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

Issue #215, 12/14/01

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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This issue of the Week Online, #215, is dedicated to California's Proposition 215 (the first statewide medical marijuana initiative, passed in 1996), to all those who labor for and support patients' rights, and to patients everywhere.


  1. Do You Read the Week Online?
  2. Top British Cops Call for Legal Heroin for Addicts, Liberal Democrats Join Growing Ecstasy Rescheduling Chorus
  3. Marijuana Arrests Fuel Increase in Teen Drug Treatment Numbers
  4. DEA Dog and Pony Show on Narcoterror Rallies Drug Warriors, Initiates New Propaganda Campaign
  5. Narco News Lawsuit Thrown Out: Precedent Extends Press Protections to the Internet
  6. Bolivian Cocaleros Call for Pause in Blockades
  7. Catholic Progressives Differ with Pope on Drug Prohibition
  8. Utah Town Makes Marijuana Possession Ten Dollar Fine, Draws Heat, Will Retreat
  9. DEA Okays First Medical Marijuana Trials in Nearly Two Decades
  10. Book Review: "Narcocorridos: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas"
  11. Media/Web Scan: Mother Jones,, Essence, Reason, ColorLines, FPIF Report, FEAR Manual, Hutchinson-Johnson Debate
  12. Bay Area: Job Opportunity at Harm Reduction Coalition
  13. Alerts: Bolivia, HEA Drug Provision, Sembler Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Do You Read the Week Online?

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2. Top British Cops Call for Legal Heroin for Addicts, Liberal Democrats Join Growing Ecstasy Rescheduling Chorus

The tiny crack in Britain's prohibitionist drug policies created when Home Secretary David Blunkett announced in June that cannabis users would no longer be arrested come spring has now grown into a gaping fissure. DRCNet has reported repeatedly on the sudden rush to rationality in British drug policy, most recently on the legal battles surrounding the opening of a cannabis café in Manchester and the government's drug advisory panel's recommendation for more such cafés ( In the latest signs of imminent drug war collapse in Britain, the country's police chiefs are now calling for the free, legal distribution of heroin to addicts. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third political party, have joined a growing call to lessen the penalties for ecstasy.

Regarding heroin, Sir David Phillips, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) told the Sunday Telegraph (London), "The system has failed. We have an out-of-control drug industry, and it is time to try a new approach."

An unnamed police chief elaborated for the Telegraph. "If we provide free heroin to anyone who wants it, then at a stroke we eliminate a multi-billion-pound criminal conspiracy. No one would buy heroin if they can get it free."

According to Phillips, the police chiefs will call for the National Health Service to dispense heroin in official premises staffed by police, social workers and medical personnel. Possession or use of the drug outside such premises would remain a criminal offense under the ACPO plan.

The ACPO position, which represents a radical departure from the group's current posture, will be formalized next month. In the meantime, ACPO has been in consultations with police chiefs throughout England, Ireland and Wales, and Phillips is meeting this week with Andrew Hayman, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, to finalize the announcement.

In calling for far-reaching reforms, the police chiefs are building on the Cleveland Report, published two years ago by the Cleveland police in England's northeast. While the report's proposals were not adapted at that time, they will form the basis of the new ACPO position and will serve as a focus for the growing national debate on drug legalization.

The report, written by Cleveland Chief Constable Barry Straw, criticized British drug policy as "ineffective" and "clearly based upon American experience."

"There is overwhelming evidence to show that the prohibition-based policy in place in this country since 1971 has not been effective in controlling the use or availability of proscribed drugs," wrote Straw. "If there is indeed a war on drugs, it is not being won; drugs are demonstrably cheaper and more readily available than ever before. It seems that the laws of supply and demand are operating in textbook fashion. If a sufficiently large (and apparently growing) part of the population chooses to ignore the law for whatever reason, then that law becomes unenforceable. A modern Western democracy, based on policing by consent and the rule of law, may find itself powerless to prevent illegal activity -- in this case the importation and use of controlled drugs."

After citing links between drug prohibition and both street crime and organized crime, Straw went on to list a number of policy conclusions:

  • Attempts to restrict availability of illegal drugs have failed so far, everywhere.
  • There is little or no evidence that they can ever work within acceptable means in a democratic society.
  • Demand for drugs seems still to be growing, locally and nationally. The market seems to be some way from saturation.
  • There is little evidence that conventional conviction and punishment has any effect on offending levels.
  • There is, however, growing evidence that treatment and rehabilitation programs can have a significant impact on drug misuse and offending.
  • There is some evidence that social attitudes can be changed over time, by design. The best example available to date is drunk-driving, but success has taken a generation to achieve.
  • If prohibition does not work, then either the consequences of this have to be accepted, or an alternative approach must be found.
  • The most obvious alternative approach is the legalization and subsequent regulation of some or all drugs.
Prescribing heroin was standard British practice through the 1960s, and it was credited with keeping the number of addicts low. In 1971, there were 500 addicts, the Telegraph reported; now, after three decades of drug war, there are 500,000. In 1989, the National Health Service began an experimental program offering prescription heroin to addicts. Although the so-called Widnes or Liverpool experiment, run by psychiatrist Dr. John Marks, reported no drug-related deaths or new HIV infections in five years, and although local police reported a 93% drop in drug-related crime, the program's funding was pulled in 1995 after coverage on the TV newsmagazine 60 Minutes led to pressure from the US government on the British (

While the police chiefs' plan has engendered criticism from the usual suspects, it has also drawn flak from unexpected quarters. Dame Ruth Runciman, who chaired a 1999 Police Foundation look at drug policy calling for the decriminalization of cannabis, said the plan had not been properly thought out.

"I support some increase in prescribing heroin by family doctors, but I think a scheme of this kind would cause many problems," she told the Telegraph. "It would be difficult to decide on the spot whether someone should be prescribed heroin and what dose to give them. I am also far from convinced that there would be a large drop in crime," she said. "There is certainly some evidence linking drugs with crime, but there are also many other factors which cause crime, including social conditions."

While police and drug reformers go around over just how heroin should be made available, British policy toward the popular club drug ecstasy is also under increasing pressure. Joining earlier calls from police officials and political figures, the Liberal Democratic Party had endorsed a party drug policy report calling for the reclassification downward of both ecstasy and cannabis. Ecstasy is currently a Class A drug, a classification reserved for the most dangerous drugs, such as heroin, and cannabis is a Class B drug. The Liberals will call for ecstasy to become Class B and cannabis to become Class C. (The Labor government has already proposed such a change in the cannabis classification.)

"The current position is one that is completely out of control," said Baroness Walmsley, who headed the party panel. "The status quo is no longer an option," she told BBC News. Saying that classifying ecstasy as a very dangerous drug brought British drug policies into disrepute, Walmsley added that, "There is a common view that the majority of people experience no immediate ill-effects [from ecstasy]," she said. "There is clearly a danger that some will come to the conclusion that other Class A drugs like heroin present few dangers and will be tempted to try them also."

Liberal Democrats will have the opportunity to go even further at their party convention in March. According to BBC, delegates will have the opportunity to vote on two competing proposals on imprisoning drug users. They will have the chance to vote on the Runciman Commission's recommendation that jailing of Class B and C drug possessors be ended. Or they can vote to end the jailing of all drug possessors, including Class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

3. Marijuana Arrests Fuel Increase in Teen Drug Treatment Numbers

The number of American teenagers in drug treatment increased dramatically during the 1990s, but that jump was fueled almost entirely by teen marijuana users arrested and ordered into treatment by the courts. According to a study released earlier this fall by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of youth aged 12 to 17 placed in drug treatment programs rose from 95,000 in 1993 to 138,000 in 1998, an increase of 46% in five years. But the study, "Coerced Treatment Among Youths: 1993-1998," reported that "the increase was largely driven by marijuana-involved admissions referred through the criminal justice system."

"What an incredible waste," said retired American University law professor Arnold Trebach, founder of the Drug Policy Foundation and currently head of the Trebach Institute ( "The idea that every teenage pot-smoker needs treatment is absurd," he told DRCNet. "I'm opposed to kids smoking pot," he added. "That could lead to tobacco use, which could be dangerous, but the notion that they need treatment is a reflection of how messed up our drug policy is at its core."

The study, which relied on data from SAMHSA's Drug and Alcohol Services Information System's Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), a nationwide compilation of treatment episodes in centers receiving federal funding, found that teen drug treatment referrals from other sources remained stable over the five-year period. Teens referred to drug treatment by schools have declined slightly to about 15,000 after peaking at about 20,000 in 1995. Self-referrals, where either the teen or a friend or family member arranged the intervention, hovered at about 20,000 in 1998, down slightly from the mid-1990s. All other referrals, which include health care providers and community, government or religious social service providers, increased from 20,000 to 30,000 between 1993 and 1995, but have remained at that level since then.

Criminal justice system referrals, either for marijuana alone or for marijuana and alcohol, have gone through the roof, however, increasing from about 37,000 in 1993 to more than 60,000 in 1998. According to the study, by 1998 almost half (49%) of all teen drug treatment admissions came through the courts, and people admitted for marijuana alone or marijuana and alcohol combined constituted three-quarters of all admissions. (Over the five-year period, alcohol alone and marijuana alone switched positions. In 1993, alcohol alone was named in 24.4% of admissions and marijuana alone in 11.9%. By 1998, alcohol alone had dropped to 9.3%, while marijuana alone had increased to 24.9%. Marijuana and alcohol combined grew slightly from 45.4% in 1993 to 51.2% in 1998.)

During the five-year period, in the midst of rapidly rising marijuana arrests during the Clinton administration, the number of teens forced into drug treatment by the criminal justice system increased 73%.

Despite the increases in overall marijuana arrests and in teens sent to drug treatment by courts, "there is very little evidence of a teen pot problem," said Trebach. "I just checked the data on child deaths from drug abuse from 1996-1999," he explained. "There are roughly a hundred per year, for all drugs. Kids are fairly sensible about this," said Trebach. "There is no great need for treatment [for teenagers], but there is a real need for getting honest information to the kids. Some kids do get in trouble with drugs, and they could use the help, but it has to be intelligent help, not the harsh regimen they often find in drug treatment today."

Visit to read the study in full.

4. DEA Dog and Pony Show on Narcoterror Rallies Drug Warriors, Initiates New Propaganda Campaign

While hemp food activists were holding taste test protests last on December 4 at Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters in Arlington, VA, the agency had other things on its mind. Deep in the bowels of the well-guarded glass tower a select coterie of drug war bureaucrats, anti-drug groups and sympathetic media figures were gathered in an effort to tie the tarnished drug war to the sleek and shiny new war on terror. The event, billed as the first-ever symposium on narco-terrorism, went under the name of "Target America: Traffickers, Terrorists, and Your Kids," but the real goal was to somehow make Osama bin Laden a poster boy for the war on drugs.

Although the DEA has admitted it has no direct evidence linking bin Laden or his inheritance-funded Al Qaeda network to the drug trade, that has not stopped the agency and its drug war cohorts from attempting to play the narco-terror card.

"The line between [terrorists and drug dealers] is growing increasingly difficult to draw," warned panelist Raphael Perl, senior policy analyst on international terrorism and drug issues for the Congressional Research Service, Congress' in-house policy think tank. "Income from the drug trade has become increasingly important to terrorist organizations," he said. "State sponsors are increasingly difficult to find. What world leader in his right mind will risk global sanctions by openly sponsoring Al Qaeda or funding it?"

One reason that line is increasingly difficult to draw is its deliberate blurring by drug warriors within the US government. When the State Department defines belligerent groups involved in a civil war -- such as the FARC and ELN in Colombia (or more recently and grudgingly the prodigiously violent, government-linked right-wing AUC paramilitaries) -- it becomes easier to link terror and the drug trade.

That didn't stop DEA intelligence chief Steven Casteel from attempting a connection between threatened terror attacks with weapons of mass destruction and the drug trade. According to Casteel, Al Qaeda makes the ABC of atomic, biological, or chemical warfare into an ABCD of atomic, biological, chemical, and drug warfare. "Drugs are a weapon of mass destruction that can be used against Western societies and help bring them down," Castell preached to the choir.

While Casteel's words were eerily reminiscent of Harry Anslinger's diatribes against the Red Chinese, whom he accused in the 1950s of attempting to destroy Western Civilization through opium exports, the downright McCarthyite atmosphere of the conference was also signaled by the drawing accompanying the DEA's announcement of the event. Showing a shadowy figure standing astride the globe, showering pills, capsules and syringes down to an eagerly waiting multitude with one hand and clutching missiles behind his back with the other, his back pockets stuffed with cash, the cartoon is easily the equal of the countless propagandistic "communist menace" caricatures that regaled and frightened Americans during the Cold War. (View the drawing and conference info by going to and clicking on "National Symposium.")

The main panel of the symposium, chaired by media bigfoot Bob Novak, also included Ret. Gen. Jose Rosso Serrano of the Colombian National Police, Larry Johnson of Berg Associates, a consulting groups whose web site lists its twin tasks as providing business security and fighting organized crime; Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA) president Stephen Pasierb and Brian Dyak of the Entertainment Industries council. Pasierb and the PDFA took the occasion to announce that, according to their polls, the drug-terror link would serve as a valuable tool in deterring drug use among young people.

In a press release the same day as the conference, Pasierb said PDFA's polling found that six out of ten American teenagers said knowing there was a drug-terror link would make them less likely to use drugs. "Many Americans are now considering the impact of terrorism on their daily lives," said Pasierb. "For us, it made sense to see what Americans thought about the possibility of a link between drugs and terrorism. Clearly teens and parents believe the link exists, and since there's no question that globally drug money does sustain international terrorism, this points to a possible new direction for the Partnership's anti-drug efforts."

The polls, conducted by RoperASW/BRUSKIN, found that 54% of parents and 46% of teens thought that "international terrorism is financed at least in part by the drug trade," and that 62% of the teens thought that knowing this information would make them less likely to use drugs.

But Pasierb and PDFA were not the only ones trying to start a media bandwagon on the narco-terror theme. Novak, who appears on three different public affairs programs on CNN, and whose syndicated column appears in hundreds of newspapers, used the symposium as a point of departure for a column this week whose goal was much broader than keeping kids off drugs.

In a column titled "America's Two Wars Must Be Linked" (as it appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times), the conservative fixture bashed President Bush for not employing the phrase "narco-terrorism" in the three months since September 11. Citing the PDFA polling, Novak called it "an opportunity that can be exploited by the government's massive microphone, especially the presidential bully pulpit." Novak also called for the DEA, who he wrote were "widely considered to have the best intelligence operations," to have a seat at the inter-agency anti-terrorism table.

But in his haste to make his case, Novak had little time or inclination to get the details right. Accusing the State Department of turning a blind eye to the Columbian FARC guerrillas, Novak wrote that "the FARC guerrillas from the start have been financed by illegal narcotics." Unfortunately for Novak's thesis, the FARC, which formed in 1964, had already been in existence for decades before Colombian drug trafficking exploded in the 1980s.

As the twin propaganda campaigns -- one directed at youth, one directed at the national political leadership -- get underway, it would be nice if they got the facts right. But war is war, and truth is the first casualty.

5. Narco News Lawsuit Thrown Out: Precedent Extends Press Protections to the Internet

The New York Supreme Court has handed a stunning victory to Narco News ( publisher Al Giordano in his legal battle with Banamex (now owned by Citibank) and its high-powered hired guns, the Washington, DC-based public relations and law firm, Akin Gump. Former Banamex head Roberto Fernandez had sued Narco News and Mexican newspaper publisher Mario Menendez for libel after the two, during a visit to New York, repeated allegations against Hernandez earlier made in their respective publications. Giordano and Menendez had accused Fernandez of involvement in cocaine trafficking in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. But presiding Justice Paula Omansky this week threw out the case, ruling that the court had no jurisdiction over a Mexican newspaper and, in the case of Narco News, holding that the same heightened protection against libel suits afforded to traditional media also extend to Internet publications.

Under a 1964 Supreme Court ruling, New York Times v. Sullivan, established media outlets have benefited from a "higher standard" that aggrieved plaintiffs must meet to win libel or defamation lawsuits. Journalists can be found guilty of libel only if their words are found to be the result of "actual malice," that is, if they knowingly disseminated false information or demonstrated a reckless disregard for the truth.

Justice Omansky held that Narco News, a news provider based entirely on Internet, was in fact a media outlet deserving the same protections as the New York Times or CNN.

"This court finds that Narco News is a media defendant and is entitled to heightened protection under the First Amendment (Sullivan v. New York Times)," wrote Omansky. "The Internet is similar to a television and radio broadcast in the sense that the electronic missive is able to reach a large and diverse audience almost instantaneously... Narco News defendants' format is similar to a regularly published public news magazine or newspaper except for the fact that the periodical is published "on line" or electronically, instead of being printed on paper," she noted.

"Since principles of defamation law may be applied to the Internet," she continued, "this court determines that Narco News, its website, and the writers who post information, are entitled to all the First Amendment protections accorded a newspaper-magazine or journalist in defamation suits. Furthermore, the nature of the articles printed on the website and Mr. Giordano's statements at Columbia University constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its effect on people living in this hemisphere."

In an interview with Wired magazine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcy J. Gordon, who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief, said she expected the court's decision to be widely applicable. "I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be a landmark case that gets cited repeatedly," she said.

The foundation's legal director, Cindy Cohn, added that, "We are tickled that the court heeded our advice, which was to make sure that you treat online journalists with the same degree of First Amendment protections against libel actions as offline journalists -- and not to create a First Amendment ghetto in cyberspace."

While the early ruling precludes Giordano's expressed desire to put the "drug war on trial" through testimony if the case had been allowed to continue, Narco News attorney Thomas Lessing told Wired he was pleased with the abrupt end of the case. "[Justice Omansky] understood that allowing a case like this to continue chills First Amendment rights," said the Massachusetts civil liberties and free speech litigator. "These are very expensive cases, so she nipped this one in the bud."

Lesser later told the Boston Phoenix that Giordano and his legal team are considering a counter-suit against Banamex. "I think the expectation is that we'll try to recoup the damages we've suffered."

While no figures on Narco News' legal fees are available, Giordano had been forced to make numerous appeals for his legal defense fund, and Lesser and his team had agreed to work for discount rates.

The fast-moving Giordano chimed in with an e-mail message to the Phoenix from Bolivia, where he is covering unrest among coca growers. "The [Banamex] story was airtight, factual, and fair then, and it has remained so ever since," he wrote. "It's a great victory and one to be shared by so many journalists and readers. On to the next one!"

6. Bolivian Cocaleros Call for Pause in Blockades

Amidst cries for the vengeance of the deaths of seven former coca growers at the hands of Bolivian security forces in recent weeks, the federations of coca growers met in Cochabamba on Tuesday and called for a temporary pause in road blockades until after the Christmas holiday, Narco News reported from the scene.

But the recent killings by the security forces, particularly the assassination last week of Six Federations leader Casimiro Huanca in the Chapare (, have left the cocaleros in no mood to talk. Instead, they are demanding the government killers be brought to justice and the coca eradication program stopped. Plan Dignity, as the eradication program is known, was imposed by former dictator-turned-President Banzer under severe US pressure and has been enthusiastically continued by his successor, Pres. Jaime Quiroga.

"You have heard the references to a 7-0 score here," Congressman Evo Morales said, announcing the halt. "Many want vengeance. However, we are announcing the suspension of our blockades of the highways until December 29th, for the Christmas season. The government tells us it wants to dialogue again. But there can be no dialogue while the assassins walk free. There can be no dialogue while the eradication of coca continues. We've been very patient people. We want justice not only in the case of compañero Huanca, but in the assassinations of all seven farmers killed in these months."

Visit for on-the-scene reports by Narco News, updated daily. Visit to protest the US-driven policies that fostered this crisis.

7. Catholic Progressives Differ with Pope on Drug Prohibition

Much to the Vatican's consternation over the centuries, the notion of papal infallibility has often bumped up against dissent from within the Church. Sometimes, papal pronouncements are quietly and widely ignored by the masses, as with John Paul II's teachings on birth control and premarital sex. On other issues, some members of the Church community feel so strongly that the pontiff is mistaken that they are willing to differ publicly with his teachings. Although church leaders tend to support progressive criminal justice reform (such as repealing the draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws), legalization itself is an issue on which the Pope and some Catholics have taken different sides.

Last week, DRCNet reported on the release of a Vatican pastoral manual restating the Church's position on drug policy. ( In it, the Pope took a hard line in favor of prohibition, writing that "we must all fight against the production, creation, and distribution of drugs in the world, and it is the particular duty of governments to courageously confront this battle against 'death trafficking.'"

While acknowledging that prohibition could not eliminate drug use or the drug trade, the Pope call for "repression" along with prevention and treatment to fight drug use, which the manual called "incompatible" with Church moral teachings. Our article cited Father Miguel Concha, head of the church's Dominican Order in Mexico, as one prominent Catholic who disagrees with the Pontiff's pro-prohibition stance. Concha is not alone.

Father John Vogler, associate minister at Our Lady of Good Counsel in St. Louis, Missouri, told DRCNet that while he agreed with the Pope that it should not be easier for people to use drugs, there has to be a better way. "The Holy Father, like most good people, abhors drug abuse, but he is trying to control something that cannot be controlled," said Vogler.

"We as a church keep saying it shouldn't be legalized, but making something criminal isn't influence, that's force and fear," Vogler continued. "I think he is mistaken. Government cannot control an illegal business worth billions of dollars; it can only make matters worse. If you legalize it, there's always somebody willing to make a buck on human suffering, so let them make it, but we'll have reduced violence tremendously and put the drug lords out of business overnight," he argued.

"He says that drug use is against our moral teachings," said Vogler, who devotes much of his ministry to jail and prison inmates. "There are many things that are against our moral teachings, but we do not use fear and the force of government to combat them. The truth is our weapon. The Church needs to operate with truth and persuasion, not use the force of the government to twist people's arms. That harms government and it harms the Church."

Minnesota layman and drug reform activist Paul Bischke has a few theological bones to pick with the pontiff, too. "The Holy father needs to consult with that great doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and particularly his whole formulation of the four cardinal virtues [prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude]," Bischke told DRCNet. "If you analyze the drug war in light of the four cardinal virtues, it fails every test. "It is imprudent, in that it fails to be realistic about what it can accomplish and fails to recognize its unintended consequences. It is unjust, for its symbolic, disproportionate punishments fail to give each man his due. Instead of temperance, it imposes abstinence. And it fails the test of fortitude because it is cowardly," explained Bischke.

Bischke also recommended St. John Chrystostom. "He said about alcohol that it was disrespectful to God to blame drunkenness on wine, for the vine was a creature of God," Bischke noted. "We need similar thinking about drug policy from a Catholic perspective. This is something that the social justice requirements of the Catholic faith demand, and that's where I come from."

Bischke, a professional writer in St. Paul, doesn't just talk the talk. A member of the Drug Policy Reform Group of Minnesota, he speaks to congregations around the area about drug policy. "Some folks get it," he said, "and faith-based activism can be really dynamic. But because the drug warriors have lied for so many years -- a real violation of justice -- many people make their decisions about drug policy based on false premises."

Swiss theologian Thomas Walliman backed up Bischke and added more ammunition for the heterodox. Walliman, director of the Institute of Social Ethics of the Catholic Workers movement of Switzerland ( and author of "The Drug Policy Controversy" ("Drogenpolitik kontrovers" -- in German only), told DRCNet that there is room in Catholic theology for drug legalization or regulation.

"This is nothing new within Catholic theology, even if it is not the position of the Pope or the magisterium," Walliman wrote in email correspondence. "Not everything that is undesirable has to be forbidden by the church or the state, because it is possible to create more evil than good by forbidding something rather than regulating it. This is the case with your drug policies. Prohibition creates many more problems than drug use and addiction itself," he said.

Individuals have to answer their own ethical questions about drug use, wrote Walliman, but societies too must focus on reducing harm: "What form of regulation by the state best minimizes the evils of drug use, abuse and addiction?" is the question that must be asked, he wrote.

For Walliman, neither prohibition nor unregulated legalization are an ethically legitimate course. "It's necessary to regulate and have some controls, but not like now when everything is illegal," he wrote. "The proper legal instruments should fit the danger of the respective substances. Thus, for example, cigarettes would require showing an ID card because of the danger of addiction, while beer and cannabis teas would require lesser controls and hard alcohol and heroin would require greater controls," he suggested.

"Just as it is not possible to create heaven on earth or erase terrorism from the planet, neither can we erase drugs," Walliman wrote. "We have to learn to live in balance."

8. Utah Town Makes Marijuana Possession Ten Dollar Fine, Draws Heat, Will Retreat

The southern Utah town of Big Water (pop. 326), hard by the Arizona state line on US Highway 89, doesn't make the news too often. It doesn't have much of a crime problem. But when a sleepy town council, prodded by a libertarian-leaning member, passed an ordinance mandating a $10 fine for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, it got both media attention and a sudden, unwelcome police presence. Now, under pressure, the council is ready to reverse itself.

Town councilman and Big Water mayor-elect Willie Marshall told DRCNet he introduced the measure because "it was the right thing to do. Current marijuana laws in the state of Utah are cruel and unusual." He added, "there is nothing to stop prosecutors from imposing maximum penalties, and they can and do take your drivers license away for walking down the street with a seed in your pocket."

Under Utah law, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as a six-month drivers license suspension. Under state law, paraphernalia possession nets the same maximum six months and $1,000. The Big Water ordinance makes paraphernalia violations a five dollar fine.

"Our ordinance made justice affordable for everybody," said Marshall. "Let the punishment fit the crime."

Seems like a perfectly mainstream argument, but it didn't sit too well with Kane County law enforcement, the Utah Highway Patrol, and Officer Nathan Giles, who took personal umbrage at the action. Kane County Attorney Eric Lind sent a letter to the town council warning that the measure violated state law. The state Attorney General's told the Tribune it had been asked for and had granted "advice and research," but that the matter was one for Kane County officials.

"The ordinance clearly tries to minimize or abolish the penalties prescribed by the legislature, and that obviously is a concern," Lind told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Marshall was unconvinced. "The prosecutor thinks the ordinance is unconstitutional, that it limits prosecutorial discretion, but this ordinance merely tells prosecutors we think they should offer this plea agreement," he said. "County prosecutors aren't forced to abide by our town ordinance."

At least one member of local law enforcement had no time for haggling over constitutional niceties. Utah Highway Patrol Officer Nathan Giles blew up at local officials, Marshall said, in an account whose broad contours were confirmed by regional Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Lynn McAfee. "Once the police heard about this, they hit the ceiling, the Kane County sheriff and the Highway Patrol were just enraged," said Marshall. "They do a lot of intimidating people into letting them search their cars. But Officer Nathan Giles was especially bent out of shape. He came in and yelled at the town clerk. 'Who's the dope-smoking son of a bitch who wrote this ordinance?' Giles yelled. And then he made threats. 'All hell is going to break loose in Big Water,' he told her," Marshall said.

But Giles wasn't done. "Then he went over to the water board office, where one of the council members works, while on-duty and in uniform and started arguing with her," Marshall said, "telling her the ordinance was unconstitutional, that we had to repeal it, that the Highway Patrol could just stop writing tickets in our town, basically threatening to cut off a source of town funding. Not that we're a speed trap," Marshall quickly added. "Giles was very threatening and his behavior was very inappropriate."

Lt. McAfee had a slightly different version of events. "What happened," he told DRCNet, "was that Giles was turning in his tickets and got into a conversation with the clerk and he gave his position that the ordinance was unconstitutional -- he was expressing his opinion, not the position of the Utah Highway Patrol." As for Giles' second encounter, "Again, he had his own opinion," said McAfee. "I've told him if he wants to discuss this he needs to refer people to his supervisor, and he should just shut his mouth and do his job." And as for Giles issuing threats, McAfee said only, "I hope he would use better judgment than that."

The Utah Highway Patrol may want to rein in an embarrassingly unruly Officer Giles, but it also found time to show the good people of Big Water what real police attention can mean. On December 7, two weeks after the ordinance was passed, the town was hit with an "enforcement blitz" by Highway Patrol and Kane County Sheriff's officers. "They were ticketing everyone for anything," said Marshall. "They had a half dozen Highway Patrol cars out there pulling people over for no seat belt, failure to signal, anything they could think of."

"We did do a blitz in that area," Lt. McAfee confirmed. "It lasted for six hours, but we were only in town for 15 minutes. Enforcement was concentrated on US 89."

Neither McAfee nor Utah Highway Patrol officials contacted by the Salt Lake Tribune would concede that the special attention was related to the ordinance. "We have targeted many areas of the state," Col. Earl Morris told the Tribune. "Big Water got it for a day, and they can expect we will be down there again. Our job is to enforce the law. If they want to call it coincidence, they can. We don't go after people in a vindictive manner," Morris said, adding the enforcement blitz had been planned "weeks ago."

"Yeah, two weeks ago," retorted Marshall. "This town is based on summer tourism, and they're doing special enforcement in the winter when nothing's going on? Not vindictive? We had one officer tell a school teacher he was ticketing for no seatbelt on her way to work that this was happening because Big Water has a drug problem," Marshall snorted. "Well, they didn't find any drugs, but they sure wrote a lot of tickets."

As town council members began to complain that they hadn't understood what they passed, even Marshall now concedes that the ordinance faces a grim future. "It will be repealed on Tuesday, I'm almost certain," he said. "This is a small town, and they can come in here and terrorize us. I'm going to vote for repeal, in part because the county attorney is threatening to sue us, but primarily to stop the police harassment. I hope for no more hassles with the Highway Patrol," he said.

"I don't smoke pot," Marshall said. "I did this for principle, not self-interest. But I used to work with the police. I know they can set you up if they want to. I don't really want to throw myself in front of a steamroller."

9. DEA Okays First Medical Marijuana Trials in Nearly Two Decades

(courtesy NORML Foundation,

Washington, DC: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials recently gave final approval for three state-sponsored patient trials on the therapeutic potential of smoked marijuana. The decision reverses a nearly two decade federal de facto prohibition on medical marijuana research.

All three patient trials will take place at the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), headquartered at the Universities of California at San Diego (UCSD) and San Francisco (UCSF).

One study will examine the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana versus placebo for the alleviation of peripheral nerve pain associated with HIV infection. Another will examine the efficacy of inhaled marijuana versus placebo for the treatment of muscle spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients.

A sub-study of the latter cohort will also examine the impact of marijuana on psychomotor skills using driving simulator assessments. Each study will use federally supplied marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Patient recruitment for the trials is expected to begin early next year. Patients interested in participating in the studies should visit the CMCR website at for more information.

The CMCR, established in August 2000 and funded by the state of California, supports and coordinates research assessing the use of cannabis as a medicine.

Last February, the Center's independent Scientific Review Board approved four medi-pot clinical trials. After more than nine months of review, federal regulatory agencies and the DEA have finally signed off on three of the trials.

The fourth -- a proposed inpatient study on the effectiveness of smoked marijuana on HIV-related neuropathy by noted UCSF AIDS researcher Dr. Donald Abrams -- still awaits final approval from the DEA, though a CMCR spokeswoman said that they expect authorization for that study within a matter of weeks.

Abrams has been attempting to gain federal permission to conduct such a study for more than five years. A previous study by Abrams found that smoked marijuana does not disrupt the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs in HIV patients. Subjects who smoked marijuana in the study were also found to have gained significantly more weight on average than those receiving placebo, and had slightly lower viral levels.

Presently, seven additional FDA and NIDA-approved medical marijuana studies -- including three on cannabis and analgesia -- are also awaiting approval from the DEA. It remains uncertain if and when the DEA will approve the research, without which none of the clinical trials may move forward. Of the recently approved protocols, all three received FDA and NIDA authorization to proceed several months before the DEA finally endorsed them.

Visit for further information on the CMCR's clinical research trials.

10. Book Review: "Narcocorridos: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas"

Musician and music writer Elijah Wald doesn't have a lot to say about drug policy, but his book "Narcocorridos" opens up a whole new vista for those whose interest in the topic extends to the cultural phenomenon to which the drug war has given rise. American music listeners are familiar enough with the drug-laced lyrics and spaciness of stoner rock and the gritty drug war milieu of gangster rap, but most non-Spanish-speaking gringos remain totally oblivious to the narcocorrido, a musical genre drenched in the Mexico-US drug trade whose leading stars sell millions of albums on both sides of the border.

Wald will cure that. In the course of 300 pages, he takes the reader on a vivid, dramatic journey into the history of the narcocorrido, criss-crossing Mexico and the US Southwest as he searches out the roots of the music, its legends and its contemporary masters. Hitchhiking into remote villages with a battered guitar and a bag full of cassettes, he encounters simple singers and slick music businessmen, communities of marigueros (marijuana growers) and gun-toting traficantes. Among other marvels, Wald visits the shrine of San Juan Malverde, patron saint of drug traffickers, located in the heart of drug trafficking center Sinaloa in northwest Mexico and maintained with funds donated by anonymous beneficiaries of the saint's protection.

As a musical form, narcocorrido isn't exactly hip. Part of the broader musical style known as norteno, popular in northern Mexico and Texas (where it's called tex-mex or tejano), narcocorridos are typically ballads sung to a polka or waltz beat, accompanied by accordions and guitars. It's the Mexican equivalent of country music, and sophisticated urban Mexicans consider it square, while Americans consider it Mexican.

But it isn't the music that has drawn the attention of fans and the ire of scandalized authorities -- it is the lyrical content. The corrido form, descended from medieval Spanish ballads, is a storytelling form. Early in the last century, corridos were sung to describe the exploits of the great generals of the Mexican Revolution, and ever since they have served as a popular news service, telling of government corruption, the struggles of immigrants in El Norte or the rise of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas.

The narcocorrido, however, sings of the drug trafficker, the mariguero, the law and death. And despite the half-hearted protests of some of the genre's stars, many of them glorify the wealth and power of the successful trafficker, the bravery and cunning of the macho, the fatalism of the desperado. From "Contrabando y Traicion" (Contraband and Betrayal), a 1972 hit for Los Tigres del Norte (The Tigers of the North); through the hard-edged Sinaloan sound of the legendary Chalino Sanchez, prototype of a legion of gun-toting, SUV-driving imitators; and on to the current masters of the genre, such as Los Tucanes de Tijuana (The Tijuana Tucans), Grupo Exterminador, and the gangsta-corrido Rivera clan of Los Angeles; the theme of the drug trafficker surviving betrayal and outsmarting the gringos remains constant.

Here is LA artist Lupillo Rivera, punning on LA street slang in which a pelotero (ballplayer) is a hustler or drug dealer: "Un pelotero senores, tira bolas en el parque, Yo tambien soy pelotero, pero soy de otra clase. Si no me entienden amigos, permitenme explicarles.

"Las bolitas que yo tiro son de puro polvo blanco, Es vitamina muy buena para andar buen atizado, Y el toque de mariguana sirve para relajarlos."

Translation: "A ballplayer, gentlemen, throws balls in the park. I am a ballplayer, but of a different sort. If you do not understand me, friends, allow me to explain.

"The little balls I throw are of pure white powder, It is a very good vitamin to get you stirred up, And a toke of marijuana will serve to relax you.)"

The Partnership for a Drug Free America and the Office of National Drug Control Policy have their own media campaigns. So do the drug traffic and the broader culture from which it emerges. Elijah Wald masterfully and engagingly exposes this vibrant and powerful cultural artifact that has for too long flown under the radar, like the drug-laden planes it celebrates.

If you're interested in exploring the genre, DRCNet recommends beginning with "Corridos Prohibidos" (Forbidden Songs) by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, "El Estilo Norteno" (Northern Style) by Chalino Sanchez, and "Puros Corridos Perrones" (Pure Badass Corridos), a Rivera family compilation on Cintas Actuarios records.

"Narcocorridos" is available in English and Spanish and is published by HarperCollins.

11. Media/Web Scan: Mother Jones,, Essence, Reason, ColorLines, FPIF Report, FEAR Manual, Hutchinson-Johnson Debate

Frank Bures writes about East African immigrants and the centuries-old khat ritual, banned in the US:, a web site and discussion forum based in Bloomington, Indiana, discusses the Higher Education Act drug provision and features an editorial by Dr. Clark Brittain calling for an end to prohibition itself:

The December issue of Essence magazine interviews Dorothy Gaines, a former mandatory minimum prisoner who served six years of a 19-year federal prison sentence for a drug conspiracy involving her former boyfriend. Gaines was released in December following her sentence being commuted by President Clinton. Visit for info or for Essence's alert last year.

The January issue of Reason, a libertarian magazine, is primarily devoted to the Drug War, including "Sex, Drugs & Techno Music," interviews with Joseph McNamara, Michael Levine, James P. Gray, book reviews and an editorial. Pick up a copy, or visit for info, past issues or to subscribe.

The latest issue of ColorLines magazine examines "The Slippery Slope of Racial Profiling: From the War on Drugs to the War on Terrorism." Visit for further info.

Foreign Policy in Focus examines the impact of the war on thee heroin trade in Afghanistan:

The organization Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR) has published a new Asset Forfeiture Defense Manual. Visit to place an order.

Visit to watch the November 15 Yale Law School debate between DEA chief administrator Asa Hutchinson and New Mexico governor Gary Johnson in Real Video.

12. Bay Area: Job Opportunity at Harm Reduction Coalition

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) is an organization that is committed to reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities by initiating and promoting local, regional and national harm reduction education, interventions and community organizing. HRC fosters alternative models to conventional health and human services and drug treatment; challenges traditional client/provider relationships; and provides resources, educational materials and support to health professionals and drug users in their communities to address drug-related harm.

The Program Coordinator provides programming support for all aspects of San Francisco trainings including the development and implementation of training calendars, training logistics and trainer development. The ideal candidate for this position is extremely motivated, a self-starter with patience and passion for harm reduction who works well in a fast paced environment.

Desired qualifications include experience with training and event planning; a strong harm reduction background; ability to work with people from diverse communities; public speaking and leadership skills, and familiarity with Microsoft Access, Word and Excel. However, some training can be done for the right person.

Salary based on experience, $29,000-$33,000 plus excellent benefits. Send resume & cover letter to: HRC-Program Coordinator Position, 1440 Broadway, Suite 510, Oakland, CA 94612, fax to (510) 444-6977 or e-mail to [email protected]. No phone calls. Women, people of color, LGBTQ, current and former sex workers, current and former drug users and the formerly incarcerated are encouraged to apply.

13. Alerts: Bolivia, HEA Drug Provision, Sembler Nomination, DEA Hemp Ban, Ecstasy Bill, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana

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

US Drug Policy Driving Bolivia to Civil War

Oppose DEA's Illegal Hemp Ban

Oppose Mel Sembler Nomination for Ambassador to Italy

Oppose New Anti-Ecstasy Bill

Repeal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences

Support Medical Marijuana

14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

December 13-14, 9:00am, Madison, WI, "Bridging the Gap-Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Narcotics Work Group of Dane County, at the UW-Memorial Union, 800 Langdon Street, registration $50. For further information, contact Wendy Schneider at (608) 258-9103 ext. 17.

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 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.

December 19, 6:00pm, Washington, DC, "Perspectives on Drugs and Terrorism: American Policy for a New Age." Forum with Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, Peter Reuter, University of Maryland School of Public Affairs and others. At the National Press Club, near Metro Center stop on the corner of 14th & F Streets, NW. Space limited, RSVP at (202) 537-5005 or online.

December 20, 6:00pm, Washington, DC, 4th Annual Criminal Justice and Juvenile Justice Holiday Bash. At The Saloon, 1205 U St., NW, live jazz and free food, benefiting The Little Blue House and Homes Not Jails.

January 21st, 2002, Albany, NY, Drop the Rock press conference opposing the Rockefeller Drug Laws, marking Martin Luther King Day. Near the Empire State Convention Center, followed by speakers, awards presentations, entertainment and a march on the capitol. Visit for 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 or e-mail [email protected].

February 16, 2002, Albany, NY, Drop The Rock Upstate-Downstate Coalition Organizers Conference, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway. Call (518) 463-1121 or visit for information.

February 21-23, Washington, DC, National Families Against Mandatory Minimums Workshop. At the Washington Plaza Hotel, call (202) 822-6700 or visit for 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, Executive Director of 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 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

March 24-27, 2002, Rimini, Italy, "Club Health 2002: The Second International Conference on Night-Life, Substance Use and Related Health Issues." Visit for info.

March 26, 2002, Albany, NY, "Drop The Rock Day," march and demonstration against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Visit for 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 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

April 18-20, 2002, San Francisco, CA, 2002 NORML Conference. At the Crowne Plaza Hotel at Union Square, registration $150, call (202) 483-5500 for further information. Online registration will be available at in the near future.

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 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 or call (212) 213-6376.

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