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

Issue #228, 3/15/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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New Yorkers and others nearby, please come to our Tuesday, 3/26 evening event launching the John W. Perry Fund, providing scholarships to students losing financial aid because of drug convictions (


  1. Editorial: What Is It About Opium?
  2. DRCNet Launching John W. Perry Scholarship Fund for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions at NYC Event on March 26
  3. Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full
  4. DOJ Study Takes Ominous Look at Drug and Drug Policy Web Sites
  5. Britain Continues Brisk March to Drug Reform
  6. Drug War Drives Federal Criminal Court Cases, No Let-Up Last Year
  7. Sentencing Reform Passes in Washington State, Governor Will Sign Bill
  8. Danish Politicians Seek Cannabis Crackdown in Christiania
  9. Canadian Doctors Call for Marijuana Decriminalization, Treating Addiction as Medical Problem
  10. US Drug Warriors Lose Again at UN
  11. Government-Commissioned Study of White House Anti-Drug Ad Campaign Says $1.5 Billion Program Fails to Reduce Teen Use
  12. Resources: New York Magazine, UN on Afghani Opium, US on Colombian Coca
  13. Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: What Is It About Opium?

(The drug-terror financing issue has been the subject of Congressional hearings and news reports this week, with the powers that be evading the key issue as usual and the media as usual allowing them to evade the issue. We are reprinting DRCNet executive director David Borden's 10/5/01 editorial, "What Is It About Opium?," which has direct relevance to this topic. Borden can be reached at [email protected].)

What is it about opium? To listen to drug warriors these days, it is the lifeblood of terrorist organizations around the globe. Ohio Rep. Rob Portman lamented that Americans who spend money on heroin (made from Afghani opium) are financing the Taliban, who in turn protect terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Therefore, say Portman and his ilk, reducing drug demand and disrupting drug trafficking organizations is part of the war against terrorism.

Translation: Anti-drug agencies and their supporters are afraid of seeing their budgets cut in favor of other law enforcement priorities. And, they're anxious to get themselves back in the headlines. So it's business as usual for the drug warriors -- stretch the facts as much as necessary, ignore the key issues, and hope no one notices -- or if some people do notice, hope that no one else notices them.

In reality, the resources being poured into the drug war can only come at the expense, not the benefit, of all other budget priorities, law enforcement or otherwise. Certainly, some drug traffickers will turn out to have ties to terrorist groups; but that doesn't mean that indiscriminately targeting all users and sellers of all drugs, is even a remotely efficient way of tracking down or dismantling or disempowering perpetrators of terrorism.

Not to mention that most heroin reaching the US now comes from Latin America, not Asia or the Middle East -- another fatal flaw in Portman's logic. And would an attack on opium cultivation and distribution do anything other than move the supply and supply lines from place to place? That's all such operations have ever done before. Such displacement might take some cash out of the hands of one set of enemies, but could just as easily put it in the hands of another. And eradicating the opium trade from the war-shattered land of Afghanistan, where it is one of the primary sources of income, is an even less realistic than usual drug war strategy.

But there's a larger issue at stake, which drug warriors hate to talk about, at least in a context like this. Why is that opium destined to be processed into heroin is a funding source for crime and terrorism, but opium intended for pain medicines or anesthesia isn't?

Are they two different types of opium? No. Are the drugs highly different? No, heroin and morphine, for example, are essentially similar. Not that any of that would make any difference anyway.

The only difference between opium for heroin and opium for pain meds is that pain meds are manufactured, distributed and administered legally. Heroin isn't.

In other words, opium grown to ultimately be processed into heroin provides easy money for terrorists, because it's illegal. And the converse is also obvious: Legalization of drugs would eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars a year of illicit profits, some of which accrues to perpetrators of terror and other violence. The connection between drug prohibition and terrorism can be overstated; but it is clear that ending prohibition is one of the steps that must be taken to make the world a safer place. It is equally clear why drug warriors don't like to talk about this.

Ignoring these undeniable facts is hard to excuse under ordinary circumstances. To still do so now, when Americans are filled with pain and fear and are seeking real answers, and to do so for political and budgetary gain, is a profound failure to lead. What is it about opium, and other such drugs, that our leaders refuse to think or speak rationally about them, at the most important times?

2. DRCNet Launching John W. Perry Scholarship Fund for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions at NYC Event on March 26

The DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation invites you to celebrate the launching of

Scholarships for Students Denied Federal Financial Aid Because of Drug Convictions

Tuesday March 26, 2002, 6:00 to 8:00 PM, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 W. 64th St. (at Central Park West), NYC

Ira Glasser, former Executive Director of the ACLU will speak on "American Drug Laws, The New Jim Crow Justice." He will be joined by Norman Siegel, Freedom Legal Defense and Education Project, as well as representatives of DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation, SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy), family and friends of John Perry and others.

Please RSVP to [email protected] or (212) 362-1964. Light refreshments will be served. Admission free, suggested minimum donation $25.


In 1998, Congress enacted an amendment to the Higher Education Act that denies loans, grants, even work-study jobs to tens of thousands of would-be students every year who have drug convictions. All these young people, who have already been punished once for their offenses, are being forced to spend more time working to pay for school, reducing their course loads or dropping out entirely. Since that time, a major student-led campaign to overturn the law has spread to hundreds of campuses around the nation, aided by civil rights, education and drug policy reform organizations, and a bill in Congress to repeal the HEA drug provision, H.R. 786, has garnered 57 cosponsors. A resolution opposing the drug provision has been adopted by 87 student governments at the time of this writing (February 2002).

Now, the DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and other friends of civil liberties, has created the John W. Perry Fund to help some of students affected by the law stay in school. Though we will only be able to directly assist a fraction of the more than 40,000 would-be students who've lost aid this school year alone, we hope through this program to make a powerful statement that will build opposition to the law among the public and in Congress, and to let thousands of young people around the country know about the campaign to repeal it and the movement against the drug war as a whole.

Please join us on March 26, 2002 in New York City to celebrate the launching of this scholarship program and raise needed funds for the students who apply to it. Ira Glasser, former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union and president of Drug Policy Alliance, will deliver the keynote address, joined by representatives of DRCNet, SSDP, financial aid professionals and other concerned parties.

You can also help by making a generous contribution to the DRCNet Foundation for the John W. Perry Fund. Checks should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, with "scholarship fund" or "John W. Perry Fund" written in the memo or accompanying letter, and sent to: DRCNet Foundation, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. The DRCNet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, and your contribution will be tax-deductible as provided by law. Please let us know if we may include your name in the list of contributors accompanying future publicity efforts.


John William Perry was a New York City police officer and Libertarian Party and ACLU activist who spoke out against the "war on drugs." He was also a lawyer, athlete, actor, linguist and humanitarian. On the morning of September 11, John Perry was at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan filing retirement papers when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without hesitation he went to help, losing his life rescuing others. We decided to dedicate this scholarship program, which addresses a drug war injustice, to his memory. John Perry's academic achievements are an inspiring example for students: He was fluent in several languages, graduated from NYU Law School and prosecuted NYPD misconduct cases for the department. His web site is


Ira Glasser served as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1978 until his retirement in 2001. His essays on civil liberties principles and issues have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Village Voice, Harperís, The New Republic, The Nation, and Christianity and Crisis, among other publications. In 1991, he published a book, Visions of Liberty: The Bill of Rights for All Americans, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. He is currently president of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Please contact DRCNet at [email protected] or (202) 362-0030 to request a scholarship application, to get involved in the HEA Campaign or with other inquiries, or visit c and

3. Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full

DRCNet, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, is leading a major national campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision, a law that delays or denies students with drug convictions their eligibility for federal financial aid for college -- over 40,000 people this school year alone. But the author of the Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), is trying hard to divert attention from the repeal effort by focusing on one narrow change, limiting the law's impact to students who were enrolled in school and receiving aid at the time of their offense.

Such a change would help some small percentage of the people hurt by the drug provision and would be welcome for that reason. But it is a 5% solution to a law that is 100% flawed: Only full repeal addresses the serious education and discrimination concerns raised by educational, civil rights, religious, drug policy reform and other groups for the past three years. That's why we need you to help us send a loud and clear message to Congress that this law is fundamentally flawed and should be repealed in full.

Please visit to tell Congress you want them to remove the drug war from education and pass H.R. 786, a bill that would repeal the drug provision and which already has 57 Congressional cosponsors. When you're done, please call your US Representative on the phone to make an even stronger impact -- you can call them via the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or visit to look up their direct numbers.

Students, visit to find out how to get involved with the campaign on your campus. 87 student governments so far have endorsed our resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision. If you're already at work on this, please write us at [email protected] and let us know what's happening. Also, visit for an online copy of our activist packet. (Leave your e-mail address if you want to be notified of updates on the HEA campaign. Also, we will be updating the download packet within the next week.)

Please forward this alert to your friends or use the tell-a-friend form that will come up on your screen after you send your letter. And please consider making a donation -- large or small -- to keep this effort moving forward at full speed. Though our funding situation for 2002 is very promising, we've had a shortfall of the non-tax-deductible lobbying funds that are needed for the HEA campaign itself. Visit to help, or mail your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.)

Again, visit to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign! Here are some reasons the HEA drug provision is wrong:

  • The vast majority of Americans convicted of drug offenses are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.
  • The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed to them for want of financial aid.
  • Judges already have the power to rescind financial aid eligibility as individual cases warrant. The HEA drug provision removes that discretion.
  • The HEA drug provision has a disparate impact on different races. African Americans, for example, who comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users, account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug possession charges.
  • No other class of offense carries automatic loss of financial aid eligibility.
  • Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy and a crime-free life.

4. DOJ Study Takes Ominous Look at Drug and Drug Policy Web Sites

The US Department of Justice is hard at work creating a strategy to defeat what it calls an Internet-based threat to American youth. In so doing, however, the department has monitored web sites of organizations devoted to drug policy advocacy and harm reduction policies, angering drug reformers and outraging civil libertarians.

In a study quietly released in December and first brought to light in Wired online, the Justice Department's National Drug Information Center (NDIC) provided an overview of the "threat that certain Internet web sites pose to adolescents and young adults in the United States." The study, "Drugs and the Internet: An Overview of the Threat to America's Youth," purported to focus on web sites that provide information designed to facilitate the production, use or sale of illicit non-prescription drugs, with particular emphasis on club drugs such as ecstasy. NDIC's sample of 52 web sites, however, included "32 sites [that were] probably associated with drug legalization groups."

Which drug reform groups made the NDIC list of threats remains unknown at press time, although the Media Awareness Project (, the online archive of drug policy news stories provided by Drugsense, was cited in one of the report's footnotes. NDIC spokesmen have not responded to a DRCNet request for that list. And according to Wired, the Justice Department rebuffed its three-week effort to elicit any comment.

Drug reform and harm reduction groups may have made the list because of overbroad criteria in NDIC's sample parameters. Among the sorts of information it included in its search of the web was such general information as descriptions of drugs, as well as studies and tests of drugs. Similarly, NDIC looked for web sites that offered information on physical and psychological effects of different drugs, their risks, and how to reduce them. It also looked for sites that "glamorized" drug use.

Despite the report's avowed emphasis on criminal drug activity on the Internet, of the 52 sites listed only "10 sites were probably associated with businesses" and only "6 sites contained information on MDMA, GHB, or LSD sales." Interestingly for a study of club drug information on the web, 13 of the 52 sites contained no information on club drug use, sales, or production.

Recognizing that surveilling individual Internet users is problematic for both technical and legal reasons -- it would require a subpoena or a search warrant -- NDIC noted that "individuals and groups that operate websites on their own registered domains often can be identified."

And it has certain types of "information purveyors" in mind for further attention. The individuals and groups who threaten American youth by providing them with drug information on the Internet include "drug offenders, drug culture advocates, advocates of an expanded freedom of expression, anarchist individuals and groups," and for good measure, "pornographers and pedophiles" who might use drug-related websites to prey on innocents.

But the report, following an endless line of drug war rhetoric, paints persons or groups who advocate more enlightened drug policies as "drug culture advocates." Such persons or groups "are chiefly interested in expanding the size of the community to both legitimize their activity and increase pressure on lawmakers to change or abolish drug control laws," said NDIC.

"We are not advocating for a drug culture by teaching harm reduction," said Donald Grove of the Harm Reduction Coalition (, a nonprofit group seeking to reduce the negative consequences of drug use. "No, what we are promoting is common sense and life-saving measures," he told DRCNet. "We are less a threat to the youth of America than these people who would deny access to such information. Do we really think our children should die because they made a mistake or didn't listen to us?" he asked.

"Suddenly the law wants to define what we are allowed to think and say. That's a really dangerous situation," said Grove. "And anyway, what is wrong about talking about drug legalization? If it is legitimate to pass laws against drugs, it is equally legitimate to repeal them."

"This is an attempt at intimidation, an attempt to chill First Amendment rights," said Richard Glen Boire of the Center for Cognitive Liberties and Ethics (, an organization devoted to defending the mental freedom of individuals, including the right to alter their consciousness. "It encroaches upon cherished First Amendment rights in an area that is currently of great public importance and public debate," he told DRCNet. "This is an unsurprising, but very, very disturbing expansion of the war on drugs. It's as if they want to go after not just mind-altering substances, but the very words themselves," he said. The government seems to think that even discussing drug policy with any point of view other than theirs is somehow unpatriotic or encouraging illegal drug activity. That's a chilling prospect."

"We are outraged that they are tugging at the edges of our constitutional rights," said Clovis Thorn, special projects coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance ( "This is of concern. We believe that the web sites they are probably looking at, such as reform movement web sites, have information that reflects government data and the latest scientific research better than the Department of Justice or the DEA," he told DRCNet. "Other web sites are typically part of the emerging party health movement, rave-oriented websites that provide practical harm reduction information. This kind of information saves lives."

Drugsense's Mark Greer was less intimidated than amused by the NDIC report. "I think the drug reform movement can take this as something of a compliment," he told DRCNet. "We're kicking their butt all over the web. This is a panic reaction," he said. He encouraged Justice and the DEA to try to move to shut down such web sites. "Please," he said. "They will only box themselves into a corner if they try to do that."

Both Thorn and Grove told DRCNet that any efforts to move against web sites would only provoke a strong reaction. "The movement will come together behind the First Amendment to stop any government overreaching," said Thorn. "They will have to be challenged," said Grove, who warned that the feds will probably attempt to move against a particularly odious site. "It may be something we would like to repudiate, but will be forced to defend. We should be prepared for that," he said.

For Boire, it is not a direct First Amendment threat that he finds most disturbing. "If they monitor these web sites, they will see that for the drug reform and harm reduction organizations there is nothing there to prosecute," said Boire. "But this is a means of increasing the intimidation level -- we're watching you. That can scare a lot of people. In academia and other circles where we hope people will join the debate, there is great fear of someone peering over your shoulder, even if you are not engaged in illegal acts," he said. "This is a chilling and coercive move. The government ought to be looking at crimes where victims report them, not spending money monitoring groups that have views different from the government's."

DRCNet contacted NDIC this week and asked the following questions:

  • What are the web sites monitored by the NDIC for this study? If you will not make that list available, on what grounds do you withhold that information?
  • Is DRCNet one of the sites monitored by the NDIC?
  • If your study is examining websites that provide information on drug use, sales or production, why are 32 of those web sites associated with groups that advocate changes in drug policy?
  • Why are you monitoring constitutionally protected free speech?
  • Does NDIC make any distinction between "advocacy of drug culture" and advocacy of policy changes in the drug laws?
DRCNet has yet to receive any response to these queries, except for a denial from spokesman Chuck Miller that monitoring of web sites is ongoing. "We're not monitoring, this was just a one-time search looking at the Internet as a potential venue for the sale of illicit drugs," he told DRCNet.

But it will provide part of the basis of a new strategy to win the drug war on the Internet, and it is already pointing to suspicious characters who merit closer scrutiny.

If NDIC refuses to respond to DRCNet requests that it release the names of websites it monitored, the Week Online will file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in an attempt to obtain that information. But don't hold your breath. Attorney General John Ashcroft has instructed all government agencies that the Justice Department will bend over backwards to help ensure that FOIA requests are denied.

Visit,1283,50550,00.html to read the Wired story.

5. Britain Continues Brisk March to Drug Reform

Britain's move away from US-style drug policies took on added momentum this week, with three developments heralding change for the better. First, cannabis decriminalization is now only a signature away from becoming reality, as Home Secretary David Blunkett's drug policy advisers have officially recommended that he downgrade the weed from a Class B to a Class C drug, the least serious drug classification.

Second, the Labour government Home Office has released a new strategy for club drugs, particularly ecstasy (MDMA), that recognizes that ecstasy use is pandemic and calls for a harm reduction -- not a law enforcement -- response to ecstasy users.

And the Liberal Democratic Party, Britain's third political force behind Labour and the Tories, meeting over the weekend in Manchester for its annual convention, endorsed the most radical drug reforms ever embraced by a mainstream political party.

While it has been six months since Home Secretary Blunkett first announced he was prepared to downgrade cannabis, effectively decriminalizing the drug, it appears that D-Day is now only a matter of weeks away. Blunkett's Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended this week that Blunkett take his own advice and reschedule cannabis.

According to an unnamed Blunkett spokesman, he will do just that. "He [the Home Secretary] has a mind to do it [reclassify cannabis]," the anonymous informant told the Independent (London) on Sunday. "He will make a final decision when all the information is in front of him," he added.

But while the ACMD recommended the downgrading and, as the Independent noted, "it would be unusual" for Blunkett to ignore the recommendation, chances are that he will not act until next month at the earliest, when four more studies on cannabis enforcement will be completed. All are expected to bolster the case for decrim. One, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, will reveal that British police spend about $75 million per year enforcing cannabis prohibition, the Independent reported. And both the Metropolitan Police and the Police Foundation are working on reports on the success or failure of the Lambeth experiment, where police quit arresting cannabis users beginning last July. Originally set for six months, the experiment was extended after senior officers declared it successful. The two reports are expected to follow the conclusions of senior police officials. Finally, the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament, which is studying a broad range of drug policy issues, will present its report to the government next month.

If that weren't enough pressure on Blunkett, the Liberal Democrats have provided more. Britain's third political force, the Liberals control 52 seats in the 659-member House of Commons. In a dramatic series of votes that went beyond the moderate reforms hoped for by the party leadership, the Lib Dems called for an end to arrests of cannabis users. Not stopping there, the party also voted for an amendment to the leadership proposal. The amendment calls for an effort to amend the UN Conventions on drugs so that cannabis may be completely legalized in Britain.

Party members also voted to end imprisonment for the possession of any illicit drug, called for ecstasy to be downgraded from Class A to Class B, and endorsed the expansion of existing heroin maintenance programs. "We are not naïve about the dangers of drugs in our society," said party shadow Home Secretary Simon Hughes as he presented the party's position paper in Manchester. "Our liberal philosophical tradition does mean that we believe that government should only seek use coercion against the individual to prevent harm to others or society as a whole. This paper is consistent with that philosophy," he told gathered party members. "But this is not a paper which is philosophically motivated. This is not a debate motivated by some simplistic libertarian notion that anything goes. It is motivated by the real and pressing need for a more effective policy to reduce the widespread harm and destruction caused by drugs."

Despite concerns expressed by some party members and political observers that the Liberals' radical move on drug policy could damage its ability to siphon voters from the socially conservative Tory base, Hughes called the platform "responsible, realistic and progressive." Labour Party spokesmen disagreed, saying that the Liberals "had lost touch with the real world" on drug policy. "Abolishing jail sentences for drugs like cocaine and heroin would lead to more drug use and more drug-related crime," a Labour spokesman told BBC News. "Ecstasy is a dangerous drug that kills and downgrading it from Class A to Class B would be foolhardy and irresponsible," he added.

But in a sign that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, at the same time Labour spokesmen were denouncing the Liberals' position on ecstasy, the Labour Home Office was promulgating new guidelines on the popular club drug that called for police to ignore its personal use by clubbers and demanded that club owners undertake harm reduction measures to protect their drug-using patrons.

The Labour government was merely recognizing reality, it said. "We have to recognize that some clubbers will continue to ignore the risks and carry on taking dangerous drugs," said junior Home Affairs Minister Bob Ainsworth. "If we cannot stop them from taking drugs, then we must be prepared to take steps to reduce the harm they may cause themselves. We are not asking club owners to condone the use of drugs on their premises," he added. "What we are asking them to do is accept that we're not going to be successful in the entirety in keeping drugs out of the club scene."

In a new guide to dealing with club drugs called Safer Clubbing, the government bluntly recognized the prevalence of drug use in Britain, the guide states, "[c]ontrolled drug use has become a large part of youth culture and is, for many young people, an integral part of a night out." The guide prescribes a set of common-sense harm reduction measures for club owners to undertake, including the provision of free cold water, adequate air-conditioning and "chill out" rooms. The Home Office could have been blindsided by the results of a survey undertaken as part of its study of the extent of the problem. After questioning more than 2,000 club goers in the Manchester region, the Home Office found that 87% had smoked cannabis in the last three months, 77% had used amphetamines, 67% had taken ecstasy, 52% had used LSD and 45% had used cocaine.

Not one of the 2,057 clubbers questioned reported zero drug use in the last three months.

The relevant portions of the conference agenda may be viewed at:

6. Drug War Drives Federal Criminal Court Cases, No Let-Up Last Year

While there are increasing signs that the various states are rethinking the drug war approach to drug policy, the federal drug war juggernaut continues rolling. According to a report released this week by the Administrative Office of the US Courts, the administrative arm of the federal judiciary, drug defendants are by far the largest single category of persons facing criminal trials in the federal courts. Of the 82,000 defendants whose federal criminal cases commenced in the fiscal year ending last September 30, more than 31,000, or 38%, were drug offenders.

The report, "Judicial Business of the United States Courts 2001" (, notes that new federal criminal cases in the last fiscal year remaining almost unchanged from the year before -- a decline of 37 cases -- but that drug case filings had increased by 5% over the previous year. A review of selected categories of federal criminal defendants in the last fiscal year included the following:

Gambling: 14
Burglary: 76
Civil rights violations: 127
Bribery: 160
Kidnapping: 189
Auto theft: 306
Homicide: 419
National defense violations: 490
Sex offenses: 1,010
Embezzlement: 1,284
Robbery: 1,613
Forgery: 1,818
Larceny and theft: 3,867
Weapons and firearms: 6,223
Fraud: 10,532
Immigration violations: 12,086
Drug offenses: 31,493
Clearly, federal drug law enforcement dominates national-level law enforcement. Drug offenders constituted two and one-half times the number of defendants in the next largest category, immigration offenses, and five times the number of defendants charged with federal firearms violations. And the number of drug defendants absolutely dwarfed the number of people accused of crimes traditionally considered to be the bailiwick of federal law enforcement: kidnapping, bank robbery, forgery (counterfeiting) and embezzlement. The number of drug defendants is more than ten times the number of white collar crime defendants (3,102 for forgery and embezzlement combined).

When many people think of federal law enforcement, they conjure up images of G-Men chasing down John Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde, but the reality is far different. Bank robbers and kidnappers accounted for only 1,755 of the federal criminal defendants last fiscal year. For every classic "gangster" the feds dragged into court, almost 20 drug defendants were prosecuted.

The Administrative Office also noted that in FY 2001, more than 90% of drug defendants either pled guilty or were convicted. Of the more than 28,000 federal drug cases ended in the last fiscal year, only 2,423 of them ended in acquittals.

Also, the report noted, some 44,000 thousand drug law violators were under federal supervision on September 30, the vast bulk of them in federal prisons. Drug law violators make up more than 42% of the 104,000 persons under federal control.

7. Sentencing Reform Passes in Washington State, Governor Will Sign Bill

The Washington state legislature this week passed a bill reducing many drug sentences and ordering that any savings from reduced incarceration be used to fund drug treatment, including drug courts. Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, who supported the bill, has 20 days to sign it into law.

The bill adjusts Washington's sentencing grid for heroin and cocaine possession or small-scale sales downward, so that sentences that now average 24 months will average 18 months. The bill also eliminates the double- and triple-scoring of previous drug offenses in determining sentence lengths under sentencing guidelines -- with the notable exception of the drug menace du jour, methamphetamine. And the bill provides for a new drug sentencing grid to go into effect for drug offenses committed after July 1, 2004. After that date, nonviolent drug offenders will be sent to drug court in lieu of prison. Finally, the bill sets up a dedicated account to fund treatment for drug offenders and drug courts.

The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers. In the House, which okayed its version last month, the bill passed 72-25. In the Senate, which voted this week, the vote was 36-11. A pro forma vote by the House to reconcile minor differences with the Senate version occurred Thursday night.

"The bill represents a new state policy direction in dealing with the public health and public safety issues represented by drug offenders," said the Washington Association of Alcoholism and Addiction Plans in a release lauding the bill's passage. "Rather than locking people up for having the disease of addition, we will begin treating them in drug courts with community-based treatment."

"This is the right thing to do," said Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Lake Forest Park), the bill's primary sponsor. "It gives low-level drug offenders a chance to take responsibility for their addiction and become productive citizens."

Visit for a discussion of the impressive political coalition behind the bill. A summary of the bill, HB 2338, is available online at:

8. Danish Politicians Seek Cannabis Crackdown in Christiania

While contemporary anarchists have for the past decade dreamt of establishing "temporary autonomous zones" free of outside authority, the residents of the Copenhagen neighborhood of Christiania have constructed a permanent autonomous zone that has flourished for the past three decades on what was once a Danish barracks and army base. The residents of Christiania have organized communally to provide for basic services and have long campaigned to keep hard drugs and violence out of the area, but Christiania is most well-known for its open hashish and marijuana markets, particularly along the aptly-named Pusher Street. But now, in the latest of a series of occasional attacks on the hippy haven over the years, conservative Danish politicians are vowing to end the commune's famously tolerant attitudes toward soft drugs -- and if they can't do that, to end the commune itself.

The move highlights a contradiction between Danish social reality and its cannabis laws. Denmark, along with Britain, has the highest levels of cannabis consumption on the continent. According to the latest survey by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 34% of young adult Danes and 25% of all adult Danes have smoked cannabis. And while cannabis possession is a crime under Danish law, possession for personal use is rarely prosecuted. But parts of Danish society have a problem with smokers having someplace to obtain the weed.

"We can no longer tolerate the illegal and open cannabis trade that has become a part of everyday life out there," Conservative Party spokesman Helge Adam Moller told the Copenhagen Post on March 8. "If Christiania is allowed to survive, then it has to become as law-abiding as every other community in Denmark -- and if it doesn't, we'll close it down," he threatened.

And the Danish government is moving to do so. Last year, the center-left government led by the Social Democrats passed legislation that gave police the authority to close down what the Post called "hundreds of small 'hash clubs,'" and while Christiania has so far escaped unscathed, the political landscape has shifted. In elections last fall, the Social Democrat-led coalition lost control to a center-right coalition led by the Liberal Party, in alliance with the Conservatives. Now Moller and the Conservatives are calling for a reworking of the political framework that governs relations between the commune and the Danish state. Under Moller's plan, Christiana would have three weeks to remove all drugs and drug dealers or the law allowing the community to exist in peace from the authorities would be annulled.

A spokesperson for Christiania, a radically democratic "Free City" of about one thousand people on 60 acres in Copenhagen, blasted the Conservatives. "Instead of trying to criminalize the many thousands of customers who enjoy hash every day, why don't they consider legalizing it instead," Britta Lillesoe told the Post. It was a "knee-jerk reaction" from right-wing politicians, she said.

The conflict is not new. Founded by squatters and hippies who crawled through a fence onto an abandoned military base and set up shop in the early 1971, Christiania has alternately been tolerated by authorities and targeted by them. While conflicts have flared over taxation, the provision of services, and "slummification," much of the tension between the commune and the state has centered on drugs. In 1979, with hard drug use spiraling out of control and the state threatening to assert control, residents formed the Junk Blockade to evict all hard drug sellers and users.

Since then, the Christiania drug scene has largely centered on cannabis, but open sales of the drug have led to repeated clashes with police throughout the 1990s. The Danish government has repeatedly threatened to end the "Free City," and now another offensive is underway. Parliament will be discussing the future of Christiania next month, the Post reported.

But Christianites are well-schooled in defending their prerogatives no matter what the government does. A bit of history from the Free City's Moonfisher Coffeehouse provides some Christiania flavor: "The Moonfisher like all the other bars in Christiania had a really hard period in the end of the 80's beginning 90's, the government pressured Christiania to get the bars and restaurants registrated and to pay their taxes. We refused to agree having the good reason of not being government supported in our institutions like for example kindergartens or the garbage team. The battle raged back and forth for a little while and in the end the Moonfisher lost all stock and inventory and was forced to get registrated," the coffeehouse wrote on its web site. "From 1990 to 1993 Moonfisher had a liquor licence, but still problems with the police because of too much weed-smoking in the place. 1993 the government threatened to take our liquor licence if we didn't stop all the smokers in the cafe, but how can we run a coffeeshop in Christiania and not smoke, impossible. So we decided that they can take the licence and put it somewhere where the sun don't shine, we'd rather smoke than drink, and we have been a coffeeshop ever since."

(Visit for much more information on the "Free City" and its history, inhabitants, politics, business and social life.)

9. Canadian Doctors Call for Marijuana Decriminalization, Treating Addiction as Medical Problem

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the country's largest and most influential physicians' group, told parliament on Monday that simple marijuana possession should be removed from the criminal code and made only a ticketable offense. The doctors urged, however, that such a move take place only within a broad strategy aimed at reducing drug abuse and marijuana consumption in particular.

In a brief presented to the House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, which is undertaking a review of Canadian drug policy, the doctors' association said: "The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth."

The CMA took pains to make clear that it did not condone marijuana use, given its "adverse effects" on health. Moreover, it also noted that it "wishes to make clear than any change in the criminal status of marijuana must be done so with the recognition that marijuana is an addictive substance and addiction is a disease." The doctors called for a "National Cannabis Cessation Policy" to reduce marijuana use and urged close scrutiny of the relationship between marijuana and traffic accidents.

Despite its disdain for the herb, the CMA still argued that "the severity of punishment for the simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions." In addition to citing the reallocation of drug control resources such a move would allow, the CMA also cited the deleterious effects of unnecessary criminal records on marijuana offenders.

The CMA also testified that drug addiction is a condition better handled through the public health system than the criminal justice system. "Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation," CMA president Dr. Henry Haddad told the committee.

The CMA called for a comprehensive national drug strategy by the federal government in conjunction with provinces and localities to combat drug abuse. That strategy should shift from an emphasis on law enforcement to one of reducing drug use through prevention, education and treatment, the CMA said.

"The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating drugs are directed toward law enforcement activities," said Haddad. "Governments need to rebalance the distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention and harm reduction programs."

Haddad was joined at the hearing by Dr. William Campbell, head of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), who endorsed the CMA position and then went a step further. The possession of small amounts of all drugs -- not just marijuana -- should be decriminalized, said Campbell. "Addiction is a disease and we support public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons with psychoactive substance dependence and whose offence is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use."

Campbell was merely reiterating the formal position of CSAM, which was ratified late last month. "Drug possession for personal use must be decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal sale/distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal sanctions," the organization decided.

The Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, which was chartered a year ago to review and recommend changes to Canadian drug policy, has been holding hearings in recent months and has heard from experts from across Canada and around the world. The committee is expected to issue its report in August.

The CMA submission to Parliament is available online at:

The complete CSAM National Drug Policy Statement may be viewed online at:

10. US Drug Warriors Lose Again at UN

DRCNet reported last week that US drug war hardliners were pushing the candidacy of former Colombian National Police head Rosso Jose Serrano to replace outgoing UN drug czar Pino Arlacchi, who was ordered from his post by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last July. But by the time that story was posted last Friday, Annan had already chosen a successor, and drug warrior Serrano didn't make the cut ( Instead, Annan reached into the ranks of the Euro-bureaucracy, appointing Antonio Mario Costa, Secretary General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to replace the widely-criticized Arlacchi.

The decision to appoint a manager rather than a drug fighter is no doubt related to the administrative problems that plagued the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCCP) under Arlacchi's tenure. Allegations of mismanagement, corruption and low morale shook the agency last spring and summer, leading to internal UN investigations that pointed a finger at Arlacchi. By July, as the Dutch government pulled its funding for UNDCCP in protest of Arlacchi's continued presence, Annan pulled the plug on him, ordering Arlacchi to resign his post effective at the end of February.

While UN officials have been tight-lipped about their reasoning in selecting Costa, his resume is that of a bureaucrat, not a drug fighter. A trained economist with a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, Costa has been a visiting professor at US and European universities, an economist at the UN Department of International Economics and Social Affairs, and Director-General for Economics and Finance for the Commission of the European Union.

A second factor that could be relevant in Costa's selection is his nationality. Like his predecessor, the anti-mafia crusader Arlacchi, Costa is Italian. Italy, along with the US, is one of the largest contributors to UNDCCP, which last year had a budget of $130 million.

While Costa's views on the international drug trade are unknown -- a Google search of the Internet for Costa returned four hits, all related to his career as an economist -- it seems clear that Annan has made putting the UNDCCP's house in order a higher priority than placing a high-profile drug fighter at its head. How US drug warriors, who have so far been silent on Costa's selection, will react to the loss remains to be seen. While loathing of the UN is a powerful force on the congressional right, any impulse to punish the organization by withholding funding for its drug agency will likely be counterbalanced by the irresistible urge to "win" the war on drugs.

11. Government-Commissioned Study of White House Anti-Drug Ad Campaign Says $1.5 Billion Program Fails to Reduce Teen Use

(courtesy NORML Foundation,

The federal government's $1.5 billion anti-drug ad campaign fails to influence teens to refrain from using illegal drugs, particularly marijuana, according to an evaluation by Westat Inc. and the Annenberg Public Policy Center for the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

According to the review, teens exposed to the government's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign are no more likely to refrain from trying drugs because of their exposure. "There [is] no pattern of significant association between exposure and target outcomes for youth," the report says. "Neither the overall results nor the subgroup analyses show consistent evidence supportive of a direct Campaign effect."

The report defined the primary objective of the government's advertising campaign as "reduc[ing] the number of young people who try marijuana." Since 1997, the campaign has purchased enough advertising time to expose adolescents to an average of 2.7 ads per week, including a pair of controversial 2002 Super Bowl ads costing some $3.4 million.

However, the Westat and Annenberg review found "inadequate evidence to support a claim of change in marijuana use thus far." In fact, the report states that the only significant association attributable to the ad campaign was an increase in marijuana use among 14- to 15-year-olds. The evaluation also found "some evidence" of an increase in marijuana use among suburban 14- to 18-year-olds.

"In summary, thus far there is relatively little evidence for direct effects of the Campaign on youth," authors concluded. "While there were scattered significant positive results [among 12- to 13-years-olds,] they were balanced by scattered significant negative results [among 14- to 18-year-olds.]"

The report is the third in a series reviewing the government program. The Westat and Annenberg report focused on Phase III of the ad campaign, a period that began in September 1999 and is planned to run at least until the end of this spring.

12. Resources: New York Magazine, UN on Afghani Opium, US on Colombian Coca

The March 4 issue of New York Magazine included "The Defense Rests -- Permanently," an article about the imbalance in the criminal justice system between prosecution and defense, available at online.

The UN's pre-assessment of opium poppy production in Afghanistan in 2002 has been released, and is available online at (report) and (news release). The prediction for opium in Afghanistan under the new government: plenty of it, just like before.

The US Office of National Drug Control Policy has released its annual estimate of Colombia coca cultivation in 2001. ONDCP's findings: more than before, again. Visit to read the ONDCP press release.

13. Alerts: HEA, 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

Urgent Virginia Legislative Alert

14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

March 16, 5:00-10:00pm, Hood River, OR, MAMA Benefit Dance, supporting Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse harm reduction drug education program. At Dee Fire Hall, in the pear and apple orchards outside town, featuring the Irish-flavored music of Rockwork, as well as food and beverages and a silent auction. For further information, contact Sandee at (541) 298-1031 or e-mail [email protected].

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 22, 8:00am-5:00pm, Tallahassee, FL, Educational Display on the Shafer Report and the Jenks & Musikka Decisions. In the rotunda of the Capitol, sponsored by Floridians for Medical Rights, Florida NORML and the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Contact [email protected] for 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.

March 26, 6:00-8:00pm, New York, NY, "American Drug Laws, The New Jim Crow Justice," kick-off and fundraiser for the John W. Perry Fund, providing scholarships to students losing financial aid because of drug convictions. Sponsored by the DRCNet Foundation, featuring former ACLU director Ira Glasser, with representatives of DRCNet, SSDP, friends of John Perry and others, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 64th and Central Park West. RSVP to [email protected] or (212) 362-1964, and visit for further information.

April 2, Grand Junction, CO, Protest for Liberty and Against Victimless Crimes. At City Hall, Mesa County Justice Center, visit for information.

April 6, noon-3:00pm, Tucson, AZ, "Prisoners Are People Day," presentations by community leaders, live music, food, children's activities, access to community service providers, prisoner art show and more. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, at Himmel Park, 1000 N. Tucson Boulevard, for further information call (520) 623-9141.

April 6, 1:00pm, Asheville, NC, memorial service for AIDS and harm reduction activist Marty Prairie. At the Cathedral of All Souls, Biltmore Village, e-mail [email protected] 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, 9:00am-noon, Philadelphia, PA, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs." Judges forum sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, at Temple University School of Law, Kiva Auditorium (Ritter Hall Annex), $35.00 with CLE credit, $10.00 without, contact Roseanne Scotti at (215) 746-7370 or [email protected] for information or to register.

April 8, 6:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Table Talk: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs," dinner, speech and discussion with Judge James P. Gray of the Superior Court of Orange County, California. At the White Dog Cafe, 3420 Sansom St., $30/person includes three course dinner with tax and gratuity, senior and student discounts available. Call (215) 386-9224 or visit for further information.

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 13, 1:00-10:00pm, Tallahassee, FL, "Tallahassee Hemp Culture Fest." Bands and speakers to be announced, contact Florida State University NORML at [email protected] for 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 19-21, Seattle, WA, Amnesty International USA 2002 Annual General Meeting. At the Renaissance Madison Hotel, visit for further information. (Dues-paying Amnesty members will have the opportunity to vote on a groundbreaking anti-drug war resolution.)

April 20, Eau Claire, WI, noon, Hemp Festival with UWEC SSDP. Music, information, speakers, raffle and more, at the Eau Claire Rod and Gun Park, visit for further information.

April 20, noon, Jacksonville, FL, Jacksonville Hemp Festival. Contact Scott at (904) 732-4785 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, 3:00-8:00pm, Atlanta, GA, "Atlanta 420," regional gathering of marijuana activists and reformers with entertainment, speakers and organizations. Presented by CAMP, in Piedmont Park, in downtown Atlanta, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (404) 522-2267 for information.

April 20, 2002. Moscow Hemp Festival in Moscow, Idaho. E-mail [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 and cosponsored by Efficacy, for interested parties of all ages. Recommended donation $5-$15 sliding scale, contact Booth Haley at (860) 685-4350 or [email protected] 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, the Oregon Nurses Association and Oregon Health Division, for further information visit e-mail [email protected], or call (434) 263-4484.

May 4, international, "Million Marijuana March," demonstrations in many cities worldwide. Visit for information and local event listings.

June 22, Philadelphia, PA, "Mid-Atlantic Criminal Justice Colloquium: Fostering Compassion, Dignity and Hope," colloquium organized by the Drug Concerns Working Group of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). For further information or to get involved, contact Melissa Whaley at (856) 303-0280 or [email protected].

September 26-28, Los Angeles, CA, "Breaking the Chains: People of Color and the War on Drugs." Conference by the Drug Policy Alliance, e-mail [email protected] to be placed on mailing list for when details become available.

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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