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

Issue #225, 2/22/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Costs and Consequences
  2. Lies, Damn Lies, and "The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-1998"
  3. New Mexico Post-Mortem: Reformers Differ on What Went Right, What Went Wrong
  4. Britain: Parliamentary Committee Will Recommend Cannabis Decrim, Ecstasy Down-Scheduling, More Heroin Prescription
  5. Dutch to Consider Prescription Heroin for Hard Cases, Study Results Lay Groundwork for Move
  6. New Study Provides First Comprehensive Report on Drug Laws in All 50 States and DC, Variations Abound
  7. At the Statehouse: Medical Marijuana Moving in Maryland and Vermont
  8. Libertarian Party Ad Campaign Takes on Drug Terror Link
  9. Federal Drug Office Accused of "Enron-Style Accounting" in New National Drug Budget Reporting
  10. News Links: Bolivia and Colombia, California Medical Marijuana, Drug-Terror Ad Parody
  11. Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia
  12. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: Costs and Consequences

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected] , 2/22/02

The extraordinary misrepresentation of the costs of drug abuse promulgated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (as noted in the next article) shows how easy it is to turn a complex social issue into a warped, simple-minded piece of propaganda. Clearly, the fiscal costs associated with drug abuse must be distinguished from the costs of drug prohibition, if there is to be a rational discussion of US drug policy on any level.

Part of such a discussion would include more than financial costs. It is well understood by thoughtful observers of drug policy that some of the harms associated in the public mind with drugs really result from drug laws rather than the drugs themselves. In fact, most harms of drugs result from some interaction of drug use and drug laws combined.

For example, addiction to a substance like heroin or cocaine can in itself be considered a harm of those drugs. Prohibiting such drugs, though, places the addict into a netherworld of criminality, forced to purchase his or her supply from an unreliable, maybe dangerous source, with no quality control and at steep street drug prices. The time, expense, uncertainty and just plain scariness of such a situation takes an enormous toll on the quality of life of the addict. It is prohibition, then, which drives addicts to the extremes of degradation that characterize addiction in the modern world.

More thoughtful observers of drug policy than those at ONDCP sometimes make the mistake of concluding that prohibition helps to address a public health problem while creating for society a criminal problem in exchange. This is an honest attempt to understand a complicated problem, but it doesn't quite hit the mark head on either. All but the most ideological drug policy analysts acknowledge that prohibition increases the average harm suffered by the individual drug user, at least for as long as he or she continues to be a user. The dire straits of the addict under prohibition as already explained are just one example. Threat of disease (such as drug-related HIV or Hepatitis) and risk of imprisonment are two others.

But while it seems likely that more experimentation with certain drugs may occur under a legalization scenario, it is far less clear that there would be more intoxication overall, much less a greater amount of addiction. Public health and safety, then, are both casualties of prohibition, not opposing goals to be balanced against each other. Ending prohibition is in the interests of society on either count.

These are just a few of the many complex interactions between the human nature of drug use and the blunt warping of the drug scene created by prohibition. But to acknowledge that complexity and engage the subtle distinctions of cause and effect that are part and parcel of it, is to admit more than the drug warriors can ever afford. After all, if prohibition has harms too, then it's no longer as simple as "drugs are bad." And all their favorite soundbites would go out the window, not to mention the Superbowl ads, data-abusing papers and all the other media-manipulating propaganda tools that have served the dark cause of drug war politics so well.

Truly understanding drug policy requires honesty, subtlety, thoughtfulness and care -- qualities that are woefully absent from ONDCP's disgusting attacks on reality waged year after year.

2. Lies, Damn Lies, and "The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-1998"

It has been almost a month since the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued a breathless press release trumpeting an update to research on the economic impact of drug abuse. "Illegal Drugs Drain $160 Billion a Year from American Economy," shouted the headline on the press release. "Drug Czar Details 'Direct Threat' to US Economic Security," it continued.

The press release, touting "The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-1998," which purports to precisely calculate the impact of drug use on the economy, continued with dire warnings from newly-appointed Drug Czar John Walters. "Illegal drugs are a heavy drag on the American economy," said Walters. "This new report proves that the costs of tolerating drug use can be measured directly in dollars lost, work hours missed, and pink slips handed out. Drugs are a direct threat to the economic security of the United States," he continued. "This study provides some grim accounting, putting a specific dollar figure on the economic waste that illegal drugs represent."

No major media outlets bit at the drug czar's press release, but readers can rest assured that they will be hearing that figure in the future. Like other imaginary numbers, such as the mysterious "50,000 annual deaths from drug abuse," the $160 billion economic cost figure is sure to become another arrow in the quiver of drug war propagandists.

The study's authors break the costs down into three broad categories -- productivity losses, health costs, and "other," primarily crime-related, costs -- and then breaks down losses within each category. Productivity losses, for example, include losses from premature death, drug abuse-related illnesses, institutionalization and hospitalization, crime victims' loss of productivity, and losses due to incarceration and criminal careers. Productivity losses constitute 69% or $110 billion of the study's calculated $160 billion total costs. "Other" costs, as noted above, are primarily law enforcement-related, and include criminal justice system funding and private costs, such as private legal defense and property damage to crime victims. These costs amounted to 22% of the total estimated costs of drug abuse. Looking at such figures, drug abuse does indeed appear to be a detriment to the US economy.

There's only one problem: The study is bunk. It is rife with methodological problems and questionable assumptions, but one huge flaw, admitted by the authors, screams out at the serious reader: The study conflates the economic costs of "drug abuse" (which in fed-speak means any use of proscribed drugs) with the costs of enforcing prohibition. In other words, if you are arrested for smoking pot, the wages of the police officer who arrested you, the district attorney who prosecuted you, the judge who sentenced you, the guards who jailed you, the functionary who drug-tested you, and the parole officer who supervised you all become part of the cost of drug abuse. And the fact that you could not work while you were in jail? Those lost wages are also considered a cost of drug abuse, not prohibition.

The study's authors admit this up front: "In the context of this report, the phrase 'drug abuse' is used to refer to the consequences of using illicit drugs, as well as societal costs pertaining to the enforcement of drug laws."

But don't count on President Bush, Drug Czar Walters or their fellow drug warriors to make that distinction. Instead, be prepared to hear the number repeated like a mantra whenever drug policy is on the agenda.

"This is a piece of propaganda that demands to be answered," said David Duncan, chairman of the National Association for Public Health Policy's Council on Illicit Drugs. "I think the study is useful only if you assume at the outset that the current prohibitionist policy is the only reasonable policy to pursue," he told DRCNet. "On the other hand, if you understand that many of the costs are related to drug prohibition and not directly to drug use, then the study is less useful. This study fails to disaggregate drug abuse costs and drug prohibition costs, but the fact is that prohibition itself creates the law enforcement costs and increases the health care and productivity costs," said Duncan.

"That's a problem only for someone interested in what costs would look like without all that enforcement," said Dr. Peter Reuter, founder of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and currently professor of public affair and criminology at the University of Maryland. "But the question the study poses is what, under current policy, is the cost of drugs, including drug control," Reuter told DRCNet.

Boston University economics professor Jeffrey Miron was not as sanguine as Reuter. "This study is completely useless," said the researcher on drug market economics. "It is totally tautological to say that the money we are spending on drug enforcement is a cost of drug use. That's crazy," he told DRCNet. Miron also had a harsh word for the study's authors, who were careful in the fine print to note some of the study's problems. "The authors still have to know that their work will be used for propaganda purposes, so they deserve to catch some flack, too," said Miron.

Aside from the fundamental flaw of including prohibition costs as part of drug abuse costs, the study is replete with serious methodological problems, say all three experts.

"The authors seem to assume that if illicit drugs ceased to exist, these costs would not exist," said Miron. "But people would in fact do something. They would look for substitutes. They might turn to alcohol or gambling. The authors do not do the counterfactuals that would account for all these things."

Assigning precise figures to productivity losses attributed to drug abuse also raised flags. "They are trying to estimate a number which is neither useful nor possible to estimate," said Reuter, who recently co-authored "Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Places, Times and Vices" and who had published a critique of an earlier version of the study. "When you ask how much is productivity reduced by drug use, my answer is pick your estimate. There is a wide range of figures. The broad problem is that these estimates are very sensitive to what drug use measure is used, statistical techniques, and what years are involved."

In his earlier critique, Reuter identified a number of methodological problems in the study. There are "inherent uncertainties" in the numbers because "for almost none of the components of cost is there a strong empirical base," he wrote. There are "inconsistent findings" from studies with contradictory results, he noted. And some estimates, such as those for drug-related homicides when a large percentage of murders are unsolved, are no more than a "good guess."

Miron accused the study's authors of a "one-sided assessment" of the evidence. "Take the relationship between drug use, lower wages, and lost productivity," he said. "There are a huge number of studies that find a positive association between drug use and wage levels, not a negative one, but the study dismisses those estimates showing positive effects and only uses the ones showing negative effects."

Duncan agreed. "They are using one study that showed lower wages in persons who smoked marijuana," he said. "In fact, better studies since then have found either very weak relationships or no relationship between drug use and wages or any other measure of productivity. Whether there is any significant association between drug use and productivity is questionable."

But Reuters, for all his even-handedness, delivered the most devastating critique of the study. "Is the question important?" he asked. "One test is to see how these estimates have been cited in the past." Reuters found that "almost universally the study is cited simply as evidence that alcohol and/or drug abuse had large economic costs. In each instance, it was a prop for a policy argument, which would hardly have been affected if the number had been only half as large or twice as large."

So, the study is essentially a propaganda tool. It will be used as one. Drug reformers who wish to confront the study's findings might also find the following mental exercise useful. Let us attempt to disaggregate the numbers, separating the costs of drug abuse from the costs of drug prohibition. This will necessarily be a quick and dirty exercise using some approximations and assumptions about the roles of individual drug users and prohibition itself in generating economic costs.

The study estimates drug abuse health care costs at $14.9 billion for 2000. Assuming that all prevention costs and half of treatment costs are drug abuse-related (assuming that roughly half of all treatment slots are filled by court mandates) and that individual drug users should shoulder half the burden of drug-related diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C (some disease costs are generated by prohibition, i.e. lack of availability of clean needles), we see that of that $14.9 billion, about $7 billion is fairly attributable to direct consequences of drug use.

The study estimates productivity losses at $110 billion for 2000. Again, assuming that drug users should take half the responsibility for premature death, drug-related illness, and hospitalization and half the blame for costs associated with "crime careers," and assuming that 90% of drug-related crime is prohibition-related, we find that productivity losses fairly attributed to drug use shrink dramatically. Incarceration is the single largest productivity loss factor, pegged at $35 billion, but that is clearly a prohibition-related cost. Of the $110 billion productivity loss then, approximately $40 billion comes from drug use and $70 billion from drug prohibition.

The study estimates "other" costs, primarily law enforcement, at $35 billion in 2000. Generously assuming that 10% of these crime costs are related to the psychobiology of drug use, with the rest related to the functioning of black markets, we see that prohibition-related costs account for $31.5 billion of the $35 billion in "other" costs.

Applying this analysis, we see that costs directly associated with drug abuse account for about $50 billion in economic costs, not an insignificant figure. But it pales in comparison with the $110 billion in costs imposed by prohibition.

These figures are, of course, only rough estimates, but they illustrate the magnitude of the price society pays to maintain drug prohibition.

Finally, under its own definitions, the cost of producing "The Economic Impact of Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992-1998" is yet another drug abuse-related cost.

3. New Mexico Post-Mortem: Reformers Differ on What Went Right, What Went Wrong

Libertarian Republican Gov. Gary Johnson's effort to enact comprehensive drug reforms in New Mexico ended on Valentine's Day with the closing of the state legislature's 30-day special session. Having passed bills enacting five of Johnson's reforms, Johnson and the New Mexico Drug Policy Project (, which worked closely with the governor's office and key legislators, are proud of what they have accomplished. But in a variation on a familiar theme in the drug reform movement, some activists are questioning both the strategies and the results.

What passed:

  • Asset forfeiture reform
  • Habitual offender sentencing reform
  • Waiver of ban of federal benefits for former drug offenders
  • Reentry drug court program
  • Legal syringe sales in pharmacies
  • Protection from civil and criminal liability for persons administering anti-overdose medications
What did not pass:
  • Medical marijuana
  • Marijuana decrim
  • "Treatment not jail" sentencing reform
"The glass is more than half full," NMDDP director Katherine Huffman told DRCNet. NMDDP is an affiliate of the former Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, newly renamed Drug Policy Alliance. "We got three out of six bills this session, and five out of eight overall. In this 30-day short session, that we managed to get three substantive bills passed is remarkable."

A battered-sounding Dave Miller agreed. Miller, Johnson's legislative liaison, was down in the trenches in Santa Fe during the session. "To get half our package pushed through in a very contentious atmosphere in our lame duck year, in the twisted, poisoned politics we have here in New Mexico, and faced with a very efficient opposition lobby, and to do so in 30-days, yeah, I think we did pretty well," he told DRCNet. "You try getting any bill through in 30 days." But the pot people are not so happy, either locally or nationally. And they have some reason. After all, marijuana was not decriminalized and medical marijuana is still outlawed.

"Does Lindesmith really care about legalizing marijuana?" asked Bruce Bush, secretary of New Mexico NORML ( and head of the Delta-9 Coalition, a grassroots cannabis activist organization. "They should have started off demanding the repeal of marijuana prohibition and negotiated from there," he told DRCNet, "but Johnson didn't do that because he was guided by the Lindesmithies, or maybe he thought he was being pragmatic."

Pragmatic is precisely what Huffman calls it. "If we had proposed something like legalization it would have undermined whatever credibility we had as spokespeople for reform in the legislative setting and in the court of public opinion," she said. "It would have been a catastrophe."

National NORML ( head Keith Stroup doesn't necessarily agree with Huffman's analysis nor does he especially like the results. "I am disappointed," he told DRCNet. "I agree with those activists who say it would have been better to make an all-out push for legalization, and then maybe have to settle for decrim. Syringe sales are a good thing, but there are a few hundred thousand junkies in this country and 20 million pot smokers," said Stroup. "They should have focused on marijuana, but the opposite was their priority."

Not so fast, said Johnson's man in the trenches, David Miller. "We knew early on that decrim was dead," he said. "The House Democrats killed it behind closed doors. It was politics as blood sport," Miller said. "The governor had filed a bill requiring parental notification for minors seeking abortions and we were told by credible sources that because the Democrats hated having to vote on that bill in an election year, they clipped our decrim bill and the treatment not jail bill," he said. "It's something the governor wanted, and they decided to take it away. It's political revenge."

And even if the decrim bill had had a fair chance, said Miller, marijuana remains a lightning-rod issue. "There is to this day a deeply engrained cultural bugaboo about marijuana. It is a real generational litmus test, and there is still very deep resistance among politicians, if not among the people," he argued. "I have learned not to be surprised by the depth of the cultural and political resistance to marijuana legalization, as opposed to asset forfeiture reform or even treatment not jail," he said.

"It's so easy to lobby against marijuana," Miller continued. "Three weeks ago, during the medical marijuana hearings, the opposition was showing centerfolds from High Times. That hurts when you're trying to get medical marijuana passed.

"Medical marijuana was a big disappointment," said Huffman. "We originally suggested a grow-your-own-system, but that was soundly rejected by the legislators. Instead, they wrote language that would set up a state-supervised distribution system. That hadn't been done before, and it scared some legislators, and it was an opening for criticism from the DEA, which scared them even more," she said. "But I don't actually think that was the reason it died -- that has more to do with statehouse politics."

The point is well taken. The success or failure of Johnson's drug reform package was only partly about drug policy. It also had to do with the bitter relations between a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature and the bad blood engendered by unrelated battles over abortion, budgets, and reapportionment. Still, the discontent remains.

"We had a rare opportunity with a conservative sitting governor whose number one priority was to decriminalize marijuana and legalize medical use, and we didn't get it done," said Stroup. "I'm a little bit critical of the Lindesmith approach," he said. "I give them credit for their accomplishments with statewide initiatives, but they haven't gotten it done in the legislatures. It is clear to me that Huffman and the governor were not pushing the medical marijuana bill out front. It should have been the one they were not going to trade off on," he said.

"Last year, we were deeply involved in the effort," Stroup continued. "This year, Lindesmith suggested we stay out, so we did. But what was the result? There wasn't anyone in New Mexico fighting for marijuana with the same priority as if we had been involved."

New Mexico NORML activist Bruce Bush sat it out for similar reasons. "I stayed away from the legislature this year because last year I was quoted as defending legalization and some senators said the presence of legalizers made them less likely to vote for this," he said. "Lindesmith talked to us last year, but around October it was all 'this is what our focus groups said and this is what we're going to do.' So I stayed away not to sabotage Lindesmith's effort," said Bush. "But they're too wimpy, things are moving too slowly. The drug warriors are extremists; we have to be extremists, too. Lindesmith doesn't want to end the drug war; they'll settle for a kinder, gentler one."

Huffman took exception to that characterization. "We do not want a kindler, gentler drug war," she said, "but a real change in our policies that will end the drug war." While Johnson will soon be history, NMDPP plans to stick around, said Huffman. "This year was a legislative effort, but it was also an educational effort. We will continue to have a presence in the state, and we will be reminding elected officials that these things have two-thirds popular support in the state."

Bush and other local activists will be around, too. "Going around with our tails between our legs isn't going to get us anything," he said. "We are meeting to see how radical our future actions ought to be. We stayed silent because we didn't want to be accused of undermining the Lindesmithies. That didn't work," he said.

"It's not a simple problem," said Huffman. "It's important that groups interested in these issues work together as much as possible. I don't think the fact that we have differences minimizes our work or the work of others. All these voices are critical to moving things forward. We just have to ensure that while we make progress we do not undermine our long term goals. We have to be constantly mindful of that."

4. Britain: Parliamentary Committee Will Recommend Cannabis Decrim, Ecstasy Down-Scheduling, More Heroin Prescription

According to a Sunday report in the London Observer, the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee, which is charged with reviewing Britain's drug laws, has concluded that the country should adopt a Dutch-style cannabis policy and move MDMA (ecstasy) from the toughest drug schedule to the middle drug schedule. The committee will also call for a greater emphasis on harm reduction strategies, including broader use of prescription heroin for addicts, the newspaper reported.

"The Chairman, Member of Parliament Chris Mullins, is set on these recommendations, and the majority of the committee is behind him," a source close to the committee told the Observer. Two more conservative members of the committee are said to be opposed.

"For such an influential body to be suggesting such significant reforms is indicative of the pressing need for change," Drugscope director Roger Howard told the newspaper. Drugscope is a leading government-funded drug research and advocacy center (

While the Labor government of Tony Blair has taken great pains to avoid being seen as "soft on drugs," it will now have to decide how to respond to the committee. The committee's recommendation on cannabis, for example, goes further than the down-scheduling of the drug announced last year by Home Secretary David Blunkett. Under Blunkett's plan, while personal and use and small-scale dealing in cannabis would be informally tolerated, users could still possibly face up to two years in prison. The committee is calling for a Dutch model, where the weed is openly purchased and smoked in cafes.

According to the Observer, Housing Minister Lord Falconer, a close Blair ally, was to meet this week with Home Office Ministers John Denham and Bob Ainsworth to brainstorm on ideas for drug policy reform. It appears the Blair government will be walking a tightrope on the drug issue, prodded forward by a growing array of law enforcement, scientific, academic, and now, parliamentary bodies, but held back by its oft-expressed fears of heading down the path to legalization. While the terrain of battle may have shifted in favor of significant reforms, it isn't over yet.

At least Rudy Giuliani's uninvited interjection of his own views on cannabis has been ignored. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who garnered mawkish accolades as "America's mayor" for doing his job in the wake of the September 11 attacks, traveled last week to Britain to accept an honorary knighthood. Giuliani, whose harsh policies on cannabis led to New York accounting for almost 10% of all marijuana arrests in the US, criticized the Lambeth experiment, where police in the London borough do not arrest users but merely issue citations.

"I would encourage the police to arrest as many of them as possible," Giuliani told the BBC. "Marijuana causes a lot of the violence we've had," the balding ex-mayor baldly asserted.

Giuliani's traveling companion, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, chimed in to say that a notorious recent crime, the murders of a marijuana dealer and two of her guests above the Carnegie Deli in midtown Manhattan, was an example of cannabis-related violence. "It all has to do with marijuana -- it's not a victimless crime."

Fortunately, British policymakers appear to understand the difference between drug violence and drug prohibition violence and are ignoring Giuliani and Kerik's suggestion.

5. Dutch to Consider Prescription Heroin for Hard Cases, Study Results Lay Groundwork for Move

The Dutch Health Ministry will recommend to parliament that combination heroin-methadone maintenance be introduced as part of Dutch addiction care, according to a report last Saturday in the British Medical Journal. The recommendation comes on the heels of the release of two Health Ministry trials that suggest heroin-methadone maintenance has greater health benefits than methadone maintenance alone for heroin users for whom no other medical treatment has been effective. The number of people who could be prescribed heroin and methadone could be as high as 2,000 of Holland's estimated 25,000 heroin addicts.

The heroin-methadone maintenance trials were commissioned by the Dutch Central Committee on the Treatment of Heroin Addicts, which was set up by the Dutch Health Ministry in 1996 to study the effects of heroin prescriptions for "chronic, therapy-resistant addicts." The trials involved 549 patients in six cities between 1998 and 2001, with patients in one group receiving heroin and methadone for six or 12 months, while patients in a control group received only methadone. Patients prescribed both drugs experienced 23-25% more "clinically relevant improvements" than patients receiving methadone alone. Improvements cited by the study included "better social contacts, less criminality, and less use of cocaine." A follow-up trial found that such improvements vanished quickly within weeks of ending heroin-methadone prescriptions.

The trials also found that heroin can be safely prescribed. The studies reported three patient deaths during the trials, which included 140,000 doses of heroin. That is less than half the death rate in methadone maintenance programs, the researchers found.

The committee on heroin addiction now recommends that heroin-methadone prescription be part of the Dutch pharmacopeia, that heroin be registered as a medicine, and that a quality control system be developed for prescribing the drug. According to the British Medical Journal, Dutch Health Minister Els Borst will carry that recommendation to parliament, which is expected to approve the measure.

(Visit http://www.ccbh.nlto access the full text of the studies online.)

6. New Study Provides First Comprehensive Report on Drug Laws in All 50 States and DC, Variations Abound

A study commissioned for ImpactTeen, a youth drug prevention research organization, and released on February 15 found that state drug laws vary significantly across the US, contradicting what the study called "a commonly held belief" that state policies follow federal drug policy. The vast majority of drug offenders are tried in state courts.

The report documents on a state-by-state basis each state's scheduling and sentencing provisions for selected drugs, as well as medical marijuana, and identifies disparities in state and federal controlled substance scheduling.

"This report illustrates that states play an important role in the war on drugs. State legislatures have taken varied approaches to addressing the drug problem," said Dr. Jamie Chriqui, Vice-President of the Health Policy and Legislative Analysis Program at The MayaTech Corporation and lead author on the report, in a prepared statement.

"States have a history of drug policy experimentation that has, at times, differed from federal policy," added Dr. Duane McBride, Director of the Institute for the Prevention of Addiction at Andrews University and Principal Investigator. "This report highlights that this tradition continues today."

That experimentation has led to mind-boggling differences in the way drug offenses are treated by the various states. Sale of 10 grams of marijuana, for instance, would net less than a year in most states, but could earn a life sentence in Oklahoma or Montana, the authors reported. Similarly, the sale of a standard retail quantity of ecstasy merits a one-year sentence in North Carolina, but could earn a life sentence in Montana. A first offender may be subject to anywhere from one year to lifetime imprisonment and $5,000 to $1 million in fines for the sale of one ecstasy pill. Three states (Arkansas, Idaho, and Oklahoma) have life sentences for sale of standard retail quantities of cocaine, and four states (Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Texas) impose life sentences for retail methamphetamine sales.

The study also found that the federal 100:1 disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentences has not been widely copied by the states. Eleven states followed the federal lead, and while the authors do not speculate, it appears that in most of those cases the laws were the result of generalized fears rather than particular crack epidemics. Most of the following states are not commonly associated with widespread crack use: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming.

The authors of "Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States" are careful to note that it is not their intent to weigh in on the drug policy debate, merely to provide accurate data. They have done so. The study is a handy reference on drug laws in the states and could provide plenty of ammunition for activists wishing to argue that their state's policies are cruel and unusual.

But although the authors took pains to not weigh in, they could not help themselves. In the last paragraph of the study, they write: "Our societal choice of the use of law, especially criminal law, as a major means of addressing drug use can have significant consequences. The approach has virtually saturated our criminal justice system with drug users and, perhaps, it may also have precluded the consideration of other policy alternatives to address the needs of drug users. We believe that insight can be gained from a more detailed and comprehensive analysis of what states are doing legislatively to address the drug problem."

(Ironically, the report's executive summary opens like this: "Illicit drug use is associated with a wide variety of negative health and social consequences, the total cost of which was estimated to be $110 billion in 1995" and cites the same studies on the economic cost of drug abuse critiqued above. Here is a living example of how such questionable numbers take on lives of their own as justifications for not only public policy positions but also academic research.)

The study is available online at

7. At the Statehouse: Medical Marijuana Moving in Maryland and Vermont

Even as the DEA was raiding medical marijuana providers in California, the medical marijuana movement was threatening to spread to at least two more states. Medical marijuana legislation is moving on the East Coast, with strong efforts backed by the Marijuana Policy Project under way in both Maryland and Vermont.

In Vermont, state Rep. David Zuckerman (P-Burlington, a member of the Progressive Party) introduced H. 645 on January 30. Under that bill's provisions, certified medical marijuana users and their primary caregivers would be allowed to possess three ounces of prepared marijuana, three mature plants, and four seedlings. Such persons would be exempt from criminal prosecution under the state's marijuana laws. The bill would also allow for the creation of state-sanctioned nonprofit groups to grow medical marijuana for multiple patients, and it would provide for a medical defense in the event that someone is charged under the marijuana laws (

Zuckerman's bill is also carefully crafted to address law enforcement concerns. Medical marijuana protections would not apply if its use "endangers the health or well-being of another person," so no driving or operating heavy equipment under the influence would be allowed. Neither would lighting up in school buses or public buses, at work (unless okayed by the employer), at school, in jail or prison, or at public parks, beaches, and recreation centers. Falsely claiming a medical marijuana exemption would be a misdemeanor with a $500 fine. And the bill adds for good measure that "the use of marijuana by a qualifying patient, primary caregiver, or any other person for purposes other than medical use" remains a crime.

The bill had its first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee last Friday, with more hearings scheduled for today. Bill sponsor Zuckerman led off the testimony. "Not just anyone can use this; you need it based on a recommendation of a doctor," Zuckerman told the committee. "There are a number of debilitating medical conditions... and for some this is the only way they have to alleviate their symptoms."

The bill lists as qualifying diseases cancer, glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS and their treatments, as well as "a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease."

Zuckerman cited laws on the books in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington, assuring worried lawmakers that the federal government had not cracked down on any of the states for passing such laws.

Although the bill is opposed by Republican Gov. Howard Dean, it has the public support of more than 40 members of the House who signed on as cosponsors, as well as some Senate leaders. "Personally I think it's a thoughtful bill," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, (D-Windham). "For many people, it can be the difference between living a tolerable life and living an intolerable life," he told the Rutland Herald.

The measure also appears to have broad public support in the Green Mountain state. A poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project and conducted by the Lucas Organization on February 9 and 10 found that 75% of Vermonters "support changing the law to allow people with cancer, AIDS, and other serious illnesses to use and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes, if they have the approval of their physicians."

Although a similar effort failed in the Vermont legislature last year, the bill's backers are optimistic. "We are pegging Vermont as the state most likely to pass a medical marijuana bill this year," said MPP spokesman Bruce Mirken in a prepared statement.

A few hundred miles to the south, lawmakers and medical marijuana advocates in Maryland are hoping the third time is the charm. After being defeated in two previous session, medical marijuana backers have introduced three separate bills on the topic, hoping at least one of them passes. Delegate Don Murphy (R-Catonsville) has introduced for the third year in a row the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, which would provide legal protection for patients who use medical marijuana with their doctors' approval. Delegate Dana Dembrow (D-Silver Spring) has introduced a companion bill which would provide for a medical defense against marijuana charges. And Delegate Thomas Hutchins (D-Charles County) has introduced a third bill that would allow a judge to consider medical use when sentencing someone on a possession conviction.

Momentum has been building, with 50 delegates cosponsoring the Murphy bill and recent polling showing public support. Eight of Murphy's cosponsors sit on the House Judiciary Committee, where it needs 12 votes to pass. At a February 7 press conference, delegates sounded the battle cry. "I am confident we will do better this year," said Murphy. "Cancer patients and AIDS patients can't afford to wait another year."

"This is a pro-life bill," Delegate Janet Greenip (R-Anne Arundel) added. "This is one way to make sure people at the end of their life don't have to suffer."

"If doctors can prescribe codeine and morphine, then marijuana should not be a problem," said Delegate Clarence Davis (D-Baltimore).

But House Judiciary Committee chair Tim Ferguson (R-Taylorsville) will be an obstacle. Ferguson, long an opponent of medical marijuana, recently reiterated his opposition in a February 18 letter to the Frederick News Post. Writing that "nobody in law enforcement wants this headache," Ferguson cited federal opposition to medical marijuana and the possibility that "drug dealers" would take advantage of such a law. "If anyone really believes that drug dealers won't demand protection under the medical marijuana state statutes, just because the bill says so, they are naive. They will cry out for protection and eventually some liberal judge will throw the case out. Then what do we do with the state laws without federal laws to fall back on?"

Observers in Annapolis report, however, that should the bills get by Ferguson and win approval in the House of Delegates, the Senate could be a tougher nut to crack. But Murphy pointed to January's Gonzales/Arscott Research & Communications poll showing voters would support candidates who support medical marijuana. "There are some senators who are going to have to take a look at that poll," Murphy said. "If we can't convince them now, we're going to have to convince them in November."

The texts of the three Maryland bills are available online at:

8. Libertarian Party Ad Campaign Takes on Drug Terror Link

Outraged by Bush administration efforts to portray drug users as supporting terrorism -- a campaign that began with a $3 million series of Superbowl ads and has continued in major newspapers across the country -- the national Libertarian Party has created a counter-ad darkly parodying the multi-million dollar campaign.

Adapting the style and appearance of the drug czar's ads, which feature black and white close-ups of young people admitting things such as their drug taking "helped murder a family in Colombia," the Libertarian Party ads feature a close-up of drug czar John Walters. The ad's text reads: "This week, I had lunch with the president, testified before Congress, and helped funnel $40 million in illegal drug money to groups like the Taliban." At the bottom of the image, the party notes, "The War on Drugs boosts the price of illegal drugs by as much as 17,000% -- funneling huge profits to terrorist organizations. If you support the War on Drugs or vote for the politicians who wage it, you're helping support terrorism. Get the facts at"

The party intends to place the ad in the Washington Times and USA Today, Libertarian Party campus coordinator Mark Brandl told DRCNet, although it is not yet a done deal, he said. "We have to raise some more funds, and we are confident we can do so," he said. A full-page ad in the Times (circulation 105,000) costs $9,450, said Brandl, and the rate for USA Today, with over a million readers, is $60,350.

"Like many folks who want to end the drug war, we were outraged when we saw the Superbowl ads," said Brandl. "The new angle that Walters and the drug warriors are taking that drug use is supporting terrorism is outrageous and is the opposite of the truth. The drug war is supporting terrorism," said Brandl. "This campaign of lies needs to be confronted head-on, and a dark satire of their ads seemed like a perfectly natural response."

The Libertarian Party's foray into the drug-terror controversy is no surprise. The party has long made ending drug prohibition one of its defining planks and is now in the midst of a campaign to take a strategic focus on the drug war. "This is an issue that really energizes our base," said Brandl, "and we are now really promoting anti-drug war activism as a big issue."

Visit to view the LP ad.

9. Federal Drug Office Accused of "Enron-Style Accounting" in New National Drug Budget Reporting

(The following is a press release from Common Sense for Drug Policy, online.)

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has announced plans to revise reporting of the federal anti-drug budget. An analysis of the new reporting by Common Sense for Drug Policy finds that it will falsely appear to cut the drug budget in half and greatly understate the real cost of law enforcement. CSDP President Kevin B. Zeese charged, "The drug czar realizes that the cost of the drug war is a political liability, especially the expensive military and law enforcement programs. Creative accounting will allow them to hide the expenditures on these costly programs."


The effect of these reporting revisions will be to take some of the enforcement costs 'off the books' and artificially reduce the cost of the drug budget from $19.2 billion to just over $11 billion. "This reporting revision is a transparent attempt to use Enron-style accounting to fool the public into believing the Administration is finally putting more money into treatment and prevention," Zeese added. The changes would make the funding ratio falsely appear to change from its current 70/30 split, with law enforcement and interdiction making up the bulk of the spending, to an apparent though untrue ratio of 53/47.


ONDCP will greatly reduce the reported expenditures on the law enforcement side while actually spending record amounts on enforcement. The Department of Justice will cut its drug budget by $5 billion by not counting the cost of prosecution and incarceration of drug offenders -- $3 billion will come from the cost of incarceration. "ONDCP's drug strategy emphasizes arrest and incarceration, yet incredibly they are not planning on counting the cost of prosecution, judging and incarceration in the drug budget -- strangely claiming it is not a cost of the drug war. They have a responsibility to report on the massive economic and social cost of incarceration, rather than hiding those costs," Zeese said. The new budget also underreports spending by the Department Defense in several ways, including not counting the cost of military personnel. "With DoD the lead agency for interdiction and with troops on the ground in the Colombian drug war, it is dishonest to say military personnel fighting the drug war are not a cost of the drug war."

ONDCP plans to include the cost of alcohol treatment as part of their drug budget, yielding an apparent increase of over $500 million in treatment funding. Alcohol is not within the jurisdiction of ONDCP. Thus, including alcohol treatment services will greatly -- and falsely -- overstate federal drug treatment spending. "Real increases in treatment are needed, not misreporting of alcohol treatment dollars as drug treatment dollars to make it look like an increase in treatment spending," claimed Zeese.


ONDCP has promised to review the spending estimates reported by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Education and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Dept. of Health and Human Services. The Rand Corp., in a report for the Drug Czar's office, estimated that in 1998 these three federal agencies overstated their actual spending on treatment and prevention by $1 billion. While this review is much-needed, the actions taken by the drug czar so far will exacerbate the problems by artificially increasing reported treatment spending.

(Visit to read this new Common Sense for Drug Policy report online.)

10. News Links: Bolivia and Colombia, California Medical Marijuana, Drug-Terror Ad Parody

Events of import in the drug war have transpired in the nations of Bolivia (hopeful) and Colombia (dire), but which we did not have time to report on this week. DRCNet recommends checking out for extensive coverage of relevant developments in Latin America.

Last week, DRCNet reported on the DEA's California medical marijuana busts and the role of a prominent member of the San Francisco medical marijuana community in them ( On Saturday 2/16, we received the following statement via e-mail:

"Due to recent events, Father Nazarin no longer has any role in the representation and/or decision making of the organization formerly known as St. Martin de Porres Chapel, et al. The staff at our facility is as shocked and dismayed by this one individual's action as is our community at large. Let there be absolutely no doubt at our shared outrage and disgust by this conduct. The facility at 350 Divisadero Street (formerly St. Martin de Porres Chapel) is undergoing reorganization to better serve the medical cannabis community. The facility will reorganize as was its intended design, a cooperative of, by and for patients. Wayne Justmann, Gary Farnsworth, and Randelyn Webster will be involved in the restructuring."
We have not at this point investigated further into this situation, hence cannot offer views of other marijuana activists to compare or contrast with this statement. We are providing it here for the sake of public information, without evaluation, but will report further on developments in the California situation in the coming weeks. A few web sites to check for further info:
The Libertarian Party aren't the only people blasting the ONDCP's drug-terror ads through parody. Jeff Meyers, producer of the "Emperor of Hemp" documentary, has created another such response, available at in streaming video.

11. Alerts: HEA Drug Provision, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia

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

SuperBowl Ad Out of Bounds

Oppose New Anti-Ecstasy Bill

Repeal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences

Support Medical Marijuana

Stop Bad Drug War Bills in Virginia

12. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 22, 11:30am-12:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, "The Drug War is Cold." Demonstration against the drug war, with Drug Policy Forum Tri-State, Pennsylvania NORML and the November Coalition. At the Federal Court House, 601 Market St., march to the Federal Prison, 700 Arch St. For further information, contact Diane Fornbacher at (215) 633-9812 or [email protected].

February 23, noon-7:00pm, Tampa, FL, "Washington's Birthday Hemp Festival." Sponsored by FORML, featuring music, vendors, speakers and more. At Lowry Park, free admission, contact Mike at (813) 779-2551 for info or e-mail [email protected].

February 26, 6:30-8:30pm, Washington, DC, Film Screening and Panel on Juvenile Justice Reform. At the True Reformer Building, 1200 U St., NW, near the Green Line U St./Cardozo metro stop, call the Youth Law Center at (202) 637-0377 ext. 110 for 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, Billings, MT, State Representative Joan Hurdle speaks at MSU-Billings NORML/SSDP. For further information, contact Adam Jones at (406) 256-6389 or [email protected].

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, 1:00-5:00pm, Face the Music Festival #1, benefit for the survivors of Tony Martinez and Deputy Sheriff Ruiz, victims of drug raids gone bad. Sponsored by the Anti-Prohibition Coalition, at Clay Pit Restaurant, 1601 Guadalupe St., contact Karen Heikkala at (512) 326-4396 for further information.

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 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 19, San Francisco, CA, "Meeting Challenges in the 21st Century: New Perspective and Practical Tools," 1st West Coast African Americans in Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition with the American Foundation for AIDS Research, admission free. At Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, contact Amu Ptah at Amu Ptah at 212-213-6376 ext. 32 or e-mail [email protected] 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 for info.

March 26, Albany, NY, "Drop The Rock Day," march and demonstration against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Visit 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 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 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 in the near future.

April 19-20, Sweetwater, TN, "Freedom Fest," sponsored by NORML UTK. Visit to order tickets, or contact Rachel at [email protected] for further information.

April 20, noon, Kingston, RI, Fourth Annual "Day for HOPE," sponsored by the University of Rhode Island's Hemp Organization for Prohibition Elimination. On the URI Quad, e-mail Thomas Angell at [email protected] for further information.

April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 for further information.

April 20, 2002. Moscow Hemp Festival in Moscow, Idaho. E-mail >a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected] for more information.

April 24-27, Albuquerque, NM, "Public Health for All is Justice Served," Twelfth North American Syringe Exchange Convention. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (253) 272-4857.

April 27-28, Middletown, CT, "Northeast Summit for New Drug Policies." Regional gathering of anti-prohibition thinkers and activists, hosted by Wesleyan University Students for Sensible Drug Policy but intended for interested parties of all ages. Contact Booth Haley at (860) 685-4350 or e-mail [email protected] for info.

May 3-4, Portland, OR, Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, focus on Analgesia and Other Indications. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, the Oregon Nurses Association and Oregon Health Division, for further information visit e-mail [email protected], or call (434) 263-4484.

December 1-4, Seattle, WA, "Taking Drug Users Seriously," Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (212) 213-6376.

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