(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #185, 5/11/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
OPPOSE JOHN WALTERS DRUG CZAR NOMINATION
REPEAL THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT DRUG PROVISION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
The Bush administration may have thought it would get a free ride when it decided to nominate John Walters, a William Bennett- protégé and drug war ideologue in the truest sense of the word, to be the next drug czar. He probably didn't expect former drug czar Barry McCaffrey -- himself a drug war ideologue, though wearing slightly different camouflage from Walters' -- to actually criticize the nomination.
He certainly didn't expect criticism to come from the flagship conservative magazine National Review, which penned an editorial for their newest issue titled "Wrong Man for the Job" (http://www.nationalreview.com/28may01/editorial052801.shtml). National Review criticized Walters' preference for punishment-based drug policies, his support of ineffective military interdiction efforts -- including shooting down civilian airplanes over Peru that are suspected of carrying drugs -- and for his belief that the federal government should crack down against states that pass medical marijuana laws.
"[I]f we are going to continue to wage a war for the utopian goal of a 'drug-free America,'" National Review wrote, "it should at least be run by someone who is willing to take account of the war's costs. John Walters does not appear to be that man."
The president might not have been surprised when criticism came from The Economist magazine, more news-focused, perhaps, than National Review, but also holding a small government, somewhat conservative philosophy. In "Experiment with drugs, Mr. Bush" (http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=613264), The Economist cites the Walters appointment as an unfortunate signal of adherence to conventional, failed drug policies.
"[A] policy of increased repression," Economist writes, "will surely result in thousands of people being thrown in prison for sins that are little worse than those alleged of the youthful George Bush: being young and irresponsible. An older and more responsible Mr. Bush should reconsider his choice."
The president was probably not too happy to see mainstream outlets such as the Washington Post editorialize against his drug czar choice as well. But he shouldn't have been surprised. To even casual observers of drug policy, Walters seems oddly out of step with the times. To those more critical, his views may be seen as dangerous, even fanatical (e.g., shooting down airplanes). By all accounts, the Bush administration in its first actions on drug policy has failed to bring reason into an issue on which past administrations -- including, to large degree, his father's -- have done extraordinary damage to American institutions and American people, not to mention the global fallout.
Thinking people of all political shapes and sizes come to the same conclusion about the war on drugs: End It.
Any signs of division on drug policy in the Bush administration disappeared this week, as did drug reformers' vain hopes that George W. Bush's occasional tender word would translate into positive policy shifts, as the Bush White House went out of its way to re-declare war on drugs. Not only did Bush name the final member of his drug enforcement troika -- Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas has been tapped to head the Drug Enforcement Administration, joining Bill Bennett protégé John Walters as drug czar in waiting, and archconservative Attorney General John Ashcroft -- he made Walters' nomination official, and declared a new offensive in the federal government's war on drug users, sellers, and producers.
It was a week of moves that can only leave a very bad taste in the mouths of the drug reform community, some elements of which had dared to dream that an administration headed by a man who knows alcohol close up and personal and has apparently had more than a passing acquaintance with cocaine might think outside the box on drug policy. Instead, Bush is turning drug policy into the playground of culturally conservative drug warriors.
On Wednesday, Bush put his official imprimatur on John Walter's nomination as drug czar in a White House Rose Garden ceremony, where he also went out of his way to burnish his own hard-liner credentials. The act came despite a rising chorus of complaints about the choice after Dan Forbes broke the story in Salon.com two weeks ago, including criticism from former drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Economist, and even the National Review, a flagship publication of the conservative movement that is overwhelmingly friendly to the Bush White House.
"Acceptance of drug use is simply not an option for this administration," Bush told the gathered guests. "The only human and compassionate response to drug use is a moral refusal to accept it," Bush said. "Drug legalization would be a social catastrophe, it would completely undermine the message that drug use is wrong."
Walters, with a well-earned reputation of fondness for military interventions and long prison sentences, made token efforts to address concerns that he would ignore the treatment and prevention components of drug policy. He hopes to "shield our communities from the terrible human toll taken by drug use," he said, and will start by focusing on addiction.
"Our country has made great progress in the past in reducing drug use, and we will do it again," Walters vowed. "We will especially protect our children from drug use, we will help the addicted find effective treatment and remain in recovery, we will shield our communities from the terrible human toll taken by drugs, and we will stop illegal drug use and the drug trade from funding threats to democratic institutions throughout our hemisphere."
Bush, for his part, also announced three short-term initiatives designed to reinvigorate the drug war. He directed John DiIulio, who heads the White House's faith-based initiative office (and who coauthored an alarmist tome on teenage "superpredators" with Walters and Bennett) to find ways to allow religious groups engaged in anti-drug work to receive federal funds. He also directed Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to survey treatment needs and capacity across the country and report back within 120 days "on how to most effectively close the treatment gap in this country." And Bush instructed Attorney General Ashcroft to heighten the drug war in the federal prison system and expand drug testing of federal probationers and parolees. Ashcroft also must report back within 120 days.
The Washington Post, relying on anonymous administration sources, also reported that Walters will get a seat in the Cabinet, increasing his prestige and ability to influence policy within the executive branch. In the early days of the administration, officials had indicated the drug czar would lose Cabinet status.
If that wasn't enough for one day, presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer announced that all White House staff, including Bush and Vice President Cheney, had taken drug tests. Fleischer coyly refused to reveal any test results, but by Thursday announced that all were drug free.
And that was only Wednesday. On Thursday came the official announcement that Bush will nominate Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hutchinson is most widely known for his role as one of the House "managers" in the GOP's bitter and unsuccessful effort to impeach President Bill Clinton, but is also a hard-line drug warrior.
While the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette managed to get the Drug Policy Foundation's William McColl to say a few kind words about Hutchinson, others in the drug reform movement were less impressed.
"What's interesting about him is he has shown a willingness to think outside of the box," McColl told the newspaper. "We're hopeful he will represent a reasonable and more moderate voice." McColl added that he hoped Hutchinson will try to reduce the mandatory minimum sentences that have filled the nation's prisons with low-level drug offenders.
So far, however, Hutchinson's record appears to fall squarely inside the box. The former federal prosecutor has had a drug war burr under his saddle ever since he arrived in Washington. In office for less than two months, he stood on the House floor in March 1997 to blast the Clinton administration for "retreating" from the drug war.
"During the 1980s, our nation declared a war against drugs. I was in that battle as a federal prosecutor. It was during that time that our families, our communities and our law-enforcement officials mobilized in a united effort to fight this war. Because of this national crusade, teenage drug abuse declined from 1985 to 1992," Hutchinson declaimed. "Then what happened? It was then that our national commitment against this war on drugs waned. It was then that teenage drug use again started to increase, and we saw that teenage experimentation with drugs was on the incline."
He has also made a name for himself as an avid methamphetamine fighter, hammering at the theme repeatedly in floor speeches and letters to constituents, cosponsoring last year's draconian Methamphetamine Antiproliferation Act and lobbying successfully to gain a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) for Arkansas.
In a floor speech urging his colleagues to vote for increased HIDTA funding, Hutchinson explained that because of methamphetamine production "we would like to be designated a HIDTA" and urged his colleagues to ensure that Arkansas got part of the pork, even if only "at least a larger pool of money, a very modest, greater pool of money that the States can use in their existing HIDTA programs -- as well as a new one like Arkansas that might be so designated."
Not content to worry about presidential morals and Ozark meth labs, Hutchinson has also gone out of his way to inflict his views on the residents of Washington, DC, who in a 1998 ballot approved medical marijuana by a 2-to-1 margin. He voted in favor of a bill that barred the District from implementing the medical marijuana law or even counting its votes, and from using the District's own funds to support needle exchange programs.
But his antipathy to marijuana goes beyond depriving Washington residents of their medicine. He challenged the drug czar's office for even calling for a study of marijuana's medical efficacy in 1999, saying, "I'm concerned about this, again, because of the signals that we are sending to our young people. I believe that's the wrong way to go on this issue. If marijuana could be legalized for one purpose, I think the question is, why not some others?"
Hutchinson is also a strong supporter of US military involvement in Colombia, which is consistent with a strong supply-reduction and interdiction orientation evident throughout his tenure in the House. He crowed to constituents about his support for 1998's Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act, which was supposed to have reduced US drug supplies by 80% by this year.
And while Hutchinson has the occasional word to say about drug treatment and prevention, he has made crystal clear his stance on the war on drugs. In the Congressional Record in 1997, Hutchinson said we can only solve our drug problems "by reenergizing ourselves in this war on drugs. We must not retreat. It is not the time. We must not be satisfied to hide in the foxhole. It is imperative that we fight on. It is particularly timely today that we reenergize our country because last week the administration released its report on our Nation's drug control strategy. In that report, the administration criticized the war against drugs, and said the term war against drugs was misleading. The administration preferred to adopt the language of pessimism, and say that we should more appropriately use the term cancer. To me the implication of using the word cancer in relation to our drug problems is that it implies that it is going to be with us a long time, and we simply must learn to live with it. I believe it is a war that we must fight, and not a problem that we must learn to accept and deal with. It is the wrong message when we change the terminology."
"Welcome to the drug policy of the Cheney administration," moaned Institute for Policy Studies drug policy analyst Sanho Tree. "The compassionate conservative governor we heard about has disappeared. He may pop up every once in awhile to say a few nice words about treatment, but remember that a few months ago he was saying nice things about the environment, and now we're drinking arsenic water."
In mid-April, DRCNet made its most recent report on the case of Andrew Chambers, the Drug Enforcement Administration's tarnished star informant (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/181.html#deacoverup). At that time, DRCNet also sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the agency asking it to reveal the results of its internal investigation into when its employees knew about Chambers' bad habit of lying on the stand and why they continued to use him.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat us to the punch. The newspaper, which broke the story last year, forcing Attorney General Janet Reno to suspend Chambers, issued its own FOIA request months earlier, and has now received a censored version of the DEA's internal investigation.
In the words of the Post-Dispatch, "the agency's report absolves itself of any wrongdoing," even though at least one DEA agent and one federal prosecutor heard Chambers admit on the witness stand of a Los Angeles federal courtroom in 1988 that he had been lying under oath since 1985.
Chambers, whom the report describes as "motivated by money, thrill, camaraderie, and a sense of self-righteousness," contributed to the arrests of more than 400 people while participating in at least 280 DEA investigations, the report said. He worked with at least 211 DEA agents who paid him somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million. (The agency had publicly put the figure first at $1.6 million, then at $2.2 million, but now says $1.9 million, although it admits it hasn't been able to keep account of all payments to Chambers.) Those payments were witnessed by 357 government officials and authorized by 112 different DEA supervisors.
The report also reveals that Chambers worked as a snitch for the FBI, Customs, the Secret Service, IRS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the US Postal Service, and numerous state and local law enforcement agencies. The Post-Dispatch notes that "there is no known investigation of his testimony at those agencies."
The DEA report says that Chambers testified under oath at least 25 times for the agency and in 16 of those cases he lied about his background -- in particular, his arrest record, the extent of his experience as an informant, and his tax payments -- in order to appear more credible before judges and juries.
Chambers' pattern of perjury started within a year of his appearance as a government informant. In federal court in St. Louis in 1985, he testified that he had never been arrested. At the time, he was out on bail on felony forgery charges from Paducah, Kentucky. He had also been charged with posing as a private investigator and defrauding a jeweler of $1,550. In all, the report said, Chambers had been arrested 13 times and convicted on one count of soliciting a prostitute.
A DEA agent who should have alerted his superiors -- and defense attorneys representing defendants against whom Chambers would testify -- to his client's perjurious path, instead protected his informant by later convincing a judge to drop the Paducah charges.
In Los Angeles in 1988, he admitted his previous perjury, but added that he had been arrested again for being "hot handed" with his wife, and then compounded his offense by telling a new whopper under oath. This time, he told the court he had testified for the government "more than a hundred times," the report said.
This time, his DEA agent notified her supervisor, as did the Assistant US Attorney prosecuting the case. Chambers' number should have been up at this point, but according to the report, the DEA found no evidence that warnings about Chambers' lies ever left Los Angeles. (The report notes that the DEA supervisor in question was fired for "unrelated misconduct.")
Chambers continued to testify over the years, using his fabricated persona to burnish his credibility and help send people to prison, and US Attorneys sometimes adopted a "see no evil" approach to his misdeeds. In federal court in Denver in 1995, when a judge ordered prosecutors to collect information about Chambers from all DEA field offices, prosecutors instead dropped the federal charges and re-filed them in state court. The information went uncollected, the defendants went to prison, and Chambers went on his merry, mendacious way.
By 1998, Chambers' career began to unravel. Assistant US Attorney Dean Hoag, who was preparing to use Chambers as a witness, went to the judge after he heard from a California defense attorney about Chambers' pattern of deceit. Hoag also told the DEA he wouldn't allow Chambers to testify and that he would not prosecute any cases where Chambers was a witness, the report said.
Hoag also contacted Joseph Corcoran, special agent in charge of DEA's St. Louis office, telling him, "I don't think he should be used anymore," the report said. But Cochran and his superiors in Washington blithely ignored the warnings until the Post-Dispatch's expose forced the Attorney General's hand last January.
The DEA internal investigation found a "systemic" failure of communication by mid-level headquarters officials, some of whom had known of Chambers' lies for years, and that at least one DEA field supervisor was derelict in failing to report his knowledge of Chambers. But it clears top agency officials, saying there is no "substantiated" evidence that they knew their long-time star informant was habitually lying on the stand.
The agency did find room to blame Chambers. "Chambers was unique in the world of informants," the report maintained. "His cases spanned the country. Because the cases in which he was involved were in different cities throughout the United States, he was able to testify falsely in one place with the agents in another subsequent case not being aware of the previous false testimony.
"The problem was systemic. There was no effective system in place to memorialize issues regarding the credibility of an informant, and the [DEA special agents] who activated Chambers in another office did not know about his false testimony in a prior case. Chambers was able to exploit, either wittingly or unwittingly, that weakness in the DEA [confidential informant] program."
Whether anyone in the agency has been punished remains a mystery. DEA officials blacked out five of the report's six major findings. It also blacked out the names of the agents who worked with Chambers.
Jim Redden, a long-time Portland crime reporter and author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned Into the Eyes and Ears of the State, raised an eyebrow when told of the particulars of the Chambers case. "I know informants are an essential part of the criminal justice system," he told DRCNet. "Many heinous crimes would not be solved without someone ratting. I think people are willing to tolerate the legitimate use of informants, but most adults object when police cross the line. That includes letting one heinous criminal walk in order to get another one, or, in the present case, allowing people to continue to commit crimes while they are informants or looking the other way when the informant's testimony is obviously false," Redden said.
In the Chambers case, said Redden, "the amount of money involved is so high that people have to ask 'can he be trusted or is he just in it for the bucks?' How do we know he's not setting people up to line his own pockets? The man has demonstrated that he has no credibility," the police reporter noted.
But, said Redden, the Chambers case is an inevitable outgrowth of drug prohibition. "We've reached a situation with the drug laws since the crack mania of the late 1980s where we have really changed the legal landscape. Now they use RICO laws to make anyone involved in a drug crime guilty of the most severe crime committed by anyone else involved, and they threaten you with long mandatory minimum sentences unless you rat."
"This country has a long tradition of trying to outlaw anything and everything, and it's just been a complete disaster," Redden argued.
In a move that has stunned and angered the Bush administration, Congress and Beltway pundits, the United Nations' 53-member Economic and Social Commission voted against a continued US presence at the UN Human Rights Commission and its International Narcotics Control Board.
Removal of the US from the human rights commission has practical effects. Now the US will no longer be able to sponsor resolutions critical of its enemies, as it has annually done with China and Cuba. The loss of the drug board seat, however, is primarily, though not entirely, symbolic. The board monitors international compliance with the UN's global drug prohibition regime. In its most recent move on the board, the US worried aloud about the increasing popularity of Viagra, steroids, and diet pills in the US and Western Europe.
In both cases, the US simply did not garner the votes to win. Despite the apparent belief of some US lawmakers that the US has a divine right to sit on the commissions, the member states did not agree. At the human rights commission, the US came in fourth out of four candidates for the three seats allocated to Western Europe and North America. France, Austria and Sweden were selected for those seats. At the drug board, US Ambassador Herbert Okun, who was seeking a third term, came in behind the seven countries that were elected to the board. In its new configuration, the drug board will include the Netherlands, France and Austria, but not the United States.
In both cases, the State Department said it thought US election to the commissions was a done deal. But UN diplomats told reporters the US had failed to lobby sufficiently to shore up support for its election. They also pointed to European irritation with the Bush administration on issues ranging from Bush's proposed new missile defense system and the American reluctance to pay its UN dues to US failure to back the Kyoto agreement on global warming, an international criminal court and the nuclear test ban treaty. Some mentioned being fed up with "heavy handed" lobbying by former US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke.
In seeking to explain the votes, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters on Monday that "member states, particularly those who have been strongly supportive of an international criminal court, have been disappointed by the US not coming on board. I can understand the frustration, shock, and surprise," said Annan. "This was a decision by the member states. It is one of the vagaries of democracy."
A stunned State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, told a Monday press conference "there's something happening out there. Clearly, I think it's fair to speculate there may be issues related to how we handle ourselves, how we position."
Secretary of State Powell suggested that the votes were retaliation because "we left a little blood on the floor" in human rights votes regarding Cuba, China, and the Palestinians. But it was the US, which habitually used the human rights commission as a bully pulpit to harangue its political enemies, that was left bleeding last week. With perspective increasing in direct proportion to distance from Washington, member states may have reacted to the hypocrisy of a country that berates Cuba for holding a handful of political prisoners while it is engaged in a de facto alliance with the hemisphere's most efficient mass murderers, the Colombian paramilitaries.
The view was different on Capitol Hill. "This is an affront more to the whole notion of international human rights than it is to us for a nation," grumbled House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-TX), not generally known for his human rights activism.
A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) echoed Armey's gripes. "The United Nations stuck their finger in our eye. There is a danger that the United Nations made a serious mistake here, and there will be consequences," said John Freehey.
The most immediate consequence is that Congress is threatening to continue to be a deadbeat on back dues owed the UN. The House voted late this week to okay a partial payment of the $582 million the US owes the global body, but will hold $244 million hostage until it manages to regain seats on the two boards.
Some practical effects of the INCB ouster could be indirectly felt around the globe. In Australia, US-led INCB pressure has reportedly played a role in scuttling long-planned heroin maintenance trial programs. (For background information see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/119.html#injectingrooms and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/004.html#blackmail in our archives.) Perhaps a new INCB less dominated by US drug war ideology will be less interventionist as nations experiment with new drug policies.
Across the South, the high cost of imprisoning drug offenders is forcing lawmakers to take a long, hard look at traditional "lock 'em up" approaches to drug users and sellers. Louisiana's legislature became the latest to act on the growing problem last week as the Louisiana Senate voted overwhelmingly to reduce drug possession sentences and end some mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. Meanwhile, as the Alabama Sentencing Commission prepares to make reform recommendations to the legislature next year, that state's prison space crisis is reaching embarrassing new levels.
Alabama's prison crunch made national news this week when the Washington Post reported how county sheriffs overwhelmed by prisoners awaiting transfer to the state prison system had to go to federal court to force the state prisons to take custody of their charges.
In a hearing last month, US District Judge U.W. Clemon described jail conditions in one county as "medieval" and resembling a "slave ship." In a state where nearly two-thirds of prisoners are black, Clemon's remark may be more telling than he intended. Racial commentary or not, the judge ordered the state prisons to accept 104 prisoners stuck in county jails.
But there is no room at the inn. "State prisons are full, county jails are full and the probation officers are loaded up with cases," Allen Tapley, executive director of the Sentencing Institute, a private research group, told the Post.
Gov. Don Siegelman (D) has vowed that the state will absorb the transferred inmates, but he has also directed state lawyers to ask a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge to halt the move.
According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, as of February 2001, 16.5% of the state's 27,000 prisoners are drug offenders and 64% of prisoners are black. If current incarceration rates continue, the prison population will hit 35,000 by 2005, according to Prison Commissioner Mike Haley. "We have run out of space to put these inmates," Haley told the Birmingham News in March.
Haley is a member of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, which is pondering changes in the state's harsh attitude toward imprisonment. Created by the state legislature last year, the panel will submit its recommendations in 2002. With 571 inmates per 100,000 population, Alabama has the nation's fifth highest incarceration rate.
In hearings in March, commission members focused on drug policy. Birmingham Judge Peter Johnson told the panel drug treatment for ex-cons was crucial. He said as many as seven out of ten defendants appearing before him tested "dirty for drugs" and there were too many familiar faces. "I kept dealing with the same people," complained the judge. "If we don't address the issue of drug addiction, we'll see them [drug defendants] again," Johnson said.
Another commission member, Stephen R. Glassroth, president of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, told the Birmingham News that drug treatment, not building more prisons, was key. To reject innovative policies such as treatment programs, drug courts and community corrections in favor of more prison construction would be to "spend ourselves into oblivion," Glassroth said.
While Alabama ponders, Louisiana is acting. SB239, which passed the Senate and is now headed for the House, removes mandatory minimum sentences for simple drug possession and other nonviolent offenses (ranging from prostitution to lotto skimming to poaching and video voyeurism), slashes minimum sentences for drug distribution offenses, and includes a provision for already sentenced prisoners to apply for early release. The bill would also require that persons sentenced to life as repeat felons must have been convicted of two previous violent felonies. Under current law, even nonviolent felony convictions, such as drug possession, can be counted.
The lopsided vote -- 29-5 -- indicates that sentencing reform has achieved broad support in Louisiana. It is driven largely by financial considerations. According to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, 30% of the state's 36,000 prisoners are drug offenders and 75% of prisoners are black.
"We have lost control of the prison population," Sen. Charles Jones (D-Monroe) told the Advocate (Baton Rouge). "We are spending nearly $600 million a year on prisons. We cannot continue to spend $600 million on prisons. What will this bill do? It will keep our people safe while at the same time saving approximately $60 million a year," said Jones.
Louisiana Corrections Department Undersecretary Trey Boudreaux agreed, adding that savings will build over time. "But if the numbers we're seeing now hold true, I think the $60 million is a conservative estimate," he told the Advocate. Boudreaux added that according to an analysis of inmates at one prison who had first-time drug or nonviolent convictions, 40% would qualify for a sentence review and half would walk out of prison, potentially saving the state $10 million annually on early releases alone.
But not all considerations were bottom line. Senate President John Hainkel (R-New Orleans), who called the bill "a momentous piece of legislation," agreed that the financial burden of imprisoning nonviolent offenders by the tens of thousands was terrible, "but from a moral standpoint, it's worse."
The Louisiana House has little more than a month to act on the legislation. The Louisiana legislative session ends June 18.
As of May 6, Australia's first legal heroin injecting room is open for business. The center, located in Sydney's Kings Cross neighborhood and operated by the Uniting Church in an effort to prevent drug overdose deaths, overcame two years of political and legal hurdles to open. (See our most recent coverage at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/181.html#kingscross online.)
According to Australian press reports, business has been slow -- due in part to numerous television crews outside the site's doors. Just as in quantum physics the act of observing effects the phenomenon observed, so too in the world of media. Camera-shy drug users stayed out of the glare of the bright lights.
The center's medical director, Dr. Ingrid van Beek, told the Daily Telegraph the center had warned potential clients of the media presence. "We felt under those circumstances it was important to inform people ahead of time that if they did enter the premises it was likely they would be photographed," she said.
As of Tuesday only 11 injection drug users had used the facility. "A handful of drug users made use of the center last night and this will undoubtedly increase in the weeks ahead, especially when the media attention wanes," predicted Uniting Church's Reverend Harry Herbert at mid-week.
Still, center spokesman Pat Kennedy told the Australia Wire, the center has already seen its first successful referral. Reporting on the center's first night of operation, Kennedy noted, "It was a great opportunity for a couple of people who have come into the doors to seek counseling by professionals," he said. "At least one took the opportunity to be referred to professional services."
According to the Daily Telegraph, that person was a 20-year-old male who shot up at the center Sunday night and returned the next day to be referred to a local detox center for buprenorphine treatment.
"This is not just about a place where people come to inject in a supervised area, it also allows them to seek counseling," Kennedy said.
Open from 10:00am to 2:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm daily, the center is staffed by registered nurses and drug and alcohol counselors. It contains eight two-seat cubicles which can theoretically serve up to 200 injectors per day. The center provides clean syringes and injection materials.
But even as the center begins to draw clients, the toll of heroin overdoses and the clamor of political opposition continue. The Daily Telegraph reported that seven overdoses had occurred within 200 meters of the center since it opened over the weekend. The Kings Cross area accounts for about one-fifth of all heroin overdose deaths in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, with about 100 overdose deaths a year in the neighborhood.
The weekend overdoses were grist for the mill for long-time opponents of the center. "I was there and saw two ambulance officers, after the place had been closed, dealing with an overdose -- what is the point?" demanded an outraged if not entirely logical representative of the Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce.
New South Wales opposition National Party leader Kerry Chikarovski took the opportunity to tell ABC Radio that the opening of the injection room marked a sad day for Sydney. "I've said all along that personally I believe the money that's been involved in the project would be better spent on rehabilitation, getting people off drugs, rather than helping them continue with their addiction," she said.
Still, the center's leaders were undaunted. While the center sought to reduce overdose deaths, it could not prevent all of them, Reverend Herbert told the Australia Wire. And in contrast to Chikarovski, Herbert called the center's opening "a great day."
West Australia could be next, according to state Health Minister Bob Kucera. In announcing a state drug summit for August earlier this week, he told reporters safe injecting rooms, heroin trials, and marijuana legalization would all be on the agenda. While carefully refraining from stating a position on injecting rooms, he told the West Australian they needed to be part of the discussion.
"I've got to say that after the last 30-odd years of working in the area we haven't gone a long way in some places," said the former assistant police commissioner. "Obviously, there will be some political issues that are going to be challenging for us, but they will also be challenging for the opposition parties and the community. Rather than me specifically state what the policies are, I would rather leave that open at this stage," he said.
Kucera told reporters the summit would address the social factors underlying drug use, prevention and intervention, treatment, and law enforcement issues. He said 80 delegates would represent the community at large and 20 would represent stakeholders, such as public health groups.
Tamara Speed, representing the West Australia Users' Association, told the West Australian that drug users need to be heard at the summit and that authorities needed to confront drug use as a phenomenon to be managed, not eradicated. "We need to look at things like treatment options," she said. "There is a need in the city for a safe injecting room because there are people injecting in unsafe and unhygienic conditions, so for those people it is a real issue."
Robert Lesser, Chief Superintendent of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's (RCMP) Drug Enforcement Program, called last week for Canada to undertake a nationwide study of the merits of safe injection sites for injection drug users. The Mounties are Canada's premier nationwide law enforcement agency.
Lesser's comments came in Montreal during a national conference on Hepatitis C, where the Canadian Health Department reported that HIV/AIDS cases related to injection drug use will cost Canada $6 billion in the next six years and drug-related Hepatitis C will cost even more. Lesser told the conference that more than half of Canada's estimated 125,000 injection drug users are infected with one or the other of the diseases. Safe injection sites are "something we have to look at," he told the audience.
"Certain European cities seem to be pleased with [safe injection sites] as part of an integrated approach," the Vancouver Sun quoted Lesser. "They've found that it's reduced crime in the areas where safer injection sites existed."
Lesser pointed to the examples of Frankfurt
and Zurich, and added that safe injection sites should occur in the context
of an integrated harm reduction package. "It has to be part of a
more comprehensive approach that will include social services, employment
assistance," Lesser said. "We're talking about a more integrated,
a more holistic approach to safe injection and
"We need to find out if that would apply equally well in Canada, would it not work in Canada, or are there some made-in-Canada solutions that are part of a comprehensive program," Lesser continued. "Right now, there is really no evidence to support at all or argue against [safe injection sites] within the Canadian context."
Lesser may get his wish in June. A federal-provincial committee of deputy health ministers is expected to recommend then that a feasibility study on supervised safe injection sites be conducted. Safe injection sites remain a delicate topic for elected officials, however. Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement, who attended the Montreal conference, declined the Sun's request for comment on whether he favors safe injection sites, saying only that the issue is complex and a balanced approach is needed.
Even in Vancouver, where such sites are part of the city's proposed "four pillars" approach to hard drug use and related problems (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/162.html#vancouver3.0), politicians were quick to demand that the city not be a national guinea pig. City councilor Lynne Kennedy told the Sun she could support studying safe injection sites if it took place across the country. "We don't want to be the first city and the only city to do this," she said. "If it was to be happening in Vancouver, it should be happening in other cities across the country."
She also cautioned that safe injection sites should not be at the forefront of reforms. "No one's been recommending to us that we start there," she told the Sun. "You need to have a lot of things happening in the community first. We need to be really secure on our funding for treatment, which we aren't at present."
Harm reduction activists working Vancouver's mean streets have no such hesitation about the need for safe injections sites. "They save lives and we need them," Ann Wilson of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) told DRCNet.
According to Wilson, Vancouver's much vaunted "four pillars" program of prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and law enforcement is stalled. "The process is endless. Instead of declaring a public health emergency and acting, the Health Board has undertaken a niggling process of community consultation seemingly designed to draw things out until significant opposition emerges," she said. "It's an incredible thing, the only pillar that is really working right now is law enforcement. Street users now have less than they ever have."
What's worse, said Wilson, is the ongoing process of the "commercialization" of harm reduction. "We got a new life skills and contact center, but we're angry because they are not consulting users and are hiring non-users. Everybody makes a buck off the junkies."
Even as the spring semester winds down on campuses across the country, Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapters and individual activists are relying on tried tactics as well as innovative art attacks to forward the cause of drug reform. In Wisconsin, on April 28 and 29, the University of Wisconsin-Madison SSDP chapter hosted an ambitious conference called "Illuminating Reality: Social, Intellectual, Economic and Faith-Based Approaches to Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," drawing experts and drug reformers from around the country and SSDP activists from around the state and region. On May 1, SSDP's oldest founding chapter at the Rochester Institute of Technology held an evening forum discussing "The Drug War: Who Wins, Who Loses."
A May 4 conference at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts drew college financial aid administrators and others from around the region to hear drug reformers, financial aid experts, students affected by the HEA drug provision, Hampshire's president and Rep. Barney Frank discussion the history and ramifications of the new drug conviction-financial aid law.
But while Hampshire's SSDPers were busy networking with the higher education community, and while America's Dairyland's SSDPers were busy illuminating reality, reality was being messed with by another SSDPer in another part of peaceful Amherst. Amherst College student and SSDP member Andrew Epstein's social sculpture art class project blew minds, riled the campus and even received national media attention in the New York Times and Associated Press.
With the connivance of college administrators, workers, and the student government, Epstein unleashed the Day of No Joe on the unwitting campus. Students, staff and faculty arriving at campus coffee houses Tuesday were greeted by empty, shrouded coffee pots and signs announcing that coffee had been banned from the hallowed precincts.
"In order to curb the use of caffeine at Amherst College, the sale and distribution of coffee are no longer permitted on campus. Effective Immediately." Disgruntled caffeine users were to take their complaints to the Caffeine Control Coordinator.
Or they could avail themselves of services provided by shady black marketeers who mysteriously appeared once the substance was banned. "Hey, you need coffee?" one shady looking character asked the Times reporter. "Espresso beans, 10 cents a bean," enticed the dealer.
Epstein also held a news conference attended by a handful of anxious and confused students. He enumerated the dangers of caffeine for his bemused audience. "Is this for real?" one asked.
Well, no. It was Epstein's effort to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the drug war. "I came upon this idea of trying to recreate Prohibition by taking away a substance that's been culturally domesticated, to make people aware of their own substance abuse," he told the New York Times. People can easily ignore a painting, he said, but they notice when you remove part of their daily routine.
Epstein played it smart by couching his agitprop as art rather than activism, his art professor told the Times. "I suspect if he had come to the administration as an activist, there would have been much stronger resistance," Mr. Godfrey said. "It shows us how art has this kind of peculiar permission."
(Those who were duped at Amherst should not feel so bad. When Epstein released a fake press release detailing the coffee ban on the SSDP discussion list, more than one humor-impaired activist jumped down his throat, accusing him of betraying the principles of drug reform.)
The Madison SSDP conference was, if less spectacular, equally impressive. A new generation of student activists were introduced to each other, as well as to members of the drug reform establishment, church people involved in the struggle, well-known national figures such as keynote speaker Mike Gray, author of "Drug Crazy" and living links to Madison's vibrant drug reform history such as hometown hero Ben Masel.
The conference special sessions homed in on a broad range of drug policy issues, ranging from the war in Colombia to the drug war's impact on women, families, and people of color here in the United States, and from religious views of drug prohibition to medical marijuana.
"I was really impressed with the way the SSDP folks in Madison put this together," said DRCNet Campus Coordinator Steve Silverman. "It was informative and entertaining, and then there was the networking."
SSDP national president Shawn Heller, who addressed the conference, also came away impressed. "SSDP is picking up steam all over the country," he told DRCNet. "We're getting solid people everywhere, and this conference is just one example of what they are capable of doing."
Summer's here and the time is right, well, maybe not for fighting in the streets, as a much younger Mick Jagger once advised, but at least for marching in the streets. As winter's cold gives way to pleasant weather, the marijuana movement's traditional street protests and rallies blossom like the hardy perennials they are. And with the return of protest season comes the annual debate about the utility of such tactics.
The season is already here. Last month in Ann Arbor, thousands flooded into the University of Michigan quad for the annual Hash Bash, puffing furiously and providing a healthy jump-start for Michigan's marijuana legalization initiative petition drive (http://www.PRAyes.com). And last weekend, activists in more than 130 cities worldwide, including dozens in the US, held street marches under the auspices of Space Odyssey 2001, this year's version of the annual Million Marijuana March effort led by venerable yippie activist Dana Beal. (See http://www.cures-not-wars.org for further information).
More are on the way, including the 32nd annual Washington, DC 4th of July smoke-in, the annual monster events, such as Boston's Freedom Rally and Seattle's Hempfest, both of which draw up to 100,000 participants, and innumerable smaller hempfests, pot parades and smoke-ins across the land.
Not all reformers leap at the prospect of such mass actions. David Borden, DRCNet's executive director, sees little utility in smoke-ins, marches, and the like. "A lot of competent, devoted people spend a lot of time on these events that could instead be poured into more effective types of activism," said Borden.
Chuck Thomas of the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org), which focuses on lobbying Congress and state legislatures, told DRCNet he doesn't totally disavow protest actions, but that the possible benefits must be weighed against possible negative publicity and that such actions need to be carefully thought out.
"At MPP, we draw a distinction -- we do demonstrations, not rallies," said Thomas. "We will do a targeted, focused demonstration aimed at a member of Congress on a particular issue."
"Before doing a public demonstration, people need to determine specifically what it is they want to accomplish," said Thomas. "They also need to assess their other efforts. Have they tried all other options -- have they written to their legislators, have they tried to set up meetings, have they built a broad coalition, have they recruited the best spokespersons, have they written letters to the editor, have they exhausted all options and as a last resort now see the need for some sort of organized public pressure?"
But even then, said Thomas, protest organizers can expect to be bushwhacked by the press. "No matter how well organized a rally is and how well controlled the message is, the media are so hungry to find one example to confirm their stereotypes of marijuana users that all it takes is one young person smoking a marijuana cigarette or one misspelled sign or one strange looking fellow in a tie-dye, and there's the image on the evening news," Thomas explained. "Such images unfortunately can scare the more close-minded people in our society, and those are people we need to turn around."
Doug McVay of Common Sense for Drug Policy is a member of the collective that organizes the annual Washington, DC, 4th of July smoke-in (http://www.fourthofjuly.org). "It's not a smoke-in," pleaded McVay, fruitlessly following the organizers' official line. "It's the 4th of July Hemp Coalition Rally, March, and Concert to End Marijuana Prohibition." (Organizers can call it what they want, but in the local marijuana culture it will forever be the smoke-in.) McVay is not so concerned about possible bad media images, arguing that the media will take them where they find them and use them as they see fit.
"If they can't find a 15-year-old kid smoking a joint at a pot rally, all they have to do is go to any rock concert to get their picture," said McVay. "And we cannot afford to be so intimidated that we do not show our faces. It's a fallacy to believe that Bill Bennett and his ilk will shut up and leave us alone if we just keep a low profile."
Dana Beal has no plans to keep a low profile and no qualms about organizing marijuana marches. "These are important events for the movement," he told DRCNet. "We had marches in at least 130 cities, and there may be more I haven't heard about yet. If you have marches in enough cities, especially where it hasn't happened before, it can represent the kind of sea change that happened when the gay liberation movement emerged in the late 1960s."
But Beal also understands how the media tends to operate and organizes accordingly. "It's how you configure the public event," he said. "For example, we turned our event from a festival to a march, and the media tends to focus on the front of the march, so we make sure we have our people with signs up front." Beal emphasized that the event was a march, not a smoke-in. "There was no conscious civil disobedience, no one trying to get arrested."
But arrests did happen, at least at the New York City march. In line with Mayor Giuliani's crackdown on marijuana smokers, New York's finest sent undercover cops into the crowd to finger smokers, then began arresting crowd members who pointed out the narcs. There were 197 arrests, Beal said, the majority for interfering with police. The police also resorted to pepper spray as the march threatened to turn into a police-provoked melee.
"What happened in New York shows the importance of local conditions," said McVay. "Issues and things like relations with the police are very site specific. In New York, you have a long tradition of gritty activism with the yippies and the squatters, and the cops there are the ones used to roust the homeless and street activists. Washington Square Park is not a place for mainstream America," he added. "And the police came off looking like the aggressors, especially when they pepper-sprayed the crowd.
"Similarly, here in Washington we know that on the 4th of July the Mall will be crawling with police. That's why we make such a point of stressing nonviolence and no confrontations. This isn't a smoke-in -- at least not in the sense that people are engaging in civil disobedience to get arrested. We've been saddled with the smoke-in name for 30 years, but the point of the rally is legalization, not getting together to smoke pot in public," said McVay. "These things give people a chance to speak out publicly and know it's all right. Our opponents will always try to marginalize us, whether we're wearing suits or t-shirts. But we're not marginal; drug reform is mainstream now. What's not mainstream is opening your mouth about changing the law, and if mainstream drug reform organizations would support us, we would be ecstatic," McVay added.
"Look, these rallies do have a purpose. The first is to show that your issue has popular support, that you can get the bodies, and second, to be in the middle of a crowd of people talking out loud about drug policy reform and marijuana legalizing is empowering and validating. That's what these rallies are good for," McVay concluded.
Bob Doyle, a board member of MassCann (http://www.masscann.org), the organizers of the Boston Freedom Rally each fall, told DRCNet his organization rehashes this very debate every year. MassCann plays both sides, he said. "We have the button-down guys in suits working with the legislature, and we helped write seven drug reform bills before the legislature. But we also do the rally, and what does that get us?" he asked rhetorically. "It gets us 100,000 showing up to hear our message and it gets our name on the front page of the Boston Globe."
Doyle recognizes the danger of media stereotyping, but he told DRCNet he believes MassCann has begun to move the local media beyond such reflex reporting. "The Herald and the Globe always concentrated on the 14-year-old smoking a joint, but now we're being taken more seriously. Now, when we go to the media and tell them we're from MassCann, they say 'oh, you're the guys who put 100,000 people on the Commons.' The publicity is great and the name recognition is important," Doyle said.
But Doyle has complaints, ones that other drug reformers can only dream about. "We're stuck with the Freedom Rally," he said. "It's so big we couldn't think of not holding it anymore." Doyle would like to see a number of smaller rallies across Massachusetts. "We have to get more mainstream," he told DRCNet. "We believe our views are mainstream, we think most people agree with us about medical marijuana, decriminalization, etc., but it is still so much fun for the mainstream media to play with those '60s and '70s stereotypes."
The divisions over mass protests are not only tactical. They also represent broader cultural, racial, and class divisions within the drug reform movement and society at large. Unlike, Canada and some European countries which have organized hard drug users' groups, the only drug users organized in any significant manner in the US are marijuana smokers, and actual demographics aside, their public face is overwhelmingly young, white, and middle-class.
For Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies, mass protests over marijuana are a diversion from more serious work. "I work on the intersection of race and poverty with the drug war," he told DRCNet. "I don't go to smoke-ins, nor do I listen to the Grateful Dead." (DRCNet did not have the heart to ask him about Phish.) "I don't have much use for such actions unless they are able to mobilize people into a disciplined electoral force, and I don't see much sign of that. After all, it's the laws that we are trying to change, not the culture. There are plenty of libertarians who can fight for the right of privileged white drug users to party."
California activist Mikki Norris of Human Rights and the Drug War has heard such sentiments before and has a ready response. "You shouldn't be calling these things smoke-ins because you want to send a message that goes beyond having a right to party," she told DRCNet. "We have protests for equal rights for pot smokers."
In fact, Norris has created a web site -- http://www.potpride.com -- to carry forth her pot-positive message. "Equal rights are for everybody," says the site. "Discrimination is wrong. Equal rights for pot smokers." Norris and her husband and fellow activist Chris Conrad took themselves and their message to San Francisco for that city's marijuana march on May 5.
"In San Francisco, we had a parade and I had a bullhorn and we did some chants: 'Say it loud, I smoke pot and I'm proud,' 'what do we want -- equal rights, when do we want them -- now,'" Norris demonstrated. "We emphasized how we are good people, not criminals, and we deserve the same rights as anyone else. It wasn't about our right to party; that doesn't get you anywhere."
Norris and Conrad agree that pro-pot rallies can have adverse consequences -- "pictures of kids smoking pot are not helpful," Norris noted -- but argue that such events also provide a morale boost for the movement. "These actions give people a sense of empowerment, camaraderie, and of power in numbers," said Norris.
They also agree with MPP's Chuck Thomas that mass actions need to be carefully thought out as part of an integrated political strategy, although, unlike Thomas, they do not view them as a last resort.
"You can do a smoke-in," Conrad told DRCNet, "by which I mean an act of civil disobedience where people plan to be arrested for violating the marijuana laws. But if you're going to do that, you need to be serious. You need people ready for a structured confrontation with the police, you need attorneys present, and you need to ensure that the person doing the smoking is an articulate and legitimate spokesman, such as a medical marijuana patient or responsible adult."
"But," Norris chimed in, "you have to do more than just a smoke-in. You have to be calling on your representatives or elected officials, engaging in the political process, and demanding that you no longer be treated as second class citizens."
For MPP's Thomas "pot pride" is all well and good, but does not by itself pull marijuana smokers from their marginal position in society. "We need to point to marijuana smokers who are already successes in society and to the extent we can do that, that's a good thing," Thomas said. "But if someone is going to hold himself out as a responsible pot smoker, he better be one. It can't be 'look at me, I smoke pot and I have a good job... in drug reform,'" he added. "You'd have to be willing to lay it all on the line and be willing to undergo scrutiny from critics to show you actually are a normal, mainstream person. It's only worthwhile to come out yourself if you can withstand the scrutiny."
The Marijuana Policy Project has 6,000 people writing letters to legislators, Thomas said. "Our goal is to provide an organization where the most mainstream supporters of marijuana policy reform can feel like they have a role in the movement."
And the various smoke-ins, rallies, and marches bring out hundreds of thousands. Neither form of activism is likely to go away. As the drug reform movement matures, the question is not letter-writing vs. taking it to the streets, but how best to take advantage of all the tactics at the movement's disposal and wield those tools in an integrated, appropriate manner within a multifaceted reform movement.
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [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 http://www.mo-norml.org online.
May 15, noon, Washington, DC, "Racial Profiling: Good Police Tactic -- or Harassment?" Policy forum at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., free of charge, luncheon follows. To register, contact Megan Brumleve, (202) 789-5229, (202) 371-0841 (fax) or e-mail [email protected].
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 17, 7:00-9:00pm, Rochester, NY, "Call to Action for Drug Reform." Presented by Balancing Justice, at the Friends Meeting House, 84 Scio Street.
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 http://www.reconsider.org or e-mail [email protected].
May 20-22, Scottsdale, AZ, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers annual conference. Call (717) 581-1901 or visit http://www.naatp.org for further information.
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 22, noon, Washington, DC, "Time to Rethink the War on Drugs?" Policy forum at the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., free of charge, luncheon follows. To register, contact Megan Brumleve, (202) 789-5229, (202) 371-0841 (fax) or e-mail [email protected].
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.
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 15-17, Charlotte, NC, Families Against Mandatory Minimums Southeastern Conference on Sentencing Reform. At St. Luke's Lutheran Church, 3200 Park Rd. For further information, contact Elaine Lynch at (704) 947-9728.
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].
December 1-4, 2002, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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