever-increasing arrests, incarcerations and civil rights curtailments. Perhaps Americans concerned about drug policy reform will be more awake to drug war atrocities committed by Republicans than those committed by Democrats.

The Ashcroft appointment certainly appears to be a defeat for drug policy reform. But perhaps in the long run it will turn out to be a victory in disguise. Moving forward with open eyes, our movement and its allies may yet turn adversity into opportunity.


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