(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #177, 3/16/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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Please sign the HEA Reform Petition to Congress at http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com -- students download the activist packet too!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This issue of The Week Online is dedicated to Patrick Dorismond, a 26-year old Haitian American killed a year ago Saturday (3/17) by undercover New York City police officers on an anti-marijuana patrol as part of the city's "Operation Condor." Dorismond didn't have marijuana, but became angry when an undercover police officer approached him and asked to buy some. In the ensuing events, Dorismond, who was unarmed, was fatally shot. Dorismond was the son of the well known Haitian singer Andres Dorismond and was himself the father of two young children.
A year later, the "buy and bust" tactics which led to Dorismond's death are still in routine use, endangering the lives of law abiding citizens, nonviolent drug law violators and police officers in New York City and elsewhere. The drugs that Operation Condor targets are also still in routine use, demonstrating for yet another year that the drug war and the suffering of its many victims are in vain.
Visit Haiti Progres at http://www.haitiprogres.com to learn more about the Dorismond tragedy and its aftermath. Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/130.html#dorismon and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/131.html#newyorkcity for DRCNet's prior coverage of the Dorismond tragedy.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy has opened its online store, offering sales of perhaps the nicest drug reform t-shirts yet made. A portion of the proceeds will go to assist students who have lost financial aid under the drug provision of the Higher Education Act of 1998 (HEA drug provision). Visit http://www.ssdp.org to make your purchase!
The campaign to overturn the HEA drug provision, led by DRCNet and SSDP, is growing at breakneck speed. In the last two weeks alone, more than 90 people have requested or downloaded activist packets from the campaign's web site, and new student government endorsements of the campaign's resolution are being approved faster than ever. The latest to come on board are Ohio State University, Brandeis University (MA), South Carolina State University and Mt. Holyoke College (MA).
Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to download a packet or send a free e-mail or fax to Congress calling for repeal of the HEA drug provision.
As Plan Colombia rumbles into its third month, the US-backed campaign to wipe out that country's vast coca and cocaine industry has already had a disastrous impact on farmers of all sorts as glyphosate herbicide wafts down from low-flying planes over the fields of southern Colombia. This week, the governors of four Colombian states came to Washington to urge Presidents Pastrana and Bush to replace Plan Colombia's militaristic approach with a plan emphasizing alternative crop development based on social pacts.
The group traveled under the auspices of the Latin America Working Group (http://www.lawg.org), a consortium of 60 human rights, development, and religious groups organizations which opposes Plan Colombia. Governors Floro Alberto Tunubala Paja of Cauca, the first Colombian Indian elected to state office; Parmenio Cuellar of Narino; Ivan Gerardo Guerrero, of the southernmost state of Putumayo, and Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo of Tolima met with legislators and government officials, gave interviews, and held a Tuesday press conference to say that aerial spraying of illicit crops is jeopardizing the health and food supply of small-scale farmers.
In response to the governors' offensive, US officials at a damage-control press briefing this week reluctantly conceded that food crops had been destroyed, but blamed peasants for growing food crops near coca crops.
The Week Online spoke with Tolima Governor Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo on Thursday. Jaramillo, a member of the Social Democratic Party took office in January, the first time a Social Democrat has gained such an office in a party system dominated by the interchangeable Liberal and Conservatives. Excerpts from that conversation follow.
The Week Online: What is the purpose of your delegation's visit to Washington?
Governor Jaramillo: We are here to tell the US government and the North American public that Plan Colombia needs to be changed. We want the public to know that there are alternatives to Plan Colombia. It was supposed to be a $7 billion dollar development program funded by the United States, Europe, and Asia as well as with our own funds. But because the others don't support the US stance, what we are getting is the military part of Plan Colombia instead of what we need, the social development part. What we get now in help from the US is $1.3 billion, 85% to reinforce the army and police and to buy 60 helicopters for $600,000,000. And they have trained three anti-drug brigades. And they started to fumigate the fields at the end of December, especially in Putumayo. We are quite worried because the social investment hasn't come. Without that, eradication will not succeed. That has been the case for the last 15 years; instead of being able to eradicate the illegal crops, the coca fields have increased from 40,000 hectares to 120,000 hectares. (1 hectare is approximately 2.5 acres.) We think the eradication project has failed in Colombia. We are willing to help in the manual eradication of illegal crops, but there must be a replacement. We need the development help, especially alternative crops.
WOL: The civil war has only worsened in recent years, with the rise of the paramilitaries and the continuing vitality of the guerrillas, both fueled in some degree by the coca/cocaine trade. How does US policy affect the prospects for peace?
Jaramillo: We need the US to be clear with the message it sends, especially now that the peace process [talks between guerrillas and the Colombian government] is going on. If instead of support for alternative development, for the small farmers, for fighting poverty; if instead of all that, they send us more military aid, it will be difficult to convince the guerrilla movement that the US and the Colombian government want peace. A majority of Colombians would be willing to work with the US for manual eradication of illicit crops, but in a way that will reinforce democracy, human rights and social development.
WOL: Tolima is well north of where the big anti-coca offensive is underway. What is the situation in your area? Are there active guerrilla fronts?
Jaramillo: We have both guerrillas and paramilitaries. The guerrillas, the FARC, control 20 of our 47 municipalities, and others are patrolled by paramilitaries. The mountains are for the guerrillas and the paramilitaries have the plains. And we have illicit drugs -- not coca but poppies, opium poppies. We have 3,000 hectares of poppies, so they sprayed in Tolima last year. We know they are preparing fumigation for us again because first they do the satellite photography, and then they send in the spotter planes, and then we know the fumigation may come at any time.
WOL: How do you govern in this sort of situation?
Jaramillo: That's a good question. The peace process cannot only go at the highest levels. One of my proposals was to ask the government to let us have talks in the region, in the department. The central government is not willing to do that. All we want is to have the chance to be able to sit down and talk with the guerrillas and try to give peace a chance to break out. In the last year, 13 of our towns and cities were taken by the FARC; people were killed in the fighting, the police stations and agrarian banks were destroyed.
WOL: The State Department denies both that glyphosate is dangerous and that food crops are being damaged in the ongoing fumigation campaign in Putumayo. How do you respond to that? And how do local people react to the spraying?
Jaramillo: The reality is that they have destroyed quite a lot of legal crops, they have admitted it. They have said there could have been mistakes, and they know there were big mistakes. Usually it's because there are more farmers who cultivate legal crops near the coca bushes. They fumigate without discriminating; it's impossible to for them not to make mistakes. There are other incidents where they inexplicably fumigated Indian communities that were working with the government on alternative crop development. The results are clear; there are pictures, testimonies, evidence, different organizations have been to Putumayo and seen the damage for themselves. How do people react? The government comes to the region where it has had little presence, and it comes with 20 helicopters and a thousand soldiers, and the people see that it is preparing itself for combat. What the farmers see is an army that invades their area and destroys everything.
WOL: Is regulating or legalizing the trade a solution?
Jaramillo: That is not up to us to decide, that will be decided in the US. Remember, we have been fighting the narco-traffic for many years, and we don't want the North Americans to get the wrong message. We don't want coca, we don't poppy, we don't want any illegal crop. Colombia has paid a high price; we have lost our best men -- politicians, soldiers, policemen -- killed or corrupted, and it has changed much of our culture for the worse. We are a proud, hardworking people, and when people used to hear the word "Colombia," they thought of fine coffee. Now the whole world knows us as drug producers. We must stop this. We don't want to send the message that we agree with a free market for drugs, but the US needs to send a strong message to all of us by reducing demand. If the US reduced demand drastically, drug production in Colombia would come to an end. If the US is not able to reduce demand, the supply will exist. Legalized drugs could be one solution if it somehow reduced demand. To reduce the supply, you must decrease demand.
Although the US Supreme Court opined in its 1995 Vernonia ruling that anti-drug goals justified the drug testing of student athletes and those involved in extracurricular activities, US District Judge Sam Cummings drew a line in the West Texas sand when he struck down the Lockney Independent School District's year-old mandatory drug testing policy for all of its junior and senior high school students.
"Hallelujah," was Larry Tannahill's response. It was Tannahill who sued the district on behalf of his 12-year-old son, Brady. Tannahill has spent the last year in a lonely struggle for what he believed was right in a community where the school drug-testing program had overwhelming popular support. Town residents rallied in the hundreds in support of the policy, Tannahill suffered increasing social ostracism, and even reporters have been the objects of locals' wrath over coverage of the issue. Tannahill found himself vindicated last week.
Unless the Lockney school board decides to appeal -- it has so far deferred that decision -- the ruling will mark the end of the nation's broadest school drug testing policy. Along with a similar ruling on a case from nearby Tulia, the Lockney ruling sends a signal to school boards across the land about the limits of the permissible when it comes to waging the drug war in the nation's schools.
A little more than a year ago, Lockney's school board instituted a policy of mandatory, random drug tests of all teachers and students. Parents were asked to sign consent forms, and if they refused, their children were to be treated as if they had failed the drug test. The first-time penalty was a 21-day ban from extracurricular activities, three days of in-school suspension, and three sessions of drug counseling.
School officials said the drug tests were necessary for public health, to increase students' ability to learn, to help them resist peer pressure, and because of a perceived drug problem. The farming town of 2,300 people saw 12 people arrested in a 1998 cocaine bust -- all adults -- but has shown few indications of drug activity since then.
Tannahill refused to sign the consent form. "Every person has a right to his own opinion, and I do not think they can enforce this," he told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal after the policy was announced. "It's just a matter of principle for me... I cannot let the school say, 'I know how to raise your child better than you.' What scares me the most, if I do not sign it, they are going to punish my child for what I do, and I definitely do not think that's right."
Although the school district eventually agreed to postpone any punishment of Brady Tannahill while the dispute lingered, Tannahill soon picked up support from the ACLU of Texas. Lawyers affiliated with the civil liberties group represented him when he brought suit against the district for violating his son's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"We're upset," ACLU Lubbock chapter member Harvey Madison told the Avalanche-Journal. "This is exactly the kind of abuse the founding fathers were trying to protect people from when they wrote the Bill of Rights. We do not live in a fascist country, and the government is not entitled to simply declare that it can conduct intrusive searches of everyone with no reason."
Last week, while expressing sympathy for the school board's motives, Judge Cummings saw it the same way.
"The court recognizes the good-faith efforts of school districts in their attempts to win what has become a frustrating war on drugs; it understands the motives of the district to protect its students," Cummings wrote. "The court further recognizes that given advancements in technology and research, a mandatory drug policy of testing every teenage student could potentially eliminate drug use for such an impressionable segment of our population," he continued.
"But with such an intrusion also comes a great price to citizens' constitutionally guaranteed rights to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects."
Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas ACLU told DRCNet the ruling was "an absolute, resounding victory."
"This is a strong testament that there are still courts with the courage to stand up for individual freedom in the face of the drug-war hysteria that has besieged our nation," Harrell said. "The law has clarified that this policy is unconstitutional as applied."
Harrell urged the Lockney school board not to appeal. "I hope they will respect the courts and let Mr. Tannahill get on with his life. He has been vindicated today and he should be honored for standing up to what is obviously an unconstitutional practice," Harrell told DRCNet.
"This ruling is a signal bell to end of all of these ridiculous and unconstitutional drug testing policies," Harrell continued. "It's not the first, but I hope it's the last of a long line of federal decisions that make clear students don't abandon their constitutional rights at the school house gate."
Cummings' decision to overturn the Lockney policy was foreshadowed in December, when US District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson of Amarillo threw out a more restrictive school drug-testing policy in the panhandle town of Tulia, now notorious for its massive drug bust targeting the small town's African-American population (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/154.html#tulia). In the Tulia case, the school district required drug tests for all students in grades 7-12 who wanted to participate in extracurricular activities.
But Robinson ruled that the policy violated constitutional protections against unwarranted search and seizure, writing: "This Court concludes that the mandatory, random, suspicionless drug testing program for all students participating in extracurricular activities at Tulia ISD is violative of the Fourth Amendment."
In the wake of the rulings, school officials are rethinking plans for drug testing. In the Texas Panhandle town of Brownfield, School Superintendent Charles Harrison told the Avalanche-Journal he will be watching to see if there are appeals.
"What we're doing is following the case, and until we get a definite ruling and some parameters in how to distribute drug tests, we're not interested in starting one," he said. "We have just been really slow in putting something in place until we knew for sure what was legal and what was not."
The Texas ACLU's Harrell also told DRCNet that Brownfield wasn't alone in reconsidering testing students for drugs.
"Policies that were put on hold pending resolution of the Lockney case are now permanently on hold," said Harrell. "The dynamics of local politics are such that school board members campaign on a "tough on drugs" platform, but school superintendents are beginning to understand that when you impose an unconstitutional policy, it's going to cost them. The superintendents would rather spend school district funds on books than on losing court cases."
The Lockney ruling's impact could extend beyond Texas, according to Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School Boards Association.
"We got a flurry of calls after the ruling was announced," she told DRCNet. "While school boards typically ask their own attorneys about the legality of various testing policies, they asked us if we have drafted a policy. We don't have a national policy, though, because of the variation in state laws."
"The association does not have an official position on student drug testing," said Underwood. "We take the position that school districts should be able to keep their campuses safe, but they must uphold students' rights as well. We encourage districts to have a reasonable policy, meaning if they don't have an individualized suspicion of drug use, they must have clear evidence of a drug problem to justify testing," she said.
"Many school districts have no need for a drug testing policy," Underwood noted.
The full text of the Tannahill v. Lockney decision can be found at http://cryptome.org/tannahill.htm online.
Efforts to amend the "Rockefeller laws," New York's draconian drug sentences, are coming to a head as the state legislature prepares to deal with opposing plans offered by Republican Gov. George Pataki and Democratic State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Both proposals are a curious mix of sentencing reductions, mandatory treatment programs, and tough-on-crime rhetoric designed to ensure that Empire State politicians can soften some of the Rockefeller laws' harsh aspects while not appearing "soft on drugs."
While the conventional wisdom is that some changes to the Rockefeller laws are possible this year, New York drug reformers are increasingly skeptical about the nature of any changes and some are beginning to prepare a long-term strategy for repeal, not mere reform, of the Rockefeller laws.
"The Assembly's proposal, especially in comparison to the governor's, is a major step on the path to significant reform," said Robert Gangi of the Correctional Association of New York (http://www.corrassoc.org), "but it's still well short of the mark. It is important that any changes aren't cosmetic or a step backward," he told DRCNet. "We don't want and won't support a bill that is dressed up as reform, but essentially maintains the status quo."
Nicolas Eyle of ReconsiDer (http://www.reconsider.org), a New York-based citizen drug reform group, also remains skeptical. "Pataki's proposal was pretty poor from the beginning," Eyle told DRCNet, "and the Democratic proposal, while better, is frankly disappointing."
"There is an increasingly important issue here for drug reformers," said Eyle, "and that is the issue of incrementalism versus going for the brass ring. A lot of people are delighted to get whatever crumbs they can, but my rule of thumb is that if the legislation doesn't require a paradigm shift, then I'm not supporting it. Legalization would be a paradigm shift, medical marijuana is a paradigm shift, tinkering with sentences or forcing people into treatment is not."
Randy Credico of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice (http://www.kunstler.org) sees little of value in either proposal.
"They both suck," he told DRCNet. "I want to end the war, not have it continue as a Cold War. People have to create a tough opposition to these proposals, or we'll end up with a bad reform. I'm willing to wait another year and mobilize for real reform."
The increasingly skeptical views of drug reformers come as both Gov. Pataki and the Democratic majority in the Assembly are finally providing detailed proposals.
"The devil is in the details," Gangi told DRCNet.
The detailed bill that Gov. Pataki released last week would seem to indicate that the oscillating governor has swung back toward the camp of state prosecutors, who bitterly oppose any reforms that would reduce their power. While still attempting to wear the reformer's cap by calling for some sentencing reductions, the governor would also end parole for drug offenders, increase some penalties for major traffickers, and dramatically increase prison sentences for possession or sale of large amounts (more than 20 pounds or sale of more than two pounds) of marijuana, and would increase penalties for those arrested on drug charges in public parks. (Visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/167.html#pataki for our coverage of the governor's initial remarks announcing his intention to introduce a reform package.)
The Democratic proposal goes considerably further than Pataki's, extending sentencing discretion to Class B felons, who make up the majority of people charged with drug crimes, providing for expanded mandatory treatment programs, and doubling the amount of drugs necessary to qualify for Class A felonies, with their harsh, mandatory sentences.
The Assembly's sentencing changes would:
"This situation here is a real mess," Eyle told DRCNet. "I'm afraid that they're going to pass some of these changes and then if we try in the future to get a better bill, they'll say, 'we already addressed that.' Passing half-way reform measures will only hurt efforts for real reform."
"If the Democratic bill passed in its entirety, that would be an improvement, whereas Pataki's changes would only make an infinitesimal difference," said Eyle. "But I don't think the Assembly bill will pass as is."
The Kunstler Fund's Credico is ready to take it to the streets again, as he has repeatedly with demonstrations at the statehouse and at the offices of prosecutors opposing any reforms.
"This is not reform, this is unacceptable," he told DRCNet. "We're calling for a massive demonstration in front of Pataki's New York City office on May 8th. If we can't get a decent bill, it will be time for continued activism and civil disobedience. We'll start pushing for jury nullification, we'll urge Legal Aid to end plea bargaining. We could bring this system to its knees."
"And that Pataki wants to throw people in prison for marijuana is outrageous," fumed Credico. Those people aren't hurting anybody. Leave them alone."
Gangi, if a little more sanguine than Credico, was no more pleased with the proposals.
"The battle has been joined, the lines have been drawn," he said. "Our coalition, the Drop the Rock Campaign, will fight to abolish the Rockefeller laws, restore judicial discretion in all drug cases, and to establish the retroactivity principle, where inmates can petition for review of their sentences."
"We need repeal. If it isn't repeal, we aren't supporting it."
As New Mexico's frenetic legislative session winds toward its end on Saturday, Gov. Gary Johnson's package of reform bills is meeting with some, although not complete, success. The fight over drug reform, meanwhile, is tearing the state Republican Party apart as New Mexico's leading Republicans attack the state party chairman for supporting Johnson's proposals.
The latest on the status of the reform bills:
The measure's proponents overcame hysterical opposition from the likes of Rep. Ron Godbey (R-Cedar Crest), who at one point asked, "Does this mean a patient using marijuana can go out and rape and pillage?" (The answer was "no.")
The battle over drug reform in New Mexico is also exposing fault lines within the state Republican Party, as social conservatives face off against more libertarian-leaning party members.
All three New Mexico Republicans in Congress -- Sen. Pete Domenici, Congressman Joe Skeen, and Congresswoman Heather Wilson -- have harshly attacked state Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl for his support of Johnson's package.
Domenici called for Dendahl to resign, and in a statement released last week, the Republican congressmembers said, "Mr. Dendahl has every right as a private citizen to express any view he wishes, no matter how inimical to the principles of the party he represents. However, expressing views that directly violate the wishes of the vast majority of those who elected him chairman and who have labored to have a president who opposes legalization of marijuana, reveals that John has simply left the Republican Party on this critical issue of moral values."
But a poll released last month suggests that Dendahl is more attuned to New Mexico voters than his critics. A survey by the Albuquerque firm Research & Polling, found that 60% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats, and 75% of independents supported marijuana decriminalization. New Mexicans approved of drug treatment over prison for first and second-time offenders by similar margins.
On March 9th, the Swiss government took another step on its path toward cannabis decriminalization as it endorsed and submitted to parliament a bill that would legalize the possession and consumption of cannabis, allow a limited number of "smoke shops" to open, and encourage police to ignore small-scale growing and commerce. The government also proposed a flexible approach toward prosecuting users of other illegal drugs. (See http://www.drcnet.org/wol/154.html#swissdecrim for prior coverage of the Swiss initiative.)
The move would bring the law into line with the reality that in Switzerland marijuana and hashish smoking are so common as to be considered banal. A study undertaken in November and released last month found that one in four Swiss aged 15-24 gets high on a regular basis and that half of all Swiss teens and young adults have tried cannabis. The study by the Swiss Institute for Alcohol and Drug Abuse (available in French and German at http://www.sfa-ispa.ch/Actions/fr/enquete_cannabis.htm and http://www.sfa-ispa.ch/Actions/de/Cannabisuebersicht.htm respectively) also found that a majority of Swiss favor cannabis decriminalization. The study's survey of 1600 people between 15 and 74 found that 54% supported softening the penalties for marijuana, both use and sales.
The Swiss government agrees.
"Decriminalizing the consumption of cannabis and the acts leading up to this takes account of social reality and unburdens police and the courts," the government said in a statement accompanying the bill's submission.
The draft bill is only the latest step on the Swiss government's achingly slow move toward relaxing the cannabis laws. Last October, the cabinet agreed in principle to legalize cannabis consumption. The draft sent to parliament last week represents the government's attempt to transform its October recommendation into the language of law.
Judith Laws of Droleg, the Swiss Initiative for a Reasonable Drug Policy (http://www.droleg.ch), told DRCNet her organization approved of the draft bill.
"At first, it looked as if only cannabis would be decriminalized, and we saw little hope for a solution to what to do about growing and selling," she told DRCNet. "But now we are quite happy with the proposal, decriminalizing cannabis, not always criminalizing users of hard drugs, and providing a legal framework for growing and selling marijuana."
Droleg lobbied the government after the October announcement, Law told DRCNet. In a letter to parliament, the group argued that the status quo on cannabis was absurd and that criminalizing hard drug users only made it more difficult to reach them.
And in an indication of why the need exists to codify Switerland's informal acceptance of cannabis decriminalization, Law also contradicted earlier DRCNet reports that cannabis growers and the Alpine nation's hemp shops, where cannabis for smoking is sold under various guises, are going about their business unmolested by the police.
"It is not true that the hemp shops get no visits from the police," Law told DRCNet. "Several hemp shops have been accused and closed and one marijuana growing gardening company lost lots of their harvest. The police cut down the plants in the fields, and tried to sell the hemp legally, and guarded it, but then it was all destroyed."
Some of the hemp shops have been allowed to reopen, Law wrote, because of Swiss judicial decisions barring unequal enforcement of the laws.
The draft law must be approved by parliament, but the government that submitted the draft reflects the political alignment within the Bundesrat, and the bill is expected to pass. Still, there is conservative opposition to both cannabis decriminalization and a more relaxed approach to hard drugs. Under Swiss law, opponents of a measure approved by parliament have 90 days to call a national referendum to overturn the law. According to the BBC, the far right has vowed it will call a referendum if the drug reform law passes.
The Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas meeting this week in Ottawa has rejected as "inappropriate" a call from one of its members that it address legalization of the drug trade as a possible approach to reducing crime and political instability in the hemisphere.
At a planning session for the meeting last fall, Colombian opposition congressman Julia Angel Restrepo called for the topic to be placed on the forum's agenda for its inaugural session and received cautious support from other participants (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/152.html#interparliament). But with Restrepo not in attendance -- 100 parliamentarians from 27 countries did show up -- support for the idea evaporated.
"He (Restrepo) is not here," Colombian Senator Antonio Guerra told the Ottawa Citizen last week. "That topic will not be discussed here. I don't think this is a forum to do so."
John Williams, a lawmaker from the conservative-populist Canadian Alliance, and a forum member, was reading from the same page. "It (drug use) destroys societies. Therefore, legalization is not an issue, so that debate will not happen here," he told the Citizen.
The other Canadian representative, Liberal Senator Helene Hervieux-Payette, had expressed support for the proposal last fall, but was silent on the topic during last week's meeting.
The Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas is a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), but unlike the OAS includes not only governments but also opposition parties. Also unlike the OAS, the forum does not reflect the official policies of member governments.
Lawmakers in attendance discussed a number of topics of regional interest, including eliminating poverty, free trade, and crime and corruption. They hoped to influence the upcoming Summit of the Americas set for April in Quebec City.
In raising the subject last fall, Restrepo told his colleagues that stopping the drug trade in his and other Latin American countries was "virtually impossible" and that the vast profits at stake from the black market trade had kept his country in a state of guerrilla war for the past two decades.
He also cited the laws of supply and demand in arguing that prohibition is doomed to failure. "The prohibitionist laws in the States in the 1920s are a clear example that violating the law of the market is equivalent of kicking the goat," he said.
"These are the reasons... that lead me to propose to my colleagues at the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas that the topic of legalization of drugs, until now treated as taboo, be explored. Legalization means depriving drug traffickers of the powerful economic ingredient that makes this illicit activity so lucrative," said Restrepo.
But, according to the Ottawa Citizen, legalization was idea non grata at the forum, with delegates alternating between boilerplate drug war oratory and debates over US military aid to Colombia.
Colombian Senator Guerra, who last fall had seconded his countryman's call for the legalization debate, now defended Colombia's right to "ask for international aid to battle against drug trafficking." But even he called for a better balance between humanitarian aid and military assistance.
The potential for Colombia to cause regional conflicts weighed heavily on the delegates. Antonio Posso Delgado of Ecuador worried that the ongoing military intervention could destabilize his country." It could turn South America into a sort of Vietnam. This is not good for anyone," he said.
Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle became the first head of state in the Western Hemisphere to call for drug legalization when he spoke out last fall (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/166.html#uruguay). Although his public pronouncements represented a remarkable departure from the US-driven hemispheric drug war consensus, his comments drew little notice from the US mass media.
But prodded by the ever-watchful Al Giordano of Narco News (http://www.narconews.com), Washington Post reporter Marcela Sanchez proved the exception, hosting a live online chat with the Uruguayan leader Thursday afternoon. Besides the Post's Sanchez, Narco News, and the Week Online, the only other press organization asking questions was the San Francisco Chronicle. Below are excerpts from that session.
On drug use among Uruguay's youth:
"I have to tell you that Uruguay, like all countries, is experiencing a process -- luckily, very slow in our case -- of growth in the consumption of drugs. We believe that we have very much improved the tasks of control, but in any manner, our form of thinking continues to be the same with respect to the root of the problem."
On other heads of state who might agree with him:
"I have had no previous contact with any head of state on this theme, and certainly no one is obliged to make reference to this matter."
On the power of special interests who benefit from the drug trade or its suppression:
"If this business is something around $600 billion per year, it is really not easy to finish it. I think by saying these things more loudly we can conclude that the interest of humanity has more power than the interest of money."
On whether he supports legalization because Uruguay benefits from money laundering:
"We are not a country with important money laundering activity. You must realize that our GDP is only $20 billion, and non-resident deposits are only $4 billion, with strong Central Bank control."
On whether he will attend the Summit of the Americas and use it to talk up legalization:
"Yes and yes."
On how to tell the difference between Uruguay and Paraguay:
"Diplomacy prevents me from answering this question."
On specific proposals and the need for change:
"[Specific legalization regimes] can be made only by a global consensus. Imagine the money you spend to impede drug traffic and imagine that huge amount of resources going to education for the people who really need help. Imagine instead that it disappears in the [drug war] in the weak social areas of any town, any country. [The drug trade] is the easy way for a young boy to have so much money in his pocket without doing anything, without knowing anything, without respecting or regarding any value, thinking that life is just this, just the moment and the power and the money. Do you think this a proper way to act and to resolve this illness? We don't. Have you watched 'Traffic'? Go tomorrow."
On the role of the media in developing a new drug policy:
"The information media have to do it with objectivity. The opinions must be reached by those who receive the information and not produced by those who provide it."
Other important news this week brought to our attention by Al Giordano and Narco News:
Miguel Angel de la Torre, Director of Technical Support for the Federal Preventive Police, told the Notimex News Agency in Mexico City that he supports legalization of all drugs as "the only possible solution... to combat narco-trafficking." De la Torre told Notimex "corrupting power that the narco [traffic] generates is tremendous and in the consumer arena of money it is more important than the moral principles that the drug laws instill."
President Bush has budgeted another $550 million to Plan Colombia, plans to "regionalize" it. Plan Colombia's new name: "The Andean Initiative."
Fighting the war on drugs may seem a rather macho pursuit, but when it comes to the war's targets, it's not just a boys' game. Women bear the drug war's fury in many ways that they share with men and in some that are unique to their gender.
That was the message of a lively panel discussion on "Women and the Drug War" in San Francisco on March 8th. Sponsored by the San Francisco Medical Society and attended by roughly 50 people, the event not only marked International Women's Day but also saw a dramatic, harrowing example of the drug-fighting mania's impact emerge from the audience.
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated speaker was Amy Ralston (formerly Pofahl), whose campaign for clemency from a 24-year sentence brought her national attention and, ultimately, freedom. Ralston was released from prison last July after serving nine years of her sentence for the crime of assisting her estranged husband after he had been arrested on charges of distributing Ecstasy. (He served four years of a six-year prison sentence he received in Germany.)
"I was not going to stop working for my freedom until I got out," said Ralston in what she described as her first public speaking engagement since her release. "I'm free, but a huge piece of me is still in there. I left a lot of women behind who have no hope any more."
She recalled her own despair in her first years in prison. She had made audiotapes about her case that were played at conferences across the country. "I began to wonder if anyone heard," she recalled. "It's indescribable, how powerless you feel, the degradation, how surreal it is."
Ralston bludgeoned her audience with her tales of life behind bars in the USA: fetuses aborted in the prison shower, heartsick mothers speaking to their children from the phone outside her room, and crackdowns on defecating in the shower, where inmates would disgorge drugs that friends had smuggled in.
But Ralston also provided rays of hope. "There are so many women in prison who are looking for any kind of support from people on the outside," she said. "I'm trying to get a foundation started that will help people get legal representation and other kinds of support."
Ralston told the audience she wants to help make drug reform a "mainstream issue" with the help of the film community in Los Angeles, and that she was strongly opposed to the use of prisoners as captive employees by private companies.
Panelist Barbara Owen put Ralston's prison nightmare into a larger framework. A professor of criminology at California State University-Fresno, Owen has written extensively on women, crime and substance abuse. "We as a society expect entirely too much from prison," she said. "People who don't study prisons expect good things to go on there. The reality is very different."
Owen told the audience that women are at a special disadvantage in avoiding the harshest abuses of the criminal justice system. Because women are often low-level, or unwitting, players in drug crimes, they have nothing to trade or offer in exchange for a dollop of leniency. She cited the case of a woman serving a 20-year prison sentence based on an indictment where her name appeared in only one sentence of the document's 169 pages.
Andrea Shorter, a consultant with the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, emphasized the need to keep a feminist perspective at the forefront of drug-war analysis and warned the audience to beware of calls for crackdowns in light of recent violence.
"I'm afraid we will hear a lot more talking tough, and a lot less talking smart on crime from the Republicans especially in light of recent schoolyard shootings in San Diego and other places," she warned.
Speaking from the trenches, Prija Haji of Free At Last, an East Palo Alto, California, community-services group, told the audience how the drug war plays out on the street.
"The drug war is not a uniform war. It targets certain groups of people and communities," she said. "We have 3% of the population in our town and 80% of the CPS (Child Protective Services) cases, according to a study done in the mid-'90s. Most of those are because their parents are in jail or addicted. The same study showed that 30 percent of African-American women between the ages of 15 and 35 had been arrested at some point."
Haji urged the audience to "challenge the current notion of criminality that associates it strongly with minorities." The activist noted that in the days of slavery, the status of "subhuman" was linked to race; today's subhuman is the criminal, she said. "When your kid asks you, 'How did you let them recreate slavery? What did you do about it?', you'll want to be able to say you stood up for the truth."
But the day's most dramatic moment came during a question-and-answer session, when audience member Mellody Gannon of San Francisco stood up to tell her own drug war horror story and ask for the panel's help.
Gannon told the panel she had been arrested on January 8th "for leaving my dog in the car for an hour." The arresting officer found a marijuana pipe in the car, at which point Gannon produced three doctors' recommendations for medical marijuana.
"I was in a car wreck a number of years ago, and I'm pretty much held together now by wires and pins," said Gannon, as she rolled up her sleeve to reveal a huge scar running the length of her arm. She then recounted a Kafkaesque series of events that have separated her from her almost-2-year-old son and caused her great anguish as she prepares for a trial to begin on April 9th.
"They want to put my baby up for adoption," said Gannon, in tears, as she waved a photo album brimming with pictures of her son. "Please help me."
Event organizers pointed out a number of people to whom she should speak, as audience members unexpectedly got a direct taste of the impact of the drug war on women.
Access Works! is seeking a Program Coordinator to supervise frontline staff, providing nonjudgmental services to active drug users and homeless population. The qualified person will possess strong supervisory skills, a background in chemical and/or mental health direct services or HIV prevention; MSW, MPH or other related degree preferred.
Send resumes no later than April 9 to Access Works!, attn: Sue, 11 W. 15th St., Minneapolis, MN, 55403, no faxes or phone calls.
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)
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 22, 10:30am-2:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Cato Perspectives in Policy 2001." Seminar by the Cato Institute, featuring luncheon address by New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. At the Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental, Number One Nob Hill, 999 California Street, $100 or complimentary to media. For further information, contact Lesley Albanes at (202)-789-5223 or [email protected], or visit https://www.cato.org/events/010322cs.html on the web.
March 23, 10:30am-2:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Cato Perspectives in Policy 2001." Seminar by the Cato Institute, featuring luncheon address by New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. At the St. Regis Los Angeles, 2055 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, $100 or complimentary to media. For further information, contact Lesley Albanes at (202)-789-5223 or [email protected], or visit https://www.cato.org/events/010323cs.html on the web.
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 24-25, 10:00am-5:00pm, Ames, IA, Tenth Annual Midwest Regional Hemp Activists Meeting. Hosted by Iowa State University NORML, at the Memorial Union on Lincoln Way. For further information contact Derrick Grimmer at (515) 292-7606, or Becky Terrill at (515) 268-3105 or [email protected].
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.
March 29-30, St. Paul, MN, Symposium on Prison Reform: Restoration, Responsibility, and Rehabilitation. Sponsored by the University of St. Thomas and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. For further information, contact Dr. Gene Scapanski, (651) 962-5950.
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 call 91-11-6237417-18, fax 91-11-6217493, visit http://www.ihrc-india2001.org on the web, e-mail [email protected], or write to Showtime Events Pvt. Ltd., S-567, Greater Kailash - II, New Delhi 110 048, India.
April 4-6, East Lansing, MI, "Race in 21st Century America: A National Conference." At the Kellogg Center, Michigan State University, sponsored by MSU's James Madison College and the Midwest Consortium for Black Studies. For further information, visit http://www.jsri.msu.edu/raceconf/ or call (517) 353-6750.
April 6, 8:00am-5:30pm, Ann Arbor, MI, Symposium on Cannabis Prohibition Reform. At the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty Ave., advance registration required. For further information or to register, call the Schmid Law Office at (517) 799-4641 or visit http://www.prayes.com on the web.
April 6, 9:00am-6:00pm, New York, NY, "The Great Debate: Abstinence vs. Harm Reduction," conference sponsored by the New York State Psychological Association and the New School. At the New School, 66 W. 12th St., call (800) 732-3933 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
April 7, noon, Ann Arbor, MI, "Hash Bash." At the University of Michigan DIAG.
April 7, 2:00pm, Richmond, VA, Rally against supermax prisons. At the State Capitol Building, contact Sally Joughin at [email protected] for further information.
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 20, New York, NY, "Convictions" conference, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women and Society, City University of New York. For further information, contact Barbara Martinsons at (212) 817-2015.
April 20-22, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraising Concert for NORML UTK. For further information, visit http://www.normlutk.org/ online.
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.
April 28, Hartford, CT, Youth Rally against Connecticut's proposed 4,500 supermax prison, emphasizing the failure of the war on drugs. For further information, contact Adam Hurter at (860) 285-8831 or e-mail [email protected].
April 28-29, Madison, WI, "Illuminating Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic, and Faith Based Approaches to the War on Drugs in the 21st Century." For further information, contact Jacob Davis or Dan Goldman of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at [email protected] or [email protected].
May 5-6, international, "2001: The Space Odyssey," marches against marijuana prohibition. For further information, visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org/mmm/2001.html on the web.
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 25-28, Vandalia, MI, "Hemp Aid 2001." Call 616-476-2808 or visit http://www.rainbowfarmcampground.com for 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.
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
School board members in the town of Lockney, Texas, learned this week that they are not above the law: The Constitution and its 4th amendment, protecting all Americans from unreasonable search and seizure by the government, does not allow a public school to drug test all its children without individualized suspicion of drug use. It ought to have been obvious to the hopefully civically educated board members that the drug test scheme was unconstitutional and therefore illegal. But it wasn't obvious, or they didn't care, and defenders of liberty in Lockney had to take to the courts and brave public hostility to defend their rights.
It is hypocritical and dangerous for those claiming the mantle of law and order to themselves act unlawfully. But this very often happens in times of war. During World War I, for example, the Woodrow Wilson administration's Attorney General prosecuted socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs under the Sedition Act. Debs, whose crime was making an anti-war speech, was convicted and incarcerated for 10 years, until being pardoned by Warren Harding. Thousands of Japanese Americans were unlawfully uprooted and shipped to internment camps because of the acts of war committed by their relatives abroad.
In the drug war, which may soon be thought of as America's Hundred Years War, lawlessness by law enforcers is routine. Joe McNamara, former police chief in San Jose and Kansas City, has explained that police officers across the country are committing felony perjury hundreds of thousands of times a year in drug cases. The only way they can make the large numbers of drug arrests the politicians are telling them to make is to conduct illegal searches, and then to lie about it so the evidence won't be thrown out.
Rarely is such police perjury prosecuted, but that's almost besides the point. Why aren't the illegal searches prosecuted? I'm not talking about errors in judgment or legitimately complex situations where the police officer has made an honest mistake. I'm talking about the cases where it is so obvious that a search was illegal that the rights violation committed by the officer had to have been deliberate. Does anyone doubt that a private citizen caught forcibly opening another person's car trunk without permission would be prosecuted? Why is there no penalty for police officers -- in whom the public has placed a special trust -- who have done exactly the same thing and who understood the illegality of their actions when they did it?
A year ago tomorrow, the unarmed, drug-free Patrick Dorismond was shot and killed by undercover New York City police officers who accosted him without reason and asked him to sell them marijuana. No indictment has been made against any of the officers involved in Dorismond's killing. Was there some reason, some information prosecutors had to believe they were somehow innocent despite the incredible nature of the event? Perhaps, I don't know. But does anyone doubt that if a private citizen were to attempt to buy drugs and in the process shoot and kill an unarmed man, that individual would be prosecuted and a jury would decide? What about the police chief and mayor who unlawfully released Dorismond's court-sealed juvenile record to the media?
At the San Francisco "Women and the Drug War" conference, a drug war victim came forward to tell her story: She is a medical marijuana user, legally by doctor's recommendation under California law. Yet despite her doctor's note, the state took away her two-year old child after finding a small quantity of (legally possessed) marijuana in her car, and is trying to put the child up for adoption. Does anyone doubt that a private individual who forcibly took a child from its competent, law-abiding parent would be prosecuted for kidnapping?
Recently, a high level US state department official said our government should spray Andean peasants with pesticides to stop coca cultivation. It is a sick and outrageous comment, a detestable assault against the most basic principles of human rights. Yet this very thing is happening now, as a direct result of US diplomatic pressure on nations in that region. Does anyone doubt that a private helicopter pilot using his equipment to spray poisons on American citizens would be imprisoned for assault or worse?
The purpose of law is supposed to be the protection of individuals from assaults on their safety and property. But in the drug war, laws are subverted, twisted and disregarded at the whims of the law enforcers. And often these drug war zealots believe that they are doing the right thing. To ignore these supreme laws, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, is never truly right, and breeds disrespect for law. Yet for all the harm they cause, the zealots ultimately are not at the root of the problem -- the drug war is the root of the problem.
As our predecessors who opposed Alcohol Prohibition proclaimed early last century: Save Our Constitution, Protect Our Youth, Repeal Prohibition.
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