(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #210, 11/9/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Richard Carpinelli, head of Ohio University's Review and Standards Committee, thought he could quietly heighten the school's internal penalties for minor marijuana possession without raising a big fuss. He was wrong.
Last week, Carpinelli was ready to send a student conduct code revision proposal to the school's board of trustees that would have changed minor pot possession from a class B "minor misdemeanor" offense, with a maximum penalty of disciplinary probation, to a serious class A offense, for which students could be expelled.
Showing how in touch he is with student attitudes, Carpinelli told the Athens (Ohio) News last week: "Students recognize that drugs and possession are serious transgressions against the university, and it is my sense that most students would expect harsh rules for this issue." Oops, wrong again.
"We got 300 signatures against this silly idea in a day and a half," Ohio student Abby Bair told DRCNet. "We had seventy or eighty people ready to march, we had representatives from at least four different campus organizations. Once we get a thousand signatures we will turn in our petition, along with some very strong and solid arguments about why we are against this change in policy," said Bair, who heads the campus chapter of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org).
"I don't think Carpinelli knew we existed," said Bair. "He does now. This whole thing has really backfired on him."
And the rapid student response has had results. "The chair of the board of trustees met with me and told me he would suggest that the committee wait to vote on this," said Bair. "That would be a good first step in stopping this thing. And I will meet with Carpinelli next Friday. They are totally cooperating with us so far, so we may hold off on any demonstrations, but we are forming a watchdog committee to monitor this issue."
Student opposition to the proposed rule change extends beyond SSDP. "We are looking at forming a campus-wide coalition, which would include the campus SSDP, ACLU, Habitat for Humanity, and members of the student senate," said Bair. "The current penalties are harsh enough. By implementing a zero tolerance policy on our campus, the university will have the power to expel students for a minor misdemeanor. And it can have repercussions on their financial aid. If students have a criminal record, they can lose their loans."
Ohio University's current policy on marijuana is in line with state law, which treats possession of less than eight ounces as a misdemeanor. The proposed rule change would treat marijuana possession as severely as possession of harder drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy.
According to both Carpinelli and Bair, an increase in campus dorm marijuana busts sparked the proposed rule change. At 84 so far this year, the number of busts has almost doubled the figure for last year. Bair blames the increase not in a sudden explosion of stoners but on increased enforcement. "The reason why the number of arrests has increased is because the Resident Assistants (RAs) have become stricter. The police took them into a room and showed them what pot smelled like and told the RAs they have to call the university police department if they smell pot."
Bair is confident that SSDP and other students will prevail. "We formed an SSDP chapter because we are tired of this drug war bull. Our student senate unanimously passed a resolution endorsing HEA repeal [of the drug provision] last spring. Carpinelli needs to understand that his rule change goes against student values. I think he is starting to understand."
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (http://www.maps.org) announced on November 2 that it received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its protocol to test MDMA (ecstasy) in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The FDA action marks the first approval of trials of ecstasy as a therapeutic agent since the drug was made illegal in 1985.
"The FDA called and informed me that the protocol had been approved," MAPS founder and head Rick Doblin told DRCNet. "This shows that the demonization of MDMA is not a complete barrier to the development of its potential therapeutic uses," said Doblin, who hopes to develop ecstasy and other psychedelics into prescription medicines.
If approved by a university review board, the trials will take place at the Medical University of South Carolina under the supervision of psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer and his wife Annie, a psychiatric nurse. The study protocol calls for 12 people suffering from PTSD to be given ecstasy as they go through therapy for their disorder. Eight others will be given a placebo. Both sets of patients will also undergo 16 hours of therapy without drugs.
Prior to the banning of ecstasy after it became popular as a party drug among Texas college students in the mid-1980s, researchers had used it in a variety of therapeutic contexts, including PTSD, marital counseling, and in grappling with fatal illnesses. But research came to a screeching halt with ecstasy prohibition.
Some people would like to keep it that way. Dr. Alan Leshner, the retiring head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and leader of the anti-ecstasy scare campaign, told the Wall Street Journal the proposed study was a dangerous waste of time. "I know of no evidence in the scientific literature that demonstrates the efficacy of ecstasy for any clinical indication," he sputtered. "And we don't give drugs of abuse to naïve subjects except under extraordinary circumstances."
Rick Doblin doesn't suffer such talk gladly. "Leshner and NIDA are engaged in science in the service of the drug war, not a rational risk-benefit analysis. If Leshner says there is no evidence of MDMA's therapeutic potential, it's because they've blocked the research," Doblin argued. "As for giving drugs to naïve subjects, these are extraordinary circumstances. All of these are patients who have had PTSD for at least six months and have not responded to six months of serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors, such as Prozac."
Doblin also told DRCNet the FDA needs more attention from drug reformers. "The FDA is going to be an essential agency to work with; it can be a way for us to progress. With only $5 million, we could do the research to get marijuana through the FDA. The drug reform movement needs to expand its strategies to work with this agency," said Doblin. "If we can create a legal context for these drugs, that will demonstrate that there are indeed instances where people can use them."
And stricken by the magnanimity of the moment, Doblin even offered to help NIDA create responsible education about ecstasy. "Nobody believes MDMA is harmless; we all understand there are some risks," he said. "We would like to work together with NIDA to get education that can be believed, not the propaganda we get from NIDA under Leshner. We need to recognize that the way drug warriors exaggerate the risk of MDMA makes them vulnerable. They've been terrified of the medical research into its benefits, but they need to live with the drug as it is, not as they wish to paint it."
The US Supreme Court agreed this week to hear a case that will allow it to refine its rules on what constitutes acceptable drug testing of high school students. In an Oregon case in 1995, the Supreme Court held that student athletes could be tested because drug use was found to be prevalent at the school in question. But since then, school districts around the country have attempted to expand student drug testing to include students involved in other extracurricular activities, students who drive cars to school, and, in some cases, random, suspicionless tests of all students.
By agreeing to hear the Oklahoma case, the Supreme Court has signaled that it is ready to revisit its 1995 ruling on drug testing. The court will rule on what circumstances justify the intrusion on individual students' rights posed by drug screening.
In the present case, Pottawatomie County Board of Education vs. Earls, officials in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that the school district's scheme to randomly test all students involved in extracurricular activities violated constitutional prohibitions on unreasonable searches (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/179.html#stopdrugtesting). Under the district's policy, any student wishing to participate in any extracurricular activity was required to take an initial drug test and agree to be randomly tested in the future.
School officials argued that students who participate in extracurricular activities are special students and they represent the school. "We thought this would give them an incentive to say no [to drugs] if they wanted to participate," Tecumseh superintendent of schools Tom Wilsie told the Washington Post.
Wilsie told the Post the school board approved the drug testing policy because it believed it had a growing drug problem, but there has been little evidence to back that assertion. "Basically, when you feel like you have a problem, you want to take some sort of preventive measures," he said. The school district tested about 500 students from 1998 to 2000 and found only four positive drug tests, for marijuana and painkillers.
Students who objected to the drug testing policy gained representation from the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project, which will argue the case before the Supreme Court. "The Fourth Amendment protects our privacy by preventing the government from searching us unless there is reason to believe we have done something wrong," said Graham Boyd, who filed the suit and who is the national director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Program. "Special-needs exceptions are very few and have to be proven."
"If there is no valid claim for concerns for safety, it becomes an empty act and therefore violates the Fourth Amendment," Michael Salem, another attorney for the ACLU who worked on the case told the Post. "These kids were considered envoys. But the school's public image is not a sufficient basis for engaging in blanket testing."
In overturning the policy, the 10th Circuit said the school district had no valid justification for random, suspicionless drug tests of students. With a variety of drug testing schemes in places in schools across the country, this case gives the Supreme Court a chance to refine and redefine the rules of school drug testing.
"The issue presented is of major importance... to all public schools in the nation which are responsible for the safety of the students under their supervision on a daily basis and must address drug use which threatens their safety," the school told the Supreme Court in urging it to accept the appeal.
Students in Tecumseh will have to do without that extra measure of security for the time being. The 10th Circuit ruling ended the district's drug testing program -- at least for now.
President Bush's hard-line nominee to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy won approval of his nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. John Walters, a protege of former drug czar William Bennett, saw his nomination approved on a 14-5 vote. The nomination will now go to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass.
The Walters nomination had been strongly criticized by drug reformers and some senators because of Walters' positions on, among other things, racial disparities in the criminal justice system (what racial disparities?), government sponsorship of drug treatment (the liberal nanny state), and mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders (a good thing).
But now, having been approved in committee and likely to win approval from the full Senate, Walters is on the verge of completing the Bush administration's hard-line drug policy troika. He will join Attorney General John Ashcroft and DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson, both of whom have recently and decisively demonstrated their attitude toward a civilized drug policy. Walters should fit in perfectly with this bunch.
The five senators who voted against the Walters nomination are Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Biden (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Ted Kennedy (D-MA).
The Justice Department's assertion of federal power over the states, exercised so forcefully in recent weeks in the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) raids of California medical marijuana operations, found a new expression this week when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that he had ordered the DEA to seek to suspend or revoke the licenses of physicians who prescribe drugs for assisted suicide. The practice is legal only in one state, Oregon, where some 70 patients have used prescribed drugs to end their lives.
The Justice Department tried a similar tactic against doctors who wrote medical marijuana recommendations in California, but was thwarted when California physicians sued and won in the federal courts.
In his letter to DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson, Ashcroft wrote that he was relying on the Supreme Court decision handed down in the Oakland Cannabis Co-op case. Noting that the Supreme Court found that California's medical marijuana law provided no defense from federal prosecution, Ashcroft wrote that, like medical marijuana, drugs prescribed for assisted suicides had "no legitimate medical purpose" and that physicians who prescribed them could be disciplined by the DEA.
The move by Ascroft, an ardent pro-lifer, did not sit well in Oregon. "Ashcroft's order is undoing Oregon's popular will in the most undemocratic manner possible," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D). "Americans in every corner of the nation are going to suffer needlessly."
"Given everything that the country is going through, with the country trying to respond to anthrax, why John Ashcroft picked this moment to inject this divisive issue into the public debate is just beyond me," Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) told USA Today.
Kitzhaber's minions were on the move this week, too. On Wednesday, the Oregon attorney general's office filed motions in US District Court in Portland to block Ashcroft's order. They were joined by four patients whose efforts to control their own deaths would be blocked by Ashcroft's action. And they were joined by at least one physician, Salem oncologist Dr. Peter Rasmussen.
"If I lost that license, I'd in effect be unable to practice medicine at all," Rasmussen told the New York Times. Rasmussen has four patients now seeking the suicide drugs and has treated others in the past, he said.
While the state is asking for an immediate stay, it has also filed a broader lawsuit arguing that Ashcroft was illegally interfering with Oregon's authority to regulate medicine and that he was exceeding his authority under federal law.
Ironically, at the same time the administration was turning the DEA loose on Oregon doctors and California medical marijuana providers, DEA administrator Hutchinson was loudly bemoaning how thinly spread was his agency in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In a Tuesday news conference, Hutchinson complained that with the FBI and the Coast Guard off hunting terrorists, the DEA has to "pick up the slack."
Strange time to be targeting doctors and patients.
While drug reformers and drug reform organizations have participated in the coalitions formed to protect civil liberties in the shadows of the anti-terrorism legislation recently passed by Congress, they may not have realized that some provisions of the USA Patriot Act, as the bill is now known, could directly impact their work. Drug defense attorneys will have to grapple with a variety of newly approved tactics in criminal investigations, ranging from "sneak and peek" unannounced searches to "roving" phone taps and e-mail address pen registers, though most attention on broader civil liberties issues focused on banking privacy, government secrecy and the rights of aliens. But the act could have a chilling effect on efforts to engage some participants in drug war-related conflicts.
The new anti-terrorism measures will have an impact on drug reformers attempting to interact with significant actors, such as the Colombian FARC, who have been designated as terrorist organizations by the US, said Kit Gage of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL). "You can't send them money and they can't come to the US to see you," she told DRCNet. "And it will be easier to deport anyone they accuse of being associated with a terrorist organization -- no matter what the nature of the association.
"Under the new law and its accompanying executive orders, any association with a member of a designated terrorist organization can get you in trouble, and providing any financial support -- donating to a day-care center -- even when there is no direct link to criminal activity can get you 15 years in prison. It used to be only 10 years," Gage noted.
And people or organizations who have been in contact with such groups should expect to undergo some sort of surveillance, Gage said. For instance, DRCNet attended and reported on a conference that was also attended by FARC personnel and remains in occasional e-mail correspondence with members of the FARC's International Commission. "Maybe your phone tap will cross my phone tap," Gage laughed grimly.
But there is a more deeply-rooted problem with the US anti-terrorism campaign, Gage said. "Under this expanded definition of terrorism, which could include anything from waving a knife or slashing the tires of a police car, there are probably 500 groups or movements in the world that qualify, but there are only 78 groups on the list. Clearly, the decision to designate one group a terrorist organization but not another is a political decision," she pointed out. "In many cases, it seems that those groups designated as terrorist groups are simply those who do not have the favor of the US government."
US government decisions have often put the United States in opposition to national liberation movements, such as Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, which overthrew the South African apartheid regime. At the same time, the State Dept. has ignored groups that would seem to qualify under just about any definition of terrorism.
"They have not even put some of the worst groups on the list," said Gage. "The Rwandan militias who murdered hundreds of thousands never made the list, nor did the militias in East Timor. In fact, Osama bin Laden wasn't even on the terrorist list until after September 11, even though the government had been screaming about him for years."
In Colombia, the case of clearest concern for drug reformers, the US government has shown a similar inconsistency. While the leftist guerrilla organizations, the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have long been designated terrorist groups, it was only one day before the September 11 attacks that the State Department added the right-wing paramilitaries of the AUC to the list -- many years since human rights organizations had documented massive political violence by the AUC with tacit cooperation by Colombia's army.
For Nancy Chang of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who unsuccessfully litigated a case under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act, the parallels for drug reform were ominous. "In the Humanitarian Law Project case, they were attempting to provide educational and conflict resolution materials to the PKK [Kurdish rebels], but the courts ruled that even that was barred under the terrorism act," Chang told DRCNet. "Not only money and weapons, but even training and personnel are covered. Even if you are attempting to advance peace, you would be violating the terrorism law," she said.
"I see very much the same sorts of concerns for anyone attempting to engage these designated groups under the new terrorism law," she said. "I see a real parallel for drug reform organizations attempting to engage outside the country. I hadn't really thought about it in terms of drug policy before, though," she admitted.
Now, however, thanks to a political alchemy that transmutes belligerents in a civil war into terrorist enemies of humanity, drug reformers will have to keep the connection in mind.
Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri, faced with rising heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy use, as well as rapidly increasing rates of HIV/AIDS infection among the island nation's 230 million inhabitants, has tightened her embrace of a repressive drug war approach to drug policy. In a blistering speech at a national seminar on drugs at the State Palace in Jakarta on October 29, Megawati scolded the country's drug war coordinating agency, the BKNN, for its failure to stop illicit drug use, demanded harsher sentences for drug offenders, recommended the death penalty for some, and suggested the Indonesian military, best known for its brutal efforts to suppress separatist populations in places like East Timor and Aceh province, could be asked to lend a hand against the new foe.
Megawati announced an immediate reshuffling of Indonesia's drug war bureaucracy, ordering the head of the National Intelligence Agency, A.M. Hendropriyono, to take over the coordinating task formerly handled by the BKNN. The latter agency was an earlier child of Megawati's anti-drug crusade, formed at her behest in June 2000 when she was vice-president. Within six months of its formation, however, she had publicly criticized the BKNN for its inability to halt Indonesians' appetites for shabu-shabu (methamphetamine) and ecstasy.
Now, the BKNN will become a sort of Indonesian DEA, Megawati announced. It will have the authority to undertake law enforcement actions against drug offenders, rather than acting as a purely administrative agency, she told the gathering.
Some anti-drug activists are also pushing to amend the country's 1997 laws No. 5/1997 banning psychotropic drugs, such as ecstasy and speed, and No. 22/1997, banning narcotics. Henry Yosodiningrat, chairman of the anti-drug foundation Granat, told the Jakarta Post that a committee reviewing those laws would call for the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences.
Indonesian drug laws provide for sentences of up 20 years for marijuana offenses and for the death penalty in narcotics trafficking or conspiracy cases. But according to local press accounts, most simple ecstasy, methamphetamine, or heroin possession cases result in prison terms ranging from one to five years. According to Agence France Press, last year five men had been sentenced to death for drug crimes, but none had been executed. Earlier this year, a 27-year-old Frenchman received a life sentence for smuggling 3.85 kilos of hashish into the country.
That's not enough for Megawati. During her speech at the State Palace, she voiced her disappointment over light sentences for drug traffickers. "There have been many raids. Some people were arrested, but then released. Or, when they were taken to court, they were also released. Whose fault is this?" she asked, just warming up. "Major offenders, like producers and dealers, should be punished by death. For me, it is better to have a person suffer capital punishment than to see the whole community become addicted to drugs," she said. "Without trying to interfere, I would urge the chief justice and all legal officials to reflect on the dangers of drugs for our children and grandchildren when handing down verdicts."
But Megawati's tough talk and bureaucratic reshuffling notwithstanding, even her supporters remained concerned that the government lacked a clear anti-drug strategy, rendering the effort futile. "Does the National Intelligence Agency have a concept for dealing with the issue?" asked Henry. "We need to sit together and formulate a comprehensive strategy for interdicting the supply, reducing the demand, and providing rehabilitation programs for both the victims and the dealers," he told the Post.
Joyce Djaelani Gordon, program director of the Harapan Permata Hati Kita foundation, a drug rehabilitation organization, called Megawati's changes "a bold move," but also warned the Post that sending people to prison is "useless."
Gordon is part of the one ray of drug policy light in Indonesia: the harm reduction movement, which already has toeholds in Bali and Java, and is growing under the impetus of the rapid increase in HIV/AIDS infection rates among drug injectors. According to Mapping the AIDS Pandemic (MAP), the rate of infection among drug injectors in Indonesia rose from 15% to 40% in one year, and the disease is poised to spread into the general population. According to Jakarta-based AIDS activist Chris Green, writing in the Post, the toll from AIDS in Indonesia will reach a million persons. "We may prevent the second and third million if we take urgent action," he wrote.
According to Green, Health Ministry officials are concerned and open to new responses, so Green, Gordon, and other harm reductionists are taking the opportunity to educate about the approach and advocate for the implementation of needle exchange programs to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS infection. But they are up against a government that has signed regional treaties vowing to be "drug free" and is led by a president prepared to bring the country's drug policy squarely into the last century.
Gordon and Dr. Alex Wodak, head of the International Harm Reduction Association (http://www.ihra.net), responded to that line of thought in a recent Jakarta Post op-ed. "If Indonesia responds by attempting to create a drug-free nation," they wrote, "there will be many unnecessary deaths, much misery, occupied hospital beds and extremely high social and economic costs. A burden Indonesia can do without in the light of its current economic and financial condition. If Indonesia is to avoid such high costs, it must adopt harm reduction strategies immediately. If we respond pragmatically, acknowledging that injecting drug use cannot be eliminated, many of the serious adverse effects of drug use can be minimized."
With the dust still settling from the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and anthrax scares rippling through the city, the New York City press and its voters paid little heed to a pair of drug reform-sympathetic candidates, Tom Leighton of the Marijuana Reform Party and Kenny "The Real" Kramer, running as a Libertarian. Suffering an almost total media blackout, both candidates barely cracked the 1% mark, with Kramer polling 2,033 and Leighton polling 1,561 out of almost 1.4 million votes cast. Liberal media mogul turned conservative Republican Michael Bloomberg won the election over Democrat Mark Green with 50% of the vote. The MRP and LP candidates placed sixth and seventh in the nine-man, at least beating former subway shooter and current squirrel-lover Bernhard Goetz, who ran on the Fusion Party ticket.
Other Marijuana Reform Party standard bearers did slightly better, with Dr. Tracy Blevins (aka Marijuana Barbie) pulling down 2% in her bid for city comptroller and Chris Lanois getting an equal share in his race for public advocate, the position long held by Green.
Gary Reams' "Reams Reeferendum," where the Northern Virginia telecom manager turned a bid for the lieutenant governor's office into a de facto plebiscite on marijuana law reform, ran into similar problems. While the campaign had been talking about three, four, or five per cent of the vote and dreaming of 10%, Reams actually polled 1.56%, in line with previous third-party efforts in the state.
"We are both pleased and disappointed," Reams campaign manager Jim Turney told DRCNet. "Where we were able to get our message out, we did well. In Charlottesville, where we campaigned heavily, we got 6.7%, and in two precincts there we got around 10%. But these attacks killed us. In these last few weeks, on the media it's been all anthrax all the time."
It was a bizarre campaign season, said Turney. "We weren't battling our opponents as much as we were trying to compete against suicidal terrorists and anthrax mailings. That wasn't fun. And for a few critical weeks, the campaign basically came to a standstill. It would have been viewed as disrespectful to continue."
It is hard to wage a campaign that way, said Turney. "The other campaigns could get around the media blackout by buying ads, but we couldn't afford to do that," he said.
Reams and Turney may be down, but they are definitely not out, said the campaign manager. "Gary will continue to speak out on the issue. We've had some invitations to do op-eds for newspapers in the state, and we'll take advantage of that. And there may be other political opportunities. Gary Reams is now known as the man willing to take a stand on marijuana prohibition. You'll see him on a regular basis."
Last week, DRCNet reported on a resolution that Amnesty International USA's (http://www.aiusa.org) Cape May County (New Jersey) group planned to introduce at the human rights organization's Northeast US regional meeting in Manhattan last weekend (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/209.html#amnesty). The resolution called on Amnesty to recognize the correlation between US drug policy and human rights abuses at home and abroad, and to investigate, educate, and act on its findings.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly, sponsor Georgina Shanley told DRCNet -- and DRCNet helped, she said. "We printed out 250 copies of the DRCNet story from last week and handed them out at the conference, asking people to support the resolution," she said. "The students were especially interested, and it was the students who pushed the resolution over the top."
"The support for the resolution was surprisingly strong," said Shanley. There were a handful of informal objections from old diehards, she said, and one person who worried that an emphasis on drug policy would take resources from an environmental project. "The bottom line is this has only made us stronger."
But this is only the beginning for Shanley. She and her supporters are now turning their attention to getting the resolution passed at Amnesty's national conference in Seattle next April. If the resolution passes there and subsequently survives the scrutiny of the organization's US board of directors -- which could veto it -- it would then become part of Amnesty USA's core mandate. In that event, the million-member international organization could turn its considerable weight to changing US drug policy.
"We have to ignite the country with the consciousness of what is going on," said Shanley. "People in Amnesty didn't know the details of these drug policy horrors, so what can we expect from the average person in the street? It's all about education and persuasion right now, and having the courage to talk about it in every conversation," she added.
But Shanley and supporters are playing a multi-level game. "We have a two-pronged strategy, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King," she said. "We will work the activist angle right here within Amnesty, but we will also work the legislative angle at the state, and ultimately, at the national level. Within Amnesty, we are aiming to recruit a lot of new young people -- we'll have people in Washington for the SSDP conference this weekend and in Seattle for a criminal justice conference also this weekend -- and if they become members, they can get involved in Amnesty campaigns, they can use Amnesty's clout on their campuses, and, of course, they can vote for this resolution in April."
Even within Amnesty, resolution advocates are aiming at different targets. "While we try to build the base, we will also be trying to get prominent drug reformers such as Eric Sterling and Kevin Zeese to start canvassing the Amnesty board of directors. Bill Schulz, Amnesty USA's executive director is a Unitarian," Shanley added, "so maybe we can get Charles Thomas of the Unitarian drug reformers to talk to him."
Shanley added that she is also attempting to get a panel to discuss drug policy at the annual convention in Seattle. "That would be very good," she said.
"This has really started a big discussion within Amnesty," Shanley said. "This is lighting a big fire under the organization. And it gives drug reformers some cover. Now, when someone calls you a deviant or a doper for advocating drug law reform, you can say no -- this is a real human rights issue, or at least the Northeast US Regional Conference of Amnesty International thinks so. By next spring, I hope we can say all of Amnesty USA thinks so."
According to an article published last year in the British medical journal The Lancet, there is a significant drug interaction between Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), used to prevent and treat anthrax, and methadone, an opiate used to treat heroin addiction and severe pain.
According to The Lancet, Cipro may inhibit the primary enzyme responsible for metabolizing methadone, elevating methadone levels significantly and creating a risk of overdose. This does not mean that methadone patients cannot take Cipro, but it might mean they need to lower their doses.
Any patient taking both methadone and Cipro should discuss this possible interaction with their physician. It's also recommended by that patients using LAAM and Cipro consult with their physicians.
The Lancet article is "Methadone, Ciprofloxacin, and Adverse Drug Reactions," by Karin Herrlin, Marta Segerdahi, Lars L Gustafsson and Eija Kalso, Lancet 356:2069-70, 12/16/2000 Research Letters. It can be read online by registering at thelancet.com and then visiting http://www.thelancet.com/journal/vol356/iss9247/contents/ to download the document.
(bulletin from the Andean Information Network)
Chapare Coca growers announced road blockades of the main highway between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz would begin at midnight, November 6. As a result of the heavy military presence in the region, only small blockades appeared last night and early this morning. Until approximately 2:00pm, the highway was deserted except for military transports. Later in the afternoon, trucks and some buses began to pass through the region.
High-ranking Bolivian government officials stated that they would guarantee free transit through the region, and that people should travel freely. These statements are irresponsible as blockades and confrontations could erupt at any time. During the September-October blockades, over 400 hundred travelers were left stranded throughout the region for a period of two weeks after a similar government message.
Yesterday afternoon, members of the Joint Task Forces shot tear gas canisters near a Villa Tunari riverbank. Combined Forces spokesmen stated that they were only testing their anti-riot materials. Residents of Villa Tunari expressed concern that gas was entering the downtown area.
COMBINED FORCES COMMIT ABUSES
Although coca growers have not appeared in large groups along the main road, large concentrations and smaller groups gather on side roads, for example near Chipiri in the Tropico Federation. Today combined forces units entered communities throughout the Chapare and tear-gassed gatherings of campesinos without provocation in order to disperse them, apparently in an effort to impede planning meetings.
According to reports, security forces used tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse a group of campesinos there this morning. Union leaders report five wounded. According to reports from union leaders, members of the Joint Task Force shot Justino Mollo and Julio Torrico with rubber pellets. The injuries of the other three individuals were less serious. AIN is still attempting to confirm this information.
In Lauca Ene, AIN has confirmed that security forces hit Sabino Condori (34 years old) in the head with a rifle butt, causing an open wound. They also beat Cecilio Ramos. In Ibuelo, combined forces beat, dragged and illegally detained union leader Vitalia Merida Jimenez. She was later released from the Technical Judicial Police station for lack of evidence. Similar incidents have been reported throughout the region.
Although the government asserts that there is free transit throughout the Chapare, security forces have established a checkpoint at the Eterazama Bridge, and do not allow vehicles to pass in either direction. This impedes traffic to the main highway as well as to communities such as Isinuta and the Isibore Secure Park. Members of the combined forces retained Six Federations leader Evo Morales in his jeep at this checkpoint from approximately 11:00pm to 1:00am.
Human rights workers in the Chapare fear that widespread violence could erupt.
MASSIVE MILITARY PRESENCE AND PERMANENT INFRASTRUCTURE
At this time there are between 4,000 and 4,500 members of the security forces stationed in the Chapare. This is an increase of approximately 2,000 troops since the end of October. Although both US and Bolivian governments had stated that forced eradication should have eliminated the last illegal coca in the region by December of 2000, widespread replanting of coca the coca leaf and active campesino resistance have impeded this goal. During 2001, at least 6,000 hectares of coca have been eradicated and at least 4,000 remain.
Both governments officially state that a long-term sustained military presence in the region is indispensable to maintain eradication goals and prohibit resurgence of the coca crop. Initially, military participation in anti-drug efforts (although according to the Bolivian constitution is outside their mandate) was to last until the end of forced eradication. US commitment to funding a continued presence is both costly and damaging to Bolivia's fragile democracy. The permanent establishment of military action within antinarcotic efforts (a police function) is counterproductive in the nation's efforts to establish a credible civilian system of governance.
US government officials state that they are working to improve and strengthen the combined forces infrastructure in the region. The October 15, 2000 agreement between Six Federations leaders and government officials stated that there would be no new bases in the Chapare region. Coca growers interpret improvements in military infrastructure and a violation of this agreement.
Investigation by the Human Right's Ombudsman's Chapare office in October detailed the following existing military and combined forces facilities in the region:
As of the beginning of November 2001, the Bolivian government confirms a total of 18 "temporary" combined forces camps in the region (Lauca Ene, Shinahota, San Isidro, Villa Tunari, Paractito, Naranjitos, Cristalmayu, Ivirgarzama, Paraiso, Entre Rios, Bulo Bulo, Vueltadero, Valle Sajta, Isinuta, Isiboro, Eterazama, Villa 14 de Septiembre and Aroma).
Human rights monitors and political analysts fear that new troops transferred into the region may remain there permanently.
For further information, contact the Andean Information Network at [email protected], visit http://www.scbbs-bo.com/ain/ or write to Casilla 4817, Cochabamba, Bolivia. For previous reports on the Chapare crisis, visit http://www.drcnet.org/wol/209.html#chapare and see the links to back articles.
The charter issue of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics is now online. Visit http://www.cannabis-med.org/english/home.htm to check it out.
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Repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision
(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)
November 9-10, Redway, CA, Civil Liberties Monitoring Project benefit. First day features Dale Gieringer, Bill Panzer and Dr. Tod Mikuriya, 5:00, call (707) 923-4646 for info. Second day is a Hemp Fair, noon-10:00pm, call (707) 923-2586 for info.
November 10-11, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy 3rd Annual Conference, at The George Washington University. Call (202) 293-4414, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.ssdp.org for further information.
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.
November 15, New York, NY, "Overdose Prevention and Intervention," Workshop at the Harm Reduction Training Institute, 22 W. 27th St., 5th floor. Overdose Prevention 10:00am-1:15pm, 1:30pm-5:00pm, $60 for both classes, $40 for one, fee reduction waiver available. For further information, call (212) 683-2334 ext. 17 or e-mail [email protected].
November 15, 6:00pm, Berkeley, CA, "Marijuana: What DARE Didn't Teach You." Forum sponsored by UC Berkeley Students for Sensible Drug Policy with other campus and community organizations. Contact Scarlett at [email protected] for information.
November 18, 12:30pm, Durham, NC, "Should Drugs Be Illegal? The Biology of Addiction and Drug Legality." Fall Forum with the Drug War Alternatives Action Group (DWAAG) of Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (ERUUF), featuring Dr. Cynthia Kuhn of the Duke University Dept. of Pharmacology and co-author of "Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy." In the ERUUF Commons Room, 4907 Garrett Rd., call (919) 489-2575 or e-mail [email protected] for further information or directions.
November 26, 6:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Amsterdam Night" at the White Dog Cafe. Members of a delegation who spent a week studying Dutch drug policy as part of an international sister restaurant project will report back on the experience, followed by an after discussion with Common Sense for Drug Policy's Kevin Zeese. $30 per person includes three-course dinner at 6:00, speaker and discussion from 7:30-9:00pm; $25 for senior citizens and full-time students with advance notification, student standby $15 or free discussion at 7:30pm. Call (215) 386-9224 for reservations, or visit http://www.whitedog.com or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
December 10-12, Cochabamba, Bolivia, "International Conference on Viable Alternative Development in the Andean Region, Including Colombia, Peru and Bolivia." At the Centro Palestra, 578 N. Antezana, between Calle Salamanca and Calle Pacciere, near Plazuela Constitución, $20 registration, includes conference participation, two lunches and refreshments on 10/10-11. The 12th will feature an optional visit to the Chapare region, additional $30 fee, must have documented yellow fever vaccination. For information or to register, contact GeorgeAnn Potter at [email protected].
December 14 & 15, 8:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Corner Wars," play by Tim Dowlin, hosted by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. At the Tomlinson Theatre, 13th & Norris, Temple University Main Campus. Visit http://www.kwru.org or call (215) 203-1945 for tickets or for further information.
February 28-March 1, 2002, New York, NY, "Problem Solving Courts: From Adversarial Litigation to Innovative Jurisprudence." Panelists include former Attorney General Janet Reno, Rev. Al Sharpton and Mary Barr, Exec. Dir. Conextions. At Fordham University Law School, take the A, B, C, D, 1, and 9 subway trains to 59th Street/Columbus Circle and walk one block west. For further information, call (656) 345-5352 or e-mail [email protected].
March 3-7, 2002, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 13th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm and 2nd International Harm Reduction Congress on Women and Drugs. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit http://www.ihrc2002.net or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
April 8-13, 2002, Gainesville, FL, "Drug Education Week," series of presentations on different topics in the drug war, including daily keynote, followed by Saturday free concert. Hosted by University of Florida Students for Sensible Drug Policy, visit http://grove.ufl.edu/~ssdp/ or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
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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