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

Issue #192, 6/29/01

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. China Celebrates UN Anti-Drug Day With 59 Executions
  2. Editorial: The UN's Anti-Drug Day Must Stop
  3. Drug Trade is Giant of Mexican Economy, New Book Claims -- Meanwhile, as Pursuit of Cartels Intensifies, Authorities Nervously Wait for Other Shoe to Drop
  4. California: Drug War Enters New Phase With "Treatment Not Jail" to Begin July 1
  5. London Police "No Arrest" Plan for Marijuana Arouses the Political Class -- Medical Marijuana Dispensary Busted This Week After Being Publicly Announced Last Week
  6. New York Rockefeller Reform Effort in Doubt as Legislature Goes Into Overtime, Some Reformers Say Just as Well
  7. Oregon Pro-Pot Smoker Ad Starts Media Frenzy
  8. Feeding off the Public Trough: Drug Czar's Anti-Drug PR Campaign Snookered by Advertising Firm, GAO Says
  9. The Great Debate: Narco News Readers Respond to Ambassador's Anti-Legalization Speech
  10. Media Scan: Village Voice, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood
  11. Baltimore and Washington, DC Job Opportunities in Syringe Exchange Field
  12. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. China Celebrates UN Anti-Drug Day With 59 Executions

In what is becoming a macabre annual ritual, the Chinese government used the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking to dramatize its renewed vigor in the endless war by executing 59 convicted drug traffickers (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#chinakillings and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/143.html#editorial). Chinese authorities also staged pyrotechnic spectacles, exploding and burning bales of confiscated drugs before stadiums full of onlookers and broadcasting the events on the state-owned television networks.

The anti-drug day, observed June 26 each year by the UN's Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP), marks the anniversary of the signing of a declaration at the end of the 1987 International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. That declaration laid the groundwork for the UN to adopt the 1988 Convention Against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances, the last of three treaties that form the legal backbone of the international drug prohibition regime.

In most locations where the UNDCP organized commemorative events, they were less bloodthirsty, smelling more of magical surrealism. In Colombia, the UN group's web site announced, anti-drug day would be marked by a cheerleading festival and aerobics marathon, while in Medellin, the UNDCP would host a conference on amphetamines. Laos would stage a ceremonial dope burning in That Loung square, near the country's most important shrine, the Great Sacred Stupa, UNDCP reported, adding that it was cosponsoring a "music and theater festival with an anti-drug theme" that was also on the bill. In Afghanistan, thanks to the UNDCP, "[T]here will be an embroidery competition for women, where participants will be given cloth, thread and other resources to develop embroidered anti-drug messages."

But China's anti-drug day festivities, undertaken independently of the UNDCP, were a rude reminder of the lengths state authorities go in their efforts to suppress drug use and the drug traffic. In Kunming, capital of southwestern Yunnan province, thousands attended a stadium rally where 20 drug traffickers were condemned to death, according to the Associated Press. Then, officials using remote-control detonators ignited two tons of heroin placed in metal pans and soaked in gasoline. That display was broadcast live for the noon national news, while the condemned were taken to another location and shot in the head, AP reported.

Chinese executioners were busy across the land, according to the AP. They executed eight people in the central city of Wuhan and eight more on Hainan Island, where the downed US spy plane still lingers. In Fujian province, authorities executed five Taiwanese citizens for trying to smuggle crystal meth to Taiwan. But the single largest toll came a day earlier, when 18 heroin traffickers were executed in southwestern Chonquing, according to a report from Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. Scattered executions in various cities brought the toll to at least 59, AP reported.

UN officials declined to endorse China's actions. "Drug abuse, drug trafficking are indeed very terrible problems of our day," UN deputy spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a New York press conference. The 1988 convention does provide a legal framework for waging war against drug trafficking, said the UN spokesman, but "as far as I am aware the convention does not provide for the application of the death penalty."

The wave of executions come amidst a months-long crackdown on violent crime and drug trafficking known as operation "Strike Hard," which has resulted in more than a thousand executions so far this year, European Union diplomats in Beijing who monitor the state-run media told AP. Many more have received death sentences and are awaiting execution, they said.

Chinese Minister of Public Security Jia Chunwang told the China Daily the "drug scourge" has brought "social disorder" to China and that Chinese drug fighters "had spared no effort" in the drug battle leading up to the UN's anti-drug day.

He said that in the last five months Chinese anti-drug agencies had arrested 15,000 people on drug charges and had seized 2.2 tons of heroin, 1.2 tons of opium, and 2 tons of methamphetamine. According to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, the number of registered addicts had risen from 148,000 in 1991 to 860,000 last year, but those figures may seriously underestimate the extent of drug use in China. The same China Daily news account that reported the figure for addicts also reported the official Chinese government line that there were only 23,000 HIV-positive persons in China, most of them infected through intravenous drug use. But an ABC World News Tonight report on June 27 said China was in denial about the extent of AIDS, quoting sources within the Chinese Health Ministry as putting the number of HIV-infected people at at least 600,000, with much of the spread due to infected needles used in commercial blood-buying centers in the 1980s.

Also on July 27, in a story that drew no connections, the Washington Post reported that a Chinese physician seeking political asylum in the US has said in written statements that he participating in the harvesting of organs from freshly executed prisoners. In documents given to the post by the Laogai Foundation, funded by expatriate Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu, Wang Guoqi said he helped remove corneas and harvest skin from more than 100 executed prisoners. Other doctors participated as well, he said. Wang was employed by the Tianjin Paramilitary Police General Brigade Hospital, which sold those organs for enormous profits.

According to Wang, the police hospital paid off security officials to notify it in advance of multiple executions, especially during the periodic "Strike Hard" campaigns, then sold organs such as kidneys to wealthy or well-connected people for up to $15,000 each. Wang said many prisoners were shot, then immediately placed in ambulances where their kidneys were removed within two minutes. Wang, a burn specialist, said he often carved skin from the arms, legs, chest and back of each corpse. The skin would be used later for burn victims.

"After all extractable tissues and organs were taken, what remained was an ugly heap of muscles, the blood vessels still bleeding, or all viscera exposed," he said. "Then the corpse was handed to the workers at the crematorium."

According to Harry Wu, Chinese law bans organ removal from condemned criminals unless they, or their families, volunteer their bodies for medical use. But he told the Post that, in reality, prisoners or their families are not asked and the process is highly corrupt.

The US State Department has raised the subject in its annual human rights report, saying this year that "credible reports have alleged that organs from some executed prisoners were removed, sold, and transplanted." Chinese authorities "have confirmed that executed prisoners are among the sources of organs for transplants but maintain that consent is required from prisoners or their relatives before organs are removed," the report added.


2. Editorial: The UN's Anti-Drug Day Must Stop

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 6/29/01

Drugs and the death penalty have been a recurring topic lately: A week and a half ago, Juan Raul Garza was executed for murders committed in the course of running a marijuana trafficking enterprise; it was the second federal execution since the early 1960s and the first related to drug enforcement ever. Wasting no time, federal prosecutors quickly announced their intention to seek the death penalty against seven other Texan drug defendants.

Across the world, the government of the largest nation on Earth has even less patience. Three days ago, marking the United Nation's International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, the Chinese government executed 59 drug traffickers in a ritual played out year after year with clock-like predictability.

At least they say they were drug traffickers. But even here in the US, with a death penalty appeals process that can stretch over decades, we've found time after time that innocent death row inmates will reach the brink of execution before their innocence is demonstrated. The logical conclusion is that it is overwhelmingly likely that innocents have been put to death.

How much more is this the case in China, where conviction and execution can be a summary affair subject to a totalitarian bureaucrat's need to fill a quota? And of the "guilty," many, according to a report by Amnesty International, are mere possessors or low-level operators, not the major traffickers the government makes them out to be.

Amnesty brought out a particularly tragic case in this report, issued four years ago: A young woman, returning to Guangzhou province from her honeymoon in Kunming in January 1996, agreed to take a package for an acquaintance in return for some money, a common practice in China. During the train ride, she became suspicious about the contents, tried to open it, couldn't, and began to realize the package contained drugs. Seeing her agitation, a ticket checker on the train discovered the package and turned her in. On June 26, 1996, the UN's Anti-Drug Day, she was sentenced to death by the Guangxi High People's Court.

UN officials have at least had the decency to distance themselves from China's mass executions; their once-a-year fete is supposed to about sending educational messages about drug abuse and prevention. Doubtless in most countries that is what happens.

But that is cold comfort to the 56 executed and their families and friends. The UN knows, after all these years, that simply by holding the Anti-Drug Day, they are in effect inciting the government of China to commit mass murder. No number of conferences or festivals is worth such a cost, and such events are tinged by the blood of the executed, no matter how positive the intentions of their participants.

Substance abuse is a serious problem, and education and programs to address it are very worthwhile. But this is clearly not the way to go about it, and the fact that this sordid, violent chapter continues to play itself out year after year with such predictability, is a scandal that shames our international institutions and the nations that support them.

That is why the UN's Anti-Drug Day must stop.


3. Drug Trade is Giant of Mexican Economy, New Book Claims -- Meanwhile, as Pursuit of Cartels Intensifies, Authorities Nervously Wait for Other Shoe to Drop

The Ciudad Juárez newspaper El Diario reported this week that, according to Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola, author of a forthcoming book about the drug trade, Mexico's drug economy is almost twice as large as that country's largest legitimate economic sector, the oil exports. The annual income of the four "cartels" that dominate the traffic in Mexico would, if divided equally among them, amount to more than 17 times the annual income of Carlos Slim, Mexico's wealthiest man, for each cartel, writes Loret. Similarly, Loret concluded that profits from the cartels are three times greater than those of Mexico's 500 largest companies combined.

According to El Diario, Loret's figures on the drug trade are derived from official and unofficial sources, as well as secret data compiled by the Mexican police agency CISEN and obtained by Loret. According to one CISEN document obtained by Loret, if the drug trade were to suddenly disappear in Mexico a hemispheric economic crisis would quickly ensue, with the US economy contracting by as much as a fifth and the Mexican economy reduced by more than half.

The drug traffickers "have the ball in their court," Loret told El Diario, warning that to deal with the narco-economy could create political costs that no one wants to confront. Again citing secret CISEN documents, Loret warned that "such is the weight of the narcotics traffic in the Mexican economy that to uproot it would provoke an economic collapse."

Mexican officials and analysts increasingly worry that efforts to combat the cartels could also result in violent retribution from the powerful, well-connected and well-armed trafficking organizations. Mexican President Vicente Fox has publicly questioned the drug war, but that has not stopped him from pursuing traffickers with an energy not seen in previous administrations.

Former Quintana Roo Gov. Mario Villanueva was finally arrested last month on cocaine trafficking charges after evading authorities of the former ruling party, the PRI, for two years. Mexican police have also made a number of important, or at least well-publicized busts of cartel figures in recent months. But perhaps of most concern to the traffickers, as well as many Mexicans concerned with the rule of law, was a January decision by the Mexican Supreme Court that allows for the extradition of Mexican citizens to the US to face charges for drug crimes.

While the move has proven popular with US officials, who cite it as evidence of Mexico's new attitude of cooperation in the drug war, some Mexican commentators have been much less enthusiastic. They point both to the danger of a narco backlash and to the perversion of the Mexican legal system to serve foreign interests.

Ignacio Burgoa, a leading Mexican expert on constitutional law, criticized the Supreme Court decision on legal grounds. "The court enlisted itself, improperly, as an ally in the war against drugs," he told the AP. "The court is not a diplomatic institution, nor should it carry out foreign policy."

Luis Astorga, a sociologist who studies the drug trade, joined Burgoa in critiquing the extradition ruling. The court "put politics above the rule of law. The ruling was designed expressly for the United States," he told the AP.

One accused trafficker, "Kiki" Paez, an alleged lieutenant in the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix cartel, was extradited last month, and seven other major traffickers are in the final stages of anti-extradition appeals.

"Extradition is a very powerful weapon in the hands of a weak government," Jorge Chabat, a drug expert at Mexico City's Center for Economic Development Research told the Associated Press. "It's like putting an AK-47 in the hands of a child; he could kill himself. This could just provoke the rage of the narcos." Still, Chabat added, times have changed from the days when Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar could count on significant nationalist support for his bloody war against extradition in the 1980s. "Their nationalist arguments got a certain amount of response in the 1980s," he said. "Now, with globalization, integration, such demands don't have a lot of potential to draw support."

Popular support for an anti-extradition campaign is one thing; the trafficking organizations' ability and willingness to fight back is another. It is that fear, the specter of a Colombian-style war between the state and traffickers, which generates greater concern. An incident in the border town of Matamoros last week has only heightened those concerns.

In Matamoros, somewhere between one and two dozen masked men dressed in black, wearing bulletproof vests and armed with AK-47s took over the city's three-story police station in a carefully planned paramilitary action. In a matter of minutes, they disarmed six policemen and escaped with their objective: Juan Ramon Davila, a 22-year-old soldier from Tijuana who had been arrested for his role in a kidnap attempt. According to police officials, Davila told them he had been hired to kidnap a businessman and his wife "to settle accounts," an ominous euphemism for drug trade acts of retaliation.

According to local police, the raiders were members of the Gulf Cartel, which has been recently battered by the Fox administration. In April, cartel lieutenant Gilberto Garcia and 19 others were arrested by Mexican police.

For Matamoros historian Andres Cuellar, the police station raid signifies both the enduring power of the traffickers and the futility of the drug war. "This is not new to us. It's part of the enormous power of the drug traffickers, and I don't see any possibility of stopping them by the way we are doing things," Cuellar told the AP. "The only results have been deaths, which number in the thousands each year, in exchange for nothing. What are we winning? The drugs keep going to the United States and people keep using them."

The only practical solution, said Cuellar, is to legalize certain drugs while using public health campaigns to educate the public about the dangers of their abuse.


4. California: Drug War Enters New Phase With "Treatment Not Jail" to Begin July 1

That grinding noise coming from the West Coast is the sound of bureaucratic gears shifting as the nation's most populous state frantically prepares to embark on a bold new experiment in drug rehabilitation on a massive scale. But part of the racket is coming as well from the wailing and gnashing of teeth of state and local officials convinced that, with the end of their ability to send thousands of drug offenders to prison each year, the end times are upon them -- and that their programs or agencies are not adequately funded.

Beginning next week, California's Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act goes into effect. Passed by a 61% majority of voters last November, the measure will divert an estimated 36,000 drug offenders from prison into court-ordered drug treatment each year. At present, California leads the nation in incarcerating drug offenders, locking them up at a rate twice the national average, and this phase shift in the state's approach to arrested drug users is bound to create some bumps during the transition.

Working out of a Sacramento office, Whitney Taylor is the Prop. 36 implementation director for The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, which along with the Campaign for New Drug Policies has been one of the main movers in passing and now implementing the "treatment not jail" initiative. (Lindesmith's Prop. 36 web site is http://www.prop36.org and the Campaign can be found at http://www.drugreform.org online.) She told DRCNet that Lindesmith and CDNP are monitoring counties' compliance with the new regime.

"We're looking first of all for a county's commitment to a public health approach," said Taylor. "Are they really following the intent of the voters? Are programs to be run by public health officials rather than law enforcement?"

The role of district attorneys will be important as well, Taylor said. "The DAs are the gatekeepers. Do the DAs produce charging guidelines for Prop. 36 and make them available? We'll be watching to see," she vowed. "Also, the DAs control eligibility for Prop. 36 by their control over charging decisions. If someone is charged with another crime, if the DA decides to add on a resisting arrest charge, for instance, this person will not be eligible."

In fact, Taylor and Lindesmith have already been watching. Earlier this week, the group issued "report cards" measuring the progress toward implementation in the state's 11 most populous counties, which contain 75% of the California population. San Francisco unsurprisingly won the highest grade, an "A," followed by San Mateo (A-), Alameda (B), Orange (B), Los Angeles (B-), Fresno (C), Riverside (C), Santa Clara (D+), San Diego (D+) and Sacramento (D). San Bernardino was the only county to receive a failing grade.

The report card was based on written implementation plans submitted by each county to the State Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and measured their progress in four crucial areas: allocation of money for treatment, range of treatment options, "docs or cops" (the degree of inclusion of public health professionals in planning and implementing Prop. 36 in each county), and the level of balanced community involvement in the planning process. Graders awarded extra credit to San Francisco, Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties for issuing DA's criminal charging guidelines, which publicly define Prop. 36 eligibility. (The "report card" is available at http://www.prop36.org/report.tpl on the Prop. 36 web site.)

"Counties will not get away with using taxpayer money to fund more of the same failed policies," said Taylor. "We hope these criteria will help guide them in the right direction."

Los Angeles County is among those already screaming about lack of funds. The county stands to receive $30 million in state funds for Prop. 36 this year, but that isn't enough, say county officials. "The county's going to go into debt. We just don't know how much," Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, who supervises the county's drug courts, told the Associated Press earlier this week. Elizabeth Stanley-Salazar, California director for Phoenix Houses, one of the nation's largest treatment providers, concurred. "At this moment we clearly have many more clients than we have funding for," said Stanley-Salazar, who sits on the state and Los Angeles County's Prop. 36 implementation task forces. "We're building the transcontinental railroad here, six inches at a time."

Initiative supporters say such talk is premature, if not alarmist. "There's a lot of 'Chicken Little' going on in LA," said Taylor. "When you start changing the system, there are always hiccups. Prop. 36 allocated $120 million for treatment per year for the next five years, and it's too early to be running around saying there isn't enough money."

Some of the concern is based on false assumptions, Taylor told DRCNet. "A lot of this talk assumes that everyone is going to need residential treatment, which is the most expensive," she said, "but recreational users who get arrested don't need that. They should be given an education program, like drunk driving classes, not an inappropriate level of treatment they don't need."

And, Taylor pointed out, Prop. 36 is projected to save the state $1.5 billion in prison costs over the next five years. "If there is a need for more treatment money, I'm sure legislators will step up to the plate."

Another aspect of Prop. 36 causing much moaning and wailing among law enforcement and some treatment professionals is its explicit lack of funding for drug testing. Taylor is unapologetic; it was no oversight, she said. "Drug testing should only be used as a therapeutic tool," she told DRCNet (such as by treatment specialists to measure progress). "That's why Prop. 36 was written with no drug testing money in it. We didn't want to put this money in a coffer so probation officers could ask everybody to pee in a cup." Drug testing is not that expensive if used for therapeutic, not law enforcement, purposes, she said. "The money is not that much, but it can be a huge expense if they want to test everyone twice a week," said Taylor. "They've always had money for drug testing, and they will continue to find money for it."

Both initiative supporters and foes are supporting a bill introduced by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), which would provide $18 million for drug testing. "We support that if it is used as a therapeutic tool. We want to keep people in treatment, not kick them out for relapsing," said Taylor.

Whether Taylor's optimistic vision or opponents' dire predictions of doom are closer to the mark remains to be seen. The rest of the nation will be watching.


5. London Police "No Arrest" Plan for Marijuana Arouses the Political Class -- Medical Marijuana Dispensary Busted This Week After Being Publicly Announced Last Week

Last week, DRCNet reported on the latest cannabis policy rumblings from the United Kingdom, as London police announced an experimental program of warning, not arresting, small-time marijuana users and possessors. At the same time, Tony Taylor, proprietor of Tony's Hemp Corner, had gone public with his medical marijuana business, telling the Guardian (London) that he supplied 250 clients and the police did not bother him (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/191.html#londoncannabis). There have been developments on both fronts since then.

If the police were tacitly ignoring Taylor's medical marijuana operation before he went public, they quickly changed their tune. Officers from the Islington police station raided Tony's Hemp Corner five days after he came out of the closet, seizing prepared marijuana and growing plants valued at $100,000, the Guardian reported. Taylor was taken in for questioning, but subsequently released.

Chris Sanders, a member of the Cannabis Coalition who was present during the raid, told the Guardian the police action was "friendly and relaxed."

"The police didn't come busting their way in or anything, it was very softly," he said. "The health food shop downstairs was still open. The police will find plenty of evidence of possession with intent to supply because Tony was completely open about what he was doing. If he is charged it will be a very important test of the courts' resolve to prosecute people supplying cannabis on humane grounds."

Taylor's medical marijuana clients were required to fill out a form, provide a doctor's letter, and undergo an extensive interview with Taylor before being allowed to purchase medipot. Taylor last week told the Guardian police left him alone because they had the sex and cocaine trades to worry about in King's Crossing, a notorious London nightlife area.

Meanwhile, the plan by police in London's Lambeth section to only warn and not arrest minor marijuana law violators beginning next month has garnered the support of the Labor government's home secretary. It also prompted several contenders for leadership of the opposition Conservative party to call for a national debate on the country's marijuana laws.

In a surprise move from Home Secretary David Blunkett, who had described himself as making former Home Secretary Jack Straw, a drug war hardliner, "look liberal," Blunkett gave limited support to the Lambeth initiative. "I am interested in the experiment," Blunkett said on BBC's Breakfast With Frost television program. "I went to talk to [Lambeth police commander] Brian Paddick on the first Tuesday after the election down in Lambeth," Blunkett continued. "I went to visit there and he told me what he was about to do. I said that fits in entirely with the emphasis that I had already announced on placing absolute priority on class A [hard] drugs and on concentrating police resources where they are needed most."

Blunkett did not rule out the possibility that the Lambeth initiative could be extended nationwide if it proves successful. Covering its backside, the Home Office later stressed that the government has "no plans" to legalize marijuana, although it also added that Blunkett thought issuing warnings instead of arresting pot-smokers was an operational decision for police to make.

And now, responding to the press hubbub aroused by the Lambeth police move, opposition conservative party members vying for the Tory leadership are calling for a review of the country's marijuana laws. All four leading contenders for the party leadership called in the last few days for a major national debate on marijuana. David Davis told the Observer (London) that while he personally opposed marijuana legalization, "I do think we should have the debate. There are an awful lot of people -- parents -- who are terrified out there about the truths and myths of drugs, and I think we owe it to them to have the debate so the facts can be aired," he said.

Party rival Duncan Smith also favors a national debate, his spokesman told the Observer. "We must address this situation where for medical reasons people need it," said the spokesman. "No one has put forward the argument to him yet where he would feel that legalization would be right, but the answers are still there to be discussed."

Another Tory leadership hopeful, Michael Ancram, also would support a national debate, the Observer reported.

The remarks by three of his party rivals led frontrunner Michael Portillo to reluctantly weigh in as well. Appearing on Breakfast With Frost a day before Home Secretary Blunkett made his appearance on the program, Portillo said it was "very extraordinary" that politicians wanted to evade addressing the issue. "I don't know what the answer to this is," Portillo said, "but I do believe that if people in politics are to claim to represent the people of the country, they have got to be seen at least to be willing to understand and address issues that people are talking about." Britain needs to engage in "the broadest and most stimulating debate" on marijuana decriminalization, he added.

The third party Liberals, for their part, welcomed what spokesman Simon Hughes called "the Home Secretary's apparent pragmatic response" to the Lambeth initiative.

With these recent pronouncements, British marijuana politics has turned topsy-turvy. The Tories, whose shadow home secretary, Anne Widdicome, articulates a strong anti-drug position, now have four candidates for party leader, all of whom are willing to debate an end to marijuana prohibition. Britain's "liberal" party, the ruling Labour Party, meanwhile, now stands as the only major party officially opposed even to discussing marijuana law reform.


6. New York Rockefeller Reform Effort in Doubt as Legislature Goes Into Overtime, Some Reformers Say Just as Well

The New York legislature is supposed to have finished a budget and gone home weeks ago, but with a budget still to be passed, the legislative session remains alive and so do faint hopes for passage of a bill that would reform the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. But the best chance of a legislative breakthrough in years appears to be fading. And that may not be a bad thing if the result is a mediocre bill that takes the steam out of the reform movement while failing to fundamentally alter New York's drug laws, say some voices in the drug reform community.

In January, Republican Gov. George Pataki announced with great fanfare that he was ready to get behind Rockefeller law reform. Chances only improved when state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) climbed on the reform bandwagon, signaling an end to Democratic skittishness on crime issues. But Pataki disappointed a broad reform-minded constituency with a bill longer on law and order -- ending parole, tougher sentences for some marijuana crimes -- than on real reform. The Assembly Democrats belatedly responded with their own bill, which went significantly further in reducing sentences and restoring sentencing discretion to judges, a key demand of the growing reform movement (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/170.html#patakibill and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/177.html#newyorkdruglaws).

The differences have a real-world impact. In a study released earlier this month, the Legal Action Center of New York City examined how the different proposals would affect the 8,000 New Yorkers sent to prison for drug offenses last year. Nearly 5,000 would have been eligible for diversion into treatment under the Assembly plan; only 343 under the governor's plan. The report also noted the clear differences on funding for drug treatment: the Assembly proposal includes $55 million for prison drug treatment, while Pataki's plan allocates no money.

But now, because of bipartisan bickering over the budget, the differences between the two bills, and a lack of leadership from Assembly Democrats, the chances of any serious reform passing this year are growing dim by most accounts. But not in Sheldon Silver's. "There are a number of pieces of legislation that must be done," the Assembly leader told the New York Times in his last public comments on the subject earlier this month. "I am as optimistic we will achieve something." Assembly Democrats vowed at the time the high-level discussion would soon get underway between Silver, Gov. Pataki and Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno (R-Saratoga Springs).

According to Robert Gangi, head of the Correctional Association of New York (http://www.corrassoc.org), a venerable prison reform group that supports repeal of the Rockefeller laws, those talks are now underway. "Negotiations are going on right now behind closed doors," he told DRCNet. "It's a very fluid situation. We think the governor wants some sort of reform enacted that will not end up being attacked by editorial writers and the reform community as window dressing. But who knows what will happen?" mused Gangi. "It could range from nothing at all, to some sort of cosmetic reform, to a substantive reform, but one which still fall short of full repeal."

Nicholas Eyle of ReconsiDer (http://www.reconsider.org), a New York state grassroots non-profit dedicated to discussing alternatives to the drug war, doubts a bill will pass this year, and all the better, he told DRCNet. "Since neither the GOP nor the Democratic bill will pass in their present versions, there will be a compromise, but that will probably happen next year," said Eyle. "They'll compromise to get something not as pleasing as the Assembly bill and come up with something meaningless -- or worse."

A watered-down Rockefeller reform law could have pernicious effects, according to Eyle. "This is a dangerous thing," he told DRCNet. "If they pass something like this, with users pushed into treatment instead of those barbaric prison sentences, that means New York will have the image of a state with benign drug laws. We in the reform movement here in New York will lose a lot of the momentum we've gained, but people will still be going to prison. We will have created a system of mandatory treatment where they'll undergo residential treatment and then special probation with drug testing. And what happens when they fail? You can bet that scheme is not going to empty out the prisons," said Eyle.

"This is a messy situation. There is a split in the reform movement here. We're expanding the reach of the law, what Thomas Szasz called the 'therapeutic state,' by mandating drug treatment. For that reason, I can't get behind either of these proposals," Eyle explained."

David Leven, deputy director of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation (http://www.drugpolicy.org), told DRCNet that while the group could support the Assembly bill as it now stands, the bill does not go far enough. "We are a member of Drop the Rock," said Leven, "and while we do support the general thrust of the Assembly bill, we would like to see repeal. We could live with the Assembly bill," Leven continued. "It is a modest reform bill, which, if enacted without compromise, would certainly result in many more drug offenders being diverted into treatment, as well as reducing sentences for many others. We've been extensively involved to ensure that whatever legislation is enacted gives judges the most discretion to divert drug offenders into cost-effective treatment."

The Correctional Association's Gangi agrees that even the Assembly bill has problems, but still sees it as preferable to the status quo. "Our preferred outcome is repeal," Gangi told DRCNet. "We are part of the Drop the Rock campaign (http://www.droptherock.org), which calls for repeal of the Rockefeller laws. But the Assembly bill has some good and useful things in it; it is a substantive reform proposal -- unlike the governor's, which isn't worthy of the name."

Gangi said that the he remained concerned about the extent of real judicial discretion in the Assembly bill. "The problem is that it makes so many exceptions regarding cases where judicial discretion would be allowed. Our concern is that as long as those exceptions exist, DAs will take advantage of that loophole," Gangi warned. "They'll indict people for drug offenses that fall outside of the reform proposals; in that way DAs will still be able to control the process and undermine the intent of the reform."

Eyle's concerns go deeper. "We are interested in ending the drug war paradigm, but arresting people for possession and nonviolent drug offenses and sentencing them to treatment instead of prison is no paradigm shift," he argued. "The idea remains that drug users need to be corralled and fixed. The sentence might be different, but the coercive social control remains. Yes, for someone who's looking at 10 years in the joint versus 2 years of peeing in a cup, this looks good. But as a whole, these bills do not move us in a direction we want to go."

At this moment, the bills are not moving at all. Until the budget impasse is resolved, no real movement is likely, and that may not happen until August, said Gangi.


7. Oregon Pro-Pot Smoker Ad Starts Media Frenzy

"We're Jeff and Tracy. We're your good neighbors. We smoke pot."

So reads the large, bold-face type at the top of a full-page advertisement that appeared this week in an Oregon alternative weekly, the Willamette Week. Beneath the bold type is a photo of the Oregon couple -- a normal looking pair -- and more text detailing their views about the normality of marijuana smoking and their struggle to find a media outlet that would let them air their views.

The couple, Jeff Jarvis and Tracy Johnson, both 39, of Bend, Oregon, only wanted to publicize their position that marijuana users are normal people, too, but because of the refusal by various media to air their ad, their effort has grown into a full-fledged local media frenzy. At first, Jarvis and Johnson went to local rock radio stations seeking to air a 30-second spot (reproduced in the print ad), but none would touch it. Portland's KUFO-FM turned them down, and so did KNRK-FM, KGON-FM, KKRZ-FM, KKCW-FM and KEX-AM, as well as Bend rock station KXIX-FM, which, the ad notes, "proclaims 4:20 to be the happiest moment on Earth. Go figure."

The rejections didn't stop there. The ad agency that handles advertising for the Portland mass transit agency, Obie Media, nixed that plan. And Portland's leading newspaper, the Oregonian, rejected a Sunday print ad as "unsuitable for publication."

"Those radio stations did us a great favor by rejecting our ad," Jarvis told DRCNet. "These are stations that are constantly joking about pot, but they wouldn't buy our ad. Now everyone wants to talk about it. One station said our ad would 'frighten mothers,' and this is a station that broadcasts the Howard Stern show!"

In fact, when DRCNet caught up with the couple on Thursday, they were heading out the door to drive to Portland, where a planned vacation weekend had morphed into a series of media interviews.

Why did the couple come out of the closet? "I can't point to any one thing," said Jarvis. "It just came down to deciding that we had had enough. We're pretty patient people, but we decided we had to step up to the plate. We're not really activists -- I volunteered at the Portland NORML booth once in 1998 -- but we've been watching and seeing people do good things. The activists have laid the groundwork, but now I think we've reached critical mass and it is time for the average Joe to stand up and say 'yeah, we're here.' When more people stand up, it'll be over in the blink of an eye."

The ad was designed to raise public awareness, said Jarvis, and as a result of the media censorship, it has succeeded far beyond the couple's expectations. But, said Jarvis, "This is also a personal declaration of who I am. Don't be surprised if you find out I get high. And we're not alone. This country is thick with pot smokers. I can't believe how rampant underground marijuana consumption is. It's everywhere."

As for the future, said Jarvis, the couple intend to get back to their normal lives. "This was our 15 minutes of fame," he said, "well, okay, maybe 30 minutes. We had thought about this for months, and now we've done it, but we don't intend to continue to do this. We can't afford it; we drive an '86 Honda."

The couple has, however, been heartened by the flood of responses their saga has generated. "We've been flooded with e-mails, and not one has been critical," said Jarvis. "We even heard from the Pot Pride people."

"That's right," said Mikki Norris of Pot Pride (http://www.chrisconrad.com/potpride/), an organization devoted to normalizing the image of marijuana users. "I think Jeff and Tracy did a very courageous thing, and an innovative one. This hasn't been done before, that I know of. I commend them for doing it."

But Norris added that Jarvis and Johnson had certain advantages that lessened the risk involved in coming out. "They are self-employed, so they don't have to fear that they'll lose their jobs for coming out of the closet," pointed out Norris. "We want to see people going public, but for other people, it might make sense to come out first to their friends and family and see how that plays. Once you come out to friends and family, you can hopefully gain their love and support as you take it to the next level."

Norris thinks the Pot Pride movement should also be looking at creating support groups similar to P-FLAG, the organization of parents and friends of gay people. "We could use support groups of family and friends of pot smokers," said Norris. "If they can help educate the public, explain that pot smokers are good people and contributing members of society, then that will open a lot of minds."

As for the ad idea, said Norris, "more people should try it."

The print ad cost $2,555, said Jarvis. At that rate, 50 people chipping in $50 each could go public. A fair price to out oneself?

The ad may be viewed online at http://www.teleport.com/~jbjarvis/wesmokepot/wweek_ad.pdf.


8. Feeding off the Public Trough: Drug Czar's Anti-Drug PR Campaign Snookered by Advertising Firm, GAO Says

Last summer, then drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) got their hands slapped by Congress and the press when Dan Forbes broke the story about how the office's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was manipulating the content of television shows and magazine articles to secretly further the administration's anti-drug agenda. In the reports and hearings that followed Forbes' initial piece, rumors surfaced that the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency had over-billed the feds for its work on the campaign.

The advertising firm had won a contract for Phase III of the campaign, a continuation of the advertising blitz undertaken in earlier phases. The $684 million contract began in January 1999 and extends to December 2003. Ogilvy was tasked with producing and placing anti-drug ads, as well as building partnerships with community anti-drug groups. The General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, took a look at Ogilvy's work, and in a report released this week, found the ad agency had over-billed the ONDCP as much as $7.5 million by charging the drug czar's office for work not done.

After reviewing the documentary record and interviewing all of the parties involved, including a dozen Ogilvy employees, the GAO diplomatically found that "some of Ogilvy's labor charges to the government were not reliable and included charges for time that its employees did not work on the contract."

Based on interviews with Ogilvy officers and an internal e-mail to which it gained access, the GAO determined that in the summer of 1999, as revenue from the government contract failed to meet Ogilvy projections, some Ogilvy managers instructed employees to "review and revise" their timesheets to reflect more time devoted to the ONDCP contract. But, the GAO noted, some Ogilvy employees told its investigators the increased hours were not actually devoted to ONDCP work, and other employees told the GAO they did not make the changes evident on their time sheets and did not know who did or why.

In the internal e-mail, a July 1999 memorandum sent by Ogilvy's then government contracts manager to other high Ogilvy officers, the manager laments a $3 million shortfall in projected revenue from the government contract, but offers up the cheery note that he is "confident that we can reach the number we are committed to as long as we take some specific steps as soon as possible." Among them, he noted, was "all of these time sheets are being reviewed and are subject to revision."

The GAO examined thousands of Ogilvy time sheets and found "hundreds containing scratch-outs, white-outs and other changes to the amount billed to the ONDCP contract, all lacking the employee's initials." In talking to the Ogilvy employees whose records it examined, 4 of 12 said they had no idea who changed their time sheets.

For these and other discrepancies related to over-billing for temporary employees and for non-billable expenses, such as paid absences and training, government auditors have withheld $7.6 million of the $24.2 million in total labor charges submitted by Ogilvy for the first 19 months of the contract. Ogilvy admits some "mistakes" and in an opening gambit proposed that only $850,000 of its billings be disallowed. Ogilvy is now in negotiations with government auditors over the issue. The GAO said it had referred its findings regarding improper billings to the Justice Department.

But the GAO also allowed that the fault was not only Ogilvy's. "The government did not adequately manage aspects of the contract award," the investigators noted. It did not obtain required disclosure forms from Ogilvy that would have revealed cost accounting problems, nor did the government "adequately administer the contract by resolving billing problems when they arose or by auditing the contractor, despite clear indications that Ogilvy's cost accounting system and timekeeping procedures were deficient."

GAO is recommending "corrective action" to the ONDCP and government auditors, it said. Meanwhile, US taxpayers pay extra for the privilege of having the government tell them which drugs are bad, and one more firm grows fat feeding at the trough of drug prohibition.


9. The Great Debate: Narco News Readers Respond to Ambassador's Anti-Legalization Speech

Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported that discussion of legalization seemed to be making the United States' Mexican embassy nervous as border governors of the two countries gathered for their annual conference (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/190.html#bordergovernors).

NarcoNews.com has provided a full English translation of US Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow's anti-legalization speech, with a host of responses submitted by reformers and a short response from the embassy itself. Visit http://www.narconews.com/readerstodavidow.html to check it out.

Drug War on Trial: Narco News is currently preparing for the big day in court -- July 20th -- in a case that has important implications for free speech in the age of the Internet. Visit http://www.narconews.com for the latest update and information on how to donate to the legal defense.


10. Media Scan: Village Voice, Mr. Beller's Neighborhood

A column by Cynthia Cotts in this week's issue of the Village Voice previews the Narco News "Drug War on Trial" case; visit http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0126/cotts.shtml to read it.

A multi-part series by Dan Forbes running this week on http://www.mrbellersneighborhood.com describes some of what he saw as a case worker in New York City during the height of the crack epidemic.


11. Baltimore and Washington, DC Job Opportunities in Syringe Exchange Field

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore:

The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has two openings for the position of Case Manager. The Case Managers will work on risk assessment, social medical history and ASI. Work will be done in conjunction with the Baltimore Needle Exchange and Methadone Clinics, with drug users enrolled in those programs. Responsibilities will include assessing needs and making appropriate referrals to social services; implementing and documenting a strengths based case \management model; and completing paperwork for referrals such as housing, medical care, etc.

Applicants should have computer and data entry skills, be familiar with ACASI software and be able to work independently. Useful qualifications also include a Bachelors or Masters degree (preferred), knowledge of research and clinical trials; comfort and experience working with IV drug users; familiarity with Baltimore City Social Services and Methadone Clinics; 2+ years of experience; prior experience in conducting psycho-social assessments and referring clients to community services.

Job number H-01-3468, pay Range: $31,887-$35,873, full-time, Monday to Friday, benefits include tuition remission, paid vacation and sick time and paid training. For further information visit http://jobs.jhu.edu online.

National Study of Syringe Exchange Programs, Washington, DC:

The National Study of Syringe Exchange Programs, a five-year, multi-site study of syringe exchange programs throughout the United States entering its second year of data collection, is seeking an Interviewer to work in Washington, DC. The position is part-time, 15 hours/week, $15/hour. The interviewer will work for six months collecting data from participants of the Washington DC syringe exchange program, Prevention Works. 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, and should have basic familiarity with computers (such as the ability to send e-mail), and either outreach or research experience.

For more information or to apply for the position, contact: Naomi Braine, PhD, Beth Israel Medical Center, (212) 387-3870 ext. 5773 or [email protected].


12. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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

July 3, Washington, DC, noon-2:00pm, "Crime & Punishment: Mandatory Minimums and the Drug War," weekly installment of the "Rethinking the Drug War" video & speaker brown bag lunch summer series, featuring a showing of the PBS/Frontline documentary "Snitch" and discussion with Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation. At the Institute for Policy Studies, 733 15th St., NW, Suite 1020, sponsored by IPS and CJPF. Admission free, dessert and beverages provided.

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 [email protected].

July 5, 1:30-5:00pm, New York, NY, "Moderation Management," workshop discussing the self-help program for drinkers. At the Harm Reduction Training Institute, $40 tuition, call Adrienne at (212) 683-2334 or e-mail [email protected] for information.

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 7, noon-7:00pm, Zephyr Hills, FL, FORML Hemp Fest, at Zephyr Park, S.R. 54 & 5th Street. For further information, visit http://www.geocities.com/forml_2000/ or call Mike Palmieri at (813) 779-2551.

July 10, 10:00am-1:15pm, New York, NY, "Reassessing Sex/Gender/Life," harm reduction workshop. At the Harm Reduction Training Institute, $40 tuition, call Adrienne at (212) 683-2334 or e-mail [email protected] for information.

July 20, 8:00am-4:30pm, San Francisco, CA, "Medical Consequences of Illicit Drug Use: Prevention and Clinical Management." At the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Laurel Heights Conference Center, sponsored by the San Francisco Treatment Research Center (TRC) at the University of California, San Francisco, the San Francisco Practice/Research Collaborative, the California Society of Addiction Medicine and the East Bay Community Recovery Project, admission free. For further information, contact Karen Sharp, (415) 206-3971, visit http://itssrv1.ucsf.edu/sftrc/confinfo.html or e-mail [email protected].

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].

August 18-19, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, "10th Annual Seattle Hempfest." Visit http://www.seattlehempfest.comh for further information.

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].

October 7-10, St. Louis, MO, American Methadone Treatment Association Conference 2001. For further information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.assnmethworks.org or call (212) 566-5555.

October 26-27, Cortland, NY, "Thinking About Prisons: Theory and Practice." At SUNY Cortland, call (607) 753-2727 for info.

November 13, 6:00-8:00pm, New York, NY, "Women, Prison and Family." At Audrey Cohen College, 75 Varick St., for information call (212) 343-1234.

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.

May 3-4, 2002, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time and Legacy Emmanuel Hospital, for further information visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com or call (804) 263-4484.

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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