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

Issue #181, 4/13/01

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Connecting the Dots, Filling in the Background
  2. DEA Settles Case to Keep "Supersnitch" Cover-Up Alive, DRCNet Files Freedom of Information Act Request for Suppressed DEA Report
  3. Cancer Professionals Release New Pain Treatment Guidelines as NIDA Warns of Prescription Drug Addiction Danger, Patients Caught in Crossfire
  4. Canada: Government Eases Medical Marijuana Rules
  5. Bush's First Drug Budget: More of the Same
  6. Higher Education Act Campaign Continues to Pick Up New Schools, Student Movement Grows
  7. DRCNet Reaches 20,000 Subscriber Mark, Advice Sought on Possible Week Online Name Change
  8. Movie Review: Does "Blow" Blow? The Banality of Dealing
  9. Involuntary Commitment Bill Targeting Drunks and Junkies Clears Washington Legislature, Awaits Governor's Signature, "Gravely Disabled" Could Be Committed
  10. Utah: Prison Crunch Has Sentencing Commission Considering Alternative Sentences for Drug Offenders
  11. Australia: Kings Cross Injecting Room Passes Legal Hurdle, Opening Soon, Cannabis Cafes to Follow?
  12. Norway: Proposed New Regulations Will Restrict Access to Methadone and Other Opiate Maintenance Programs
  13. Media Scan: Rolling Stone,, Boston Phoenix,
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: Connecting the Dots, Filling in the Background

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

Local news writers doubtless understand the criminal justice problems such as profiling, police corruption and perjury are ongoing, nationwide issues. Still, the reporting understandably tends to focus on the immediate and the local.

Last week's New Jersey racial profiling story, for example, didn't make mention of the Northern Arizona profiling scandal -- in which Coconino County police were found to have reacted to the New Jersey investigation by shredding large quantities of potentially incriminating documents. This week's story about the DEA Supersnitch Cover-Up was reported as a single story, not a discussion of a nationwide policy that one federal court found to effectively constitute bribery of witnesses.

Issues such as asset forfeiture have garnered an encouraging level of discussion, and even some modest real-world reforms. Incidents of apparent police brutality have gone further, provoking outrage and mass protests in New York City and elsewhere. Even in these cases, though, the dialogue has largely stuck to the individual issue in question, not the relations between the different issues.

It's time to connect the dots. Profiling, misuse of informants, police misconduct and forfeiture abuse are not the work of "a few bad apples," but are rather, as some activists have put it, the fruit of a "rotten apple tree" -- endemic, entrenched, interrelated national problems flowing from some deep corruption eating away at the core of our criminal justice system and eroding the public's trust in it.

And it's time to fill in the background. What forces are at work driving this wholesale violation of rights and dereliction of ethical standards pervading this system? Just as the issues cannot be dismissed as reflecting "a few bad apples," neither can they rightfully be attributed to many bad apples. Most police and prosecutors, we hope, enter their careers wishing to benefit society and set examples for others as upstanding servants of the public. Yet somehow, many end up violating the public through the kinds of abuses discussed here, while many others deliberately tolerate them. What are the root causes of misconduct by crime fighters?

We believe that much of the answer lies in a drug war whose fervor approaches that of a religious crusade. If we are fighting a war, then the ends inevitably come to be seen as justifying the means. And if we are enwrapped in a crusade, the consequences of our own actions in waging that crusade seem unimportant. After all, we are on the side of right, fighting evil; therefore, we can do no wrong.

Last year, in a little-reported statement, the International Association of Chiefs of Police called for a national commission to study problems that are undermining the public's faith in the criminal justice system, including "highly publicized incidents of use of force, racial profiling, corruption, and instances of unethical behavior of police officers and executives." A few months later, the Kansas City Star brought the IACP's suggestion to the attention of then-candidates Bush and Gore. Gore waffled; Bush said he would support it.

Such a commission would not solve all our problems and doubtless would face substantial political pressures as well as a reluctance on the part of many criminal justice leaders to fully confront the realities and consequences of our flawed national drug policies. In fact, IACP's statement made no direct mention of "drugs" or "drug policy."

Still, the dialogue needs to start somewhere. A national commission might be one way to help the public and policymakers to connect the dots and fill in the background.

2. DEA Settles Case to Keep "Supersnitch" Cover-Up Alive, DRCNet Files Freedom of Information Act Request for Suppressed DEA Report

DRCNet has thrice before reported on the case of Andrew Chambers, the Drug Enforcement Administration's tarnished supersnitch ( and and The St. Louis native made a lucrative career as a narc, earning at least the $2.2 million the DEA has admitted paying him, and helping to send more than 400 people to prison since 1984. Unfortunately for Chambers, the DEA and US Attorneys around the country, he has also been outed as a serial perjurer.

Last year, after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story, then Attorney General Janet Reno ordered the DEA to suspend Chambers. Then DEA Chief of Operations Richard Fiano told the Post-Dispatch at the time that the agency was conducting an internal investigation. But the agency has refused to release the results, although it had promised to do so. Nor has it responded to written questions about the report from the Post-Dispatch, although it had promised to do so.

As of this writing, DEA officials have not responded to DRCNet requests to see the report. DRCNet has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the report with the DEA. (But don't hold your breath. Uncooperative federal agencies can take months or years to process FOIA requests, appeals of rejections take even longer, and in many cases, when documents are finally released, they are so heavily redacted as to be practically useless.)

The report presumably contains information showing that DEA agents, senior officials and US Attorneys were aware of Chambers' mendacious ways, but continued to use him nonetheless while not revealing their knowledge of his credibility problems to defendants, their attorneys and the courts.

Now, US Attorneys in Los Angeles have settled a drug dealing case rather than reveal the investigation's results to a defense attorney. In January, they said Dave Daly deserved a life sentence for his sixth drug law violation, a PCP sale. But last month, they let him plead to one count of using a telephone in a drug transaction, and he walked out of the jail where he had spent the last three years awaiting trial.

US Attorneys and the DEA cut a deal whose primary beneficiaries, other than Daly, appear to be exposed drug agents and government prosecutors. The deal that sent Daly home had three provisions, his attorney, John Martin, told the Post-Dispatch. Daly had to give up his right to see the DEA investigation, withdraw his motion accusing the government of misconduct, and stipulate that there was no government misconduct.

Prosecutors have acknowledged that Chambers was the chief witness against Daly, that they knew of his history of lying in court, and that they failed to tell the defense.

"There were a lot of agents who knew that, and I think that's what they wanted to cover up," said Martin. "That was the price of getting Daly out of jail."

Demanding that the prosecution produce the DEA investigation "made the deal" to free his client, Martin told the Post-Dispatch. He told the St. Louis paper he believes the report will show that DEA agents repeatedly condoned perjury and will reveal government misconduct serious enough to have derailed any attempt to prosecute Daly.

Martin and Daly may never know what the DEA report says and, if the agency has its way, neither will the rest of us.

3. Cancer Professionals Release New Pain Treatment Guidelines as NIDA Warns of Prescription Drug Addiction Danger, Patients Caught in Crossfire

Two recent initiatives on cancer treatment and prescription drug abuse vividly illustrate the public health and public policy cross-currents swirling around the issue of proper treatment of pain. The American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, representing the country's preeminent cancer treatment centers, early this month released its first guidelines explicitly designed to address pain as a problem in cancer treatment, "Cancer Pain Treatment Guidelines for Patients." This week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued its report on the abuse of prescription drugs, "Prescription Drugs Abuse and Addiction," and its director, Dr. Alan Leshner, used a press conference touting the research to issue a dire -- and much reported -- warning that four million Americans are abusing prescription drugs.

Not to be outdone, Newsweek leapt into the fray with a major story in its April 9th issue, "Playing With Painkillers," replete with doctor-shopping, pill-popping pain patients run amok. Overall a fairly reasonable piece, the story nonetheless helps explain the reluctance of some patients and doctors alike to adequately confront intractable pain. Both groups fear and misunderstand the use of opiates and can be reluctant to venture into the murky cultural terrain where pain patients scale into junkies and conscientious physicians morph into dope-dealing Dr. Feelgoods.

The new cancer pain treatment guidelines summarize these issues in its section on obstacles to pain relief. They list patients' fear of addiction ("but this rarely happens"), their fear of side effects, doctors' and nurses' inadequate knowledge of pain relief techniques, patients who "tough it out" instead of telling doctors of their pain, and "legal obstacles."

"Doctors' and nurses' personal beliefs interfere with adequate management of chronic cancer pain," say the guidelines. "In the past, doctors and nurses were not well trained to care for patients with chronic pain. They did not always know what medicines were used to control pain. They also were afraid of the possibility that patients would become addicted."

And in an implicit acknowledgment of the role of drug prohibition in complicating pain treatment, the guidelines note that, "When prescribing opioids, especially doses that some might consider high, doctors, pharmacists, and nurses fear actions by drug enforcement agencies. These actions may be exaggerated by professionals and should not be an obstacle to pain relief."

Arrests of doctors for prescribing pain medications may be rare, responded Skip Baker of the American Society for Action on Pain (, a patients' and doctors' advocacy group, but their effect on practicing physicians is dramatic. Baker, himself an intractable pain patients taking high doses of an opioid pain reliever, can quickly reel off the names and case information of at least five doctors who have faced or are facing criminal prosecutions for their attempts to treat patients in pain.

"You've gotta treat pain more aggressively," Baker told DRCNet. "It's a shame that half of those patients are never treated for pain, but the medical profession runs scared when prosecutors come along and arrest a bunch of doctors. My own doctor is under investigation over my dosage."

"The government is at cross-purposes with itself," Baker growled. "If we're going to let drug warriors falsely arrest and indict doctors and lie about it without ever paying any price for their reprehensible actions, we'll never get anywhere. We need congressional hearings on this issue," he added.

According to the American Cancer Society spokeswoman Joann Schellenbach, about one-third of all cancer patients have the kind of pain that could be managed by opioids or other techniques, but not all of them are receiving adequate care for pain. "Almost all of them could have pain alleviated completely or managed well enough that they have reasonable quality of life," she told DRCNet, "but only about half of those are getting the treatment they need."

Schellenberg proved reluctant to finger law enforcement as a problem, pointing instead to patient and doctor attitudes, especially in regard to pain medicines also being used recreationally. "Information about drug abuse feeds into patients' and doctors' concerns about drug addiction in general," she said, "and many patients refuse management of their pain because they worry about becoming addicted."

Dr. Robert C. Young, president-elect of the American Cancer Society, elaborated in the group's press release: "Reactions to recent disturbing media coverage of drug addicts and pain killer abuse may ironically interfere with important efforts to appropriately manage cancer patients' pain," he said. "In fact, when pain medicines are given and taken appropriately, patients rarely become addicted to them."

That didn't stop NIDA's Leshner from sounding the alarm about prescription drug abuse. "No one starts out to get addicted," he told the NIDA press conference. The press conference kicked off a new NIDA campaign to combat what Leshner called "a dangerous new drug abuse trend" -- the non-medical use of prescription drugs.

Leshner apparently does not remember Marilyn Monroe, "Valley of the Dolls," or "Mother's Little Helper," but the NIDA research shows prescription drug misuse escalating, especially among women, senior citizens, and young people. Nor did Leshner make the connection between rising prescription drug abuse and the staggering increase in mood-altering medicines in the 1990s described in the NIDA report. NIDA found that from 1990 to 1998, new users of pain medications doubled and nearly doubled again, while the use of prescribed stimulants was up 165%, tranquilizers up 132%, and sedatives up 90%.

ASAP's Baker is not pleased with NIDA and Leshner. "Why is he saying all this stuff that is just going to hurt pain patients? That's all crazy," Baker fumed. "Why doesn't he look into what all this drug war nonsense is doing to pain patients?"

Pain treatment is available, says the medical profession. But as they approach the nexus where medicine meets the drug war, too many doctors and patients alike would rather suffer in silence.

The ACS guidelines can be found online at:

The NIDA report is online at:

4. Canada: Government Eases Medical Marijuana Rules

Responding to a clarion call from the Canadian courts, the Canadian health ministry, known as Health Canada, has issued regulations that will make Canada the first country in the world to create a government-regulated system for using marijuana as medicine. Health minister Allan Rock unveiled the new regulations at a press conference last Friday.

"Canada is acting compassionately by allowing people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses to have access to marijuana for medical purposes," Rock told the Ottawa press conference. (Two years ago, Rock admitted to having used marijuana himself as a student, but "not medically," he said.)

Health Canada acted in response to the case of an Ontario epileptic who claimed the right to grow and smoke marijuana for medical purposes. The Ontario Supreme Court last year agreed and gave the government until July 31st to rewrite its medical marijuana statutes or see the marijuana laws thrown out altogether. Patients had to choose between "health and imprisonment," the court said.

Under a program in place since 1999, Health Canada allowed a small number of patients using marijuana to claim a special exemption from laws banning its use. Some 220 Canadians have received exemptions, but the Ontario court held that the program did not adequately address the needs of medical marijuana patients. It ordered the government to clarify who could apply for such an exemption.

The new regulations create three categories of patients, with different rules for each. Those expected to die within a year would have the easiest access to medical marijuana. A second group includes those who suffer from severe pain or other symptoms from a list of specified diseases, including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. These patients will have to get a statement from a doctor saying conventional treatments have been ineffective.

A third group, those whose medical conditions are not explicitly covered by the Health Canada regulations, would still be able to obtain medical marijuana, but would have to obtain statements of need from two doctors.

They also remove restrictions on the amount of marijuana patients can possess and allow patients to grow their own or have a designated grower. To avoid the "compassion club" phenomenon, however, designated growers will not be allowed to grow for more than three patients.

The measure appears decidedly uncontroversial in Canada, where even the social conservative Canadian Alliance party lauds the regulations. "When people are seriously ill and in severe pain, we would support anything that would relieve their pain," Alliance member Diane Ablonczy told the press conference.

Assistant Deputy Health Minister Dann Michols acknowledged that the US government had serious questions about the program, and diplomatically told the press conference, "It's difficult to say they're right, we're wrong, or vice versa." But for many Canadians, the official line from the US is little more than junk science. Jim McNulty, writing in the British Columbia alternative weekly the Province and unconstrained by diplomatic protocol, proclaimed, "Canada, an obedient servant of the US, has gone along with this guff to pacify southern graduates from the Reefer Madness school of quackery."

Now, Canada has taken a significant step out from behind the shadow of its drug fighting southern neighbor. Not far enough, though, say some medical marijuana patients.

Barry Burkeholder of Sudbury, Ontario, who suffers from Hepatitis C, told Canada Press the rules were unnecessarily bureaucratic. "It's probably another tactic for them to put some red tape in," he said. He also said patients could have problems finding doctors to support their applications. "We've got to get some information to the doctors, too."

Expressing similar concerns, Calgary pot crusader Grant Krieger called the regulations "a whitewash."

"They're setting up their own racket with no benefit except a waste of taxpayers' money," he told the Calgary Herald.

Such complaints could be rendered moot as the Supreme Court prepares to hear cases from British Columbia and Ontario challenging the constitutionality of the laws against recreational marijuana use.

John Conroy, the attorney who will argue the Supreme Court case next year, noted that in the BC and Ontario cases, even though judges upheld the marijuana laws, they "accepted that the possession and use of marijuana does not pose a significant, substantial, or serious risk to the public." He told the Province that the case is a Charter of Rights challenge to "the constitutionality of this kind of prohibition."

5. Bush's First Drug Budget: More of the Same

Buried in the gargantuan overall budget proposal President Bush delivered to Congress last week was the first Bush-era federal drug control budget. Those looking for signs of change from the Clinton administration -- for better or for worse -- will find little on which to base their predictions, DRCNet's preliminary analysis shows.

The lack of dramatic change in the drug control budget reflects a Bush administration as yet unwilling or unable to make drug policy a high-profile issue. That discomfort with drug policy is also evident in Bush's failure to yet name a drug czar and with the lack of fiery drug war rhetoric that characterized his father's administration. Only Attorney General John Ashcroft has publicly taken a hard line on drugs, and even then, only when provoked by questioners.

Speculation abounds as to what is going on with drug policy in the White House. Bush feels weakened on the issue by his personal history, some suggest. Others posit internal power-struggles between administration law and order conservatives and libertarians. But speculation is just so much hot air -- the budget is where real priorities are laid out, and this budget shows Bush going down the same merry path as his as prison-happy predecessor.

The proposed Bush drug budget continues both the trend toward incremental increases in the overall drug budget and the rough 2-to-1 ratio of law enforcement to treatment and prevention spending. Total federal drug control spending will climb next year to nearly $19.2 billion, a 6% increase over the current fiscal year, with most agencies and programs getting commensurate increases.

Paying the price for the Clinton-era prison spree, the first Bush drug budget calls for an 8% increase for the Bureau of Prisons and a 21% increase for the federal prisoner detention line item, which disburses tax dollars to private companies contracted to guard prisoners. US taxpayers will shell out more than $3 billion next year for drug war prison costs.

They will also pay $731 million for Bush's new, improved Plan Colombia, now going under the regional moniker of the Andean Initiative.

Other winners in the drug budget sweepstakes were DEA (up 9% to more than $1.5 billion), and such squeaky wheels as the Coast Guard and southwest border prosecutors and politicians. The Coast Guard, which has recently complained loudly of its inability to halt seaborne smugglers, was rewarded with a 19% budget increase. And Bush must have listened to the howls coming from border counties in Texas, where prosecutors have refused to try federally-generated drug cases because of the costs to local jurisdictions. $50 million is allocated for border prosecutors.

Where there are winners, there are losers. In the Bush drug budget, one of the biggest hits is to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Public Housing Drug Elimination grant program. The program that spent $300 million last year to improve the quality of life for public housing residents has been zeroed out in the 2002 budget. The administration explains that the program duplicates other efforts, and that existing programs, such as evicting drug offenders, will do the job.

Another loser is the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics Affairs and Law Enforcement, which will see its funding slashed by 42%, from $279 million this year to $162 million next year. On its face, the huge reduction for the office that provides alternative development assistance to coca-farmers and helps countries strengthen law enforcement and judicial institutions would appear to undercut the administration's Andean Initiative. But the initiative's $731 million appropriation will fold-in some development funds, although the exact numbers are not known.

For Kevin Zeese of Common Sense for Drug Policy (, the Bush budget is "a drug budget on automatic pilot. This is a budget that guarantees long-term failure and more of the same," Zeese told DRCNet.

As important, Zeese added, is to put the drug budget in the larger economic context. "Bush has projected a 10-year flat-line federal budget," he said, "and as a result we won't see health care funding, we won't see new money for treatment, kids won't see their problems addressed."

The budget process is barely underway, and the figures cited above do not represent all spending related to drug control in the federal budget, such as programs in the Departments of Education and Labor that have some drug-control content. Doug McVay of CSDP is preparing a comprehensive analysis of the drug budget, which will appear on the group's web site soon. In the meantime, McVay has posted a copy of the drug budget, at online.

In the meantime, cost-benefit analysts trying to determine what we get for our drug budget can chew on these words from the government's greatest beneficiary of drug war budget largesse:

"Measures reported in past years, such as arrests, indictments, and convictions, are not considered useful indicators of the outcome of impact of law enforcement activities by the Department of Justice. The Department will continue to develop new and more meaningful performance measures as part of the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act."

6. Higher Education Act Campaign Continues to Pick Up New Schools, Student Movement Grows

Last week DRCNet reported on preliminary but dramatic numbers from the Department of Education on student applicants denied eligibility for financial aid next school year due to drug convictions (

The past several days have brought news of several new student government endorsements of the HEA campaign's resolution -- calling for repeal of this new law -- bringing the total to 55 campuses plus three multi-school associations.

New schools on board include:

  • Appalachian State University, North Carolina, spearheaded by the ASU ACLU chapter with the ASU NAACP, passed after a lengthy and heated debate in the campus media;
  • Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, spearheaded by Dartmouth SSDP;
  • University of North Texas, spearheaded by UNT SSDP;
  • Florida State University, spearheaded by FSU NORML and passed after contentious debate in the Student Senate;
  • Portland State University, Oregon, spearheaded by PSU NAACP; and
  • Southern Oregon University, passed with the help of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition.
Please visit to send a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 786 to repeal the HEA drug provision, and to download an activist packet to find out how to get involved in the campaign.

SSDP chapters at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Hampshire College in Massachusetts are hosting conferences on April 28-29 and May 4, respectively. Visit our calendar below or at for links to further information.

7. DRCNet Reaches 20,000 Subscriber Mark, Advice Sought on Possible Week Online Name Change

Thanks to the continued interest of you, our members and readers, DRCNet's e-mail list this week reached the 20,000 subscriber mark. We are committed to continuing our grassroots focus as the leading and largest drug policy reform information network: Issuing legislative action alerts to flood Congressional offices with thousands of letters and phone calls; Igniting special campaigns such as the student-led Higher Education Act Reform Campaign; and sending you and tens of thousands of activists, media and concerned citizens the Week Online, the most widely read drug policy publication representing our movement and our cause.

Speaking of the Week Online, we are considering changing its name, but wanted to first solicit your feedback. Do you think this is a good idea? Do you have any suggestions for new name for this newsletter? The best idea we've had so far is "Drug War Chronicles." Do you think this is a good name that accurately represents our newsletter and will grab the attention of activists and media alike? Please send your comments to [email protected]; we want your input!

DRCNet needs your help more than ever to continue our path-breaking work -- especially in the form of non-tax-deductible donations to our lobbying arm to support legislative work such as the Higher Education Act Reform Campaign and our legislative alerts. If you want to help end the drug war, please take a few minutes today to make the most generous donation you can. All contributors will receive a free DRCNet bumper sticker, just back from the printer!

Please visit to donate by credit card or create a form to print out and mail us with your check or money order; or just send your contribution to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible; tax-deductible contributions for our educational work can be made to the DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Take advantage of our new book offer -- "The Politics of Medical Marijuana" by Alan Bock -- by making a donation of $35 or more! Make sure to note the name of the book or author in the comments box or on or with your check, so we will know this is the book you want. (Read our interview with the author at in the Week Online archives.)

Last but not least, help us spread the word! Send your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, family members, all appropriate parties to -- so that this week's 20,000 will grow to 50,000, 100,000 or more, a potent, organized political force to bring sanity and compassion to our national and international drug policies. Thank you for being a part of DRCNet.

8. Movie Review: Does "Blow" Blow? The Banality of Dealing

Steve Beitler for DRCNet

Rushing through the door to the Hollywood mainstream that "Traffic" opened, "Blow" is mainly of interest to reformers not for what it shows but because it exists. The tone of the movie is hackneyed and conservative, but "Blow" does have some good acting and engaging visuals. At bottom, it's another small sign that the failure of the drug war is becoming a peculiar form of the conventional wisdom.

"Blow" tells the story of George Jung (pronounced Young), a Massachusetts guy who is hell-bent on not being poor. Jung begins his quest by dealing pot after he moves to southern California in 1968 and falls in with stewardesses who are happy to lug the weed in their unchecked suitcases.

There's a lot in a dealer's life that George likes. He has a good feel for business and is soon steering a large operation. Nabbed with more than 600 pounds of pot, George heads to prison, where his cellmate is a colleague of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian cocaine titan. This stroke of networking fortune kicks George's career into the big leagues. He is soon a major coke distributor with the money, trophy wife and habit to prove it.

George's rise and fall as a coke dealer follow a predictable arc. He has to buy a house just to store all his cash, which he keeps in hundreds of eye-catching floor-to-ceiling piles and random stacks. The wife gets crazy on the merchandise. George is flipped to the cops by a group of up-and-comers that includes an old buddy, a competitive strike that lands George in the tank, where he will be living until 2015.

While the story lurches ahead, the movie occasionally weighs in with insights on family and money and children that are muddled and tired. This is where "Blow" serves up scenes that are, along with the cliches, the movie's biggest drawback. The best parts are when "Blow" revisits the time when coke seemed like too good an answer to too many questions for too many people.

Rachel Griffiths as George's grasping mother is excellent, but Ray Liotta as his play-by-the-rules-but-come-up-short Dad is bland. Johnny Depp as George smirks a lot, says "Everything was perfect" when it wasn't close, and has the clothes and hair down very well.

Bruce Porter wrote the book that led to "Blow," which doesn't add much to the cinematic history of the drug war. That's okay. "Blow" is a ripe bit of low-hanging fruit in Hollywood's endless search for strong stories. They didn't do much with what they had, but this is a movie that would not have been made 10 years ago, so its arrival may be a modest mark of progress on reform.

9. Involuntary Commitment Bill Targeting Drunks and Junkies Clears Washington Legislature, Awaits Governor's Signature, "Gravely Disabled" Could Be Committed

By unanimous votes, both chambers of the Washington state legislature have approved a bill that would allow the state to involuntarily commit "gravely disabled" chronic drug and alcohol users and force them into drug treatment programs. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Jeanine Long (R-Mill Creek).

The bill was formally submitted to Governor Gary Locke on April 9; to veto the bill, he must act by Saturday. He need not sign the bill for it to become law. Gov. Locke was preparing to make an announcement as this issue of the Week Online went to press.

The bill represents a significant expansion of civil commitment procedures to detain persons not accused of crimes. Since the mental health reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, only persons deemed likely to pose an imminent danger to themselves or other have been vulnerable to such proceedings.

"That's horrendous," was the reaction of Joycelyn Woods of the National Association of Methadone Advocates ( "This is a law that can easily be abused to put people away," she told DRCNet. "You call them up and say, 'my wife is doing drugs,' which parallels precisely what used to happen in the bad old days in the mental health care system."

The Washington Public Defenders Association has urged Gov. Locke to veto the bill and asked him to study the matter further. "The system is already under pressure," the group's Christie Hedman told the Everett Daily Herald. "There aren't even enough beds for people who voluntarily want the treatment."

The Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is also calling for a veto. In an open letter sent to Gov. Locke on April 5th, the two organizations wrote: "Given the state's limited resources, we believe that voluntary patients should be given priority and adequate funding provided for their treatment needs."

"Substance abuse is not the same as mental illness," they told the governor. "Mental illness is recognized for its long term effects on judgment, unlike an alcoholic whose reasoning ability returns when he is sober. What this bill is in effect saying is that alcoholics and substance abusers do not understand their need for treatment and should be forced to receive it. The same argument could be made for smokers or thrill-seekers who knowingly refuse to stop smoking or endangering their lives."

But it may be a case of too little, too late. The bill apparently led a stealth existence as it worked its way through the state legislature. The bill's existence came as a surprise to the National Association of Syringe Exchange Networks (, whose national offices are in Tacoma. NASEN executive director Dave Purchase told DRCNet he wasn't aware of the bill. Washington American Civil Liberties Union executive director Doug Honig was equally unfamiliar with it. He told DRCNet he would have to check with the ACLU's Olympia lobbyist.

While private and state-sponsored treatment facilities are available in almost all Washington counties, only the Pioneer Center North in Sedro-Wooley is designed to provide drug treatment for people held against their will. The 115-bed, fenced-in center usually has a waiting list, King County (Seattle) drug treatment official Mike Elsner told the newspaper.

Elsner added that the state was planning a 35-bed, $3.2 million involuntary treatment center in Eastern Washington and had budgeted an additional $2.8 for the statewide substance abuse program. Those acts would relieve the pressure on the Pioneer Center North, he said, although he provided no projections on how the bill would affect demand for its services.

Senate Bill 5051 and its companion measure, House Bill 1292, say: "When a designated chemical dependency specialist receives information alleging that a person is incapacitated and presents a likelihood of serious harm or is gravely disabled as a result of chemical dependency, the designated chemical dependency specialist, after investigation and evaluation of the specific facts alleged and of the reliability and credibility of the information, may file a petition for commitment of such person with the superior court, district court, or in another court permitted by court rule."

Under the bill, if after a hearing, the judge grants the commitment petition, he or she can order the drug user in question to a maximum five-month stay at a treatment center. An original 60-day maximum commitment period may be extended by an additional 90-days if the judge so orders. The bill was widely supported by state and local public health, drug abuse and law enforcement officials, who argued that it would help addicts and save the state money.

Dr. Joseph Barrett is a psychiatrist who deals with substance abusers at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He testified in support of the bill. "The idea is that if we get appropriate treatment, we'll save lives," he told the Daily Telegraph. But he quickly turned to the savings angle. "The other thing is, they're a huge user of resources," Barrett said. "Usually these people are indigent, and they're on Medicaid, and the state ends up picking up the bill."

Sen. Long, the bill's sponsor, reflected the same mixed motives. "I see this as having a positive impact on the people who need the treatment," she told the Everett newspaper. "Very often, they refuse to go, and they recycle through our hospitals, jails, detox centers, and sometimes they end up in our prisons. So it can be a big cost to taxpayers. If we can stop that recycling, $2.8 million is a good investment," she added. "Addicts get to the point where they're not employable, and then you and I pay for their care completely."

Patrick Vanzo of the King County Department of Community and Human Services testified that the county spent $1.5 million in 1999 on just 36 chronic drug or alcohol users, for services such as ambulances, hospitals, police, and courts. The 36 could have had a two-month drug treatment course at a combined cost of $275,000, he pointed out.

The text of the bill can be found online at:

10. Utah: Prison Crunch Has Sentencing Commission Considering Alternative Sentences for Drug Offenders

Violent crime has been going down in Utah for the last three years, but the prison population -- and the prison budget -- just keeps going up. The state legislature grudgingly appropriated $184 million for prisons this year, $11 million less than the Correction Department requested, and the big bill is causing the state's Sentencing Commission to look at ways to reduce the number of state prisoners.

Drug offenders are the fastest growing segment of the state prison population. They make up 1,280 of the state's 5,777 prisoners as of January 1, according to the Corrections Department. In 1990, 88 defendants went to prison for felony drug violations in Utah; last year, Utah sent 654, including 37 sentenced to terms of up to life for first degree drug felonies.

As the commission convened at the state capitol last week, its members indicated that they would investigate methods of diverting drug offenders from prison. "We will look closely at whether they can safely be diverted," commission director Ed McConkie told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The state spends about $23,000 per year to house inmates. According to McConkie, the commission will examine more inexpensive options for drug offenders, including day reporting centers, drug courts or electronic monitoring.

With state prisons on the verge of overcrowding -- this year's projected increase of 324 prisoners will wipe out all remaining unoccupied beds -- Utah lawmakers are having to think twice about paying the drug war piper.

11. Australia: Kings Cross Injecting Room Passes Legal Hurdle, Opening Soon, Cannabis Cafes to Follow?

Australia's first legal heroin injecting room is tantalizingly close to opening in Sydney after an Australian Supreme Court judge rejected a last-ditch legal challenge from local businesses. Meanwhile, Green Party representatives are preparing to introduce a bill in the New South Wales (NSW) Parliament that would allow Amsterdam-style "cannabis cafes" to open up across the province.

The injection room, to be operated by the Uniting Church in the Kings Cross neighborhood of Sydney, first became official policy at the NSW Drug Summit in 1999, but has been delayed by papal interventions and legal challenges ever since. On April 5th, Supreme Court Justice Scully struck down the last challenge, from the Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce, which had questioned the center's location.

Justice Scully held that while the injection room raised "large questions of public policy, of public morality, of social psychology, and of social welfare," those were not for the court to judge, having been decided by the political process. Scully also found that NSW authorities "acted reasonably and within the statutory criteria correctly construed" in granting approval to the injection room.

"We'll have it open as quickly as we can," Uniting Church's Rev. Harry Herbert told the Daily Telegraph. The ruling was a "moral victory," he said. The project needed to train staff and set up payroll, he added.

The injection room is a pilot program set to run for 18 months at 66 Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross, an area of bars, clubs, cafes, adult entertainment, and a congregation of hard drug users. Staffed by registered nurses and drug and alcohol counselors during its hours of operation -- fours hours each in the morning and evening -- the center contains eight cubicles with two seats each, allowing as many as 16 people to use the facility at one time. Injectors will be provided with syringes and other injection supplies. After the 18-month trial period, state authorities will submit a report to the NSW parliament before it considers whether to continue or expand the program.

Harm reduction advocates first moved in the direction of a "safe room" for injecting by opening a non-officially approved shooting gallery, the tolerance or "T-Room" in the spring of 1999 just before the drug summit approved a trial injection room. Police raided the T-Room during the one week it was open, and it shut down just after the summit.

The injection room hit an early hurdle when its original operators, the Catholic order Sisters of Mercy, were forced to withdraw on instructions from the Pope.

The program has the support of the NSW Labor government of Bob Carr. Carr's Special Minister of State John Della Bosca pronounced the administration's position: "The government is committed to evaluating whether a medically supervised injecting room can act as a gateway to treatment, keep addicts alive and improve the general amenity of Kings Cross for residents and business," he said.

"The chamber has had its day in court," Rev. Herbert told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The judgment has ruled against them. It's time for them to let this trial go ahead."

But the chamber has not yet given up the ghost. Chamber spokesman Malcolm Duncan told reporters the chamber is considering an appeal -- it has 28 days in which to do so -- and warned of dire consequences. "Ladies and gentlemen," he told the gathered correspondents, "welcome to the petri dish. You are now in [NSW Prime Minister] Bob Carr's social experiment."

Tony Trimingham, founder of the Family Drug Support Group, and until recently a member of the National Drug Advisory Council, had a mix of emotions following the court's decision. Trimingham founded the group after his son died of a heroin overdose in 1997. "There is still a sense of frustration that it has been two years and instead of evaluating the trial we are going through these pedantics," he told the Morning Herald, "but a relief that it was a fairly emphatic decision and now a sense of let's get on with it," he said.

The T-Room was not the only Kings Cross drug normalization attempt shut down by police in 1999. Police also closed a cafe that sold cannabis as well as coffee and turned a blind eye to smoking on the premises. Under a proposed bill by Green Party parliamentarian Lee Rhiannon, such establishments would become legal in NSW.

The provision, part of a larger Green drug reform package still being formulated, is in part a reaction to the government's decision to support the injection room, Rhiannon told the Canberra Times. "While we support the heroin injecting room, it's a bit of a double standard to ignore the users of other drugs," she said. She added that it did not make sense for people to be able to inject legally while cannabis users still faced prosecution.

12. Norway: Proposed New Regulations Will Restrict Access to Methadone and Other Opiate Maintenance Programs

The Norwegian government's new "Guidelines for medically-assisted rehabilitation of drug misusers" don't seem so bad at first glance. They mouth the right phrases about harm reduction and how "the client's wishes should be of significant importance," and they provide for state-directed opiate maintenance programs to serve the Nordic nation's officially estimated 9,000 to 13,000 injection drug users.

But the new guidelines are also tightening the bureaucratic controls under which treatment providers and clients must work. Currently, doctors may prescribe and pharmacies may dispense maintenance opioids such as methadone, buprenorphine, and North European maintenance favorites such as Temgesic. Injection drug users on opiate maintenance could work directly with doctors or participate in the MAR, the government's methadone maintenance program. Under the new guidelines, all opiate maintenance treatment providers must come under the MAR umbrella.

Users, doctors, and their advocates are not happy. The new guidelines will disrupt and constrict working maintenance regimes already in place, according to Per Arvid Eikeland of the Norwegian Drug User Union. "The doctors have often treated people just fine, but now they now longer have the right to prescribe Temgesic or buprenorphine or methadone to addicts without MAR supervising," he wrote. (The Norwegian Drug User Union is an affiliate of the older, more established Danish Drug User Union, Danish union leader Joergen Kjaer told DRCNet. The web site of the parent group can be found at online.)

Joycelyn Woods of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates ( said the Norwegian government is overreaching, but that it will respond to international public opinion. The new guidelines are "a change in the wrong direction," she told DRCNet.

"The state program, the MAR, treated a small number of people, but many municipalities also had doctors prescribing independently," Woods explained. "The problem is not so much in the new regulations, but they can't handle what they're doing right now. The guidelines say doctors must join the state system. What will happen is that people will be thrown out of treatment because their doctors aren't able to get the proper certification."

"Norway does not want to admit that it has an opiate addiction problem -- that's the problem," said Woods. "They don't want to look like the United States. It's very hard for them to even admit that there are that many users. The problem is they don't realize what they're dealing with. European reformers tell me they had never seen drug users in as bad a shape as Norway, but then they haven't seen New York," Wood laughed ruefully.

The Norwegian Department of Health Affairs and Social Matters, which runs the MAR program, says approximately 1,100 people are participating and another 1,100 on waiting lists, but Eikeland argues that the real number of users seeking and receiving opiate maintenance therapy is much higher, in part because of doctor-patient contacts outside of MAR and in part because users fail to apply for programs they know are full.

"In the last year, people got the clear message that there was no more capacity," wrote Eikeland, "so they have no reason to apply to the MAR. Thus, the MAR waiting list numbers are not reliable. The majority of people don't get past the social office at the municipal level, and the municipalities keep no statistics on this."

Eikeland also noted that the MAR program with its emphasis on rehabilitating hard-core addicts is inappropriate for many stable opiate maintenance patients. Accusing the program of "terrorizing" users, he wrote that up to half of MAR participants are dismissed from the program for "side abuse," or using other drugs while in the program.

And, Eikeland pointed out, many patients do not need or desire programs aimed at the most far-gone junkies. "Some of us need control, but for most of us care, empathy, trust, and obligations are much more important. We are mostly people who are resourceful and doing well in society, with education, work and a healthier lifestyle," he wrote, describing some 300 Temgesic maintenance patients in his home county of Vestfold.

"Now they will have to apply for rehabilitation that they have no need for," he concluded. "Here in the provinces, we see that our members have better network and social skills than the MAR program is designed for, and it thus often does more harm than good."

NAMA's Woods told DRCNet that the Norwegian government responded to a letter it sent last year addressing efforts to restrict opiate maintenance therapy and that the government, sensitive about its image, might back down on this issue in order to keep a low profile. She urged readers to write to the Norwegian government to express their concerns (and to send a copy to NAMA). The correct government officials to write to are:

Affairs Guri Ingrebrigtsen, Minister of Social Affair & Tore Tonne, Minister of Health, Norway Department of Health and Social Affairs, P.O. Box 8011 dep., 0300 Oslo, Norway

13. Media Scan: Rolling Stone,, Boston Phoenix,

The April 26th issue of Rolling Stone magazine features an article about Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (and member of DRCNet's advisory board), discussing Doblin and MAPS' quest to explore the therapeutic potential of Ecstasy and other psychedelics.

In an online exclusive, currently features "The Parent Trap" -- Caught between the War on Drugs and federal adoption law, growing numbers of women prisoners are facing the permanent loss of their children.

The Boston Phoenix has run a feature story on Al Giordano and Narco News and their upcoming legal battle with Mexico's Banamex bank. Giordano is a former Phoenix reporter. The story can be read online at: multi-page/documents/01282843.htm

Freelance writer Andrew Friedman draws links between prison growth and census counts, charging that skewed statistical counting procedures and resulting federal funding are fueling enthusiasm for incarceration.

14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

April 13, 20 & 27, 8:45pm, New York, NY, Benefit for Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center's Women's Program. Little Annie, aka Annie Anxiety, will perform at The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard Street (corner of Stanton Street), accompanied on piano by Nicky Paraiso. Minimum donation $5, all profits going to the program. For further information, call (212) 253-7246 or visit on the web.

April 18, 8:00pm, Minneapolis, MN, Benefit Concert for NORML Minnesota. At First Avenue, $5 admission for 21 or older, $8 or free for NORML MN members. Call (612) 871-8780 or visit for further information.

April 18, 8:30pm, New York, NY, Narco News 1st Anniversay Celebration. At 356 W. 40th St. (near 9th Ave.), benefiting the "Drug War on Trial" Narco News 1st Amendment legal defense fund. For further information, e-mail [email protected] or visit online.

April 19-21, Washington, DC, 2001 NORML Conference. Visit 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, 1:00-5:00pm, Houston, TX, 4/20 "Happening" -- awareness festival sponsored by Rice for Legalization and Rice Students for Sensible Drug Policy. At the Rice University Student Center, Brown Garden, including speakers, bands and other events. For further information, e-mail [email protected].

April 20-22, Sweetwater, TN, Fundraising Concert for NORML UTK. For further information, visit online.

April 22, 5:30pm, St. Cloud, MN, "Hemp 'n Harmony" Benefit Concert for St. Cloud State University NORML. At the Red Carpet, $5 or free to NORML MN members, presentations on medical marijuana industrial hemp and the war on drugs. For further information, visit or e-mail [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 on the web. At the Marriott City Center Hotel, 30 South Seventh Street.

April 26, 6:30pm, Middletown, CT, "The War on Drugs and the Prison Industrial Complex: How It Affects Minorities and the Working Class. Sponsored by Efficacy and the Central Connecticut Green Party, featuring Hartford City Council Member and Green Party activist Elizabeth Horton-Sheff, defendant in the Sheff vs. O'Neil school desegration case; former New Haven police chief Nick Pastore, now representing the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation; and Efficacy's Clifford Wallace Thornton, Jr. At the First Church of Christ, 190 Court St., call (860) 285-8831 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

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, noon, Kingston, RI, Third Annual Hempfest. Sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Hemp Organization for Prohibition Elimination (HOPE), featuring live music and speakers. For further information, e-mail Tom Angell at [email protected].

April 27-28, Detroit, MI, "Beyond the War on Drugs: Why it Failed. What it Cost. What Now?" Conference presented by the National Lawyers Guild, Detroit Chapter. At Wayne State University Law School, 471 West Palmer, free and open to the public. For further information call (313) 963-0843, e-mail [email protected] or visit online.

April 27-29, San Francisco, CA, "Press Freedom Conference and Alternative News Media Exposition." At San Francisco State University, registration $50 or $25 student/low-income. For further information, call (707) 664-2500 or visit online.

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, visit on the web.

May 4, 8:30am-3:00pm, Amherst, MA, "Financial Aid and the Higher Education Act Drug Provision." At the Red Barn, sponsored by Hampshire College and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Call (413) 559-5091 or visit for further information.

May 4, 9:30am-3:00pm, Peabody, MA, "Reducing Harm - Strategies with HIV and Hepatitis C." Featuring Edith Springer and other speakers, at the Peabody Marriott, exit 28 off of Route 128. Registration $25, payable by mail in advance only. Send checks payable to: The North Shore AIDS Collaborative, c/o Lynn Community Health Center, P.O. Box 526, Lynn, MA 01903-0526. For further information, call (781) 596-2502 ext. 729.

May 4, Tucson, AZ, protest of the War on Drugs. Sponsored by the Y.U.R. political activism club, at the US District Court on Congress & Granada. For further information or to volunteer, contact [email protected].

May 5-6, international, "2001: The Space Odyssey," marches for marijuana law reform. For further information, visit on the web.

May 6, 4:00-10:00pm, New York, NY, reception honoring the publication of Dr. Karl Jansen's new book, "Ketamine Dreams and Realities" by the Muldisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). At the Cathedral House of the Church of St. John the Divine, 112th St. & Amsterdam, lectures by Dr. Jansen at 5:00pm and 7:30pm. Optional RSVP by 4/30 to (941) 924-6277 or [email protected].

May 11, 9:00am, New York, NY, "Mother in Prison, Children in Crisis." Rally by the JusticeWorks Community, featuring ex-prisoner mothers, children of formerly incarcerated parents, city and state legislators, religious leaders and criminal justice experts. At the Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Centre St., assemble one block west at 8:30am at Thomas Paine Park. For further information, contact Mary-Elizabeth Fitzgerald at (718) 499-604 or [email protected].

May 12, noon, St. Louis, MO, "Thomas Jefferson Birthday Party," rally for marijuana law reform. Sponsored by Greater St. Louis NORML, at Tower Grove Park. For further info, contact (314) 995-1395, [email protected] or visit online.

May 17, 6:00-9:00pm, Brooklyn, NY, First Annual JusticeWorks Award Benefit. Tina Reynolds will receive the 1st annual Rev. Dr. Constance M. Baugh Achievement Award. At the Beaux Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum, $75 per person. For further information, contact Tara Powers at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].

May 19, 2:00pm, Syracuse, NY, ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy Annual Meeting. Keynote address by Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, at the May Memorial, 3800 East Genesee St. For further information, visit or e-mail [email protected].

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 for further information.

May 25-28, Vandalia, MI, "Hemp Aid 2001." Call 616-476-2808 or visit 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 on the web.

June 9, New York, NY, Organizers' Training to Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Session sponsored by the Interfaith Partnership for Criminal Justice in New York City, for individuals interested in organizing in Harlem against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, to be held at Harlem' St. Aloysius Church. For further information, contact Jessica Dias at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].

June 30, New York, NY, Rally in Harlem to Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Sponsored by the Interfaith Partnership for Criminal Justice in New York City. For further information, contact Jessica Dias at (718) 499-6704 or [email protected].

July 27-29, Clarkburg, WV, "Neer Freedom Festival." Benefit for West Virginia NORML and upcoming medical marijuana campaign. For further information, contact Tom Thacker at [email protected].

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