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

Issue #236, 5/10/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Unsafe Streets
  2. Leading Education, Civil Rights, and Drug Policy Organizations Urge Congress to Repeal HEA Drug Provision in Full
  3. Congressional Drug and Terrorism Expert Says Legalization Could Cut Crime
  4. Needle Exchange Not Playing Well in Peoria
  5. Philadelphia Trying to Quash Open-Air Drug Markets With Massive Police Presence
  6. In Hartford, Neighborhood Drug Fighters and Drug Reformers Inhabit Parallel Universes
  7. Million Marijuana March Hits 200 Cities Worldwide, Major Arrests Only in NYC
  8. Patient's Hunger Strike for Medical Cannabis Enters Fourth Week
  9. Newsbrief: FDA Okays Marijuana Hair Test, Would Detect Up to Three Months
  10. Newsbrief: German Heroin Deaths Decline After Safe Injection Sites Introduced
  11. Newsbrief: South Dakota Hemp Petition Signatures Submitted, Seeds Planted
  12. Newsbrief: Philippine Official Asks End to Vigilante Killings of Drug Dealers, Users
  13. Newsbrief: Canadian Senate Panel Hints at Marijuana Legalization
  14. NPR and Reuters on HEA and SSDP
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: Unsafe Streets

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/10/02

Every so often, a big city police force decides it will "solve" the drug problem once and for all with a massive show of force. The latest incarnation is Philadelphia's "Operation Safe Streets," planning not huge numbers of arrests, they say (I'll believe that when I see it), just a lot of officers being present in the areas where open-air drug markets currently operate, making their sellers unable to sell.

Several years ago, the Boston police decided to make a show of force in Mission Hill, a housing project in the Roxbury area that had a massive drug and drug sales problem. In late spring of 1995, they swept in and swept the drug dealers out, so they said, bringing a small measure of calm to the suffering neighborhood. It didn't prevent gang members from approaching kids on their way to school and asking them to sell drugs for them, a friend told me, but it had a certain amount of impact, at least for awhile.

A couple of weeks later, I saw an article in the Boston Globe about gunfights in the nearby Dorchester neighborhood. The dealers from Mission Hill, it turns out, were out of economic necessity moving in to new turf, and Dorchester's established dealers weren't happy about it. The heroin they brought with them was also a change to Dorchester at that time, adding another hard drug to the neighborhood's mix. Needless to say, the gunfighting in Dorchester that the Roxbury Mission Hill operation had prompted did nothing to help that area's quality of life.

A former narcotics prosecutor told me once that a law enforcer can rack up years of experience, or can experience the same year over and over. The police planners mounting Operation Safe Streets, if they truly believe in it, need to show a little more imagination; doing the same thing over and over again will not produce substantially different results in the long term. More thoughtful observers, including a good number of prominent law enforcement officials, understand that new approaches are needed if better results are to be ultimately achieved -- and better results are clearly needed.

There will always be people who use drugs, and there will always be people who are willing to pay large amounts of money for them. There will therefore always be people ready, willing and able to supply them, one way or another. Only a legal, regulated market can supplant the violent and disorderly illicit market that plagues so many of our nation's poorest neighborhoods. Philadelphia would benefit from more enlightened thinking on drug policy than its current leadership is willing to provide.

2. Leading Education, Civil Rights, and Drug Policy Organizations Urge Congress to Repeal HEA Drug Provision in Full

In a letter sent on May 6 to the House Education and the Workforce Committee, 39 national education, civil rights and drug policy organizations urged full repeal of the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, a law that has denied 75,000 would-be students financial aid since it was enacted in late 1997. The letter, organized by the DRCNet-coordinated Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, said partial reforms to the law advocated by some members of Congress, including Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the law's author, are "laudable but do not address the extremely serious education and discrimination concerns that we have."

H.R. 3777, a bill introduced by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) with Rep. Souder, would limit the law's impact to students who were in school and receiving aid when they committed their offense. The bill at last report had five cosponsors including Souder. H.R. 786, a bill sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank to repeal the drug provision in full, has 66 cosponsors, including Rep. Meeks.

"There is clear evidence to suggest that because of racial profiling and other forms of discrimination in the criminal justice system, Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately targeted, arrested, and convicted of drug offenses. Therefore, a policy that denies financial aid to people with drug convictions has a racially discriminatory impact," says Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation's oldest and largest civil rights coalition. "This discriminatory denial of educational opportunities to minority students should be repealed."

"This law takes education away from kids in America who need it most," says ACLU Legislative Counsel Rachel King. "Students are having their futures put in jeopardy for minor indiscretions. Blocking their access to higher education benefits no one and fundamentally harms society at large."

"This policy has had many consequences, unintended or not. But one of them is to prevent young people -- many of whom are Latinos who have overcome a troubled past, worked hard, and are now in college -- from fulfilling their dream of a college education. This can't possibly be the outcome Congress intended when it passed this legislation," states Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza.

"Substance abuse among our young people is a serious national problem, but blocking the path to an education is an inappropriate response," says Larry Zaglaniczny of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. "Closing the doors of our colleges and universities, making it more difficult for at-risk young people to finish college and succeed in their goals, is not a commonsense policy for an advanced society such as ours."

Some of the other major organizations signing the letter include the National Education Association, NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United States Student Association.

Visit to read the entire letter and view the list of signers. Visit for a list of student governments that have adopted a resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision.

3. Congressional Drug and Terrorism Expert Says Legalization Could Cut Crime

As an international terrorism and narcotics specialist with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Raphael Perl knows a thing or two about drug policy. While the reports CRS produces on numerous topics are generally objective and non-partisan -- therefore arguably of little use to most Congresspersons -- Perl is widely acknowledged to be a thoughtful analyst of drug and terrorism trends. He most recently polished his drug war bona fides by appearing at last December's DEA horse-and-pony show attempting to link drugs and terror, where he argued that terrorist organizations could not survive financially without the drug trade.

But Perl popped up last week in Jamaica singing a slightly different tune. Addressing the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica as the honored guest at its "Business Roundtable Breakfast" in Kingston on April 30, Perl told his audience that decriminalizing or legalizing drugs could lower crime rates, but at the cost of increased drug use.

"It is very clear that there is a direct correlation between decriminalization and legalization, and levels of addiction and drug use in a society," Perl said, as reported by the Jamaica Gleaner. "For the societies that have experimented in this area, drug use goes up... but crime goes down."

(The correlation may not be as crystal clear as Perl suggested, but the point is well-taken. Peter Reuter and Robert MacCoun's recent survey of the literature on drug policy in "Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places," found, for instance, increases in Dutch cannabis consumption came not after de facto decriminalization in 1976, but only later, with the commercialization and glamorization of cannabis in Holland. Increases in Italian heroin use correlated only erratically with changes in the drug's legal status. Increases in alcohol consumption in the US after Prohibition were delayed and, again, probably due to commercialization.)

But betraying a bias that runs deep in American discussions of drug policy -- that the only indicator that matters is drug use levels, not crime levels, not harm levels, not average consumption levels, only how many people are using drugs -- Perl shied away from endorsing decrim or legalization. "Do we want to make a trade-off in our society, where we have more drug use and less crime?" Perl asked the assembled businessmen and women. "I don't like legalization," Perl said, "but I think that this is a decision that each society has to make for itself."

Perl might want to tell that to the State Department, which has threatened Jamaica with dire consequences if a parliamentary move to decriminalize marijuana meets with success (

Perl told his audience that using drugs is something that "scares me" and constructed a nightmare scenario for the no doubt horrified entrepreneurs. "The possibility exists down the road, that we might have a synthetic drug that I slip into your drink and you are my slave for life," he said.

Exercises in speculative fantasy aside, Perl's remarks indicate that serious drug analysts, even those whose job it is to frighten congresspersons, understand the trade-off between prohibition and crime and are willing to mention the unmentionable: that societies may decide that a certain level of drug use is tolerable if it results in less social harm than drug prohibition. Now, if Perl would only repeat his remarks a little closer to home, like, say, Capitol Hill.

4. Needle Exchange Not Playing Well in Peoria

Registered Nurse Beth Wehrman, 48, hardly seems like an ogre, but her harm reduction activities in one of Peoria's tougher neighborhoods have made her a monster in the eyes of some neighbors and local politicians. Although Wehrman had been doing syringe exchanges in the area for more than a year, she recently caught the public eye, and Peoria didn't like what it saw.

On Tuesday, the Peoria city council voted unanimously to ban curbside syringe exchanges, such as Wehrman was doing, within 10 days. The council vote demands that any needle exchange program (NEP) now be conducted in a building in a non-residential area of the city, with the location being subject to prior approval by the chief of police.

The vote came after a brief but nasty offensive against Wehrman and her clients. One commentator in the Peoria Journal Star called her "Peoria's Pied Piper of Heroin" and accused her of "enabling" drug users to avoid "unwanted consequences." Another commentator called Wehrman "a hideous threat" and her NEP "the huckster wagon," adding that if the ordinance resulted in fewer drug users receiving clean needles, "that would be wonderful." The same writer referred to drug users as "neighborhood vermin."

Such discourse makes it clear that the writers are unfamiliar with the bountiful evidence that NEPs are an effective means of controlling the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases (

Werhman, who runs Lifeguard Harm Reduction Services in the nearby Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) wears two hats. On the one hand, she is contracted by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District to provide harm reduction services in Peoria; on the other hand, she is in a partnership with the Chicago Recovery Alliance, under whose auspices she operates the NEP. More than 80 people, mostly African-American, have enrolled in the program in the area, and Wehrman has exchanged 11,000 needles so far this year.

Wehrman told DRCNet she had quietly been doing syringe exchanges in the area for more than a year. "At first, it was door to door with individual users who had heard of me through word of mouth," she said, "but then I was referred to the Old Towne South neighborhood. Until recently, I worked out of an alleyway and had no problems, but the state's attorney was uncomfortable with me being on private property, so I moved to the street."

Even on the street, she attracted little notice, she said, until several weeks ago she offered a stipend to her clients for completing a research survey. "An unexpected result was the influx of people attracted by the payment," she said. "Next week, it was back to normal, but that one day scared the neighborhood and led to the ordinance," she said.

"The ordinance was drafted on last week, filed on Friday, and passed on Tuesday," said Wehrman. "There was no review of the evidence, no look at the research or the science. It was an incredible rush to judgment," she said.

The Peoria ordinance is a retreat from and attack on the Illinois state law allowing NEPS to take place as part of scientific research.

If Wehrman is depressed by recent events, she is also unbowed. "The need continues," she said. "I will continue to go down there, and there is supposed to be a quick meeting with government officials, law enforcement, and the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District so we can move forward on finding a building."

But why is the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District involved in harm reduction in Peoria? "Peoria refused to fund it," said Julie Pryde, director of the Champaign-Urbana district's program, "so I wrote a grant proposal and Beth is funded out of our program."

Both Wehrman and Pryde pointed to the obstructionist role of the Peoria public health office. "The public health authorities won't work with me in Peoria," Wehrman said. "They say the service is needed, but they haven't funded it and they don't want me here," she added. "I had hard numbers, I had outreach work done, I had real people, I had applied for funding in Peoria, but they refused. They even refused to write a letter of introduction so I could discuss the matter with the state's attorney," said Wehrman.

"The health department in Peoria opted out," confirmed Pryde. "We will have to work with other agencies on this," she said.

Both women alluded to a hostile, racially tense atmosphere in Peoria. "This is like a damned Peyton Place, racially segregated, its ridiculous," said Pryde. "When I testified before the city council, I felt like a frog in a cheese grater. Very uncomfortable."

"There is a real smell of racism to this," said Wehrman. "Most of my clients are African-American. They are asking me 'do we not matter?'"

(This week, the Illinois ACLU announced it was filing a racial profiling lawsuit against Illinois state troopers patrolling Interstate-74 between Peoria and Galesburg following an incident in November 2000, where troopers allegedly stopped a vehicle with three young, suited, black men, searched them for drugs and called them "niggers." Illinois law enforcement authorities had found no evidence to reprimand the troopers involved. The troopers found no evidence of any drugs.)

Neither Pryde nor Wehrman are optimistic about future NEPs in Peoria. "In this atmosphere, the city will make it very difficult for anyone to rent to me for an NEP store-front operation," said Wehrman. "That will make it difficult for me to address the needs of the people I work with. I never thought they would take it to this level. Maybe I was too idealistic," she said.

But both are determined to keep fighting. "We will try to build alliances," said Pryde. "We will find a building. In the meantime, Wehrman will continue to go out there, and we expect she'll be harassed, and that will excite the attention of higher-ups. The state of Illinois doesn't want to see ordinances like this, and it doesn't have to be this way. Other public health departments are foursquare behind NEPs," she said.

"When I moved onto the street, I thought I was doing what they wanted," said Wehrman. "It backfired. But we were good neighbors, when we there we cleaned the area up. And I'm no Pied Piper. I went there because I was asked. Now I can't even give them clean needles on their back porches."

5. Philadelphia Trying to Quash Open-Air Drug Markets With Massive Police Presence

Philadelphia is now into its second week of Operation Safe Streets, a massive police crackdown on some 300 identified open-air drug markets in the City of Brotherly Love. While its predecessor, Operation Sunrise, targeting the tough Kensington and North Philadelphia areas, led to some 20,000 drug arrests over three years, this time police are trying a different tack: Instead of mass arrests, police are flooding those areas with uniformed cops to prevent and deter drug dealing.

"Law enforcement will never solve this problem. We will never arrest our way out of this problem," said Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson as he unveiled an operation that will flood the streets with hundreds of officers.

"You're going to see police officers where you saw those drug dealers," Mayor James Street said at the May 1 press conference announcing the operation. "We're going to put all those people out of business," he vowed, raising the political stakes on the operation's success. "This is going to have a huge disruptive effect, their customers won't know where to find them," he predicted.

But Philadelphia drug policy activists are much less sanguine. "This is essentially a great big band-aid," said Diane Fornbacher, the executive director of the Tri State Drug Policy Forum ( "A heavy police presence will indeed reduce the number of open-air drug markets, but the black market will still exist and people will still be buying, selling, and using drugs," she told DRCNet. "It would be better if drugs were regulated -- there would be less crime, fewer overdoses, and with regulation, Philadelphia could also begin to ease those with addiction problems into considering treatment."

Arun Prabhakaran works with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (, whose members have witnessed the predecessor Operation Sunrise. Reflecting the needs of KWRU members, Prabhakaran pointed to what he saw as a fundamental flaw in Operation Safe Streets. "The most important aspect of the Operation Safe Streets is that it doesn't address the fact that Philadelphians lack health care, jobs, housing and other basic necessities of life," he told DRCNet. "They need to find real solutions to these economic human rights problems. The mayor's office can pay overtime to hundreds off police officers to stand in the neighborhoods as a show of force. As long as people are structurally unemployed, they are going to work in the second largest industry in Kensington... the drug industry."

Prabhakaran's mention of the renewed drug trade in Kensington raises other questions about the efficacy of Operation Safe Streets. Without the kinds of social reforms he listed, suggests Prabhakaran, there is little reason to believe that temporary police offensives will make fundamental differences in the conditions that generate drug use and make working as a dealer seem desirable.

Prevention Point Philadelphia, a needle exchange program serving 8,000 registered participants in the city, has its ears close to the ground, but according to executive director Casey Cook, it is still too early to tell what the immediate impact of the operation will be. "In these first few days, we've seen a decrease in the usage of our needle exchange program and an increase in the number of requests for treatment and particularly detoxification," she told DRCNet. "There is clearly, absolutely a visible difference in police presence across the city," she said.

Cook suggested that demand for drug treatment could increase, but herein lies another problem: There isn't any money. "There's always money for the police," said Fornbacher, "but even though there is a system in place to give people the option of treatment, there isn't enough money to provide it."

Prabhakaran agreed. "They have the mayor's office put out the word that they want people to get treatment," he told DRCNet. "The contradiction is the beds in the detox places filled up quickly after the Operation Safe Streets started. They were pretty full on a regular basis before this, anyway. The drug courts are starting to offer treatment as alternatives, but they haven't increased the funding to programs or access to healthcare services."

And if there isn't enough treatment, neither are there are enough courts. Philadelphia judges have been throwing out drug cases with increasing frequency because of clogged jails and courts, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 1.

Critics also pointed to a class-war element to Operation Safe Streets. "The mayor says that the strategy is to force drug dealers off the corners and into housing or out of the city," Prabhakaran said. "Then the police could raid, make arrests inside the houses, and search and seize the property. Then they will be able to sell the property at a sheriff's sale as a public nuisance. This is part and parcel of the city's neighborhood transformation initiative, which is an effort to reclaim the tax base by attracting international big money people to invest in the city. Of course, the flip side of that is pushing poor people out of the city into the decaying inner-ring suburbs. This is a forced relocation, but it isn't going to make the second largest economic activity in Kensington, the drug industry, disappear," he said.

In an article heralding the success of Operation Sunrise, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about how persistent neighborhood activists had transformed the corner of 9th and Indiana, calling it a "success story." But, the paper noted, "only a block or two away in any direction, the dealers and addicts lurk."

6. In Hartford, Neighborhood Drug Fighters and Drug Reformers Inhabit Parallel Universes

The open drug dealing and associated social disarray in Hartford's North End neighborhood, long a gaping tear in the Connecticut city's social fabric, made national news last July 4, when 7-year-old Takira Gaston was shot and killed on a North End street. That killing also sparked a wave of protest by local residents and community activists targeting local drug dealers. Declaring the crime and violence a civil rights issue, the Greater Hartford NAACP initiated a "Peace in the City" campaign, and grassroots neighborhood groups such as Communities Against Drugs (CAD) kicked off the summer season early. Led by the Rev. Cornell Lewis, one of the principal organizers of last year's anti-violence campaign, the group has twice staged weekend campouts on North End corners favored by neighborhood dealers.

Meanwhile, drug reform groups, such as the Hartford-based Efficacy, are becoming audible voices in a growing drug policy debate. These two sets of drug policy activists eye each other warily, but may have more in common than either side believes. And while the state incarcerates, the street protesters agitate, and the reformers educate, the killing continues. Ten people have been killed in homicides so far this year, seven of them related to the black market drug trade.

The Rev. Lewis told DRCNet his campaign to take back the streets was gathering steam after a rocky beginning. "We had a campout two weeks ago and that stirred up resistance from the drug dealers," he said. "One lady came out and ranted and raved at us for 45 minutes. Then the drug dealers sent a messenger saying they understood what we were doing, but they didn't like it because it disrupted their business. We sent them a message back saying we didn't appreciate their bringing a climate of violence to the community," Lewis said. "Later a man came down and rapped a song at us about how he had a gat and an extra clip and was looking for someone to shoot. We asked him to leave," said Lewis. But things got better, he said.

"Last weekend, people in the neighborhood came out and greeted us, they brought us food and drink," Lewis continued. "It was a better reception. We had sent flyers into the neighborhood telling where the drug houses were, and now the traffic is minimal," he told DRCNet.

Cliff Thornton of the Connecticut drug reform group Efficacy ( doubted that Lewis and his group would accomplish much. "They've been doing these marches and things for the last year-and-a-half," Thornton told DRCNet. "They had a big sweep there last summer, but by November things were back to normal and in some places even worse. And even during the marches, I've seen people making drug deals right across the street," said Thornton.

"The dealers move when the heat comes, but then they come right back. This will not solve the problem," Thornton said. "This may be well-intentioned, but it's ineffective."

The Rev. Lewis, of course, begs to differ. "These criminal elements are destroying our neighborhoods and they need to be dealt with now," he said. Adding that some are "operating on a worldview based on materialism and hedonism, heedless of God's law and man's law," Lewis said the dealers were unamenable to gentle persuasion. "That's where our methods come into play. No drug dealer will stay in business if he can't make money, so we try to make it impossible for them to operate," he said. "We've had some success in some neighborhoods," he added. "I tell you what, come up with something better, then I'll listen, in the meantime we'll do what we think is necessary."

For Lewis, drug reformers like Thornton and their arguments are something to be approached gingerly, but the reverend, who also possesses a graduate degree in substance abuse and counseling, proved both familiar with and even somewhat sympathetic to some drug reform arguments. "I understand the systemic issues [Thornton is] talking about. People need treatment," he said, adding that he could support medication as treatment, as in methadone maintenance. "I have looked at the literature, I've read the reports about other countries that are legalizing. I've been to Europe and seen people huddled up like pigeons chasing the dragon. For me, it wasn't a particularly pleasant sight, but the government said they had things under control."

But Lewis isn't ready to embrace a call to end drug prohibition. "I haven't come to terms with it, there is some validity on both sides," he said. "I continue to look at the issue." And he thinks the idea is dead on arrival in the current political climate. "This country is not intellectually prepared to address the issue," he said. "Legalization is not realistic."

While ardent reformers may view Lewis's position as a cop-out, it is also more progressive than some in the drug reform community may have thought and more progressive than many other voices in the African-American community on drug policy issues. Black America has so far mostly turned a deaf ear to the predominantly white drug reform movement and its eloquent exhortations about how blacks bear the brunt of the drug war, much to the movement's dismay and consternation. While some prominent African-American politicians have become to come around on drug policy, especially sentencing reform, much of the black response to the drug problem is an understandable but limited "let's clean up the neighborhood."

In Connecticut, however, Efficacy and other drug reformers are making a concerted effort to influence the drug policy debate in black circles -- and they are claiming some success. "We've talked to Lewis and CAD, we will try to work with them if there is any common ground," said Thornton. But Efficacy has not limited itself to that. "We've been putting on inner city forums -- about 150 showed up at each," he said, but admitted they were overwhelmingly white.

But through getting themselves a prominent, regular place on the city's radio waves, Efficacy is starting to have an impact, Thornton said. "A lot of black radio announcers are starting to echo our rhetoric about how the drug war has failed. When we start connecting the dots -- education, economics, health care, prison spending, the drug war -- they are picking it up and running with it," he said. "People are starting to come around. We're starting to see black youth espousing the things we say. It's a constant educational process."

For all sides. Lewis, for example, shied away from a moral argument against drug use, telling DRCNet "drugs are not evil," not conforming to a perhaps stereotypical picture of a black anti-drug activist preacher. But the reverend, for all his talk about reintegrating the users and dealers into the community, displayed absolutely no interest in sentencing reform. Maybe he should talk to the families in his congregation. Surely there are more than a few who could educate him about the impact of long prison sentences for drug crimes.

7. Million Marijuana March Hits 200 Cities Worldwide, Major Arrests Only in NYC

Demonstrators calling for the legalization of marijuana took to the streets in approximately 200 cities across the globe on May 4, making this year's staging of the annual Million Marijuana March the largest yet. Only in New York City, notorious for its massive number of marijuana arrests annually, did police move in to make large numbers of arrests of smoking demonstrators. Police reported 148 marijuana arrests as thousands of marchers gathered in Lower Manhattan.

For Dana Beal, former Yippie and perennial pot agitator who heads Cures Not Wars ( and was the primary organizer and central repository for the global actions, this was the best year yet. "We didn't have a million people, but we had a bunch of cities with thousands of people, a few with tens of thousands. It's starting to add up," he told DRCNet. "And we got more national media coverage than ever. We were on CNN Headline News every half-hour for a whole day." The New York Times also graced the protest by covering the event, something it had been loathe to do it the past.

Perhaps as important, the protests generated coverage in the provincial press. Papers such as the Lansing State Journal, the Paducah Sun, the Rapid City Journal, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Santa Cruz Sentinel, among others, all reported on demonstrations in their towns, and little of the coverage resorted to crude "stoner dude" stereotypes.

Marches took place in 30 countries, including multiple locations in Canada, England and Germany. An estimated thousand people gathered in Prague, "several hundred" in New Zealand, and events were scheduled for such diverse locales as Israel, South Africa and Australia. According to Beal, reports have not yet been received from all cities with marches scheduled.

As for the arrests in New York, Beal's home base, the mustachioed yipster was mellow. "There was no rough stuff and no pepper spray," he said, "and nobody was bum-rushing the cops. There was no twisting girls' arms and frog-marching them off in front of the crowd. This was more like professional security at a rock concert than the brutal Giuliani cops," said Beal.

Beal was less pleased with a broken promise by police to only issue tickets for marijuana infractions, instead of the typical practice of arresting and holding them in precinct detention cells for an average of 20 hours. "They were under a federal court order not to hold people like that, so they did give them tickets, but only after holding them for a few hours. Technically, they kept their word, but people still ended up being held for hours," he said. "Anyway, it is convenient for the cops and the courts to just ticket them, rather than have to process hundreds of pot-smokers at once."

Beal bristled a bit when asked if the marches hurt the reform effort by showing the face of the marijuana culture. "Right now, we're in a struggle for our image. If we succeed in being a nonviolent civil disobedience movement, we will win," he said. As for those people in the drug reform movement who argue the marches are hurtful, "they're perpetuating a damaging stereotype themselves," said Beal.

"We don't have to go to their conferences," said Beal, who was visibly absent from last month's NORML conference in San Francisco. "If we are not welcome, we have our own international forum and movement. National NORML didn't even put us on their web site. I don't have time for those people."

Beal turned more congenial as he told of Radical Party members at the march who complained they couldn't get arrested in Europe. "Hey, we'll tout New York next year as the home of marijuana civil disobedience," he enthused. "We can guarantee you'll get arrested, not like that repressive tolerance in Europe."

8. Patient's Hunger Strike for Medical Cannabis Enters Fourth Week

(courtesy NORML,

Sunday will mark the fourth week of a hunger strike by a seriously ill Missoula, Montana, woman fighting for the right to use medical marijuana legally. Robin Prosser, who uses marijuana medicinally to treat pain and spasmodic symptoms from a lupus-related immunosuppressive disorder, began her strike on April 20th. Prosser has vowed to continue her hunger strike until the federal government allows her legal access to government-grown marijuana or grants her legal protection to cultivate her own.

"I want to grow my own personal supply of medicine or be allowed access [to] ... the same 300 joints monthly that the remaining patients in the [federal] Compassionate IND Program receive," Prosser said, referring to a US government health program that grows and supplies medical cannabis to a handful of seriously ill patients. That program has been closed to new applicants since 1992. "I [should] not be treated differently because of where I live," she added.

Prosser says she is violently allergic to most conventional medications, and maintains that cannabis provides the most effective relief for her medical symptoms.

To date, local law enforcement officials appear unmoved by Prosser's struggle. Missoula Police Chief Bob Weaver recently told The Missoulian that Prosser would "be busted if she grows pot and we learn about it," despite her medical condition or hunger strike.

Nevertheless, Prosser remains undaunted, despite having already lost more than 30 pounds and temporarily requiring hospitalization. "I have decided that I need to do something to stand up for the medicine I and so many others must have," she said. "I'd rather die deliberately under the eye of the public and put a name on my executioners than just fade off under the persecution of my homeland."

(Visit for additional information about Prosser.)

9. Newsbrief: FDA Okays Marijuana Hair Test, Would Detect Up to Three Months

Drug-testing giant Psychemedics has won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for a new test that detects the presence of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, in human hair. According to Psychemedics, the hair test allows for the detetection of drugs used as long as three-months prior to the time of testing. The company also touts the ability to keep the suspect, er, employee or student, under surveillance while the sample is taken -- a problem for urine drug testers who encounter people who dislike being watched while they go to the bathroom.

"Psychemedics' hair analysis has consistently proven to be more effective than urinalysis and other methods in correctly identifying drug abusers," claimed the company web site. "In fact, when hair and urine results were compared in 'side-by-side' evaluation, 5 to 10 times as many drug abusers were accurately identified with the Psychemedics hair test.

"Psychemedics is the only company to have any FDA-cleared hair test, and we now have them in all the major drugs of abuse categories," bragged CEO Ray Kubacki in a statement announcing the FDA approval. Psychemedics developed a hair test for ecstasy in 2000, and has since issued press releases shrilly announcing a huge ecstasy abuse problem.

Psychemedics provides drug testing services to more than 2,200 corporations, as well as the Federal Reserve, five of the nation's largest police departments and numerous school districts, according to the firm's web site. Its corporate headquarters are at 1280 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA, and it has a toll-free phone number -- (800) 628-8073 -- for people wishing to contact the company.

10. Newsbrief: German Heroin Deaths Decline After Safe Injection Sites Introduced

The German Health Ministry reported on Tuesday that heroin overdose deaths in that country declined by 9.6% last year, the first decline in four years. According to the ministry, 1,835 people died of heroin overdoses in Germany last year. The ministry attributed the decrease to the introduction of government-operated safe injection sites where addicts can inject drugs in a supervised setting, as well as receive counseling and harm reduction information. About 20 safe injection sites run by state governments are in operation around the country.

Meanwhile, an experimental program to provide addicts with heroin under medical supervision is in its second month. Under that program, addicts in seven cities are undergoing what the Germans call "heroin-supported therapy."

11. Newsbrief: South Dakota Hemp Petition Signatures Submitted, Seeds Planted

The South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council on Tuesday handed over 15,700 signatures on petitions asking that the state's electorate be allowed to vote on whether to legalize hemp production in the upcoming November elections. State law requires 13,010 valid signatures, and signature-gatherers typically hope for an extra 50% above the legal requirement, so some nail-biting will take place between now and the time South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson finishes his audit of the signatures. According to Bob Newland of South Dakota NORML (, Nelson should finish the count sometime this month.

Provided that Nelson finds sufficient signatures, South Dakota voters will be asked to vote for or against the following proposition: "Any person may plant, cultivate, harvest, possess, process, transport, sell or buy industrial hemp (cannabis) or any of its by-products with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of one percent or less."

After handing in the signatures, Newland and a small group of petition-gatherers moved to a flower bed near the steps of the state capitol in Pierre and planted 550 hemp seeds. Although both police and media had been notified in advance, said Newland, neither showed up.

12. Newsbrief: Philippine Official Asks End to Vigilante Killings of Drug Dealers, Users

Davao City Human Rights Commissioner Dominador Calamba II demanded on May 4 that local government officials in Mindinao province stop the vigilante killing of alleged drug dealers and users and gang members, the Philippine Star reported this week. At least 40 minors have been killed by vigilantes in the region since 1999, the newspaper reported. A task force to look into the killings was announced last year, but has not presented any findings, the paper said.

"Let them stop the killings because they are counterproductive," Calamba said in remarks aimed at local government officials. "Vigilante killing is a crime and it mars the peace and order." Calamba said it was impossible that local officials did not know who was behind the killings, which they apparently tolerated. "I even believe that these killers are paid to execute their missions," he said.

In March, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council, accused Digos City Mayor Arsenio Latasa of involvement in the killings. According to a report in Sunstar Davao, a local news service, Duterte accused Latasa of hiring a band of "notorious killers, some of them police scalawags," to liquidate drug dealers in the area.

Latasa denied the charge, saying he couldn't afford to hire vigilantes.

13. Newsbrief: Canadian Senate Panel Hints at Marijuana Legalization

The Canadian Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, which is reviewing possible changes in Canada's drug laws, on May 3 issued a discussion paper on marijuana summarizing the results of its research so far. While the solons agreed that people probably shouldn't use marijuana, they also found little harm in doing so. After 14 months of hearings and research, the committee concluded that the negative health effects of marijuana are "relatively benign," there is no "gateway effect," marijuana does not cause anti-social behavior or criminal conduct or hurt academic performance, and prevention and law enforcement efforts have had little impact on usage rates.

The committee found that an estimated 30-50% of Canadians aged 15 to 24 have used marijuana despite extensive and expensive suppression efforts, leading it to suggest that the millions spent fighting it have been wasted.

The committee made no recommendations on changing the law, but will issue recommendations in August after further consultations in communities across the country. But committee chair Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin hinted at the committee's thinking in remarks to the Toronto Globe & Mail last week. "We're questioning prohibition as an effective way or policy to control a substance," said Nolin. "It may be more appropriate to treat [marijuana] like alcohol or tobacco than harder drugs," he said.

14. NPR and Reuters on HEA and SSDP

National Public Radio ran a report on Monday about Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Chicago conference and the student PAC opposing Mark Souder's reelection:

Reuters news wire service reported Monday on our HEA organizational sign-on letter:

15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 13, 10:00am, New York, NY, meeting of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. At the Correctional Association, 135 E. 15th St., contact Julie Kowitz at (212) 254-5700 x314 or [email protected] for further information.

May 16, 8:00pm-2:00am, Charleston, SC, fundraiser for Charleston NORML. At Cumberland's, downtown, featuring five separate bands, admission $5. For further info visit or contact Stephen Levine at (843) 559-8985 or [email protected].

May 21, 6:00-9:00PM, Menands, NY, Criminal Justice Soiree. Italian buffet dinner with no speakers, at the Schuyler Inn, 575 Broadway, admission $12. For further information, contact Allison Coleman at (518) 453-6659 or [email protected].

May 23, Portland, OR, noon-1:30pm, "Rethinking the War on Drugs," luncheon forum with New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Sponsored by the Cascade Policy Institute, at the Benson Hotel, Mayfair Ballroom, 309 SW Broadway. RSVP to (503) 242-0900 or [email protected], or visit for further information.

June 8, 1:00pm, DeWitt, NY, ReconsiDer Annual Meeting. Featuring Jack Cole, retired New Jersey state undercover detective, at Memorial Unitarian Universalists Church, 3800 E. Genesee. Contact Jim Schofield at (315) 471-2514 or [email protected] for further information.

June 8-9, St. Petersburg, FL, The Second Annual Conference on Adolescent Drug Treatment Abuse. Sponsored by The Trebach Institute, with survivors of abusive treatment programs and other concerned parties. Early registration $100, visit for further information.

June 15, New York, NY, Drop the Rock march and concert/rally, location and time to be announced. Contact Tamar Kraft-Stolar at (212) 254-5700 x306 or [email protected] for further information.

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].

July 5-7, Bryn Mawr, PA, "Liberty & Crisis," student seminar with the Institute for Humane Studies. Participation free, application deadline March 29, visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

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.

September 30-October 1, Washington, DC, "National Symposium on Felony Disenfranchisement," conference sponsored by The Sentencing Project. Admission free, advance registration required, visit or call (202) 628-0871 for further information.

November 8-10, Anaheim, CA, combined national conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Early bird registration $150, $45 for students with financial need, visit for further information.

November 9, Anaheim, CA, Bill Maher benefit show for Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Admission $50, or $1,000 VIP package including front-row seat and private reception with Bill Maher. Visit for further information.

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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