(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #222, 2/1/02
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 2/1/02
Audacious actions by British marijuana activists have sparked a drama of principled nonviolent civil disobedience on the continent. After the founder of Stockport's "Dutch Experience" cannabis cafe, Colin Davies, was jailed last November, Chris Davies and Marco Cappato, members of the European Parliament from Britain and Italy, themselves visited the Manchester suburb, turning themselves in at the police station with small quantities of marijuana and getting arrested on the spot.
This week, Marco Pannella, founder of Europe's Transnational Radical Party (of which Cappato is a member), himself delivered marijuana to the Stockport police -- this time not getting arrested. The white-haired Pannella explained that, "As Socrates in Athens, we are today publicly violating an unfair law... Prohibition creates crimes, and against this situation we want to create a new order founded on freedom, rights and duties."
The Radicals are no mere adventurers having fun tweaking the system. Cappato and Davies, for example, could potentially get up to two years in prison. Last fall, four other members of the Radical Party were jailed in Laos for protesting the disappearance of four young Laotian activists.
Here in America -- which can be thought of as the drug war's political epicenter -- most of the effective drug war civil disobedience has taken place on different levels. On the medical front, patients and friends of patients have set up "buyers clubs" to serve the pressing needs of the sick and infirm in need of medical marijuana from a safe and affordable source. And on the public health front, "harm reduction" activists in the communities hardest hit by drug abuse, or most at risk of drug-related harm, have defied laws and attitudes and taken to the streets to exchange syringes, purity-test pills, do whatever is needed to save their fellow human beings from HIV or overdose, hepatitis or any of the harms or neglects common among drug users and other marginalized groups.
One of the early public health rebels was Joey Tranchina (a member of DRCNet's Board of Directors), who took to the streets of San Mateo County, California, to distribute sterile syringes and collect used ones under the auspices of his AIDS Prevention Action Network. San Mateo DA and Joey's high school debate partner, James Fox, tried to prosecute him, but the community saw the wisdom and dire necessity of APAN's work, and Fox couldn't get a conviction.
Needle exchangers around the country have braved the law with varying degrees of success; some have won official sanction and support, while others, like the Chai Project's Diana McCague in New Jersey, faced too much resistance from the government, and suffered significant personal cost. That risk also comes with this territory, as Henry David Thoreau discussed in his classic "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" -- those who go through with it must live with the possible consequences. Indeed, a number of our friends in the medical marijuana movement are living with that possibility in prison today, and some have paid with their lives.
Joey doesn't hold a grudge against his old friend; as he told me, he couldn't have bought that kind of publicity. When I visited an APAN site a few years ago, it was clear who had won the morality debate; and today APAN's work is officially legal too. I happened to meet District Attorney Fox at a conference several years ago in Washington; at the same event, two attendees, one a rather hardcore drug warrior, told me they had been convinced of our case on the needle exchange issue. McCague, too, may yet win after the fact; New Jersey's new governor is talking about making needle exchange legal under certain circumstances, and the dramatic educational publicity McCague's court fights garnered doubtless helped to set the stage for this.
Still, public opinion in any given state or country tends to define the limits of effective civil disobedience. Americans might approve of the medical marijuana clubs and the needle exchange programs, even in advance of the law's sanction; and they may largely tolerate or be indifferent to marijuana smoke-ins or public use at marijuana rallies or rock concerts. But no one on this side of the ocean has yet set up a quality-tested heroin operation for addicts, and for understandable reasons. Successful civil disobedience must be well designed for its venue, calculated carefully to gain approval for one's cause or at least respect.
Yet different tactics can be used in different places and times. Overseas, when the government of the Netherlands vacillated on its promise to begin a heroin maintenance trial program, the Reverend Hans Visser of Rotterdam threatened to take matters into his own hands and distribute clean heroin to addicts from the basement of his church. The government promptly announced it would proceed with the heroin trials, and Visser dropped his informal heroin maintenance plan.
In an ideal world, laws could always change first and behavior later. In this real world of AIDS and overdoses, of medical needs and an incarceration state of frightening proportions, the cost of waiting can sometimes be too great to bear. DRCNet salutes the courage of the Radicals and radicals everywhere, who with careful thought and deliberation go beyond the call of duty to put their freedom on the line for the freedom and rights of others.
See our article on the Stockport civil disobediences below
With Delaware prisons bulging at the seams, a battle is brewing between those who would solve the problem by building more prisons and those who would solve the problem by reducing the number of people going to prison and the amount of time they spend there. The latter group is led by an influential grassroots organization devoted to criminal justice reform, Stand Up for What's Right and Just (http://www.surj.org). The honorary chairman of SURJ is former Gov. Russell Peterson, who governed the state as a Republican from 1969 to 1973 before going on to sit on then President Nixon's Council on Environmental Quality.
Peterson is no longer a Republican -- he told DRCNet he grew disgusted by "right-wing Republican" attacks on his environmental policies -- but he retains a longstanding interest in criminal justice policy and moved to form SURJ in 2000 in response to the almost constant crisis in the Delaware prison system.
"We got ourselves in a hell of a mess over this outrageous drug law [mandatory minimum three-year sentence for possession of more than five grams of cocaine] they passed, jamming our prisons so they were super crowded, three in a cell designed for one, people sleeping on the floor in prison gyms," Peterson told DRCNet. "We've just finished a $200 million dollar prison expansion program, and we're already beyond capacity. We have to stop the state from spending any more money on new prisons. We don't need that, and we have many ways to reduce the prison population," he added.
Consultants hired by the state told officials almost two years ago that absent changes in sentencing laws, the state would have to increase its prison capacity by nearly 50% by 2010 at a cost of $200 million. More than 6,000 people are imprisoned in Delaware now, although Department of Corrections officials could not tell DRCNet how many of them were drug offenders.
SURJ is targeting mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. "Our first priority is a piece of proposed legislation that would sunset mandatory minimums two years after they were imposed," said Peterson. That bill, introduced as Senate Bill 6 last year, has an even chance of passing this year, said Peterson. "We're working hard with members of the legislature to get sufficient support to get the bill passed this session," he said. "But if not this year, I predict the bill will have a 100% chance of passage next year."
SURJ is a potent force for criminal justice reform in Delaware. The 2,000-member organization includes former governors, former judges, former heads of the state police, and a former deputy attorney general, along with 28 organizations ranging from the Boys' Club to the League of Women Voters to the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We have subcommittees working on various issues," explained Peterson. "In addition to ending mandatory minimums, which would give judges the discretion to send people someplace other than prison, we are also working on speeding up trials. We now have people detained on an average of over six months waiting for trial. We also want to reintroduce parole, which the legislature ended a few years ago."
Peterson and SURJ also have other drug policy goals. "We want to decriminalize marijuana," he said. "We want to join the rest of the world, but we still face these right-wingers who want to be 'tough on crime.' We have to arouse the people so they demand change, and I think we're beginning to turn things around," he said.
And despite his repeated remarks about right-wing Republican zealots, Peterson noted that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the SURJ membership. "It could be a Nixon goes to China kind of thing," he said. "Republicans have those law and order credentials."
Legislators in Frankfort, the Kentucky capital, are considering a bill that would give police unprecedented access to confidential prescription records as part of a campaign to eradicate abuse of the pain-killing opioid Oxycontin. The bill would also require pharmacists to demand either photo ID or a signature and a thumbprint from everyone picking up Oxycontin or any other legally restricted narcotic. It has been endorsed by Gov. Paul Patton.
Oxycontin has been blamed for as many as 69 deaths in Kentucky (although that count includes multi-drug deaths and any death involving oxycodone, the opiate in Oxy, but also used in other pain-killing drugs, such as Percocet), and has accounted for 1,145 arrests in the year since Kentucky authorities began a series of multi-county raids dubbed "Operation Oxyfest" last February 6. Since that time, at least 79 newspaper articles, op-eds, or letters to the editor addressing Oxycontin, some in quite hysterical terms, have appeared in Kentucky newspapers.
State Rep. Robin Webb (R-Grayson) filed House Bill 371 (http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/record/02rs/HB371.htm) earlier this year, with three cosigners, and picked up Patton's endorsement last week. It was reported favorably out of the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday. The bill would allow state police access to KASPER, a statewide database for doctors and pharmacists that tracks the prescription of narcotic drugs, either in a criminal investigation of a specific person "or where there is an identifiable trend of illegal diversion in a geographic area."
Police have promised they wouldn't use the database except for active criminal investigations, but that was little consolation to former Oxycontin patient Skip Baker, who told DRCNet he had recently switched to Dilaudid because "with this Oxycontin mania, you don't know if they're going to come kicking your door down. It's like the dark ages again," said Baker, head of the American Society for Action on Pain (http://www.actiononpain.org), a grassroots group that advocates for pain patients. "If they do something that stupid, they'll drive Oxycontin off the market," he told DRCNet. "It's the best pain pill yet, but Purdue Pharma won't be able to keep producing it if this harassment keeps up."
Pharmacists have concerns as well. Last year's Walmart "pharmacist of the year" in Kentucky, Richard Shields, told the Daily Independent (Ashland) that requiring doctors to follow strict protocols in prescribing the drug would be a better approach. As for asking for IDs and police trolling the KASPER database, Shields said, "It's like turning over a truck full of gasoline and trying to prevent it from going down the drain."
Mike Mayes, executive director of the Kentucky Pharmacists Association, also expressed reservations. "We believe that the ID provision is alright because we want to be sure the correct person is getting the prescription, but we want to take a serious look at the database access issue," he told DRCNet. "There are patient privacy concerns." The association had not yet taken a position on the bill, he told DRCNet, but Oxycontin abuse was complicating pain treatment, he said. "It is a very good drug for cancer patients who need pain relief," said Mayes, "but when you have people crushing the tablets and snorting it or injecting it, that's a whole other ball game. It is a serious problem, especially in the eastern part of the commonwealth," Mayes said.
The Kentucky Medical Association was less forthcoming with DRCNet, but one spokesman who asked to remain unidentified raised similar concerns. "Our issue is that the way the bill was written would allow state police unabated access to the KASPER database," he said. "We have asked that that be addressed, we don't want them perusing it at their pleasure. We have asked the sponsor to address that, to ensure that it is only for specific investigations."
Webb apparently has addressed that specific concern, replacing "criminal investigations" in her original language with "specific investigations" as the bill now reads. But with the provision for police snooping where there is evidence of diversion in a geographic area still intact, that's a loophole big enough to drive a truck full of Kentucky State Police through.
Jeff Vessels, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky, told DRCNet he had discussed the bill with Rep. Webb and that she had revised the language to address such concerns, but that problems remained. "She's been responsive," he said. "I'm hoping we can get her to move in the right direction."
Skip Baker hopes so too, or better yet, that the bill is defeated. "I can't imagine a law like this being passed," he said. "Let's hope they have enough sense to stop it."
New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson's six-pronged drug reform package for the New Mexico legislature's short 2002 session is down to five prongs as the House effectively killed the governor's marijuana decriminalization measure this week. Johnson is using the budgetary short session in a last effort to win passage of his comprehensive drug reform program before he leaves office at the end of his current term, but with budget issues still unresolved and legislators looking anxiously over their shoulders in an election year, the outlook for the package remains clouded.
The marijuana decrim measure would have removed criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce for people 18 and older. The offense would have been treated like a traffic violation, with possible civil fines but no arrest. Under current New Mexico law, possession of up to an ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $50 and 15 days in jail.
"I understand it's one of the more controversial bills of the package. It is very difficult to deal with in 30 days, particularly in an election year," former Gov. Toney Anaya told the Albuquerque Journal. Anaya is a lobbyist for the governor on drug reform issues, paid for by the Center for Policy Reform, a nonprofit group affiliated with what was until this week The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation. TLC-DPF announced earlier this week it had changed its name to Drug Policy Alliance.
Shayna Samuels, a spokesperson for the Center, told DRCNet she remained optimistic despite the defeat of the decrim bill. "We expected that a lot of the non-budget-related items would not get through," she said. "Drug reform is not necessarily one of their priorities. But we are focusing on the other five bills, and they are so far going through the committees as planned."
The remaining five bills are:
A bill before the Washington state legislature that would reduce some drug sentences and use the money saved to fund drug treatment programs has a formidable coalition including Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, Republican King County (Seattle) prosecutor Norm Maleng, law enforcement groups, and the state drug reform community behind it, but the state's severe budget crunch could end up killing it.
House Bill 2338 would reduce sentences for some drug offenses under the state's byzantine sentencing statutes. For example, distribution, manufacture, or possession with intent to distribute of heroin or cocaine currently carries a penalty of 21 to 27 months. Under the proposed legislation, based on recommendations from the state's sentencing commission, sentences would drop to 15 to 20 months. The bill aims at "social dealing," or small-time drug-selling by addicts to support their habits, and would not reduce sentences for major trafficking offenses. The bill also calls for further sentencing reductions in 2004, following the plan of the sentencing commission.
A similar measure passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last year, but died in the Republican-controlled House. This year, Democrats control both chambers, and supporters are optimistic.
"It looks like a slam-dunk at this point," said Roger Goodman, the King County Bar Association's point-man on drug reform and incoming national executive director of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers (http://www.vcl.org). "Hearings in both the House and the Senate were virtual love fests, with all the stakeholders, including prosecutors, law enforcement, treatment providers, even defense attorneys, testifying in support."
Goodman played a key role in laying the groundwork for forward movement on drug reform with his work on a series of reports on drug policy endorsed by the state's medical and pharmacy associations, among others. The groups called for a "shift from criminal justice to public health" and for authorities to stop imprisoning drug users. They also called the current policy of jailing drug users an expensive and ineffective failure, putting the weight of the state health care establishment behind drug reform (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/216.html#washingtonstate).
"While this is a step forward, this is only a small step," said Goodman. "It will provide more discretion for judges, particularly with low-level offenders, but that means drug courts, and if they fail, then they go to prison or jail, and failure rates are not low, so we'll probably see a large number of addicted individuals selling small amounts still getting locked up."
Despite being a halfway measure at best, Goodman would like to see it pass, but he is looking over his shoulder at the state's $1.25 billion budget deficit and hearing talk of using the savings from the sentencing bill to help plug the budget gap. That could kill the bill's chances, he said. "If there is no funding to cover court-supervised treatment, all of the bill's supporters will become active opponents. It will live or die on the budget issue. It's as simple as that."
While Gov. Locke has said he supports the bill, he has also suggested that savings go into the general fund, a position criticized by the Seattle Times, which wrote that if that happens "the effort will produce few results and those who cannot fathom reduced sentences for anything will be proven right."
With control over the bill's fate shifting to the appropriations committees, there is also opportunity for favorable changes. "A deal will have to be struck," said Goodman. "There are incredible competing pressures from all sorts of interest groups on the budget, and we hope we can convince the committees that an early release of drug offenders on the condition they enter community-based treatment would save substantial prison costs," he explained. "We could be saving millions of dollars within three years on reduced prison costs. That's why the appropriations committees are interested. We're trying to get drug offenders out of confinement and into treatment."
Goodman and the drug reform coalition have another trick up their sleeves in case the reform bill gets sidetracked. "If the drug sentencing bill, which has already been approved the House Criminal Justice Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, looks like it's dying for lack of funds, the chances of a ballot initiative which would go much further down the path of reform are greatly increased," he said. "If legislators see that those behind the initiative are serious -- and we are -- then they just might scramble to find the necessary money for treatment."
Online legislative information on HB 2338
can be found at:
Like horseflies nipping at a wounded beast, Transnational Radical Party (http://www.radicalparty.org) leader Marco Pannella and his comrades are tormenting police in Manchester over police raids on the country's first cannabis cafe, operated in suburban Stockport by Colin Davies. Police raided the cafe in December after it began generating publicity and jailed Davies on cannabis distribution charges. Pannella, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), claimed a victory Monday when police refused to arrest him after he presented himself at the Stockport police station in open possession of cannabis. They did seize his stash.
Two other MEPs had committed similar acts of civil disobedience in support of Davies and his "Dutch Experience" cafe in December. On that occasion, police arrested British MEP Chris Davies (no relation) and Italian MEP Marco Cappato (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/216.html#radicalparty). Pannella described his protest Monday as an act of solidarity with Davies and Cappato (also a Radical Party member), who were bound over to Crown Court in hearings that day.
After police refused to arrest him, Pannella told a crowd of reporters and international supporters that his non-arrest was a precedent-setting victory. "What happened today to me will grant other British citizens the same type of rights," he said. "I would like to thank the police who have granted those rights to the citizens, rights that the law does not foresee."
MEP Davies added that: "This is a significant change in policy by officers. They had prior warning and could have arrested him," according to the Oldham Evening Chronicle. "I welcome that, it is a more sensible use of police resources. It does not make sense to arrest people for crimes where there is no victim."
Pannella added that Chris Davies' act of civil disobedience was a key skirmish in "a battle for a fair law to decriminalize the rights and duties of the citizens and to defeat the monopoly of drug traffickers that affects many aspects of society. This action," Pannella explained, "has been undertaken to demonstrate that the application of these laws is no longer supported, neither by the judges nor by police officers. As Socrates in Athens, we are today publicly violating an unfair law, to obtain a new one that comes from the heart of citizens and doesn't create criminals. Prohibition creates crimes," Pannella said, "and against this situation we want to create a new order founded on freedom, rights and duties."
Manchester police have been increasingly unhappy with the protests, directing their ire at what they called "publicity-seeking politicians." In December, Assistant Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes told the BBC News: "Perhaps it would be better if politicians who wish to change the law used their access to political institutions and focused their protests at the government level. The Police Service does not make the laws of this country," he complained. "We are being diverted from our serious work by the antics of publicity seeking politicians."
This time around, a Manchester police spokesperson denied that the refusal to arrest represented a policy change, adding: "The man refused to accept a police caution, and it was decided that rather than waste police time over a premeditated protest, the officer used his discretion and the man was released without charge and the substance was seized. The decision does not alter GMP's commitment to tackling the issues of drug abuse as they currently stand in the eyes of the law," the Chronicle reported. "The interests of the people of Greater Manchester are better served by police resources being deployed to tackle crime and disorder in the community rather than being squandered becoming embroiled in political debates," she said.
But if Manchester police are hoping for a respite, they shouldn't count on one. The Transnational Radical Party has promised more actions at Stockport, as well as legal challenges. "A number of people who have the same charges could appeal to the court, mentioning this precedent," said TRP United Nations representative Marco Perduca. "And after Pannella was non-arrested, some 20 people from England, France, and the Netherlands announced similar future civil disobedience actions for Stockport," he told DRCNet. "In a couple of months, Davies and Cappato will have to appear in Crown Court again. This whole thing will become even more highly politicized."
A study quietly published in the Annual Review of Sociology in 1998 drew new attention this week when the Prevention File, a drug treatment and prevention industry journal, interviewed its author, highlighting the study's conclusion that there is little evidence that using illegal drugs causes violent behavior.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Robert Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California at Riverside was based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on drugs, alcohol and violence. "Despite a number of published statements to the contrary, we find no significant evidence suggesting that drug use is associated with violence," the study concluded.
The study examined four drugs commonly associated with violence -- heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and PCP (phencyclidine). For heroin, the study found that any evidence of a link between the drug and violence is "virtually nonexistent." The researchers found rare cases of "toxic psychosis" associated with amphetamine abuse, but reported that the association is more likely "situational" than pharmacological. For PCP, which has been widely portrayed as inciting users to violence, the researchers found that that association was based primarily on case studies of people with underlying mental problems. "Emotionally stable people under the influence of PCP probably will not act in a way very different from their normal behavior," the study said.
The strongest link between drug use and violence was with cocaine, the researchers reported. Users sometimes develop paranoia and irrational fears that could push them to violent acts, the study noted. But Robert Nash Parker, the study's principal author, told Prevention File that even that link is unclear. "The conclusions of researchers whose findings support this idea universally highlight a social rather than a pharmacological basis for the link," Parker said. He added that for any drug, the evidence suggests that the social environment plays a greater role in causing violent behavior than pharmacological factors.
Based on its reading of the research and its conversation with Parker, Prevention file noted bluntly, "alcohol outclasses the array of illegal drugs as the substance most associated with violence." It cited an oft-quoted survey of crime victims that showed more than one-quarters of assailants in violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol, while less than 10% were using an illegal drug. According to the Presley Center study, alcohol is "overwhelmingly" the drug most associated with homicides.
"If you really want to have an effective policy related to substance abuse, if you want to have fewer bad outcomes in terms of health, welfare, and violence, the substance you want to focus on is alcohol," said Parker. "The evidence is pretty powerful and pretty convincing if someone is willing to look at it," he added.
Parker's research has caused him to reexamine US drug policy, he told Prevention File. "I think the states are taking a look at the kind of spending they've been engaging in for the last 10 years or so," Parker said. "A lot of that spending has been driven by the very unfortunate policies that emphasize putting drug offenders away for relatively long periods of time. People are coming to see that this has had very little impact in terms of reducing drug use, and the cost is quite enormous."
Parker's report adds further weight to the findings of previous research. For example, a 1994 "Research in Brief" publication by the National Institute of Justice arrived at similar conclusions (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/GovPubs/psycviol.htm).
In a pre-dawn maneuver on January 24, the lower house of the Bolivian parliament voted to expel Congressman Evo Morales, the most popular vote-getter in Bolivian parliamentary history and leader of the Six Federations coca growers union. The move strips Morales of his congressional immunity, opening the way for the government to attempt to send him to prison on charges of fomenting unrest, where he would join most of the rest of the coca growers union leadership.
Street battles between coca growers and police broke out during the week in Cochabamba, and a sporadic campaign of road blockades in the Chapare is set to intensify beginning today. Morales, the subject of numerous anonymous death threats, is now on the seventh day of a hunger strike to protest his expulsion.
Earlier this week, the various sectors of civil society calling for the protest blockades laid out their demands for the Bolivian government:
Potter visited Morales last Saturday at union headquarters in Cochabamba, where he is under the protection of Water War warriors, veterans of the struggle in Cochabamba over privatization of the water supply. "He is very weak physically," wrote Potter. "The number one request he has for the international community is to insist on the release of other peasant leaders currently imprisoned."
Both Potter and the Andean Information Network have reported recent incidents where US-funded anti-drug forces have exceeded their mandates. As reported by Potter, agents of UMOPAR, the US-funded special anti-drug squads, attempted to unlawfully seize Six Federations leader Luis Cutipa on January 24 in his home town of Ivirgarzama. The agents, dressed in plain clothes, were fended off by Cutipa's supporters despite shooting tear gas and threatening to use live ammunition. "Since UMOPAR is funded directly by the US government and their function is not to arrest people nor disguise themselves, this incident merits special attention in Washington, DC," wrote Potter.
Another US-funded unit, the Bolivian military's Expeditionary Task Force, shot at and beat peasants attempting to blockade the Cochabamba-Santa Cruz highway on Wednesday, according to the Andean Information Network (AIN). A member of the same task force shot and killed union leader Casimiro Huanca on December 6. "This irregular mercenary force receives salaries from the Narcotic Affairs Section of the US Embassy and has been credibly implicated in a significant portion of the human rights violations committed during the last five months in the Chapare region," AIN noted.
(Visit http://www.narconews.com for interviews with Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe (El Mallku), and ongoing reporting by the new Narco News Andean correspondent, Luis Gomez. Visit the Andean Information Network at http://www.scbbs-bo.com/ain/ for ongoing reports and analysis on the drug war in Bolivia.)
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported on January 25 that a government-appointed commission will call for the decriminalization of drug use and possession when it formally presents its findings to Norwegian Justice Minister Odd Einar Dorum in March. Under current law, which makes no distinctions among controlled substances, drug use or possession is a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison. Drug trafficking offenders face from two to 21 years in prison, depending on the drug and the quantity. The commission will not recommend lessening penalties for trafficking, according to Aftenposten.
While Norway has a reputation for a hard-line, repressive drug policy -- its stated goal is "a society free from drug abuse" -- and is the home of drug war conservatives such as the League Against Intoxicants (http://www.fmr.no/eng/eff/), in actual practice those caught using or possessing small quantities of drugs, especially cannabis, usually face only small fines. In some ways, however, Norway countenances drug control measures that would seem obtrusive even to American drug war veterans. The current blood alcohol limit for driving under the influence is a minuscule 0.02%; in the US, efforts to bring the limit down to 0.08% cause great anguish. And Norwegian law also allows for compulsory drug treatment under some circumstances, including when a woman is pregnant. Such women can be institutionalized without their consent for the duration of the pregnancy if a court determines that their drug or alcohol use would probably harm the health of the child.
Drug use figures for Norway are hard to come by, but according to the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Abuse (EMCDDA), Norway ranks squarely in the middle in terms of problematic drug users. Interestingly, it shares the middle ground with countries such as Spain, where drug use is decriminalized, and Ireland, where it is repressed. The US State Department, in its latest annual report on global drug trends, noted that cannabis, ecstasy, and amphetamines were frequently cited in police arrest reports, while Aftenposten reported in November that "trendy Oslo is awash in cocaine."
As the League Against Intoxicants sadly reports, drug legalization talk has in recent years reared its ugly head in the Norse homeland. "Political support [for legalization] comes from parts of the youth movements of the Progress Party (extreme conservative) and the Young Liberals. Legalizing also has some support in certain university intellectual circles, among a very few within the health sector and some persons in practical health and treatment work," according to the league, which decries the ascendancy of this tendency. "Some support is possibly also given by certain groups of free intellectuals," the league noted.
The commission's members -- which include the head of Norway's white-collar crime unit, a Supreme Court justice, a state attorney, a well-known defense attorney, and a state prosecutor -- may or may not personally favor legalization. But the body that has been working to "modernize" Norwegian drug laws since 1995 has called for significant changes that will push Norway further down the path of drug law liberalization, including decriminalization of use and possession.
While Aftenposten reported that the reasoning behind the recommendation remained unknown, it speculated that the commission had followed the thinking of drug policy critic Johs Andenes, a law professor who has pointed out inconsistencies and contradictions in current Norwegian drug law.
While the commission recommendations on drugs are certain to set off political fireworks, it also includes other controversial recommendations. The panel wants to end censorship of porn movies, Aftenposten reported, and raise that drinking and driving limit up to a whopping 0.05%.
For a complete overview of Norwegian drug
laws, visit the European Legal Database on Drugs at:
DRCNet reported two weeks ago on the case of Bernard Rappaz, a Swiss cannabis activist and grower who had been on hunger strike since his arrest in November (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/220.html#rappaz). Rappaz, the owner of the Valchanze cannabis company, was arrested November 14 for possession of 51 metric tons of cannabis and 110 pounds of hashish, but his supporters told DRCNet he was arrested because of his activism surrounding the medical use of cannabis.
Switzerland currently tolerates the open sale of cannabis products, including the smokeable flowers, under the pretense that people are buying bags of buds as "potpourri." Pretense is scheduled to melt away later this year when, in a move already approved by the Swiss government, parliament is set to legalize use and possession and allow for its sale under limited conditions (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/177.html#swissdecrim).
A judge in Sion ordered Rappaz released on January 25, as the grower and cannabis exponent entered the seventy-third day of his hunger strike in the prison wing of Geneva hospital, where he was transferred on January 3. His lawyer told the Associated Press last week that he was on the verge on death.
The Swiss court insisted that Rappaz' hunger strike and deteriorating condition had nothing to do with his release, instead saying that he was freed because he no longer posed a danger of interfering in a money laundering investigation of his well-known, well-established business. Rappaz' bank accounts have been seized and his company, which employed at least 20 growers, has been bankrupted. A hunger strike "is not a reason for releasing anybody," the court noted.
But maybe international pressure is. As DRCNet reported, Rappaz's supporters organized rotating solidarity fasts in Australia, Switzerland, France, and Belgium, and organized a global web-based petition demanding his release. DRCNet is aware of at least one call to the Swiss embassy in Washington, as well. (We made it.)
The Swiss Federation of Cannabis Consumers has a complete account of la affaire Valchanvre (in French), including photos of a gaunt, bedridden but determined Rappaz, at http://www.multimania.com/fdcc/homepage.htm online.
According to a report in AdAge.com, a web-based advertising industry journal, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) is spending more than $1.6 million each for two ads to be aired during Sunday's Super Bowl arguing that profits from illegal drug sales boost terrorism. An "administration official" confirmed the buy and sketched the ads' content to the Associated Press on Wednesday. The Super Bowl anti-drug ads will be the largest single-event advertising buy in US government history.
Super Bowl advertising spots are some of the most coveted and expensive spots in the industry. An estimated 130 million viewers are expected to watch at least part of the NFL championship game between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams.
The two ads were producing by British director Tony Kaye for the advertising firm of Ogilvy and Mather. Normally, ads for the drug czar's anti-drug campaign are developed by the Partnership for a Drug Free America. The drug czar's office would not reveal why it had gone outside normal channels for the Super Bowl ads.
The drug czar's office is mandated under federal law to operate an anti-drug media campaign in order to reduce drug use, but that campaign has been plagued by scandals, including a criminal investigation of Ogilvy and Mather over its accounting practices, but also the revelation that the drug czar's office was using the campaign to attempt to manipulate the content of television programs, magazine articles and movies.
This latest, most expensive, ad effort is certain to raise eyebrows because it appears to move beyond the ad campaign's congressional mandate to reduce drug use into the realm of polemics and propaganda. "How will this message reduce drug use?" asked Kevin Zeese, executive diretor of Common Sense for Drug Policy (http://www.csdp.org). "It sounds like it will be an interesting show, but appears to be an advocacy tool rather than an anti-drug tool," he told DRCNet. "These ads are about increasing the size and the scope of the drug war."
And, if as reported, the ads attempt to draw a connection between terrorism and the drug trade, they will be a very expensive flop, said Zeese, whose group has published print ads pointing out that prohibition and black market profits -- not drugs -- fuel political violence. CSDP has also created NarcoTerror.org, a series of web pages devoted to debunking claims by administration officials and other politicians seeking to make political hay by artificially fusing their two favorite bete noires into one villainous fount of evil.
"It's not drugs that lead to terror," said Zeese, "it's those huge black market profits. Ritalin, Prozac, alcohol, they don't fund terrorism. Clearly it is the illegality of some drugs that leads to huge profits for criminals. Prohibition not only creates these huge money flows, but in doing so fosters instability in underdeveloped countries," he said. "That's what really fosters terrorism."
Enjoy the drug czar's latest propaganda efforts this Sunday. You might as well -- you and your fellow taxpayers are paying about $50,000 per second for the privilege.
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Repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision
The REACH study in Baltimore is hiring a Project Director. The new position will be responsible for:
If interested, please contact Marie Bailey-Kloch, MSW, Sr. Project Director, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, [email protected].
(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)
January 25-27, 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].
January 26, 8:30am-4:30pm, Pasadena, CA, "Unlocking Los Angeles: LA and the Prison Industrial Complex," conference of the Criminal Justice Consortium. At All Saints Church, 132 North Euclid Ave., e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.idiom.com/~cjc/ or call (626) 296-3338 for further information.
January 26, 9:30pm-3:00am, Miami, FL, Benefit Concert for the medical marijuana petition drive. At the Tobacco Road Night Club, 626 South Miami Avenue, call Flash at (305) 579-0069 for info.
January 29, 7:30-10:00pm, Anniversary Party and Benefit for the Marijuana Policy Project. $10 admission, $5 for MPP members, at the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th Street, NW, featuring music by Sugar Jones (http://www.sugarjonesmusic.com) and a short speech by MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia. For info, e-mail [email protected].
January 29, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Kris Krane, national chapter coordinator for NORML. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 5, Tallahassee, FL, Florida State University NORML weekly chapter meeting, featuring guest speaker Jodi James, director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Contact Ricky at (850) 386-5628 for further information.
February 7, 7:00-10:00pm, Washington, DC, "Hemp Seed Cafe," monthly gathering at the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St., NW, featuring music by Lucky Dog and special guests JB Beverley and the Wayward Drifters. Contact the Hemp Coalition at (202) 887-5770 or visit http://www.fourthofjuly.org for further information.
February 12, 8:00am, Indianapolis, IN, Jeanne Horton Support Rally, medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis being prosecuted by Marion County. At the Indianapolis City County Building, Market St. Entrance. For further information, contact Indiana NORML at (317) 923-9391 or (317) 335-6023, [email protected] or http://www.inorml.org.
February 14, 4:00-8:00pm, Clayton, MO, Drug War Prisoners Candlelight Vigil. At the St. Louis County Justice Center, 100 S. Central, contact Greater St. Louis NORML at [email protected] for further information.
February 16, 9:00am-4:00pm, Menands, NY, Drop The Rock Upstate-Downstate Coalition Organizers Conference, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway. Admission $20, includes continental breakfast and lunch, call Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630 or e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.droptherock.org for information. For reduced rate lodging, call (518) 463-1121.
February 18, 7:00pm, Canadaigua, NY, "The Effects of Prohibition on Terrorism," presentation to the Finger Lakes Forum by Peter Christ, retired police captain speaking for ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy. At the Canadaigua Country Club, non-members may attend, $16 admission includes dinner. RSVP by February 14 to [email protected] or Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630.
February 21-23, Washington, DC, National Families Against Mandatory Minimums Workshop. At the Washington Plaza Hotel, call (202) 822-6700 or visit http://www.famm.org for information.
February 23, noon, Tampa, FL, "Washington’s Birthday Hemp Festival." Sponsored by FORML, featuring music, vendors, speakers and more. At Lowry Park, contact Mike at (813) 779-2551 for further information.
February 27, 9:00pm-1:00AM, Fairfax, CA, Medical Marijuana Voter Registration Party, supporting the new "Marin Medical Marijuana Peace Treaty Initiative." At 19 Broadway Niteclub, featuring music by "Brainchild" and "4 Pot Peace," admission free. Call (866) 206-9068 ext. 9986 for further information.
February 28, 7:30pm, Melbourne, FL, "Marijuana: Medical Effects and Legal Consequences." At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, contact Jodi at (321) 253-3673 for info.
February 28-March 1, 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, 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.
March 14, 7:30pm, Court Watch Project Training Meeting. At the Melbourne Community Center, 703 East New Haven Avenue, with the Florida Cannabis Action Network, call Kevin at (321) 726-6656 for further information.
March 24-27, Rimini, Italy, "Club Health 2002: The Second International Conference on Night-Life, Substance Use and Related Health Issues." Visit http://www.clubhealth.org.uk for info.
March 26, Albany, NY, "Drop The Rock Day," march and demonstration against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Visit http://www.droptherock.org for information.
April 7-16, upstate New York, New York Interfaith Prison Pilgrimage, mile per day or more walk to major prisons "to vigil, pray, and seek a new, more humane response" to incarceration and the prison system. For further information, visit http://users.bestweb.net/~cureny/walk.htm or contact the Western New York Peace Center at (716) 894-2013, the Judicial Process Commission at (716) 325, 7727, or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected].
April 8-13, 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.
April 18-20, 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 http://www.norml.org in the near future.
April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 for further information.
May 3-4, 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, Seattle, WA, Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General, at the Sheraton Seattle. For further information, visit http://www.harmreduction.org or call (212) 213-6376.
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