(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #190, 6/15/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Peter McWilliams, best-selling author, medical marijuana patient and passionate advocate of freedom. Peter repeatedly challenged laws that prohibited his use of marijuana to control nausea and manage his struggle with AIDS and cancer. In the end, federal prosecutors proved too powerful and uncompassionate. Confined to his home and denied access to the medicine that had helped him, Peter was unable to control the vomiting caused by his AIDS drugs, and too weak to withstand it, lost his life.
Three years ago, as a keynote speaker at the Libertarian Party National Convention, Peter entertained attendees with his brilliant wit but also delivered a serious message. In a speech broadcast on C-Span, he called medical marijuana prohibition "an outrage within an outrage within an outrage." The first outrage, he said, to cheers from the audience, is the war on drugs. The second outrage is the prohibition of the least dangerous recreationally used drug, marijuana. And the third is that patients who need marijuana medically should be denied it, even arrested and sent to prison.
It was less than three weeks later that federal prosecutors had Peter arrested and thrown in jail. A $250,000 bail amount kept him sitting in jail for some time, and only a visit to court, during which Peter was vomiting constantly, got Peter access to his legal AIDS medications. This attack by the government on the health and safety of an AIDS patient drove home the reality of the drug war to those of us who labor to stop it; federal prosecutors almost seemed to want our friend to die for flaunting their marijuana laws, or not to care if that is what happened. If that was not their intention, it may as well have been, as was eventually proved.
Peter was able to live at home for most of the next two years as his trial, and the trial of his compatriot, Todd McCormick, slowly progressed through the court. He distributed extensive information about his case, his causes and many other interesting topics to an extensive following on the Internet. But in the end, Peter was not allowed to even mention medical marijuana at this trial, plea bargaining last November to an unappealable five-year sentence, which he hoped he would be able to spend under house arrest while he wrote his books. His last book, an exposé of the DEA, will never be read; the near final draft was destroyed in a fire, sending Peter into shock and precipitating his death. It is very likely by all reports that Peter would be living today if he had been allowed to continue to use marijuana.
The November Coalition and the Libertarian Party of California are holding a vigil in Peter's honor, tomorrow, Saturday, June 16th. Persons in the Los Angeles area can participate by meeting at 2:00pm on the front lawn of the West Los Angeles Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd. The vigil will continue there until 4:00pm, and will be followed by a 1/3 mile march to Westwood Memorial Gardens at 1218 Glendon. E-mail [email protected] for further information.
Please visit Peter's very extensive web sites and see the legacy he left in books and much more:
Peter's untimely death came less than a week after he was featured by John Stossel on the ABC news program 20/20. You can read what John Stossel, Barbara Walters and Peter himself had to say on the following two 20/20 web pages:
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
The execution of Timothy McVeigh, the first official death penalty carried out by the federal government since 1963, tended to overshadow another federal death penalty case in its late stages. Juan Raul Garza, a Texan who was convicted of marijuana trafficking and ordering three killings in the course of doing business. Garza will face lethal injection this coming Tuesday, if last-minute maneuverings by his attorneys and advocates fail to forestall or mitigate his sentence.
A coalition of religious and civil rights leaders have asked President Bush to order a moratorium on federal executions, citing racial and ethnic bias in application of the federal death penalty. Garza, who is Mexican-American, would not have been statistically likely to receive the death penalty if he were white, they say, and have asked that his sentence be commuted to life in prison. US Attorney General John Ashcroft claims that a Justice Department report issued last week exonerates the federal government of such charges, but Garza's attorneys dispute the findings, pointing to incomplete and misleading data used in the study to reach that conclusions.
Certainly, any thinking person ought to be skeptical of any claims made by the Justice Department, ever. After all, DOJ prosecutors couldn't even obey the law themselves while prosecuting the McVeigh case, arguably the most high-profile, scrutinized case in the nation's history. It was shocking to see thousands of documents from the case uncovered at the last minute, illegally withheld from the defense during all the years of the trial. Such a violation, be it deliberate or accidental, ought to infuriate parties on both sides of the death penalty debate: the defendant's right to a fair trial was violated, in the process placing the conviction itself at risk.
Garza's case was also marred by misconduct, to the point where the trial was actually protested by the Organization of American States. OAS claimed that federal prosecutors violated international human rights covenants in the penalty phase of Garza's trial by asking the jury to consider murders for which he was never tried, let alone convicted, in determining his penalty -- a penalty which in this case turned out to be death.
There are only two ways that government misconduct in the criminal justice system can be deterred. One way is to void convictions or sentences and force the government to retry tainted cases, if they still have a legal basis with which to do so. The other way is to punish those officials who have committed the misconduct, if not through criminal prosecution or judicial sanction, then at least through firings or demotions where the violations reach a sufficiently serious level.
In both of these two first federal death penalties in nearly 40 years, the misconduct -- deliberate or accidental in McVeigh's case, almost certainly deliberate in Garza's -- reaches that level. Yet in neither case have the offending DOJ personnel been sanctioned, or if they have it hasn't been reported. How can Americans place their trust in our criminal justice system, when misconduct occurs so routinely even in the most important cases, but goes unpunished?
Can we ever be secure as a society that innocent people are never sent wrongfully to the death chambers, when ethics violations in the criminal justice system are evidently so pervasive and tolerated? The answer is probably no, and the same concern ought to apply to the living death of multi-year and decade sentences given so casually to tens of thousands of nonviolent drug law violators every year. Among those incarcerated in our nation's prisons and jails are no small number who in truth are innocent. In many cases the circumstances are so shocking as to make one wonder if we live in a banana republic as opposed to the so-called land of the free.
Last but not least are the de facto extra-judicial executions, the often-innocent people who never make it to trial, but are killed by police engaged in no-knock drug raids. Certainly, the Lebanon, Tennessee police officers who killed the 62-year old John Adams had no way to be sure he was guilty -- as evidenced by the fact that he wasn't guilty and they had broken down the wrong door entirely. But that didn't stop them from using extraordinarily reckless tactics in entering his home, initiating the violent confrontation that left Adams dead. Of course, death wouldn't have been the judicial penalty even if he did have drugs in his home.
The killing of John Adams is only one of many, many such unnecessary drug war tragedies. His case is an exception in that his killer did get sent to trial before being acquitted. Usually, police who kill receive an unreasonable benefit of the doubt. Or perhaps it is not always unreasonable, and police and their occasional victims are all victims of a drug war and paramilitarized policing system gone mad. In this view, perhaps the people at the top who order and encourage these reckless tactics like no-knock warrants are the truly guilty parties. But who can bring them to justice?
It is time for the double standards to end.
Police must first obtain a search warrant before using a heat-sensing device to look inside a person's home, a narrowly divided Supreme Court ruled Monday. In an unusual Supreme Court alliance, conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined with liberals David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven Breyer to form a 5-4 majority.
While the Rehnquist Supreme Court has historically taken an accepting approach to drug war erosion of Fourth Amendment protections from illegal search and seizure, the ruling in Kyllo v. US marks the third time this year that the court has rejected drug searches and imposed limits on a drug war that previously seemed limitless. In an Indianapolis case last November (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/162.html#supreme2), the Court held that suspicionless drug checkpoints on public highways violated the Constitution. And in a recent South Carolina case (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/178.html#fergusoncharleston), the Court ruled out state drug testing of pregnant mothers without their consent.
"This is an important victory for the Fourth Amendment because it says again the home is a protected area," University of Iowa law professor James Tomkovicz, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Los Angeles Times. "I think [the justices] were worried about what comes next, the technology that would allow the government to stay out but detect what is going on inside the home."
"One less thing to worry about," one Washington area indoor marijuana grower chortled to DRCNet. "I definitely feel more secure in my home now."
Monday's ruling came in the case of Florence, Oregon, resident Danny Kyllo, who was arrested in 1992 for growing marijuana after federal agents used a thermal imaging device to pick up infrared radiation from within his home. The agents told a federal magistrate the heat signature matched the pattern of a marijuana grow-op. The judge then approved a search warrant based largely on the thermal imaging evidence, and agents subsequently raided the house.
Kyllo was indeed growing marijuana -- 100 plants were found during the search -- and eventually accepted a conditional guilty plea, which allowed him to appeal the legality of the warrantless thermal imaging surveillance. On appeal, he argued that the seized plants could not be used as evidence against him because police did not have a search warrant before surveilling his home with the thermal imaging device. Kyllo lost at the federal appellate level when the 9th US Federal Court of Appeals' ruled that the use of heat sensors did not constitute a search of Kyllo's home and therefore did not require a search warrant.
The Supreme Court disagreed. For the majority, the question to be decided was two-fold. First, did thermal imaging surveillance constitute a search in the constitutional sense; and second, if so, was such a warrantless search reasonable and therefore constitutional?
In the majority opinion, Justice Scalia wrote: "Where, as here, the government uses a device that is not in general public use to explore intimate details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a 'search' and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant."
Quoting earlier Fourth Amendment search and seizure rulings, Scalia wrote that "at the very core" of the amendment "stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from government intrusion. It would be foolish to contend that the degree of privacy secured to citizens by the Fourth Amendment has been unaffected by the advance of technology," Scalia wrote.
"In the case of the search of a home's interior -- the prototypical and hence most commonly litigated area of protected privacy -- there is a ready criterion, with roots deep in common law, of the minimal expectation of privacy that exists, and that is acknowledged to be reasonable. To withdraw the protection of this minimum expectation would allow police technology to erode the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment."
The minority opinion, authored by Justice Stevens and joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices O'Connor and Kennedy, bought the Justice Department argument that thermal imaging did not constitute a search and was therefore permissible without obtaining a search warrant. "No intimate details of the home were observed, and there was no intrusion upon the privacy of individuals," wrote Stevens.
But, Scalia retorted in the majority opinion, heat-sensing devices "might disclose, for example, at what hour of each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath -- a detail that many would consider 'intimate.'"
The Supreme Court has in recent years upheld a number of police surveillance techniques on the grounds that they did not constitute searches under the Constitution. Tactics okayed by the Court include the use of drug-sniffing dogs, the use of binoculars to look in a yard, and the use of low flying airplanes and helicopters to spy on private property. In all of those instances, the court held that officers were free to use their senses to peer into a private area.
Sophisticated surveillance devices that can see through walls are different, the court held. Allowing warrantless searches with such devices "would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology -- including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home," Scalia wrote.
While with this ruling, the American people have seen fundamental constitutional protections brought into the 21st Century, it's not all over yet for Danny Lee Kyllo. Although the Supreme Court reversed the appeal's court ruling on the admissibility of thermal imaging evidence, it did not throw out Kyllo's conviction. Instead, it remanded his case back to the federal circuit court to decide whether, absent the thermal imaging evidence, any basis to order a search warrant existed.
The ruling and the dissent are both available at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/00pdf/99-8508.pdf online.
Arnold S. Trebach, JD, PhD, is one of the grand old men of the drug reform movement. He is the founder of American University's Institute on Drugs, Crime, and Justice, which he directed until his retirement in 1997. Trebach also founded the Drug Policy Foundation in 1986, serving as its the first chairman and president until 1997. He is the author of paradigm-shattering books, including "The Heroin Solution" (Yale University Press, 1982), "The Great Drug War" (Macmillan, 1987) and "Legalize It? Debating American Drug Policy (American University Press, 1993), which he coauthored with James Inciardi. He is currently chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Trebach Institute (http://www.trebach.org).
On July 21 and 22, the Institute, in association
with survivors of harmful drug treatment programs, will present a conference,
"Saving Our Children from Drug Treatment Abuse," in Bethesda, Maryland.
(See the web site for more details.) The conference will focus on
programs such as Straight, Inc., and Synanon, which engage in an aggressive,
confrontational form of "therapy" designed to wear down and remold young
and vulnerable personalities. Although the names of the programs
may change, the "treatment" modality lives on. For more information
on abusive treatment programs, visit Anonymity Anonymous (http://www.fornits.com/anonanon/)
and The Straights (http://www.thestraights.com/straight/).
Days before the border's unofficial ambassador of drug legalization, New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, headed across the Rio Grande to practice his persuasive powers on his Mexican counterparts at the Border Governors Conference last weekend, Washington's official ambassador to Mexico, Jeffrey Davidow, was practicing drug policy damage control in Mexico City. At the border conference, held in Tampico, on the Gulf Coast, the governors of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas joined the governors of the Mexican states of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora, and Tamaulipas to announce they will study drug trafficking as a health issue, not just a criminal justice problem. (California Gov. Gray Davis stayed home to deal with the energy crisis.) In Mexico City, Davidow took to the halls of the University of the Valley of Mexico to launch a broadside against drug legalization.
The confluence of events suggests that the US government is finally beginning to comprehend that its drug policy consensus is rapidly eroding in Mexico. DRCNet, with the help of the Narco News service (http://www.narconews.com), has reported repeatedly on Mexican elected officials' statements calling for legalization of the drug trade or at least a willingness to explore the topic. But the rise of anti-drug war sentiment across the border is only now provoking a belated counteroffensive by the US embassy.
Speaking on June 1st, Davidow blasted drug legalization as a "false solution" that would lead only to a world of junkies, crime and violence. [Ed: Such a world would apparently be somehow distinct from today's world of junkies, crime and violence.] Davidow sketched out the libertarian and harm reduction approaches to legalization for his young audience, then attempted to demolish them.
Calling the idea that the state should not be able to interfere with the private lives of citizens "very attractive reasoning," Davidow then proceeded to explain why it was wrong. "The majority of societies recognize that the authority of the government brings with it the responsibility to promote and preserve accepted codes of conduct," he argued. Then, adopting an extremist depiction of drug use, the ambassador drew an equally extreme conclusion. "A society that adopts the position that it must allow those who want to commit suicide using drugs to do so has lost much more than the battle against illicit drugs -- it has lost its own moral sense."
But Davidow devoted most of his speech to attacking the argument that legalization would decrease the social harm associated with drug abuse and drug trafficking. "Narcotics are illegal because of the damage they cause, they don't cause damage because they are illegal," he argued.
Davidow went out of his way to attack the success of harm reduction programs in Holland, Switzerland, and England, as well as to overstate the success with which the United States has grappled with its own drug problem. He even argued that prohibition should be maintained because "the use of drugs would reduce the productivity and, in the long term, affect the tax base."
Davidow ended his plea for more prohibition with a grim enjoinder to keep up the good fight. "We have not won the war against drugs, but neither have we lost it. In fact, I reject the term 'war' because all wars have an end, and the fight against drugs should not have one. We could be fighting against the commerce of illicit drugs for much of the future," he said.
Unfortunately for Davidow and the rest of the US foreign policy drug-war establishment, the border governors are looking in a different direction. In a move initiated by the Mexican governors, they announced on June 8th that they will form a commission of scholars from both sides of the border to focus on drug smuggling as a public health issue.
New Mexico Gov. Johnson cheered the idea. "I couldn't be more excited about what happened here," he told the Associated Press. "I happen to believe that this is the reason why we have a militarized border and this whole concept or belief that everyone who comes across the border is a drug trafficker -- that's the perception of the United States."
Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez, who has survived an assassin's bullet, but hundreds of whose constituents have died in border violence related to drug trafficking, had already come out in favor of putting legalization on the agenda, but reiterated that stand at the conference.
"This should be studied, analyzed, and looked at to see what the people want and what the effects are from a different perspective that considers not only their prohibition, but also in given time their approval for medical purposes or rehabilitation or other reasons," he told the conference. "We need to study all aspects of drug use, especially marijuana."
But not everyone was ready to hop on the reform bandwagon. Baja California Gov. Alejandro Gonzalez told the conference the time and situation were not right. "I think the consensus was to give more attention to the health problems caused by drug trafficking," he said, "but to be able to consider legalizing some of these drugs, such as marijuana -- one country or one region can't do it when it is a problem of many countries."
Clearly, the border governors were not ready for a great leap into the unknown, but the conference results are yet one more indication that drug war orthodoxy is crumbling on both sides of the border.
Gov. Johnson pronounced himself satisfied with the progress. "You don't go from an arrest 'em, lock 'em situation to legalization overnight," he told the AP, "but every governor here is at least willing to look at some middle ground."
They must be sweating in the bunker at the Glorieta.
(Davidow's speech is available at http://www.narconews.com/thegreatdebate.html online, as are responses to it as they come in.)
Recent DRCNet coverage of the legalization debate in Mexico includes:
The Week Online reported last fall on the killing of Lebanon, Tennessee, resident John Adams (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/159.html#policeshooter). Adams, a 62-year old African American, was watching the 10:00 news with his wife when a local drug squad mistakenly broke down their front door and shot him to death in his living room after he opened fire on the armed, masked and unannounced intruders.
In the just concluded trial of former Lebanon Police Lt. Steve Nokes, who led the raid, Lorine Adams testified she thought someone was trying to rob and murder her and her husband of 34 years. "That's when I said, 'Get the gun. It's a home invasion,'" she testified. "That's what I thought it was."
By the time she recognized the intruders as police officers, it was too late. "When I looked up and saw they were police officers, I knew they were in the wrong place," she testified. "I was telling them, but they weren't listening."
Neither, apparently, were the jurors at Nokes' trial. On June 8th, the jury, consisting of eleven whites and one black, acquitted Nokes of charges of reckless homicide, tampering or fabricating evidence and aggravated perjury. It deadlocked on a fourth charge of criminal responsibility for negligent homicide, after which Circuit Judge John Wootten Jr. declared a mistrial.
The Tennessee town's African-American community is not satisfied, and that discontent has crossed color lines as well. The Wilson County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will hold a news conference today to express its unhappiness with the acquittals and to criticize what it calls a poor prosecution effort.
"It was a crime against the black community, but what we have to say means nothing," NAACP local chapter Vice President Gary Owens told the Daily Tennessean. "The Lebanon Police Department thinks it's untouchable, and that's what we call them -- 'the untouchables.'"
Owens and NAACP member Robert Huddleston told the newspaper local law enforcement and political officials had turned a deaf ear to years of warnings that such incidents could occur and that as a result police-community relations have been severely damaged. "We've gone back 40 years as a black community," Huddleston told the Tennessean. "There are people so upset with the police I don't know what they are going to do."
Some white residents interviewed by the Tennessean also smelled something funny. "I think he (Nokes) was the head man and he was responsible that his information is correct," said Ed Hamlett.
Others wondered why Nokes, alone of all the officers on the raid, was charged. "From the very beginning I didn't think that it should have been pinned on one guy," said Jodie Bentley, another white resident. "I don't think you can prosecute one man and make him the scapegoat," said John Ash, also white.
The NAACP's Huddleston agreed on that point. "It should have gone up the chain of command," he said. "It goes all the way up. They all made mistakes. Until we do that, we won't have any justice."
The city's safety commissioner, Billy Weeks, who was police chief when the raid took place, wanted to move forward. He told the Tennessean that the city had taken procedural steps to prevent similar incidents in the future, it was preparing a cultural diversity training program for its officers, and it was monitoring traffic stops to prevent racial profiling. "We don't want this to reflect on us forever," he said. "This is just something we need to put behind us."
Lebanon's black community, however, is not so quick to forget.
New Zealand's long-awaited parliamentary hearings on new "strategies for cannabis" finally got underway on May 30th, with dreadlocked Rastafarian New Zealand Green Party Member of Parliament Nandor Tanczos leading off with a call for the decriminalization of the use and cultivation of marijuana in personal quantities. And late last week, the New Zealand Medical Association gave its cautious approval to the idea.
In accord with a pre-election Labour government promise to the Greens, who control seven seats in parliament, the multi-party Health Select Committee is hearing submissions from interested individuals and organizations. The committee is expected to hold public hearings through August and report to parliament before year's end. Its recommendation will then be voted on by parliament in a "conscience vote," where normally strict party discipline will not apply.
The inquiry's mandate is: "To inquire into the most effective public health and health promotion strategies to minimise the use of and the harm associated with cannabis and consequently the most appropriate legal status of cannabis."
Its clear subtext is decriminalization. According to a poll last year, 41% of New Zealanders favored decriminalization of marijuana, with an additional 19% supporting outright legalization of commerce -- a solid majority in favor of fundamental change in the country's criminal justice approach to the plant. New Zealand newspapers, including the Daily News and the Otago Daily Times, have editorialized in favor of decriminalization in recent weeks. In doing so, they represent the views of their readers. Fully half of all New Zealanders aged 15-50 have used marijuana and 20% had done so in the last year, according to a 1998 national survey. But police arrested 20,000 of them during FY 1998-99, 90% of those for simple possession. Police spent more than $100 million enforcing the marijuana laws during the 1990s, as the Green's Tanczos pointed out at the opening session.
Presenting a lengthy Green Party position paper on the subject (http://www.greens.org.nz/docs/other/010207cannabis_sub.htm), Tanczos criticized the expenditure of law enforcement funds on harassing marijuana users. "It's a total waste of police time and money," he told the committee. "That time and money would be much better spent on investigating crimes of burglary and violence," he added. "It is clear to anyone with an open mind that the current law is failing to reduce the abuse of cannabis and, in fact, may be encouraging it," he said.
Tanczos laid out the Green position in favor of the decriminalization of the smoking and growing of marijuana in small amounts by adults. The party examined other options, from making marijuana possession an infraction, or ticketable offense, to outright legalization, but rejected the former as insufficient and the latter as too risky, Tanczos said.
He also pointed to medical marijuana patients, caught in legal limbo under current law. "I am grieved by the situation of people in genuine pain who just want to use the best medicine to improve their quality of life," he said. "The previous government let them down. I'm asking this government not to do the same."
Even that wasn't enough for the the Aotearoa (New Zealand) Legalize Cannabis Party (http://www.alcp.org.nz). Party leader Michael Appleby, a 54-year-old lawyer, told the committee full legalization was the only fair solution. "Everywhere I go, average Kiwis tell me to persist in the political campaign and agree that mere decriminalization (with attendant fines and subsequent convictions for those who can't pay the fines) does not go far enough," he said in his submission. "It is the poorer members of society who will suffer if cannabis is merely decriminalized, instead of being legalized for personal use for those over 18."
The Medical Association, for its part, offered its self-described "careful" and "conservative" non-opposition to the idea of decriminalization. "We do not oppose a partial decriminalization of cannabis, provided that it can be shown that it does not increase the use and consumption of cannabis," Medical Association president Dr. John Adams told the committee. But then he qualified his already equivocal position. "We are saying we do not oppose it [partial decriminalization], but certainly we are not supporting that as an idea."
Adams said the association was committed to a harm reduction approach to marijuana and other drugs. "We believe that drug addiction is more of a social and health problem than a criminal problem," he told the committee.
Not everyone wants to change the status quo. Educators' associations, who have been a bulwark of opposition to marijuana law reform, will have something to say to the committee. So far, only the Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools has addressed the committee. In its submission, the association said that marijuana use among students had a deleterious impact on learning.
"Cannabis is the third most widely used drug in New Zealand. The two most commonly used drugs are alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legal," the association said. "Given the harm they do to many individuals, together with the financial costs and the indirect damage to our society, it seems most unlikely they would be made legal if they were discovered today. Why add a third harmful legal drug to the two we are already burdened with?"
The White Dog Cafe (http://www.whitedog.com) in Philadelphia's University City neighborhood serves up much more than fine contemporary American cuisine. Inspired by the vision of owner Judy Wicks, the cafe has become a bastion of community activism squarely in the progressive, anti-interventionist tradition. Wicks and the White Dog have involved themselves in issues ranging from solidarity with Mexico's Zapatista rebels to the living wage campaign to the fight to block genetically modified organisms in the food supply.
Drug reform, too. "The White Dog Cafe has events here at the restaurant that try to educate people about different subjects, and one of them is drug reform," said the cafe's Debbie Eisenberg. "We've had a series of events -- film series, table talks -- focused on drug policy," she told DRCNet. "We also have a sister coffeehouse relationship with the Paradox Coffeehouse in a residential neighborhood in Amsterdam," she said. "And we go to Amsterdam to see for ourselves what an enlightened drug policy looks like -- their thinking is so far ahead of ours."
From May 20-27, Wicks, Eisenberg and 11 other interested citizens took advantage of a program funded by the Amsterdam municipal government that provides drug policy tours for foreign groups. "We were able to meet with lots of different folks," Eisenberg told DRCNet. "We talked to the administrator of the municipal health service, drug researchers from local universities and the Jellinek Institute, police who enforce the drug laws, among many others," she said. "We learned plenty that was very provocative for people interested in drug policy," she said.
Dan Hood, a post-doctoral fellow with The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation also participated in the tour. "I went with a bit of skepticism because it was a tour, not an academic program," Hood told DRCNet, "but I am quite happy with the program. It was a well-organized, very serious look at Dutch drug policy. There were the coffee houses, the museums, and the canal trips, of course, but also a rigorous schedule of meetings with knowledgeable people. I had a very good time."
Hood pointed out, however, that the tour does not replace serious research. "While not rescinding my enthusiasm for the White Dog-Q4Q tour, I want to add that it is only an introduction to Dutch drug policy, not an in-depth study," he said. "As an academic who studies drug policy, I did not learn that much that I hadn't known before. Don't get me wrong, though, I still heartily recommend the tour."
For Hood, one of the highlights of the trip was the opportunity to talk to drug users who are actually using the system in Amsterdam. "I visited a user room (safe injection room) in a lovely, homey brownstone in Amsterdam," said Hood. "This one was privately operated, although it receives funding from the municipal government. The municipal injection rooms are much larger and more clinical, I am told. This one, though, had nice sofas and chairs and can accommodate overnight stays. I talked to two hard drug users at some length," Hood related, "one from England and one from Maastricht. The guy from England had also had experience with harm reduction services in England and Berlin, but he said Amsterdam was the best. The guy from Maastricht, who was on methadone, agreed that services in Amsterdam were far superior to services in his hometown, whose methadone program, he said, was much more strict."
Eisenberg and Hood both gave credit to Quest for Quality (http://www.q4q.nl/english/home.htm), a bureau of the Amsterdam municipal government, one of whose missions is to organize study trips for professionals and interested laypeople examining Dutch drug policy. For a fee of approximately $35 per person per day, Q4Q will set up programs of one to four days with a wide variety of drug policy-related persons and programs. Q4Q will arrange tours to see, among other things: drugs prevention activities, AIDS prevention activities, a low threshold methadone program, the heroin experiment, a project for drug users in hospital, an outpatient clinic for prostitutes and foreign drug users, a project for children of addicted parents, facilities for addicted women, needle exchange projects, night shelters for homeless drug users, user rooms, the Junkie Union, re-socialization projects, projects for ethnic minorities, projects in prisons, and the Amsterdam police.
"Q4Q was great!" enthused the White Dog's Eisenberg. "It's really wonderful that the Dutch authorities would set up a program like this. They were very professional and helped us decide where we wanted to spend our time."
Eisenberg encouraged other groups to consider the Q4Q Amsterdam drug policy tour. "It is doable for about $1500 per person from the East Coast," she said. "In our case, people booked their own flights, and we reserved a block of hotel rooms that people paid for with their own money. The only shared group expense was the cost of Q4Q's services," she explained.
Wicks and the White Dog are not merely interested in knowledge for its own sake. "The object is to change the failed war on drugs," said Eisenberg. "We try to select people for our groups who can influence policy -- doctors, journalists, professionals." This year's group reflected that goal. In addition to Wicks, Eisenberg, and Hood, it included people working in treatment, a woman doing youth rehabilitation work, a libertarian activist, and DRCNet's Chris Evans. Last year, the White Dog-Q4Q tour included a former Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Nor does the end of the trip mean the end of the White Dog's interest in drug policy. "We will do a follow-up to the trip this fall," she said. "We'll invite participants to come in and speak about the trip and give a report from Amsterdam. We want to spread the knowledge," she said.
Trouble broke out at the top of British Columbia's Marijuana Party on June 6th when party leader Brian Taylor resigned over strategic and leadership differences with party president Marc Emery. Taylor took with him 15 to 20 of the 79 candidates the party fielded in provincial elections this spring.
"Yes, I've resigned," Taylor told DRCNet, "but let's not make more of a dispute out of it than it is. Marc and I met in December to plan the last election, and he asked me to be the leader. His modus operandi always has been to run the organization the way he wants to. He pays the bills, so he thinks he should be able to do that. He's openly said that. That was appropriate for this election because it was an emergency, but it is no way to run a political party," said Taylor.
Cannabis entrepreneur Emery, the publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine and owner of Canada's largest mail-order marijuana seed company, is unapologetic. "If people want to call me anti-democratic, they can," he told DRCNet. "It is not a democracy when the guy who pays the bill calls all the shots, and I call the shots. I've had to personally underwrite the party to the tune of $232,000. All other contributions combined totaled $8,000 or $9,000. When I see a couple of hundred thousand dollars coming in from other people, I'll consider surrendering control.
"I never met a single person in the party who wasn't able to do what he wanted," Emery protested. "My management style is to encourage people to do what they want as long as it's directed at marijuana activism."
Taylor, the former mayor of Grand Forks and currently owner of the Cannabis Research Institute, believes Emery's autocratic vision cannot sustain a political party and is striking out on his own along with the rump group that followed him out of the party. "People rationalized that since we all share common vision, we've been able to work without democratic structure and organization," said Taylor. "But a party based on non-democratic principles will not be able to sustain itself in the long run."
Taylor told DRCNet he will form a new, libertarian-leaning Liberal Democratic Party. "I'm working on a new party that I hope can bring in our support that is out there. There's a hole in the political landscape that we can fill," he said. "I will be the interim leader and will draft an interim policy statement until we have a true democratic process in place. I believe a number of people will come together for a party that supports property rights, saner drug laws, less government control, and more personal freedom."
Emery scoffs. "Why form another party? Brian is going further along the path to obscurity," he predicted. "He wants to talk about a lot of issues, I want to focus on marijuana legalization." Nor is Emery concerned about defectors. "The only people I care about are people who work and do things for the party," said Emery. "Nobody who did any work has left."
"I want to legalize marijuana," retorted Taylor. "Marc only wants to decriminalize it, but if it is legalized it can be taxed, and I think that can make a tremendous difference to the economy."
The parting of the ways was also precipitated by Emery's plan to challenge Canada's current medical marijuana laws by opening illegal "compassion clubs" to distribute medical marijuana across the province. Emery plans to have 30 clubs operating by the end of 2002, he told DRCNet. "Yes, they will be in violation of the current law, but I expect nothing will happen. We'll sell a lot of weed and the police will leave us alone."
Taylor isn't so sure. "It's a bold move, it's a good way of pushing the cause, but I fear it will bring down the wrath of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," he told DRCNet. "The only clubs operating in the province now are in areas of local police control, not the Mounties. When they push into the hinterlands, I'm afraid the Mounties will react. Another concern is that people voted for the BC Marijuana Party not to break the law, but to wrest change through the formal political process, so this could damage our movement. And compassion clubs are by their very nature compassionate, which means that rules could get bent, which means people may end up risking criminal records for trafficking and conspiracy to traffic," he worried. "The kind of actions Marc is planning could create a backlash for the party. At the same time, there is no democratic way to challenge that move within the party."
Still, said Taylor, he supports opening more compassion clubs. A man who made a name for himself doing civil disobedience on hemp issues, Taylor can't resist. But, he says, "action should be taken by individuals, not the party. Protect the party."
Watching the intramural contretemps with a mixture of interest and concern are British Columbia's existing medical marijuana providers. Hilary Black is founder of the BC Compassion Club (http://www.thecompassionclub.org) in Vancouver, Canada's largest with over 1,400 patients.
"We think there is a huge demand for medical marijuana," Black told DRCNet. "We absolutely support there being a diverse set of clubs available and we are not trying to corner the market. But we do have concerns about what Marc Emery is planning. We have specific ideas about how compassion clubs should be organized, and consensus decision-making is one of our core principles. Members should have a voice, and when one person calls the shots, that isn't going to happen."
Black also worried about Emery's famous commitment to entrepreneurial activity. "Capitalist libertarianism and compassion are not very compatible," she said. "These need to be nonprofit organizations, set up in such a way that resources go back into the clubs and benefit the people who need it."
The BC Compassion Club includes a wellness center where clients can receive acupuncture, herbal cures and a variety of other services for free or by donation, Black said. "To ensure such services, it is important that the club not be a capitalist venture but a community building project," Black argued.
Black can find some solace in a report from the Kamloops News. Vern Falk, the BCMP's candidate in the district this spring, told the newspaper that he was opening a compassion club as part of Emery's project and that it would be nonprofit.
Emery, for his part, somewhat defensively touted the party's accomplishments. "The BCMP was the first party in provincial history to field a full slate in its first election," he pointed out. "We participated in the national debate, and that was a big success. And the bills got paid. By me."
And Taylor maintains a gentlemanly posture toward his former party president. "I'm quite pleased that things went as well as they did," he told DRCNet. "We don't hate each other. We're in the same war, it's just different fronts."
Faced with prisons stuffed with drug offenders and skyrocketing prison costs, the Connecticut legislature has passed and Gov. John Rowland has signed a bill allowing judges to waive mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for nonviolent drug offenders. Senate Bill 1160 allow judges to deviate from the mandatory minimums, but requires that they must state a reason for doing so in court. An amendment to the bill bars judges from reducing the two-year mandatory minimum for those convicted of distributing drugs to minors or employing them in the drug trade.
In an indication of broad support for relaxing drug penalties, the measure passed both houses of the General Assembly by broad margins: 131 to 17 in the House and 29 to 7 in the Senate. Gov. Rowland signed the bill on June 6th.
At press time, the Connecticut Department of Corrections did not have figures on the number of persons doing time in Connecticut's prisons for drug charges. Since 1990, the state's overall prison population has nearly doubled from 9,000 to 17,000, at a cost of $71 per day per prisoner. Corrections spending in the state during the same period has increased from $186 million in 1989-90 to $470 million in 1999-2000.
Thanks to a generous $40,000 grant from the Center for Policy Reform, the 501(c)(4) lobbying affiliate of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, DRCNet's Higher Education Act Reform Campaign to repeal the new law stripping students with drug convictions of their eligibility for federal financial aid for college continues. H.R. 786, the bill to repeal the drug provision, already has 49 Congressional sponsors, and interest is growing fast. We are pushing hard for full repeal, and are hopeful of getting it, maybe even before the end of this year! If we succeed, it will be the first time a federal drug law is repealed since President Nixon declared "war on drugs" in the 1970's.
However, the campaign's costs for 2001, which have included two full-time coordinators and for which a third is needed to help mobilize local coalitions in the most key Congressional districts around the country, is at least $65,000 and really needs to be closer to $80,000. That doesn't even include what our Foundation is spending on educational media work, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, so that people across the country are informed about this law. Hence, we need to raise another $25,000-$40,000 in non-deductible lobbying donations, and as soon as possible, to move this campaign forward to victory.
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The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation has offered an online clemency petition on behalf of Clarence Aaron, a first-time, nonviolent drug offender serving three life sentences in federal prison for a minor role in a drug conspiracy. Aaron's case was featured in the PBS Frontline documentary "Snitch" in January 1999, along with the case of Dorothy Gaines, one of a handful of drug prisoners granted clemency by President Clinton.
Please visit http://www.cjpf.org/clarenceaaron.html to add your voice to those calling for Aaron's release, and visit http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/snitch/cases/aaron.html to learn more about his case.
Click on the links below for information on these issues and web forms to help you contact Congress:
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The fall 2001 issue of Fortune News will focus on issues related to crack cocaine, and is seeking submissions. Fortune News is the quarterly journal of the Fortune Society, a New York City-based nonprofit organization founded in 1967 to serve the needs of those incarcerated or are at risk of incarceration and to educate the public about prison conditions and criminal justice reform.
Fortune News seeks articles dealing with all angles of the crack cocaine issue, in order to develop an understanding of the legacy crack has left in the criminal justice system and society as a whole. Articles must be no more than 1,250 words and submitted typed, double-spaced, with the title, author's name and short biography included. (Incarcerated writers may submit handwritten manuscripts). Articles may also be submitted as Microsoft Word files, on disk or by e-mail, to [email protected]. Photographs, illustrations and artwork are welcome. Only \manuscripts and accompanying materials submitted with a self addressed, stamped envelope will be returned.
Send submissions by September 1st, 2001, to: Fortune News Submissions, c/o The Fortune Society, 53 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010. The Fortune Society does not compensate writers monetarily, but all submitting articles will receive a free one-year subscription. For further information, contact Shannon Herbert, Fortune News Editor at (212) 691-7554 ext. 553 or [email protected]. Visit http://www.fortunesociety.org for additional information about the Fortune Society.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN: Interviewer, National Study of Syringe Exchange Programs, a five-year, multi-site study of syringe exchange programs throughout the United States, entering its second year. This is a part-time, 15 hour/week position paying $15/hour. The interviewer will work for 6 months collecting data from participants of the Indianapolis syringe exchange program. Job tasks include describing the study to participants, obtaining informed consent and using a laptop to conduct the interview. The interviewer must be comfortable working with drug users and syringe exchange staff, should have basic familiarity with computers (such as the ability to send e-mail), and either outreach or research experience. For further information or to apply for the position, contact Naomi Braine, PhD, Beth Israel Medical Center, (212) 387-3870 x5773 or [email protected].
NEW YORK, NY: Project INSPIRE, "Intervention Research Addressing the Primary and Secondary Prevention Needs of HIV-Seropositive Injection Drug Users," is hiring a facilitator for this study testing the efficacy of an HIV prevention intervention for HIV-positive injection drug users (IDUs) developed by a multi-site research team. The primary goals of the intervention are to 1) prevent HIV transmission due to high-risk sexual and drug injection behaviors; 2) increase access to, use of, and maintenance in primary health care; and 3) increase access to, use of, and adherence to HIV treatments among HIV+ IDUs. Job Responsibilities will include co-facilitating all individual and group sessions for the intervention and control groups; attending training for the content and delivery of material for the intervention sessions; participating in debriefings with the Project Director after each intervention session; offering pre- and post-test counseling and referrals to participants; assist other staff in the outreach and recruitment of potential participants; assisting in the placement of participants for volunteer activities; and assisting in data entry and record maintenance. Requirements include experience with HIV+ counseling, familiarity with IDU and harm reduction issues and fluency in both English and Spanish. Contact: Bob Gern, MPH, Montefiore Medical Center, (718) 653-4859, ext. 3, fax: (718) 653-7785, [email protected].
NEW YORK, NY: Safe Space is hiring part-time/on call direct care workers to fill Life Skills Specialist and Social Worker positions in their new Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Group homes. These two programs are located in Manhattan and Corona Queens, and provide residential care for youth aged 12-20. For a complete job description, contact Emily Winkelstein at (718) 526-0722 ext. 238. Resumes and cover letters can be sent to: I. Hamdan 115-70 Dunkirk Street, St. Albans, NY 11412, fax: (718) 341-3668.
NEW YORK, NY: Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center seeks a full-time Counselor to provide counseling, training and outreach services through the Project Connect alcohol and substance abuse intervention and prevention program, including HIV/AIDS-related prevention and intervention services. Requirements include three years experience in alcohol and drug abuse counseling, outreach and training skills and knowledge of LGBT issues and communities. MSW preferred; fluency in a language other than English a plus. Send cover letter with salary requirements and resume to: Human Resources, The Center, One Little West 12th Street, New York, NY, 10014.
SAN FRANCISCO: The Urban Health Study (UHS) at the University of California, San Francisco is seeking a Data Manager. UHS conducts community-based health research and harm reduction with active injection drug users in six San Francisco Bay Area communities. The Data Manager will manage computerized databases; coordinate incoming data from various sources; convert data from outside sources into formats used in-house and from inside sources into formats used by outside users; investigate data discrepancies and make corrections; and perform elementary statistical programming tasks. Requirements include working knowledge of SAS; in-depth knowledge of multiple database packages (such as Paradox and Microsoft Access); word-processing skills (Word or WordPerfect), including mail-merge functions; facility and familiarity with multiple formats of data; attention to detail in resolution of data discrepancies; ability to accomplish time-critical tasks; interest in working with ethnically, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse communities including disenfranchised and marginalized populations; excellent communication and organizational skills; and ability to work collaboratively as a part of a complex research team. Salary $39,700 - $47,700, depending on qualifications. For information, contact Lauren Gee at (415) 502-6260, fax: (415) 502-6260, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://itsa.ucsf.edu/~uhs/ on the web. To apply, fax or e-mail resume to Lauren Gee (same contact info), and also mail or e-mail resume to: UCSF Human Resources, 3333 California St., Suite 305, San Francisco, CA 94143-0832, (415) 476-1645, [email protected]. Indicate Job #B15685R.
ST. LOUIS, MO: Places for People, a nonprofit organization with a 30-year history of working with people with serious mental illness, is hiring an Integrated Treatment Specialist (ITS) to coordinate their work with the dually diagnosed (mental illness and substance abuse). The ITS will work across all agency programs, acting as a trainer, consultant and resource, and will also work with staff to develop appropriate programming within agency to help support those people working towards recovery. PfP is also trying to develop an SRO project targeting people who are dually diagnosed and HIV positive to offer an alternative housing option for them. The ITS will become a key program development person in this project. The ITS should be aware that harm reduction concepts are still foreign to most funders and providers in this area and the ITS will need to understand the politics of working in this area. Send resume to Francie Broderick, Places for People, St. Louis MO 63108, fax: (314) 535-3032, [email protected].
VANCOUVER, WA: HIV Outreach Worker, Vancouver Health Dept. (near Portland), seeking someone with an understanding of crystal-meth and gay men. Currently a 3/4 time position, probably to expand to full and work with current syringe exchange programs. For a copy of the full job announcement, contact Dawn Spellman, Southwest Washington Health District, Syringe Exchange/Outreach, 2000 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver, WA 98663, phone: (360) 397-8078, fax: (360) 397-8424, [email protected].
(Please submit listings of events related to drug policy and related areas to [email protected].)
June 15, 3:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop the Rock" Mass Teach-In Against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. At the Harlem State Office Building, 125th & Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. For further info, visit http://www.droptherock.org or call (212) 254-5700 ext. 306.
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 16, 2:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, Drug War Victim Vigil in honor of Peter McWilliams. Sponsored by the November Coalition and the Libertarian Party of California. Meet at 2:00pm on the front lawn of the West Los Angeles Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd., vigil until 4:00pm, march 1/3 mile to Westwood Memorial Gardens, 1218 Glendon. For further information, contact Hal Chiprin at [email protected].
June 23, 7:00-11:00pm, Oakland, CA, Fire Carnival and Fundraiser for Casa Segura/SafeHouse. At the Casa Segura parking lot, 3229 San Leando St., call (510) 437-8899 for further information.
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 4, Washington, DC, "32nd Annual Rally, Parade, Concert and Picnic to End Marijuana Prohibition." Rally at Lafayette Park noon-3:00pm, march to Lincoln Memorial Grounds, concerts at the Ellipse until the Fireworks, benefit party 10:00pm after fireworks at the Velvet Lounge, 930 U St. For information, visit http://www.fourthofjuly.org or e-mail
July 5, 2:00-4:00pm, Altoona, PA, "Industrial Hemp Festival: Solution to Pollution," outdoor event featuring music, speakers, information booths and the Hemp Car. At the Sinking Valley Fairgrounds, Bellwood exit of I-99, go 3 1/3 miles to Skelp. For info, visit http://www.grassmusic.tv or call (814) 944-8440.
July 21-22, Bethesda, MD, "Saving Our Children from Drug Treatment Abuse," a conference presented by the Trebach Institute in Association with the Survivors of Harmful Treatment Programs. At the Marriott Residence Inn, 7335 Wisconsin Ave., admission $100 or free if you don't have it. For further information, visit http://www.trebach.org, e-mail [email protected] or fax (301) 986-7815.
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].
September 15, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, "Twelfth Annual Fall Freedom Rally." At the Boston Common, sponsored by the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition. For further information call (781) 944-2266, visit http://www.masscann.org or e-mail [email protected].
November 14-16, Barcelona, Spain, First Latin Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. For further information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.igia.org/clat/ or call Enric Granados at 00 34 93 415 25 99.
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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