(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #212, 11/23/01
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Faced with chronic crisis in the city's child protection system and blistered by a series of Washington Post articles detailing the deaths of 40 children under the system's care since 1993, the Washington, DC, City Council has responded by drawing a bead on pregnant women who use drugs. A bill introduced by Councilmember Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8), the Infant Protection Act of 2001 (http://dccouncil.dc.gov/images/00001/20011022111124.pdf) would allow the DC Child and Family Services Agency to take custody of any newborn infant who tests positive for any non-prescribed controlled substance at birth, is deemed by a physician to be suffering an illness related to prenatal drug use or to have fetal alcohol syndrome, or whose mother tests positive for any controlled substance at childbirth.
Under the bill, children born exposed to drugs or whose mothers had drugs in their system are "presumed" to be abused or neglected. DC Child and Family Services would be required to "begin immediate proceedings to remove the child from the home of the mother" and its social workers would then begin abuse and neglect investigations.
Currently, DC has no mandatory reporting requirement, let alone automatic removal of children. Eighteen states mandate some sort of drug-exposed newborn reporting, but the Allen bill would make the District's law among the nation's toughest.
"This is a nightmare," said Lynn Paltrow of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org), a nonprofit group that works to protect the rights of pregnant and parenting women and which opposes the bill. "If your real goal is to protect children," she told DRCNet, "we could suggest 20 or 30 things for DC child welfare, but automatically removing a child based on nothing more than an unconfirmed positive drug test is not among them."
But Councilmember Allen, who represents the largely poor and black Southeast and Anacostia neighborhoods, said she was "outraged" by the city's woeful child welfare apparatus and pointed to the Post's exposé as "one of the reasons we're moving in this direction. My concern is this," she told the Council, "without this legislation what will the District of Columbia do?"
There is reason for concern. The District's Child and Family Services Department has just emerged from six years of oversight by a federal judge, and, as the Post reported, 40 children died in seven years after it failed to take preventative action. Eleven of those cases involved drug-exposed infants who were sent home although hospital or social workers knew of parental drug use.
"The District's child welfare system is fundamentally flawed and dysfunctional at every level," responded Paltrow. "What sort of response is it to inevitably and pointlessly put hundreds more children into that system? The system is out of control;the system of supervising care is out of control. This sort of response is superficial and unhelpful," she said. "It is politically expedient, yet fails to address the underlying failures."
Washington suffers from a current shortage of foster care for children taken from their parents, and some city workers wonder where all those drug-exposed babies would go. "It's very complex," one social worker demanding anonymity told the Post. "People should think long and hard about finding more foster homes where we can raise these babies. Right now, we don't have any places to put them."
Allen also ran into opposition from the mayor's office. Deputy Mayor Carolyn Graham told the Council that rather than remove infants from their mothers, the city should try to provide mothers with access to drug treatment and monitor the case for the child's well-being. Graham estimated the number of drug-exposed babies born in the District each year at 1,500, about 20% of all births in the city.
Even the city's Child Fatality Review Committee, which monitors all deaths of children in the city and has called 47 times for improvements in the city's handling of child protection, has deep reservation's about Allen's measure. "It goes too far," committee member Elizabeth Siegel told the Council.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women's Wyndi Anderson also testified before the council, telling the members, "I cannot, in good faith, stand by and not speak out when policies will serve only to target and punish the poor addict and the addict of color, offering no real solutions."
"Who gets tested for drugs at childbirth?" asked Paltrow. "Eighteen states now mandate some reporting of positive drug tests for newborns or mothers, but not one mandates testing of every pregnant woman or father. Who gets tested is at the discretion of the hospital where the woman goes for prenatal care and services, but the studies have shown that African-American and poor patients are ten times as likely to be tested and reported than their white counterparts," she said. "Women who can afford to go to suburban middle class hospitals are not tested at all."
It will be a tough fight to defeat the bill, said Paltrow, but "perhaps unlike some locales, there are people here watching closely. People in DC understand that their child welfare system is in such disarray that it couldn't handle the influx of children that would result."
Allen remains unswayed and in fact appears to be hardening her position. Last month, she introduced a similar bill, the "Improved Child Abuse Investigations Amendment Act of 2001," but that bill required only that the city initiate an investigation into whether child abuse or neglect had occurred when an infant was born drug-exposed, not the "presumption" that this is the case that appears in her later bill.
There is a better way, according to Paltrow. In a letter to the City Council, she wrote, "Rather than implement either of the proposed bills, the Council should instead adopt measures that will increase access to appropriate, confidential drug treatment and other health services for pregnant and parenting women. The Council should improve the ability of child welfare workers and mandated reporters to identify and respond to real evidence of abuse or neglect rather than to use any single marker as a substitute for such an evaluation."
Paltrow also provided alternatives to a measure aimed more at punishing drug-using mothers than protecting children. The Council would be better served to:
It has been more than two years since Swisher County, Texas, lawmen swooped down and indicted 46 people -- 39 of them black -- based on the word of a shady undercover cop named Tom Coleman, but the county's legal battles are far from over. The citizens of the Texas Panhandle town of 5,000 have weathered loud criticism, intense media scrutiny, and internal division because of the busts, which took down more than one-tenth of the town's black population, many of whom are still doing long prison sentences as drug dealers. Now, with county officials having paid to settle one civil rights lawsuit and facing the prospect of more, as well as the costs of fending off a talented team of justice-seeking defense attorneys, the bust is looking to cost the community more than its reputation.
The local school board wants to help. Having had its policy of "random, suspicionless" school drug testing policy slapped down once by a federal judge, the Tulia Independent School District tried again this year, only to once again face a civil lawsuit from angry parents charging the tests violate their childrens' constitutional rights. This time the plaintiff is hoping to get the incorrigible school board's attention by asking for monetary damages.
In the civil rights lawsuit, black Tulia resident Billy Wafer accused undercover cop Coleman, Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart and Swisher County of racially-biased wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Wafer was among those arrested during the bust, but prosecutors failed to convince circuit and appeals court judges of Wafer's guilt, and the charges were dropped in January. In February, Wafer and attorneys including Jeff Blackburn sued.
Swisher County settled in October. The county admitted no wrongdoing, but paid Wafer $5,000 and shelled out an additional $25,000 in attorneys' fees. Neither Blackburn nor Wafer have commented on the settlement, which includes a no-comment clause.
Meanwhile, Swisher County prosecutors are having to prepare for a real battle as they prepare for the February trials of the last of the 46 defendants, Zuri Bossett and Tanya White. While those whose cases were resolved early on suffered the consequences of limited legal help -- 17 accepted plea bargains and 11 were found guilty based on the uncorroborated word of Coleman -- Bossett and White will be represented by a committee of area defense attorneys led by Blackburn, an experienced trial lawyer.
The legal defense committee is itself part of a broader assemblage of legal talent pursuing redress on both the civil and the criminal fronts. According to Randy Credico of the Kunstler Fund (http://www.kunstler.org), which has been deeply involved in the Tulia effort, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU and the American Bar Association's Civil Rights division have all signed on to an overall legal strategy.
Despite the ease with which Swisher County juries convicted previous bust defendants, Blackburn told the Amarillo Globe-News he is confident his team will be able to clear White and Bossett. Those acquittals will provide momentum for freeing the more than 20 Tulia defendants still behind bars, even those who had accepted plea bargains, said Blackburn.
"I think everybody is going to see just how different these cases are from the previous cases," Blackburn said. "I am extremely confident in the outcome and what the facts will show in court."
Blackburn client Tonya White agreed, adding that she hoped being found innocent would help lead to freedom for her three siblings, imprisoned after the bust. "I don't even know who Tom Coleman is," Tonya White said. "If I was to see him today, I wouldn't recognize him. There's no justice in this charge. It's time for all of this to be set straight."
White's mother, Mattie White, was driven to organize the Texas Mothers of the Disappeared after seeing what happened to her children and the other black residents of Tulia. But she is ready for it all to end. "I'm just sick and tired of all this," she told the newspaper. "I've been through three of these already, and, god willing, this is the last one I'll ever have to go through. I've been hurt so much. I just take the pain and keep on going with god's help."
While watching the progress of appeals and awaiting the latest trials, the citizens of Swisher County can amuse themselves weighing how much the school board's intense desire to drug test their charges could end up costing them. A year ago this month, US District Judge Mary Lou Robinson ruled against the district's drug-testing policy, stating "the mandatory random suspicionless drug testing program for all students participating in extracurricular activities is violative of the Fourth Amendment" (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/158.html#investigatingtulia).
But Robinson's ruling applied directly only to the plaintiffs, brother and sister Colby and Molly Gardner, and as the county sent Robinson's ruling to the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, it also reinstated the program. It avoided directly confronting Robinson's ruling by limiting drug-testing to athletes.
That wasn't good enough for Alan Bean, who on October 26 filed suit against the school district, school board president Sam Sadler and board member Darrell Nelson, on behalf of his son, Amos Bean, an active high-school athlete.
"A federal judge declared Tulia's drug testing program unconstitutional," Bean told DRCNet. "The school board seems to think it can get around that ruling simply by substituting 'athletics' for 'extracurricular activities.' They're playing word games, and they're contemptuous of the judge's ruling," he said.
Bean is seeking to have the current policy declared unconstitutional and to enjoin the school district from testing students. He is also seeking punitive damages from Sadler and Nelson. Sadler was a prime proponent of the testing, said Bean, and Nelson had drug-tested his son without his permission.
"The money damages are so these guys take this seriously," said Bean. "You don't expect a lot of money in these cases, but it's just that our society values money above all else. This is intended to get their attention."
The school board has since agreed to exempt his son from drug testing, he told DRCNet, but other students are still being tested and the lawsuit stands, he said.
Bean is a member of Friends of Justice (http://www.drugsense.org/foj/), a faith-based group that emerged in the wake of the 1999 busts, and he worries that his stand could hurt the group. "There have been some nasty letters to the editor," he said. "Whatever goodwill we may have engendered has pretty much gone down the tubes after I filed this suit. The common perception is that I'm trying to make money off the deal or I'm a troublemaker."
So it goes as Tulia struggles with its drug war demons.
The legal defense committee for the Bossett and White trials is working pro bono, but could use help with some associated expenses. Donations may be sent to attorney Jeff Blackburn, who can be contacted at [email protected].
The Tulia 46 Relief Fund, which provides direct relief to families affected by the bust, is also looking for donations. To help, contact Peter Greer at [email protected].
"Those who would like to get involved here should do so now," said the Kunstler Fund's Credico. "Time is of the essence. Many of the families are in desperate need, and the trials are coming up."
December 4 will see protests at DEA offices across the country, as Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) and Vote Hemp (http://www.votehemp.org), a hemp advocacy group, publicly challenge the DEA's move to ban ingestible hemp products containing trace amounts of THC. So far actions are confirmed for Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston, Louisville, Chicago, San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, Austin, Houston, Erie, New York City, and at locations in Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
Using innovative tactics, protestors at local DEA offices will confront the agency not with marches or rallies, nor with rocks or bottles, but with hemp bars and poppy-seed bagels in a hemp foods taste test. "At lunchtime on December 4, activists will be setting up tables with hemp products and information and soliciting the participation of DEA employees in taste tests," said Alexis Baden-Meyer of the Mintwood Media Collective, which is coordinating the national day of action. "This is our opportunity to show the DEA and the public just how ridiculous the new DEA rules are that make the delicious and nutritious hemp foods they are eating Schedule I substances," Baden-Meyer added.
In October, the DEA issued regulations claiming to criminalize the sale or ingestion of hemp products containing traces of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. The agency argued that even traces of THC could cause positive results on drug tests, although the hemp industry, through its Test Pledge program (http://www.testpledge.com) has created protocols designed to ensure that ingestible hemp products do not interfere with drug tests. The DEA has not explained how it has the power to administratively change a law (the Controlled Substances Act) that for three decades has been interpreted to allow such products. Constitutionally, law must be changed by act of Congress, not administrative fiat.
The hemp industry is challenging the new regulations in court. The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and supporting plaintiffs have filed for a "Stay Pending Review" in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. If granted, the stay would invalidate the new rule and force the DEA into a formal rule-making process, which would allow an opportunity for public notice and comment before any rule would take effect.
But SSDP and Vote Hemp are challenging the DEA in the court of public opinion with their national taste test actions. "Through this action, we will draw national media attention to the nutritional and other positive values of hemp and highlight the absurdity of the DEA prohibiting foods," said Baden-Meyer.
SSDP chapters and other activists wishing to participate should contact Mintwood Media, said Baden-Meyer, "and we'll send you a box of free samples of hemp foods" -- all packaged goods available on grocery store shelves around the country -- courtesy of David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. Baden-Meyer said that at noon on December 4, DEA employees across the country will be given the opportunity to taste delicious, nutritious hemp foods and challenged to justify banning them. Quiet, courteous activists will set up tables and offer samples, creating an open-air, hempen Fresh Fields sort of demonstration sure to confound DEA workers and incite local media coverage.
Mintwood Media has created an assemblage of materials and information for activists wishing to participate, including informative flyers and contacts for legal support and independent videographers to cover the events.
According to Baden-Mayer, the day of action on hemp could serve as the model for broader national protests against the drug war. "Another reason for doing this is to see if we can pull off a successful nation wide day of action against the DEA that can be replicated to tackle the absurdities and injustices of the drug war on a regular basis until we've stopped it," she said. "We hope that these actions will culminate in 'A Day Off From the Drug War' or some other type of national action or general strike that aims to interrupt business as usual to call attention to the largest human rights abuse the United States has committed against its own people, the imprisonment of people for the nonviolent victimless crime of consuming a mind-altering substance."
See you at the barricades, er, sample tables, on December 4!
Interested parties may contact Alexis Baden-Meyer and the Mintwood Media Collective at [email protected] or (202) 232-8997.
Last week, DRCNet reported on Manchester's Dutch Experience cannabis cafe, noting that it had remained open for two months as authorities turned a blind eye and suggesting that it represented yet another sign that Britain's drug war was on its last legs. (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/211.html#ukdrugwar). The British anti-cannabis law may be dying, but even in its death throes, the beast can still do damage. Manchester police showed as much when they raided the Dutch Experience on Tuesday, arresting owner Colin Davies and two others on drug distribution charges and nine customers on cannabis possession charges.
That the raid came as BBC-TV interviewed Davies about whether the law was ignoring his illegal business is more than coincidental. Davies had operated quietly with the knowledge of Manchester authorities since September, with police noting that "[t]he police, in appropriate cases, exercise discretion and judgment." But after widespread press attention to the cafe last week, the police modified their earlier stance.
In a statement released after the raid, Superintendent Richard Crawshaw of the Greater Manchester Police said: "It would be unwise for anyone to make the assumption that flagrant defiance of the law has or ever will be tolerated by the police. The police in appropriate cases exercise discretion and judgment with regard to certain offenses of simple possession of cannabis, and each case is taken on merit. However, in the face of overt and challenging behavior which amounts to intention to break the law, our stance will be one of enforcement."
Well, sort of. While Davies and the others face charges, the Dutch Experience reopened the same day, and according to press reports, the doobies are burning furiously. Mark Chadwick, 39, who hurt his arm in a motorcycle accident and was enjoying the cafe after the raid told a New York Times reporter he loved the mellow atmosphere at the cafe. "It's nothing like going to a pub," he said. "It's like going to the theater instead of going to a movie. In a pub you spend all your time worrying about who's looking at you, who's going to throw a bottle at you."
Because the cafe bans hard drugs and alcohol, its neighbors are mellow, too. They told the Times they preferred smiley stoners to unpleasant drunks. "They always look so pleased, and they're really friendly," said Becky Lees about the Dutch Experience customers. Lees, who works the front desk at a health club across the street, said she welcomes cafe customers who come in search of food after their smokes. "We get a lot of business out of it, because they get the munchies and come and eat in our cafe," she said.
The broad social acceptance of the cannabis cafe at the same time it has been raided is indicative of the weird twilight zone in which British cannabis laws now exist. Although Home Secretary Blunkett has announced plans to stop arresting cannabis users come spring, the government has not yet dealt with the issue of cannabis distribution, and in the meantime, the current laws remain in effect. At the same time, cannabis enthusiasts such as Davies are pushing the envelope and forcing the authorities to make decisions on an ad hoc basis.
And Davies isn't done yet. The day before the raid, he was talking up plans for a similar cafe in Dundee, Scotland. Davies, whose Medical Marijuana Cooperative discreetly mails cannabis to patients as well as subsidizing their use at cafes through recreational sales, told the Courier newspaper that plans are well underway. "I believe the plan is to open a Dutch Experience style cafe in Dundee shortly after the new year," he said. "Plans are at an advanced stage."
Two out of three Dundee-area Scottish parliament members gave conditional support to the idea of a cannabis cafe. Dundee West MSP Kate Maclean, who has admitted to being a former cannabis user, said she would be "happy" to see cafes established if current laws were relaxed, while Dundee East representative John McAllion agreed that in those circumstances a cafe would be "fine with me."
Maclean said, "If the law is relaxed then I would be happy enough to see these types of regulated establishments set up in Scotland."
Scottish police are not so sanguine. In a statement issued Sunday, they said: "We have no knowledge of any plans to open a cannabis cafe in the city. As the law stands, anyone doing this in Scotland would be acting illegally."
But the law may not stand much longer. The government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs issued a report this week calling for the legalization of cannabis and its sale through a network of licensed cafes (http://www.drugscope.org.uk/druginfo/evidence-select/cannabislegislative.htm). The report, written by Mike Ashton, editor of the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Findings, said the battle against cannabis can never be won.
But Ashton also found positive reasons to support a regulated approach to cannabis. "More liberal policies toward the possession and use of small quantities of cannabis do not seem to have increased cannabis use," he noted. In fact, "[c]annabis use has remained relatively unaffected by different legislative frameworks," Ashton found.
Ashton also pointed to the danger under current policy of cannabis users encountering hard drugs. "Regulation may also break the linkage between cannabis and other illegal drugs, thereby disrupting the link between the cannabis market and the market for other illegal drugs," he wrote.
Such a disruption would presumably lessen the progression from cannabis to hard drugs, wrote Ashton. It would also be reasonable to assume that following regulation, cannabis would replace alcohol as the drug of choice among some members of society. "Should this occur, then the total damage to individuals and society may be less, as the medical and social risks of alcohol have been shown to outweigh those of cannabis."
The Labor government of Tony Blair may have thought it could silence the rising chorus of calls for reform with its move to reschedule cannabis, but instead it has only raised the noise level.
As DRCNet reported two weeks ago (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/210.html#oussdp), an Ohio University disciplinary committee was poised to recommend harsh new campus penalties for marijuana possession when students got wind of the move and an uproar ensued. Led by members of the campus chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org), the students demanded a chance to have their say before the committee acted.
The student activism, along with criticism in the local media, caused the university's Review and Standards Committee to back down on November 19, when it announced it would postpone a vote on the proposal until January 7. Ohio U is on break between now and January 3.
Putting the best face on a hasty retreat under fire, OU Director of Judiciaries Judy Piercy told the Athens News the committee was seeking more input. "We decided it is really important to hear from everybody and so we're going to wait," she said.
Under the proposed amendment to the campus code, simple possession of marijuana, which is considered a misdemeanor under Ohio law, would be treated the same as possession of hard drugs or other felony crimes and could result in expulsion from the university. Currently, the maximum penalty is a disciplinary suspension.
"This is a step in the right direction," SSDP campus vice-president Abby Bair told DRCNet, "but the proposal is still before the committee. We need to have the student senate pass a resolution condemning harsher drug penalties here at OU in general," she said. "The vast majority of student senators oppose this proposal."
Student leaders had demanded and received a meeting with OU Vice-President for Student Affairs Richard Carpinelli, who is chair of the Review and Standards Committee, and who had been the most outspoken advocate of the harsher penalties. At the meeting, said Bair, Carpinelli informed them of the decision to delay the vote.
"They were going to decide this now and implement it in December while the students are gone," said Bair. "Now we have the chance to get organized. We're lobbying to get a position on the review board and we're calling for the voting to be open -- right now it's a closed vote. We are working with student senators and student groups to present the administration with a strong coalition against this proposal," Bair said.
The students have won a chance to address the board, Bair added. "We will explain to them what SSDP is, whom we represent, and what our concerns are," she said. "We will tell them why we oppose this and show them that other student groups oppose this as well."
Not just student groups. According to Bair, the DRCNet story on Ohio U. two weeks ago had an impact. "Every since you put that story in, we've been getting letters to the editor in the local papers every day -- from all over the country!"
Even the editor of the Athens News, Terry Smith, joined the fray, writing: "One disturbing possibility is that Carpinelli and his committee really do believe that pot-smoking students are a danger to the institution and ought to be eradicated. If that's the case, it makes me wonder what they've been smoking for the past thirty years. As a sentient human being during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, I couldn't help noticing that a lot of people smoking marijuana, including many who attended college at OU, went on to successful careers in a bewildering array of endeavors. Many of them are parents of OU students, and others, I daresay, are highly regarded faculty and administrators at this institution. Doesn't it seem bizarre to potentially expel a modern-day college student for an infraction that thousands upon thousands of OU alumni as well as many of the students' current professors routinely committed and may still commit today?"
But that's not all. The committee is also proposing to enact tougher penalties for drug paraphernalia, including even unused items, said Bair. "We're researching the paraphernalia, we're very concerned about that as well," she said. "Any paraphernalia would be a violation."
Bair and her fellow activists still have a fight ahead, but they are rearing to go. "We only have five days after winter break until that January 7 meeting," she said, "but we'll be there and we'll be organized."
Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), most notorious for authoring the the anti-drug amendment to the Higher Education Act, is taking full advantage of his position on House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) Taskforce for a Drug-Free America to crisscross the globe on sight-seeing, "fact-finding" junkets. Comments made by Souder following his most recent trip, however, were so non-factual as to probably not have been worth the taxpayers' expense.
Souder recently returned from Amsterdam, but the tenor of his remarks about the Dutch suggest that he learned nothing on the trip. Even the basics appear to have eluded the Indiana congressman. Seeming to believe that the Dutch live in some sort of libertine hippie utopia, Souder told his hometown newspaper, the Journal Gazette, that Holland features "free pot and free prostitution and gambling and porn videos all over the place."
"Where?" asked DRCNet staffers who have traveled to Amsterdam but never encountered such things. "Maybe the congressman gets free pot and free sex, but not the rest of us," they complained.
The Dutch are tolerant of pornography, especially in Amsterdam's red light district, and houses of prostitution are regulated by the state. But prostitution is a business, not a charity, and a prostitute's services are not free. Likewise, small-scale sales of marijuana and hashish in coffee houses is tolerated as a harm reduction measure by Dutch authorities, but again, no one is giving cannabis away in Amsterdam.
Souder told the Journal Gazette Dutch decadence was "their business," but when Holland's liberal drug laws led to a surge in ecstasy imports to the US, that's another matter. He said Dutch officials attempted to persuade his delegation that US drug laws were too restrictive, but the stolid Souder remained unswayed. "I found their arguments non-compelling," he said.
The Dutch suffer from a lack of religiosity, he explained. "I believe they are trying to do the right thing," he said, "but there is a huge difference in how we approach issues. We have a more moral base; they don't have a moral base." Less than 20% of the Dutch population attends church regularly, he said.
Nice figure -- too bad it's wrong. According to a cross-country comparison of weekly church attendance completed this summer, 35% of Dutch and 44% of Americans attended church regularly. The European country with the lowest rate of church attendance, Sweden with 4%, is Europe's staunchest drug warrior state (http://www.sase.org/conf2001/papers/gomez-lipset-meltz.pdf -- thanks to Common Sense for Drug Policy's Doug McVay for tracking down the study).
Souder's comments on Holland are only his latest fulminations on drug policy. Last March, during hearings on the medical marijuana issue, Souder, called a representative of the Marijuana Policy Project "an articulate advocate of an evil position." Souder has also been quick to jump on the drug-terror bandwagon. "The September 11 attacks on our country immediately highlight the dark synergies between narcotics trafficking and international terrorism," he told the House Government Reform subcommittee examining drug trafficking and terrorism. Souder chairs that committee.
Earlier, Souder traveled to the Andean Parliament drug trafficking summit in Caracas, Venezuela, to defend US supply-reduction and interdiction policies against Latin American critics. At the conference, Venezuelan Vice President Adina Bastinas asked whether "rich countries" should not shift spending priorities to domestic demand reduction, and Venezuelan Interior Minister Luis Miquilena worried that Plan Colombia would lead to spillover coca production and political violence in his country.
"We understand that drug production in Colombia will spill over," Souder told his hosts. "But we argue that the biggest threat to Venezuela is not getting control of coca production in Colombia," he said. Besides, he added, the US is taking steps to reduce consumption at home. The two he mentioned were his pet Higher Education Act anti-drug provision and programs to encourage private companies to drug test their workers.
Drug warriors from both sides of the Rio Grande took the occasion of the fourth Binational Conference on Reducing Drug Demand, in Mexico City last week, to attack decriminalization of drug use and drug markets as a means of reducing drug harm.
The head of Mexico's National Council on Addictions, Guido Belsasso, told a crowd including US Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow and acting drug czar Edward Jurith that "actions to achieve reductions in drug demand in Mexico share a basic principle: we oppose decriminalization of drugs. The experiences of other countries to cut drug consumption in half through decriminalization have failed," Belsasso asserted.
(DRCNet is aware of no country that has claimed to be able to cut drug consumption in half via decriminalization. The most well-known example of effective decriminalization, the Netherlands, has seen marijuana use among the young decline slightly, and both its youth and overall use levels remain significantly lower than in the US.)
"In Mexico, we are convinced that [decriminalization] is not the path," continued Belsasso. "The position of Mexico is very clear in this sense: If we authorize the use of drugs we are sending a contradictory message to Mexican youth. The policy is absolutely clear: We are not interested in doing that and that is the policy of the Mexican government."
Jurith, for his part, seconded Belsasso's position, arguing that prevention campaigns could reduce drug use. Jurith pointed to the decline in cocaine use in the US since the 1980s as an example.
Jurith also used the visit to Mexico City to laud Mexican President Vicente Fox for his cooperation in the drug war. Although Fox and some high officials in his administration have discussed legalization as an ultimate solution to Mexico's drug problem -- which is seen in terms of the corrosive effects of black market drug trafficking organizations on security, public safety, and the health of the state -- Fox has resolutely followed a conventional drug war strategy.
"President Fox has made a real commitment that I think is different from the past," he told Reuters.
That same day, Interior Minister Santiago Creel Miranda told a press conference in Mexico City that the Fox 2002 budget would emphasize the war on drugs and public insecurity, "but with the limited resources we have, given the decline in tax revenues." Creel Miranda pointed to the assassination of two federal judges in Mazatlan last week as an example of what the government faced, El Diario de Mexico reported.
While President Bush and other politicians have attacked the Afghan Taliban regime for promoting heroin sales to the West and used such sales as a partial justification for their war on the Taliban, they have had little to say about opium grown in areas controlled by their new-found friends, the Northern Alliance. That loose coalition of warlords and ragged armies now controls two-thirds of Afghanistan, and according to United Nation drug monitors in the region, it is conniving in the planting of new poppy fields under cover of the war.
Opium growing peasants who were forced last year to destroy their crops after the Taliban banned the poppy are taking advantage of the Taliban's collapse to replant just in time for the last few weeks of the sowing season, said UN officials.
"The sowing season is October and November," said Kemal Kurspahic, a spokesman for the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCCP). "Many farmers are now free of Taliban control and our staff in Pakistan have received reports that some are planting. We will only know in February how many poppy fields there are when they begin to grow," he told the London Daily Telegraph.
Kemal denied US and British reports that accused the Taliban of relaxing its ban on the poppies, saying instead that farmers acted out of desperation and in the absence of anyone who could stop them. Kemal added that the UN believes the bulk of the drug is being produced in Northern Alliance strongholds. He cited one area, Badakhshan, under Alliance control, which he said produced 83% of last year's crop.
But while UN drug bureaucrats are calling for "a long term action plan for the post-conflict period in Afghanistan to preclude the resumption of poppy cultivation," the US and Britain have been silent on the Northern Alliance connection. Of course, they have some experience. In the 1980s, the CIA turned a blind eye to opium growing among its mujahedin allies fighting to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Among the people working with the CIA and its intermediaries, the Pakistani Interservice Intelligence agency, were both Northern Alliance commanders and Osama bin Laden. The more things change...
Due to an apparent computer glitch, DRCNet obtained an inaccurate count of the number of cosponsors of H.R. 2592, Rep. Barney Frank's "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana" bill. There are 20 cosponsors, not the nine that we had reported last week.
Click on the links below for information on these issues and web forms to help you contact Congress:
Repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision
(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)
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.
November 28-29, 10:00am-3:00pm, New York, NY, "Navigator to Pilot: A Treatment Educators Skills Building Workshop." Free workshop on HIV treatment and its intersection with substance use, with Sharon Rascoe & Harry Simpson, presented by the Harm Reduction Training Institute and Agouron Pharmaceuticals. Call Adrienne Brown at (212) 683-2334 x17 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
December 3-4, 9:30am-4:30pm, Albany, NY, "Comprehensive Overview of Harm Reduction." Free workshop by the Harm Reduction Training Institute, at the American Red Cross, 33 Everett Rd. Pre-registration required, contact Emily Winkelstein at (212) 683-2334 x18 or [email protected].
December 10-11, 9:30am-4:30pm, Harlem, New York, NY, "Comprehensive Overview of Harm Reduction." Free workshop by the Harm Reduction Training Institute, at Pathways to Housing, 55 W. 125th St., 10th floor. Pre-registration required, contact Emily Winkelstein at (212) 683-2334 x18 or [email protected].
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.
December 16, 10:30am, Cambridge, MA, "New Perspectives on our Drug War," forum with the Ethical Society of Boston, featuring Jon Holmes discussing the crisis of US drug policy. At the Longy School of Music, 1 Follen St., call (617) 739-9050 for further information.
January 25-27, 2002, New York, NY, "Maternal-State Conflicts: Claims of Fetal Rights & the Well-Being of Women & Families." Conference sponsored by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and the Mt. Sinai Hospital-Based Clinical Education Initiative. For further information, call (212) 475-4218, visit http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org or e-mail [email protected].
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.
If you like what you see here and want to get these bulletins by e-mail, please fill out our quick signup form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/WOLSignup.shtml.
PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.
Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.