(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #174, 2/23/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Phillip S. Smith, Editor
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Latest Drug Czar nominee rumor: Elizabeth Dole
TABLE OF CONTENTS
the Week Online archives)
1. New Report Rakes Clinton on Imprisonment
A report released this week by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice's Justice Policy Institute scores former President Bill Clinton for a "prison legacy... more punitive than those of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush combined," and provides the numbers to back it up.
The report, entitled "Too Little, Too Late: President Clinton's Prison Legacy," (http://www.cjcj.org/clinton/) finds that during former President Clinton's first-term (1992-1996), 148,000 more state and federal prisoners were added than during President Reagan's first term (1980-1984), and 34,000 more than were added during President George Bush's four-year term (1988-1992). The study also showed that the incarceration rate of African Americans continued to rise substantially under Clinton.
"President Clinton stole the show from the 'tough-on-crime' Republicans," said JPI President Vincent Schiraldi in a press release accompanying the report. "President Clinton was right to call for criminal justice reform in a recent Rolling Stone interview. He was wrong to do so little about it while he was in office."
The report's authors also called on President Bush to fulfill his recently articulated interest in "making sure the powder-cocaine and crack-cocaine penalties are the same" by abolishing federal crack/powder sentencing disparities this legislative session and "[making sure] our drug-prevention programs are effective" (CNN Inside Politics, January 18, 2001).
It also called on Bush to support "treatment not jail" programs, pointing to California's Prop. 215 and to ongoing reform efforts by Republican Governors Johnson of New Mexico and Pataki of New York.
"When Clinton came into office, he had a ten-year incarceration boom to outshine," stated report co-author Lisa Feldman. "As the governor with the nation's largest prison population and the most executions, President Bush has no need to prove his conservative mettle. He has shown he can be tough on crime -- now he has the opportunity to prove he can be smart on crime as well."
In other findings, the study reports:
2. The Coca-Go-Round: Peruvian Production Starts to Increase as Spraying Destroys Colombian Fields
The effects of Plan Colombia are beginning to be felt across the Andean region, although not exactly in the way US officials hoped. While US and Colombian officials tout the early success of their herbicide-based coca eradication program in southern Colombia, the United Nations Drug Control Project (UNDCP), in a report soon to be released, says that raw coca prices are now rising in Peru and that farmers there are returning to once abandoned coca fields.
UN investigator Humberto Chirinos told the BBC that Peru's coca industry is taking off again. The price of coca leaf has doubled from $2 to $4 per kilogram in the last six months, he said, while the price per kilogram of refined cocaine has risen to over $1,100, also up substantially in recent months. Hundreds of thousands of acres could be returned to production within three to six months, said Chirinos. New production has already been reported in the southeast, he added.
The UNDCP's Peru representative, Patricio Vendenberghe, told the BBC such a rebound in Peruvian coca production would be a "logical move." Peru, once the world's largest coca producer, saw its production peak at 319,000 acres in 1992, according to CIA estimates, before declining to 85,000 acres last year. But as coca crops decreased in Peru and neighboring Bolivia, cultivation migrated to Colombia. Now, that process is beginning to reverse itself.
"These first impacts are the result of Plan Colombia; the first sign is this price hike," Roger Rumrill, a Peruvian specialist on drug trade told Knight Ridder News Service.
It is a chronicle of a boom foretold. In an interview with Knight Ridder last fall, Lima drug-trade economist Hugo Cabieses prophesied: "If Plan Colombia suppresses southern Colombia, where about 70 percent of Colombia's coca crop is grown, then there will be a dispersion of the crops, to Peru or Ecuador."
An increase in Peruvian coca production will mark a sorry end to what US officials have touted as an "Andean success story." Throughout the 1990s, the US allied itself with now disgraced former Peruvian strong-man Alberto Fujimori and his eminence grise, the gun-running, money-laundering, dissident-killing drug warrior and CIA asset Vladimiro Montesinos, now a fugitive last reported to be undergoing plastic surgery in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government denies this last claim, only one of many "sightings" of the shadowy Montesinos since he fled Peru after provoking the collapse of the Fujimori regime last fall.
US officials praised Fujimori's hardline approach, which included shooting down the airplanes of suspected smugglers, but the decline in Peruvian coca cultivation had as much to do with market adjustments as it did with anti-aircraft missiles or DEA agents prowling the Upper Huallaga River valley. The Peruvian market collapsed with the 1995 fall of the Colombian Cali cartel, which had been its largest customer.
Ricardo Vargas is an analyst for Accion Andina, a group searching for peaceful alternatives to drug trafficking and its repression. He told LeMonde Diplomatique (Paris), "Cali bought up 60% of Peruvian production. Prices collapsed in Peru. Then and only then did production tail off."
As Colombian cocaine trafficking splintered after the demise of the cartels, new, more amorphous groups of traffickers brought coca production to Colombia to shorten their supply lines. As LeMonde put it: "In other words, under Alberto Fujimori, it was not repression of the peasants or alternative production programmes that led to a decrease in the land area cultivated, but the break-up of a large mafia-style organisation at the highest level, and the change in strategy of its successors."
Now, with market conditions changing as a direct consequence of Plan Colombia, it looks like it is Peru's turn again. As prices began to rise last fall in anticipation of Plan Colombia, Peruvian coca growers brought the government's eradication program to its knees. Last November, some 35,000 coca growers in the Upper Huallaga blocked highways in the biggest protests in the coca fields in a decade. The government agreed to end the eradication program.
The incipient boom in Peruvian coca production underlines the futility of US supply-side drug policy. As the Lindesmith Center's Ethan Nadelmann told Knight Ridder: "Why won't production pop back up in Peru and Bolivia? There is a fundamental failure to look at the cocaine market as a global commodities market."
(Mike Gray's "Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out" includes a vivid description of the previous Bush administration's Peruvian coca war. Make a $35 or greater contribution to DRCNet and receive a free copy! Visit http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html and write "Drug Crazy" in the comment box, or send your donation and book request to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.)
3. Washington State Hardliners Pitch Kindler, Gentler Drug War in Bid to Preempt Deeper Reforms
In yet another indication that the ground is shifting on drug policy, longtime Washington state drug warriors are moving to cut prison sentences for drug sellers. They are admittedly acting to fend off a nascent citizens' initiative modeled on California's Prop. 36, which diverts nonviolent drug law violators from prison into treatment programs.
"Law and order" conservatives led by King County (Seattle) Prosecutor Norm Maleng joined forces with legislative liberals in touting bills they said would save the state millions of dollars in prison costs by expanding mandatory drug treatment. Meanwhile, a state sentencing commission is studying the issue and is expected to recommend similar reforms, as is the King County Bar Association.
But with drug reformers breathing down their necks, even the hardliners want to act now.
"It is time to move our drug policy in a new direction... to renew a commitment to treatment," Maleng told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I believe we can have a drug policy that is more effective, more balanced and more fair."
The plan pushed by Maleng, a prominent Republican, was introduced in the state Senate by a Democrat, Julia Patterson (Seattle-Tacoma). SB 5419 would cut six months from sentences for first-time, nonviolent drug sellers, who currently serve 21- to 27-month sentences. It would also cut sentences for four-time drug offenders, dropping them from a mandatory minimum 10 years to a 31- to 41-month range.
The bill and a similar bill in the House would use the savings from reduced prison costs to create a drug treatment fund administered by the state Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. The bills' authors estimate the state would transfer $2.5 million from prisons to treatment next year, with the annual appropriation increasing over the years to $16 million in 2006.
The turnaround comes after more than a decade of get-tough drug policies engineered by Prosecutor Maleng, among others. As a result, the number of Washington drug prisoners has increased 15-fold in the last 15 years, driven in large part by 1989 legislation that doubled prison sentences for drug offenses. About 3,000 people -- 22% of the total prison population -- are currently serving time on drug charges in the state.
At house committee hearings on Monday, Maleng was joined by such state criminal justice heavyweights as Corrections Secretary Joseph Lehman, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge and King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Brian Gain in calling for the sentence reductions. Legislators also heard testimony from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, which reviewed 71 drug-treatment studies and concluded that drug treatment could reduce criminal recidivism rates and save the state $2 for each $1 spent.
While the bills appear likely to pass, they are not nearly enough for local drug reformers, who are already organizing and gaining funding for a California-style initiative. The Seattle Times reported that the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington is receiving funding from George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier who has poured millions into drug reform efforts. Gerald Sheehan of the Washington ACLU (http://www.aclu-wa.org/ ) told legislators his group would attempt to block the bills, saying they rely too heavily on imprisonment and would not adequately fund drug treatment.
Maleng is trying to deflate the momentum for a deeper reform, Sheehan told the Times. "Norm is just seeking to keep control of the thing," he said. "But he and others are way behind the national curve on this thing."
Sheehan isn't the only drug reform veteran gearing up for a possible initiative. Rob Killian, the Seattle physician who organized a 1998 initiative that legalized the use of medical marijuana in Washington state, told the Seattle Times reforms needed to be much deeper if legislators hoped to avoid a grassroots initiative. When he was asked if the money was there, he told the paper: "There are lots of people interested in seeing an initiative like this funded."
In an interview with the Post-Intelligencer, Seattle attorney Dan Merkle, another initiative advocate, said he could not help but agree when Maleng told lawmakers the system was out of balance, but Maleng's proposals were too little too late. But aside from treatment funding levels and sentencing adjustments, Merkle raised more pointed criticisms.
The bills' premise that "the criminal justice system should use its coercive authority to force offenders into treatment" is cause for concern, Merkle said. He told the Post-Intelligencer that the object of the proposal "is to maintain and increase the control of law enforcement over the drug war."
The drug war continues in Washington state, but now the drug warriors are playing defense.
4. New Mexico: Update on Gov. Johnson's Drug Reform Package
Republican Gov. Gary Johnson's comprehensive drug reform package is advancing by fits and starts as the legislative clock ticks down in New Mexico. Seven bills calling for decriminalization of less than an ounce of marijuana, medical marijuana, sentencing and asset forfeiture reform, syringe accessibility, and limited liability for those who administer anti-opioid drugs to overdose victims have been introduced, but the package is unlikely to survive intact.
It now appears that not all parts of the package will pass, with the marijuana decrim bill most in danger, and the governor's sentencing reforms may be endangered by his libertarian reluctance to spend money for drug treatment programs.
Democrats had repeatedly warned the governor that he must put up the cash for treatment if he wanted to see his package have a chance of passing. Last month, Sen. Manny Aragon (D-Albuquerque) took to the Senate floor to tell Johnson to "put your money where your mouth is" and be "intellectually honest about a monetary figure on what it costs to treat heroin addicts."
Johnson did offer a $9.8 million appropriation for treatment, and that was good enough for Aragon, who cosponsored it along with more than a dozen other Democrats in both legislative houses. But last week, Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque), one of the package's key supporters, informed Johnson that he would not sponsor the legislation, saying the funding level was inadequate.
"I cannot sponsor your bill," McSorley wrote to the governor. "Your bill ensures the death of drug reform this year."
McSorley argued that the state should spend at least $40 million for treatment and prevention programs, and he was notably unimpressed by the fact, pointed out by Johnson, that his bill represented a 30% over previous funding levels.
"It doesn't matter if your numbers are a 33% increase; $9.8 million is just too small," McSorley wrote. "It is inadequate because it is not recurring and it is not built into the budget base."
McSorley isn't alone. House Speaker Ben Lujan (D-Santa Fe), and Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D-Albuquerque), told the Albuquerque Journal the governor's proposal was not enough.
"If we're really serious about addressing the problem of drugs in New Mexico, we need to step forward and show that we really support the prospect of treatment and prevention by providing sufficient dollars to take care of it," Lujan said. "Cisco and I have been talking, and certainly we felt that $40 million would be something that would address those needs that are out there."
Romero told the Journal he did not know what the appropriate funding level was, but that he was going with his political ally. McSorley and one other Democrat had joined with all 18 Senate Republicans to oust Aragon from the President Pro Tem position earlier this session.
"I have to trust people like Cisco," he explained.
Supporters of the package remain cautiously optimistic, however. Former Democratic Gov. Tony Anaya, who is lobbying Democrats in the legislature and being paid by the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, saw the move as just politics.
"This a political environment, and things ultimately get worked out," Anaya told the Journal. "The biggest issue that I've run into on the treatment is the funding source... That's just an issue the legislators and the governor may have to try to work out."
Anaya's Republican lobbying companion, Mickey Barnett, was soothing. "I'm just hopeful that when it finally comes time to vote that everybody will just vote their conscience," Barnett said. "And I think Cisco's for the bills, so I hope that when he actually votes, he won't vote no just because he doesn't agree on the funding bill."
David Goldstein, a research associate with Lindesmith's New Mexico office, told DRCNet he thought McSorley was just playing position politics. "The governor might be open to raising the funding appropriation for treatment," said Goldstein, "but the $40 million is just not feasible. Even the Democrats who genuinely want treatment wouldn't allocate that much money."
"It could be nothing more than bargaining," Goldstein said. "I don't think it will sabotage the bill, it's just politics."
Meanwhile, the governor's medical marijuana bill is sailing along despite still unresolved questions about how patients are supposed to obtain the stuff. Identical bills in the House and Senate easily won approval in their respective public affairs committees and now face votes in the judiciary committees.
The bill was publicly backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the New Mexico Medical Society, the state Department of Public Safety and the governor's taskforce. Lawmakers also heard powerful personal testimonials for patients whose lives have been eased by medical marijuana. "In my judgement, this is not a law enforcement issue before you today," Department of Public Safety Secretary Nicholas Baker told the committees.
The marijuana decriminalization push is not faring nearly as well. Gov. Johnson's legislative liason, Dave Miller, told the Santa Fe New Mexican last week that decrim was "dead in the water," before later amending his remarks to say, "The fight goes on. Decriminalization is alive, though it may not be well."
The set of sentencing reform measures also appeared headed for a tough fight. "Sentencing reforms are very controversial," Lindesmith's Goldstein told DRCNet. "It's hard to say which will pass."
Goldstein and the lobbyists are optimistic about medical marijuana, asset forfeiture reform (which has already won committee approval), and the bill allowing pharmacists to sell clean needles to drug users. They also expect the anti-opioid overdose measure to pass.
Things will have to happen fast if they happen at all; the session ends next month. However things come out in the legislature, though, the Lindesmith Center will be maintaining a presence.
"We're not going anywhere just yet," Goldstein told DRCNet. "We'll be dealing with implementing the bills that do get passed."
(The governor's package is available online at http://governor.state.nm.us/drug_policy/reform_proposal.htm -- and see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/170.html#strangedays and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/168.html#newmexico for earlier DRCNet coverage of the New Mexico effort.)
5. Feds vs. Bongs: Heads Up for Head Shops
Adam Engleby thought everything was cool. Yes, his shop, Hemp Cat in Iowa City, sold, ahem, "smoking accessories," or bongs, pipes, and rolling papers, but the Iowa City Police Department visited regularly, and they never had any problem with Hemp Cat's back room. Heck, Engleby even had signs in his store advertising the accessories as being for use with tobacco, he wouldn't allow any talk about drugs in the shop, and he certainly didn't allow minors into the back room. And after all, Iowa City is a progressive, tolerant college town, and local police reflected the relaxed attitude.
The Iowa City Police Department's Sgt. Brotherton said as much to DRCNet. "We don't see [the Hemp Cat] as a major problem," he said. "We weren't paying much attention."
But what was an acceptable arrangement for the community wasn't good enough for the feds. On February 11th, Engleby's home and business were raided by teams of civilian-dressed law officers, headed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"The DEA led the raids," Engelby told DRCNet. "The only badge I was shown was a DEA badge. They had warrants for "drug paraphernalia" and any sort of records, and they took everything. They took our rolling papers, they took real tobacco pipes, and, of course, they seized all of our computers -- four of them, two at the store and two at home. They even took my wife's computer."
"The Iowa City PD never hassled us in six years of business," groaned Engleby, "and no one ever came in and told us to stop, no one complained."
No one was arrested, Engleby said, and no charges have been filed, but Engleby has now joined a growing number of "alternative store" (the industry cringes at the term "head shop") owners and operators being rudely awakened to the reality of federal drug paraphernalia laws.
Unlike many state and local paraphernalia statutes, which allow for a subjective, contextual interpretation of whether a given object is indeed drug paraphernalia -- sometimes a spoon is only a spoon -- federal law is black and white: Possession of a bong is a federal offense, and so, of course, is sale or manufacture of a bong, or conspiracy to do so. It can get you three years in federal prison. And it doesn't matter if the bong has never been used or if it is a jewel-encrusted work of art; a bong is a crime. And to make things even rosier, since 1990 federal law has made drug paraphernalia violators subject to Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) and money laundering charges, as well.
"It's simple," head shop defense attorney Robert Vaughan, the long-time publisher of an industry newsletter, told DRCNet. "If you have a bong, you're violating federal law. You can get a license to own a tommy gun, but you can't get one to own a bong."
"Stores that have bongs are screwed," the Nashville-based lawyer said. "They can't win. The Supreme Court upheld its so-called objective standard in US vs. Pipes and Things in 1994, and now categories of items are per se illegal."
That was news to Engleby and his customers. "The customers are really disappointed, they're saying can they do that?," Engleby said. "Everyone is shocked that DEA has that kind of power. One city council member came in to express his support; he didn't think it was right."
Unfortunately for Jerry Clark and Kathy Fiedler of Des Moines, they were already well aware of federal paraphernalia laws. Their shop, Daydreams, was raided by the feds last year, and they are scarred by the experience.
"We were raided by US Postal Inspectors, the DEA, and local cops and sheriff's deputies," Clark told DRCNet, "and we're barely hanging on now. It's hurt us financially; we've lost over $250,000 in inventory and paid out lots of money in legal fees."
"And they're using the RICO act on us, so we're facing 10 to 12 years," Clark said bitterly. "They've seized my partner's properties under the asset forfeiture laws. But all we can do is try to litigate our way out or come to a negotiated settlement. We're trying to work out a better deal than going to court."
"We weren't aware of the federal law," interjected Fiedler, "but let's face it, we weren't the only ones. We did everything to the letter of the law as we knew it, we did not sell to minors, we checked ID, if they didn't have ID, tough luck."
Clark and Fiedler remain in business, but they are angry. "This is a bullshit law," snorted Clark, "and you have to get mad at the people who created this stupid law. But," he hesitated, "looking at the penalties we face, we're not going to do anything to rock the boat."
"We don't feel like felons," added Fiedler, more hurt than angry. "These people don't have any idea who's smoking -- they think it's the kids, but our customers are lawyers, preachers, even people from the state Attorney General's office. They're nice, average people, but instead of drinking a six-pack, they'd prefer to smoke things."
"Morally, I see nothing wrong with what we're doing," she insisted.
That doesn't matter to the feds. Although the anti-head shop campaign is irregular and occasional compared to the feds' halcyon days of Operation Pipeline in the early 1990s, when they ran most major manufacturers out of business, it is Engleby's and Clark's and Fiedler's misfortune to live in an area where the United States Attorney happens to be one of the most experienced and enthusiastic in dealing with federal drug paraphernalia violations.
So who ordered the raids? Hard to say. Repeated calls to the DEA were referred to the US Attorneys' office in Des Moines, and they didn't return calls. The Iowa City Police Department's laconic Lt. Wyss, who coordinates the Johnson County Multi-Agency Task Force, did confirm that his officers participated at the DEA's request.
When asked why his officers were devoting their time to busting bongs, Wyss told DRCNet: "Because they violated the law, I suppose. The DEA asked us and we were happy to help."
Attorney Vaughan, who is representing Clark and Fiedler, finds it all faintly ridiculous were it not for the serious consequences.
"With Operation Pipeline they managed to knock out all the big boys," he told DRCNet, "but all they've created is a whole multi-level cottage industry, and lot's of these people don't even know about the federal law, they don't have any historical memory of Pipeline, and enforcement is sporadic. What a waste of time and resources and peoples' lives."
"It's as if the feds we're out arresting the guy smoking a joint on the corner," he said.
6. Newsbrief: American Pilots in Firefight With Colombian Rebels
Civilian pilots employed by the US State Department shot it out with FARC guerrillas in Caqueta province last Sunday. The confrontation occurred during a rescue mission for crewmen of a Colombian police helicopter shot down as it supported aerial coca fumigation efforts. The US pilots flying helicopter gunships "were used to put suppressing fire down on guerrillas whilst grounded crewmen were rescued," the BBC reported on Thursday.
The incident has only strengthened the FARC's conviction that the US is intervening in Colombia's civil war. They have long argued that the US is directly involved in the conflict, citing the US spy plane crash that killed five US military personnel in 1999. The guerrillas have vowed to make the country into another Vietnam for the US and have long said all American military personnel in the country are considered targets.
Now, in the wake of the incident on Sunday, FARC sources tell the BBC that they see no difference between US service personnel and civilian US citizens working for the US government.
Some 500 US military advisors are on the ground in Colombia, but they are restricted by law to training and monitoring only and are not to engage in directly in combat. Those rules do not seem to apply to civilian subcontractors hired by the US government.
They appear to have just made themselves targets.
7. Marijuana Has Less Adverse Effect on Driving Than Alcohol, Tiredness, UK Study Says
(courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org )
Crowthorne, Berkshire, United Kingdom: Marijuana appears to have less adverse impact on driving ability than does alcohol, according to findings from a recent study by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). The results replicate earlier findings recorded in the US, Australia and elsewhere indicating that marijuana intoxication plays a relatively insignificant role in vehicular accidents.
The TRL study examined the driving performance of fifteen volunteers while under the influence of low and high doses of marijuana, and while sober. All volunteers were tested using a sophisticated driving simulator. Researchers found that marijuana appeared to adversely influence subjects' ability to accurately steer a car (so-called "tracking ability"), but found their reaction time and all other measures of driving performance to be unaffected by the drug. Researchers further noted that subjects were cognizant of their impairment and "attempt[ed] to compensate for [it] by reducing the difficulty of the driving task, for example by driving more slowly."
The authors concluded: "In terms of road safety, it cannot be concluded that driving under the influence of cannabis is not a hazard... However, in comparison with alcohol, the severe effects of alcohol on the higher cognitive processes of driving are likely to make this more of a hazard, particularly at higher levels."
Similar trials previously conducted by the TRL have shown that alcohol and sleep deprivation have a more adverse impact on driving ability than does marijuana. Tests from other countries have yielded comparable results. A May 1998 Australian review of 2,500 injured drivers reported that cannabis had "no significant effect" on driving culpability. A pair of studies released by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1992 and 1993 found the adverse effects of marijuana on driving "relatively small," and concluded that "there [was] no compelling evidence that marijuana contributes substantially to traffic accidents or fatalities."
The most recent TRL study was commissioned by the British Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions.
Copies of the TRL study, which was entitled "The influence of cannabis on driving," are available at http://www.trl.co.uk/detr/abstracts/477.htm online.
8. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative Legal Briefs Online
The Supreme Court defense brief in the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative case, with amicus briefs from Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the California Medical Association & National Pain Management Foundation, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is now available in the DRCNet Online Drug Policy Library. Visit http://www.druglibrary.org/ocbc/ to check them out.
Dale Gieringer of California NORML has provided a summary of the Lockyer brief:
(A) The Controlled Substances Act unduly interferes with the Ninth Amendment ability of states to enact voter approved legislation.
i. The Ninth Amendment limits the power of Congress and the Federal Government to enact legislation interfering with state sovereignty.
ii. The debate surrounding the right of seriously ill patients to use cannabis is an issue best suited for resolution through the democratic process in the states.
iii. States are entitled to create an exception for cannabis under the CSA because of the traditional state interest in regulating for the health, safety and welfare of citizens.
(B) Applying the CSA to prohibit the use of cannabis by seriously ill people in California violates traditional notions of state sovereignty protected by the Tenth Amendment.
9. An Invitation to Help Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws
As reported in the Week Online two weeks ago, Queens, NY District Attorney Richard Brown is leading the effort to preserve New York's unjust and destructive Rockefeller Drug Laws (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/172.html#nydas). The William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice and Queens Mothers of the New York Disappeared are protesting at Brown's office at noon, February 28th. Terrence Stevens, a former Rockefeller drug war prisoner who received clemency less than a month ago asks drug war opponents in the New York area to join him. This is his invitation:
When I was granted clemency and subsequently released from Green Haven correctional facility in Jan. 31, 2001, I left behind thousands of nonviolent low level drug offenders warehoused in a brutal and sadistic prison system. A system where institutional racism is rampant and constantly on the rise. Even with advanced Muscular Dystrophy I was subjected to a daily dose of the most hideous form of racism. If they treated me that way, you can imagine how they treat prisoners who can walk.(See our Reformer's Calendar below for further information, or visit http://www.kunstler.org on the web.)
10. Erratum: Three Strikes Clarification
In last week's review of California's draconian "Three-Strikes-You're-Out" law (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/173.html#cal3strikes), we wrote that "anyone convicted of a felony who had previously been convicted of a 'violent' or 'serious' felony (which includes most drug charges as well as burglary of an unoccupied dwelling) is subject to enhanced punishment. Persons with one previous conviction are sentenced to twice the term prescribed by law, and must serve 80% of it. Persons with two prior felony convictions are sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years."
There was one inaccuracy in this summary, in that most drug charges are not defined as "serious felonies" under the California law -- excepting selling or furnishing cocaine, PCP, or in some cases, methamphetamine, to a minor. We were correct that any felony, including any drug felony, can serve as a third strike, and any felony can have its potential sentence doubled if the offender has a previous violent or serious felony strike. However, drug crimes, except for those noted above, do not count as violent or serious felonies and therefore cannot be counted as a first or second strike. The relevant portions of the California Penal Code are Section 667, the "three strikes" law, and Section 1192.7 defining "serious felonies").
11. The Reformer's Calendar
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)
February 22-24, New York, NY, "Altered States of Consciousness" conference. At the New School, e-mail [email protected] for further information.
February 24, 6:00-7:00pm, Richmond, VA, Drug War Vigil at the city jail, corner of 17th St. and Fairfield Way. Held the last Saturday of every month, e-mail [email protected] for further information.
February 26, 6:00pm, Spirit of ReconsiDer Award Dinner, honoring John Dunne and H. Douglas Barclay. At La Serre, 14 Green St., tickets $125/person, RSVP by Feb. 10 to [email protected].
February 28, noon, Queens, NY, Press Conference/Vigil held by the Queens chapter of "Mothers of the Disappeared," organization opposing the Rockefeller Drug Laws. At the Supreme Court, Queens Blvd., call (212) 539-8441 for further information.
March 5, 5:00pm, Syracuse, NY, "Is the War on Drugs Working?" Debate at SU School of Law with Michael Roona, ReconsiDer and Prof. Levitsky, Maxwell School of Public Policy. For further information e-mail [email protected] .
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 6, 7:00pm, New York, NY, "Drugs and the Courts: A Debate." Discussing the Report to Judge Kaye by the Commission on Drugs and the Courts. At the House of the Bar Association of New York City, 42 West 44th St. For further info, call (212) 382-6600.
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 8, 5:00-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Women and the Drug War," forum sponsored by The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation. Featuring Amy Ralston (Pofahl), former drug war prisoner granted clemency by President Clinton; as well as Ellen Barry, Legal Services for Women with Children; Barbara Owen, CSU Fresno Dept. of Criminology; and Andrea Shorter of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice. At the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter (at Franklin), call (415) 921-4987 or e-mail [email protected] to reserve a space.
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 13, 7:45-9:30am,
Boston, MA, "And Justice for All... Sentencing Guidelines and Public Safety."
Public forum sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association, the Boston Bar
Association, the Gardiner Howland Shaw Foundation, and MassINC, at Suffolk
Law School, 120 Tremont Street. Panelists include House Speaker Thomas
Finneran, Massachusetts Sentencing Commission Chairman Robert Mulligan and
others. For further information, contact Neil Mello, (617) 742-6800
ext. 123 or [email protected].
March 14, 7:00pm, New York, NY. Retired police captain Peter Christ, spokesman for ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy, speaks at the Manhattan Libertarian Party meeting. For further information, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.geocities.com/lpmanhattan/ on the web.
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 16 & 17, 8:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Outside the Walls," interdisciplinary dance performance reflecting on the lives of families of prisoners. At the Conwell Theater, 5th floor Conwell Hall, Temple University, corner of Montgomery and Broad Streets. Advance ticket sales available through Temple University box office, (215) 204-1122.
March 18, 10:30am-1:00pm, Winston-Salem, NC, sermon and discussion marking Drug War Awareness Month, at the W-S Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, displays and information available every Sunday all month. For further information, call (336) 659-0331 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 20, 10:00am, Oklahoma City, annual marijuana law reform event, at the State Capitol. Visit information table in 1st floor rotunda to prep for meeting your state legislators, speakers and entertainment on the south side steps at noon. For further information contact Norma Sapp at (405) 321-4619 or [email protected].
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 h ttp://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.
May 30-June 2, Albuquerque, NM, "Drug Policies for the New Millennium." First annual conference of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, following in the footsteps of the 13 years of the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform. For further information, call (202) 537-5005 or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/conference/ on the web.
12. Editorial: The Peace Process
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
Once again, fragile negotiations to bring a measure of peace to our war-torn world are mired in uncertainty, and time is running out. If the two parties can't come together and work things out in the next few weeks, there might not be another such opportunity this entire year, maybe longer than that.
I'm talking about New Mexico. Unlike the Middle East situation (which you might have thought I was talking about), where the two negotiating parties are locked in a self-defeating cycle of sporadic violence, New Mexico's peace process involves two competing political factions who have both waged a war upon the state's own citizens for decades.
I'm talking about the Drug War, and I'm talking about bills proposed by the Republican Governor and his Task Force that would start to roll it back. Some of them, like syringe deregulatioin and asset forfeiture reform and maybe even medical marijuana appear to have strong chances. But other bills in the package, particularly those enacting marijuana decriminalization and some sentencing reforms, are struggling and might not survive New Mexico's whirlwind legislative session intact.
The primary stumbling block is not what you might have guessed. It's not so much the "law and order" types who are addicted to incarceration and won't stop until they've locked up every man and his neighbor. It's certain prominent Democrats in the state legislature who want Johnson's reforms to be tied to increased spending on drug treatment programs.
Johnson has responded by offering a treatment funding bill that is significantly larger in size than his libertarian, limited government predilections might lead him to prefer. But it's not enough yet for some of the Democrats, particularly Senators McSorley, Romero and House Speaker Lujan, and they are threatening to vote against his other reforms if he doesn't come up with tens of millions of dollars more.
Do the Democrats think that New Mexicans incarcerated during the coming year for marijuana possession or other low-level drug offenses as a result of the continuing drug war will be glad the Democrats held out for more treatment funds? Do they think that paying for such wasteful incarcerations is in the best interest of other New Mexicans?
The Democrats are most unfortunately wrong to tie support for decriminalization and sentencing reform to treatment funds. By all means, it's an ideal time for them to raise the issue of treatment and work to make it available. But to threaten to torpedo New Mexico's fledgling drug war peace process because of it is illogical, cruel and ultimately self-defeating: Every dollar spent incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders in the unwinnable drug war makes New Mexico, and our nation, poorer and less able to bring resources to bear on treatment, education, health care or anything else of value to humanity.
New Mexico's Democratic leadership should stop playing political games with drug policy reform: Too many lives are at stake.
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