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

Issue #238, 5/24/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform Joins with Members of Congress at US Capitol to Call for Repeal of HEA Drug Provision
  2. British MPs Call for Massive Drug Policy Reform, But Reject Legalization -- for Now
  3. Incoming Dutch Government Threatens Coffee Shops
  4. Budget Crunch: Drug War Fuels Mississippi Prison Binge, No Money Left for Education
  5. High School Drug Courts Spreading in West Virginia
  6. Newsbrief: Marijuana Exile Steve Kubby Claims Refugee Status in Canada
  7. Newsbrief: British Cannabis Cafe Owner Freed
  8. Newsbrief: North Carolina Drug Courts Face Ax Because of Budget Woes
  9. Newsbrief: New York City Cops in Paraphernalia Sweep, Big Hoopla, Misdemeanor Arrests
  10. Newsbrief: Seattle Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering Now Underway
  11. Newsbrief: Santa Cruz to Place Needle Disposal Boxes in Public Restrooms
  12. Errata: Different Kinds of Mushrooms
  13. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform Joins with Members of Congress at US Capitol to Call for Repeal of HEA Drug Provision

Lawmakers, educators, and student, religious, and civil rights organizations gathered together outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Tuesday afternoon to urge repeal of a law that has denied financial aid to nearly 80,000 would-be students because they had drug convictions, no matter how minor.

Ten members of Congress joined with the Coalition for HEA Reform (CHEAR) as it submitted a letter to Congress calling for repeal of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision ( The letter was endorsed by 41 national educational, civil rights, religious and other advocacy groups, including organizations such as the NAACP, American Federation of Teachers, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Education Association, American Civil Liberties Union, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church and numerous others.

The events in Washington, which picked up coverage from the Boston Globe, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Black Entertainment Network (BET), among other outlets, were the latest move in an effort by the coalition to preserve the momentum of its three-year campaign for full repeal of the law in the face of a partial reform offered by its author, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). Souder, contending that the US Department of Education misinterpreted what the law said, has offered to amend the law so that its anti-drug provision would apply only to students enrolled and receiving financial aid at the time they committed their offense.

That isn't good enough for 67 members of the House of Representatives (65 Democrats and two Republicans), who have sponsored H.R. 786, a bill offered by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) to repeal the provision. Ten of them showed up at CHEAR's press conference to voice their opposition to the drug provision, including Reps. Frank, Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Julia Carson (D-IN), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Danny Davis (D-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Patsy Mink (D-HI) and Bobby Rush (D-IL). Another member, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) had intended to speak but was kept away by a vote, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a staff member to hand out a written statement.

"If you are fortunate enough to grow up in a family that can finance your college education without help from the government, a minor drug conviction won't bar you from an education," Frank told the Capitol Hill press conference. "But if you need some federal assistance in order to pursue higher education, you may have to delay or completely discontinue your college career, even if you have only been convicted of possession of small amounts of marijuana."

Under the Souder law, students convicted of drug possession lose their student financial aid eligibility for one year for the first offense, two years for the second offense and indefinitely for a third offense. Drug sellers lose eligibility for two years and indefinitely for a second offense.

"It is not enough to amend the law so that convictions from years prior to college attendance would no longer count," said Frank. "I strongly believe we need to pass a complete repeal."

Frank got a strong second from New Jersey Democrat Rep. Robert Andrews, who called the law "unwise and unjust" and an "economic death sentence." The anti-drug provision "abandons two of the most important principles I thought we had in American society -- redemption and local control. I'm glad that kind of standard doesn't apply to Congress," Andrews added. "Our offices would be empty."

Illinois Democrat Rep. Danny Davis also decried the law's unforgiving nature, saying "We need to give people a second chance, give them a first chance, give them the chance to go to school so they're not out on the corners dealing crack or blow."

Both at the press conference and in the letter to Congress, the coalition hammered away at the law's racially discriminatory impact, its class bias and its perversion of the student financial aid system. "Financial aid is the wrong vehicle for addressing social goals such as reducing substance abuse," read the letter to Congress. "While the drug provision was designed to prevent drug dealers from setting up shop on campus with federal funds, it primarily impacts students convicted of minor offenses. The vast majority of young people convicted of drug offenses are convicted of simple, nonviolent possession."

The NAACP's Washington, DC bureau chief, Hilary Shelton elaborated on the racial disparities at work in the drug war and hence in the anti-drug provision. "African Americans are disproportionately more likely to use financial aid, Pell Grants and the like," he said, "and they are also disproportionately more likely to be convicted of drug related offenses, even though they use drugs at a rate much more consistent with our representation in society."

NASFAA's Director of Congressional Relations Larry Zaglaniczny rebutted an argument commonly used by the drug provision's supporters, that taking financial aid away from drug offenders makes more available for law-abiding students, explaining that the system doesn't work that way. "Not one penny" of the aid denied goes to other applicants, he said.

Also speaking at the press conference was 22-year-old Caton Volk, who described how a high school marijuana arrest stopped him from getting financial aid after his mother's loss of a job made it impossible for her to support his quest for higher education. Volk was forced to drop out of the University of Illinois at Chicago after one semester. Despite having paid a fine, completed a two-year probation sentence, performed community service and passed several drug tests, the anti-drug provision continues to punish Volker.

Others addressing the crowd included Jo'ie Taylor of the United States Student Association, Shawn Heller of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Jennifer Collier of the Legal Action Center, an organization advocating for the rights of people afflicted with addiction problems. Additional supporting statements were provided by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Coalition and media outreach by the Mintwood Media Collective helped make the event the success that it was.

While the campaign to repeal the HEA anti-drug provision has spawned student activism and generated new alliances among institutions and advocacy organizations, Souder and his law remain in place and implacable. Responding to the press conference, Souder told the Boston Globe the Republican-led House Education and the Workforce Committee is working on fine-tuning the law, with possible changes including limiting the law to those enrolled and receiving financial aid at the time of their offense.

But DRCNet's David Borden, CHEAR's chief engineer, is confident of eventual victory. "Numerous allies in Congress, education, civil rights and elsewhere have spoken loud and clear that the Souder compromise does not satisfy the issues and that the law must be repealed in full." Borden added, "We are optimistic of having eight times as many organizations and twice as many Congressional cosponsors involved in this by next year when the Higher Education Act reauthorization process begins, not to mention all the organizing we're doing in the districts whose Representatives sit on that committee. The drug provision is unpopular, and sooner or later Souder & company are going to drop it for their own good."

Watch the BET Nightly News report (lead story, Tuesday night) at

Visit for pictures from the CHEAR press conference.

Read the Boston Globe piece online at or

Read the Chronicle of Higher Education coverage of the press conference online at or

A statement issued by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism made the Religion News Service's "Quote of the Day." RNS quoted: "Denying an education to past drug offenders who seek to become productive members of society is both cruel and illogical."

Visit for information on the HEA campaign or to get involved.

2. British MPs Call for Massive Drug Policy Reform, But Reject Legalization -- for Now

The latest addition to the ever-growing debate over British drug policy came this week as the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee studying current policy released its long-awaited report, "The Government's Drugs Policy: Is It Working?" The Members of Parliament (MPs) on the committee undertook 10 months of hearings before issuing its report on Wednesday. While the MPs recommended significant drug policy reforms across-the-board and called for "a major shake-up," they balked at going the extra step and calling for legalization -- even of cannabis.

In all, the report makes 24 specific recommendations for change, among the most notable of which are:

  • Reclassification of cannabis and ecstasy: "We believe that drugs policy should primarily be addressed to dealing with the 250,000 problematic drug users. We support... the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis from class B to class C. We... recommend that ecstasy is reclassified as a class B drug."
  • Heroin: "We recommend that the Government substantially increases the funding for treatment for heroin addicts and ensure that methadone treatments and complementary therapies are universally available to those who need them. We recommend that appropriate treatment forms a mandatory part of custodial sentences and that offenders have access to consistent treatment approaches within the prison estate as well as outside it. This should include strictly supervised methadone treatment in the first instance. We recommend that a proper evaluation is conducted of diamorphine [medical heroin] prescribing for heroin addiction in the UK... as compared with methadone prescribing regimes. We recommend that the guidance and training provided to practitioners prescribing diamorphine to heroin addicts is strengthened."
  • Cocaine: "We recommend that the number of treatment places for cocaine users is substantially increased. We recommend that resources are channeled into researching and piloting innovative treatment interventions. We consider that the risks posed by cocaine to the user and to other people merit it remaining a class A drug. We recommend that more treatment places are created for crack users and that resources be channeled into researching and piloting more effective treatments. We further recommend that in the meantime efforts are redoubled to extinguish supply of crack cocaine. Where crack is concerned we see no prospect for compromise."
  • Safe Injection Sites: "We recommend that an evaluated pilot programme of safe injecting houses for heroin users is established without delay and that if... this is successful, the programme is extended across the country. We conclude that the Dutch and Swiss evidence provides a strong basis on which to conduct a pilot here in Britain of highly structured heroin prescribing to addicts."
  • Drug Education: "We believe that all drugs education material should be based on the premise that any drug use can be harmful, and should be discouraged. We conclude that general practitioners are, for the most part, inadequately trained to deal with drug misuse. We recommend that training in substance misuse is embedded in the undergraduate medical curriculum and postgraduate general practice curriculum."
  • Social Dealing: "We recommend that a new offence is created of 'supply for gain,' which would be used to prosecute large-scale commercial suppliers. We are not persuaded that an intent to supply should be presumed on the basis of amounts of drugs found; we therefore recommend that the offences of simple possession and possession with intent to supply should be retained."
  • Harm Reduction Workers and the Law: "We recommend that the Government reviews Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with a view to repealing it, to allow for the provision of drugs paraphernalia which reduces the harm caused by drugs. We recommend that Section 8 of the Act is amended to ensure that drugs agencies can conduct harm reduction work and provide safe injecting areas for users without fear of being prosecuted. We recommend that the Home Office and Department of Health urgently review the current legal framework on the dispensation of controlled drugs by community pharmacists. We recommend that Drug Abstinence Orders are amended to carry the requirement of access to treatment."
  • Legalization: "While acknowledging that there may come a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalising and regulating some types of presently illegal drugs, we decline to recommend this drastic step. We accept that to decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use would send the wrong message to the majority of young people... and that it would inevitably lead to an increase in drug abuse. We, therefore, reject decriminalisation. We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the [United Nations] Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways -- including the possibility of legalisation and regulation -- to tackle the global drugs dilemma."
While the committee's recommendations have frightened anti-drug activists, they have also received scorn from some prominent legalizers. Former Cabinet Minister Mo Mowlam, for example, told the BBC News that the committee's proposed "halfway measures do nothing." Ministers should "have the guts to go all the way" and legalize cannabis and ecstasy, she said.

"The ecstasy move, to bring it down a class, what does that do? It makes it more available," she said. "But it doesn't deal with the underlying problems of making sure it's clean, making sure people know how much and that water is available and how much water to drink."

But if the committee was criticized for timidity on one side, the Labor government of Tony Blair was quick to reject some of its recommendations as too much, too soon. Home Secretary David Blunkett quickly rejected the committee's ecstasy downgrade proposal, which would move the drug from Class A (heroin, cocaine) to Class B (barbiturates, amphetamines). In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Blunkett said: "Reclassification of ecstasy is not on the government's agenda. Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably and there is no such thing as a safe dose."

British observers report that roughly a half-million Britons use ecstasy each weekend. About 15 Britons die from ecstasy each year.

Likewise, Blunkett said the Blair government had "no plans for injecting rooms."

But on cannabis reclassification, which would make marijuana a Class C drug regulated like steroids or Valium, Blunkett and the committee were in sync. As a result, cannabis reclassification will be implemented in June, said Blunkett. While both Blunkett and the committee rejected "decriminalization," the reclassification of cannabis will result in the de facto decriminalization of simple possession. Police encountering someone in possession of Class C drugs typically write a citation rather than arrest the person.

While the committee hesitated to embrace legalization, which it called "a step into the unknown," its report acknowledged that legalization advocates were "sensible and thoughtful people." And the committee did urge that Britain initiate a debate at the United Nations over alternative means of regulating the global drug supply. "It may well be that a future generation will take a different view. Drug policy should not be set in stone," said the report.

In a related story, Ananova Press reported on Thursday evening that former Lord Chief Justice Bingham of Cornhill called for cannabis legalization, telling The Spectator magazine that current marijuana laws are "stupid." Cornhill is believed to be the most senior British judge to call for legalization while still in office.

The Home Affairs Select Committee report can be read online at

3. Incoming Dutch Government Threatens Coffee Shops

When Dutch voters on May 14 voted to oust the eight-year-old left-liberal coalition led by Prime Minister Wim Kok, they also opened the way to an assault on one of Holland's most famed social experiments: the de facto legalization of cannabis sales through closely regulated "coffee shops." The man widely expected to become the next Prime Minister, conservative Christian Democrat head Jan Peter Balkenende, is nicknamed "Harry Potter" for his resemblance to the bespectacled movie character, but he might more aptly be called "Harry Anslinger," after the notorious American drug warrior.

Balkenende, described as a "devout Christian," has promised to end the quarter-century policy of tolerance for cannabis and shut down the more than 800 cannabis cafes now open across the country. He has blamed the coffee shops for increasing drug use among Dutch youth.

"This is not a battle we're going to win overnight," Christian Democrat spokesman Marcel Maer told the London Sunday Times. "But we will chip away at the coffee shops, greatly reducing their number over the next two years until hopefully we can get rid of them altogether."

It won't be an easy fight. Coffee shop owners are organized into the Association of Cannabis Retailers, which has vowed to stop any such moves. And the Christian Democrats are relying on the Pim Fortuyn list, named after the iconoclastic anti-immigrant politician assassinated just days before the election, as their primary partners in building a governing coalition. But despite much ink spilled in the Netherlands and abroad describing Fortuyn as a "right-winger," the slain gay ex-professor held typically liberal Dutch views on social issues such as sex and drugs. Further, the Pim Fortuyn list appears to have been held together largely on personalistic grounds and is viewed as a wild card by many observers. Other than being "for Pim," candidates elected from the list hold a variety of positions on just about any issue.

"We expect rules making it harder for coffee shops to keep their licenses," said retailers' association chairman Reier Elzinga. "With Pim at the helm we were safe, but we're no longer sure," he told the Sunday Times.

Balkenende's Christian Democrats won 43 seats in the 150-member parliament, while the Pim Fortuyn list took 26 seats, leaving Balkenende to find only seven more votes to give him a majority coalition in the parliament. Despite years of solid economic growth, former Prime Minister Wim Kok's Labor-Liberal coalition crumpled, buffeted first by a report placing significant blame for the 1995 Srbenica massacre in Bosnia on Dutch soldiers, commanders, and politicians, and then by a wave of sympathy for Fortuyn after his murder, expressed by votes for candidates on his list. While Labor and the Liberals held 83 seats -- a solid majority -- in the old parliament, they could only muster 23 seats each in the latest elections.

The Kok government had already moved to rein in the coffee shops, reducing their numbers from roughly 1200 to the current 840, and reducing the amount of cannabis that could be purchased at one time from 30 grams to 5 grams. But Balkenende, who seems to have more in common with US Attorney General John Ashcroft than with the flamboyant Fortuyn, is philosophically opposed to the cannabis cafes. He has also expressed opposition to liberal Dutch policies on euthanasia and gay marriages.

4. Budget Crunch: Drug War Fuels Mississippi Prison Binge, No Money Left for Education

Along with more than 40 other states, Mississippi is contending with a brutal budget squeeze. But while the crunch has hit most state departments hard, the state's booming prison system remains largely unscathed. A report released Monday by the nonprofit Grassroots Leadership group detailed the tradeoffs required to support Mississippi's hard line on criminals, including drug offenders, who make up nearly one-third (31.62%) of the state's inmate population.

According to the report, "Education v. Incarceration: A Mississippi Case Study," during the tough-on-crime decade of the 1990s, per capita prison spending in Mississippi more than doubled, increasing by 115%. During that same period, the report found, per capita spending on higher education stagnated, increasing by less than 1%. Mississippi added 16 new prisons during that period, the study found, including six private prisons.

It isn't just education that is suffering to pay for the prison binge. The state Division of Medicaid is projecting a $120 million deficit for the coming fiscal year, while the Department of Human Services is threatening to lay off employees and reduce services if it cannot obtain a $20 million increase. As for education, the state College Board earlier this month hiked tuition by 8% for the coming academic year to make up for $98 million cut from its budget, and the legislature shaved $60 million more from the public schools budget.

But while the state struggles to fund essential services, private prison contractors are guaranteed payment in full.

"We're asking Mississippi and other states to say 'What kind of future do we want to build and how best to we build that?'" said Grassroots Leadership head Si Kahn at a Monday press conference at the state capitol. "For me, the lesson is that public policy shouldn't be determined by long-term contracts that benefit a private corporation."

Mississippi spends more to imprison its citizens ($10,672 per year) than to send them to college ($6,781 per year), the study found. "Mississippi is prioritizing locking up nonviolent offenders over preserving and expanding access to higher education for its citizens," the report noted.

More than two-thirds (67%) of Mississippi prisoners are nonviolent offenders, and 72% of Mississippi inmates are black. Blacks make up 80.35% of all convicted drug offenders in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. According to the Grassroots Leadership report, there are nearly twice as many black Mississippians in prison (13,837) than there are in colleges and universities (7,330).

The costs and opportunity costs of incarcerating a sizeable percentage of the state's population is attracting growing opposition. After Cleveland School District Superintendent Reggie Barnes heard his district was losing $402,000 in the coming fiscal year, he told the Bolivar Commercial he didn't think the legislature "gives a damn" about the public schools. "Give us half the money that you use to put them in prison and let us educate them, and I guarantee we will cut the numbers in half," Barnes said.

Newspapers in the state are also clamoring for changes. In an editorial on Wednesday, the Bolivar Commercial warned legislators to keep two points in mind: "First, the state will always be poor until it dramatically improves its educational system, which has thus left a fourth of our adults either illiterate or functionally illiterate. That lack of education feeds not only the prison rolls, but the rolls of our social service programs. Somewhere down the dead-end road of ignorance and poverty, Mississippi is going to have to build a bridge to success by making good education for all our citizens our top priority," the paper editorialized.

"Second, legislators are going to have to at least stop wasting money on silly, feel-good, 'tough-on-crime' items such as requiring prisoners to wear striped uniforms. When it did that a few years ago, Mississippi taxpayers had to fork over around $1 million."

And the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, one of the state's most prominent newspapers, also weighed in this week. Referring to the scheme to ensure that private prisons get paid in full while other state services go begging, the paper editorialized that: "This type of public policy is criminal. Those who own private prisons -- and apparently those charged with paying their bills -- have a vested interest in the fate of citizens who become involved in criminal activity," the paper noted. "To continue a public policy that favors an unbalanced system that send more of us to cages than to college is simply insane."

5. High School Drug Courts Spreading in West Virginia

Students in West Virginia's Kanawha County (Charleston) schools could soon be faced with a kiddie drug court if school and law enforcement officials have their way. A similar program in Cabell County (Huntington) has ensnared 40 students so far. The program, if adopted, would mark a significant escalation in the way the school district handles drug violations by students. Under the current policy, students caught with drugs are suspended from school for five days and required to take a drug class.

But under the proposed high school drug court scheme, if a student is caught with drugs, school officials will contact the police, who will bring criminal charges. Then, with the hammer of the law hanging over their heads, students would be offered the "option" of enrolling in the drug court program. Such students would have to take special classes at least once a week, have their academic performance monitored, submit to random drug tests performed by police officials, and follow a weekend curfew. If the students successfully complete the five-month program, the criminal charges would be dropped, but any failure to meet all the program's requirements could result in expulsion from the program and prosecution on the original drug charge.

Now, school officials are working with circuit court judges, parole officers and members of local law enforcement agencies to garner funding for the program. Kanawa County school district Student Affairs Director Sandy Boggs told the Charleston Daily Mail she had found a grant of between $300,000 and $400,000 per year for three years, but is working with police and court officials to work out the specifics of the program before writing the grant proposal.

According to school district officials, last year saw 80 incidents of marijuana-smoking on school property, 45 cases of marijuana possession and 50 cases of "pill popping." Alcohol and inhalants were also a problem, said Boggs.

"We continuously see students getting in trouble with drugs over and over again," she said. "We're always saying we need to do something. This is what we're hoping to do."

Boggs told the Daily Mail that marijuana was the number-one concern for school officials. "It's a major, major problem," she said.

6. Newsbrief: Marijuana Exile Steve Kubby Claims Refugee Status in Canada

California medical marijuana user and advocate Steve Kubby, who fled to Canada last year to avoid a jail sentence that he called a "death penalty" because he would be deprived of the medical marijuana that allowed him to live with a rare form of cancer, has applied for refugee status in an attempt to avoid being deported.

Last month, after stories began appearing in the Canadian press about American marijuana expatriates enjoying the good life in British Columbia, Canadian authorities arrested Kubby as a fugitive from California and for violating Canadian immigration laws. During a search of his home incidental to the arrest, police discovered a grow operation with 160 plants and added charges of cannabis cultivation and possession with the intent of trafficking.

On May 17, a Canadian immigration and refugee board adjudicator, Daphne Shaw-Dyck, ruled that because of his drug conviction in California (he beat a marijuana charge, but was convicted of possessing a mushroom stem and part of a peyote button), Kubby was inadmissible to Canada. Under that ruling, Kubby must leave within 30 days or face a deportation order and a permanent ban from entering the country.

But Kubby and his attorneys have now filed for refugee status, claiming that he is being persecuted by the US government. Under Canadian law, that claim must be reviewed before he can be removed. That process could take as long as a year.

7. Newsbrief: British Cannabis Cafe Owner Freed

Colin Davies, 44, owner and operator of the pioneering Dutch Experience cannabis cafe in the Manchester suburb of Stockport, has been released on bail after spending the last six months in Strangeways Prison. Davies, a veteran medical marijuana campaigner who uses the herb for a five-year-old spinal injury, was jailed after police raided the cafe last November. Police charged Davies and two others with possession of cannabis with intent to distribute, possession of a controlled drug, permitting premises to be used for marijuana consumption, and "being concerned in the supply of cannabis."

The Dutch Experience had been open for business for three months and had survived a raid even prior to its opening last September. But after the cafe began to generate publicity in the form of newspaper and TV coverage, Manchester police moved in. Although Davies remained behind bars, the business continues to operate. Davies' arrest and the refusal of the presiding judge to grant bail sparked angry outbursts in the courtroom and led to a series of demonstrations at Manchester police headquarters in which British and Italian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) offered themselves up for arrest in solidarity with Davies.

More than 50 supporters cheered Davies as he emerged from the Minshull Street Crown Court. His first act was to light a hand-rolled cigarette of unknown provenance. In exchange for his temporary freedom, Davies must observe a ban on giving interviews about his case and his broader campaign to legalize cannabis. He is also barred from the Stockport area and specifically from the premises of the Dutch Experience. He goes on trial June 24.

8. Newsbrief: North Carolina Drug Courts Face Ax Because of Budget Woes

Like more than 40 other states, North Carolina is grappling with sudden budget deficits, and the state's drug courts could be among the victims. The state's Administrative Office of the Courts, which funds the drug courts in nine judicial districts, must slash $11 million from its $305 million budget has proposed eliminating all funding for the drug courts. This year, they cost the Administrative Office $1.1 million.

"The current budget crisis is forcing the AOC to choose between cutting programs or closing courts in the state," AOC spokeswoman Patty McQuillan told the Charlotte Observer. "We've got to maintain court services for the public even though the few programs the court system has, such as the drug treatment program, have assisted in turning lives around. But we can't close courts."

Drug court advocates claimed they reduced recidivism rates, and their defenders cited a recent study by the AOC that found 21% of drug court graduates were re-arrested, while 47% of similar offenders who did not undergo court-ordered drug treatment were re-arrested.

Drug court judges have appealed to Gov. Mike Easley for the money to be restored, but he has yet to respond. Senate Appropriations Committee co-chair Fountain Odom (D-Mecklenburg) expressed sympathy, but warned that tough cuts are coming. "There are a lot of good programs that will be reduced," he told the Observer.

9. Newsbrief: New York City Cops in Paraphernalia Sweep, Big Hoopla, Misdemeanor Arrests

New York City resorted to an undercover initiative lasting weeks and costing hundreds of police man-hours to arrest 124 persons for mainly misdemeanor charges of selling drug paraphernalia on May 16. Standing before dozens of bags of seized bongs, crack pipes, scales, Ziploc baggies and filters, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly convened a press conference to tout the busts as "part of our renewed assault on quality-of-life crimes in all five boroughs."

The cutely acronymed "Operation CROP" (Coordinated Response to Outlaw Paraphernalia) led to raids at 58 newspaper stands, bodegas and other businesses across the city's five boroughs. Next, said Kelly, will be an effort to shut those businesses down. The city will bring civil proceedings against the small businesses, he said.

"In a single day, we got massive amounts of illegal paraphernalia off the streets of New York and arrested the 124 criminals who peddle them," said the commissioner. He did not say how many of those arrested were paraphernalia kingpins and how many were minimum wage clerks.

10. Newsbrief: Seattle Marijuana Initiative Signature-Gathering Now Underway

Volunteers are hitting the pavement in Seattle to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that "would require the Seattle Police and the Seattle City Attorney to make cases involving marijuana offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the City's lowest law enforcement priority."

The initiative is worded to avoid clashing with state law. Under Washington state law, possession of as little of a gram of weed can net a 90-day jail sentence and $1,000 fine. If passed, the initiative would leave state law intact, but would compel Seattle authorities to turn a blind eye to minor marijuana offenses, a piece of legal legerdemain similar to current Dutch practice regarding coffee shops.

The Initiative-75, or I-75, campaign is a project of the Sensible Seattle Coalition ( and is headed by Dominic Holden, director of the annual Seattle Hempfest and head of Washington NORML.

The initiative effort must gather 18,000 signatures by August to appear on the November ballot.

11. Newsbrief: Santa Cruz to Place Needle Disposal Boxes in Public Restrooms

Responding to a series of incidents where city employees were stuck by discarded syringes, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously on May 14 to install needle disposal boxes in a dozen public restrooms in that California coast community. Santa Cruz joins a tiny group of locales that offer the service, including the state of Rhode Island, several Nevada casinos and the airports in Minneapolis, San Francisco, and San Jose.

The padlocked steel boxes will be located at popular sites such as the beach and wharf areas. Workers from the Santa Cruz Needle Exchange program will pick up the discarded syringes and deliver them to a county facility to be destroyed.

"This means people understand it's a public health issue and nothing more," Needle Exchange executive director Heather Edney-Meschery told the Associated Press. "It's not about morality. It's not about whether or not people should or should not use drugs."

While some beach businessmen expressed concern about "making the city comfortable for drug addicts," the needle disposal boxes can also be used by diabetics who inject insulin, as well as other medicines and vitamins that are injected.

12. Errata: Different Kinds of Mushrooms

A newsbrief published in Issue #235 of The Week Online, "Japan to Outlaw Magic Mushrooms, Loophole Slams Shut," incorrectly cited Amanita muscaria as an example of an hallucinogenic fungus in which psilocybin is the active ingredient. The active ingredient in Amanita muscaria is ibotenic acid, which is converted by the body into muscimol.

13. The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 24, 7:30pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Night of Film, Poetry & Lecture About The Drug War and Prison Overcrowding." Sponsored by the Self-Education Foundation, featuring debut screening of Sara Zia Ebrahimi's video "60%: The Sentencing Policies of the War on Drugs and Their Effects on America,", talk by William Upski Wimsatt, graffiti artist, philanthropist and author of underground bestsellers "Bomb the Suburbs" and "No More Prisons," and poetry and song by Taina Del Valle. At Asian Arts Initiative, 1315 Cherry St., contact [email protected] or (215) 235-4379 for further information.

May 27, Beaver Dam, WI, "Weedstock 2002." Contact Ben Masel at (608) 257-5456 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

May 30, 4:00-6:00pm, Honolulu, HI, "Medical Marijuana: Progress, Problems & Potential -- News from The 2nd National Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics." Informal presentation and discussion with Don Topping, Pamela Lichty and Dr. William Wenner, sponsored by the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. At Paki Hale, 3840 Paki Avenue (across from Kapiolani Park, light refreshments served. For information, visit or call (808) 988-4386.

June 5, 7:00-9:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, monthly meeting of the Tri-State Drug Policy Forum. At the Women's International League for Peace, 1213 Race St., call (215) 633-9812 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

June 6, nationwide, "National Day of Direct Action Against the DEA," protests in support of medical marijuana patients and providers. Visit for 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 13, 6:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, "Making Treatment Work: A Discussion of 'Hooked,'" book talk with author Lonny Shavelson. Hosted by Drug Policy Alliance, location to be announced. For information, call (202) 537-5005 (before June 1) or (202) 216-0035 (after June 1).

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 20-23, New York, NY, 10th National Roundtable on Women in Prison: A Journey In/Justice. Contact the Women's Prison Association at (212) 674-1163 or visit 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].

June 29-July 1, Washington, DC, National Summit on the Impact of Incarceration on African American Families and Communities. Call (252) 396-0884 or visit for information.

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.

August 24-29, Lagos, Nigeria, "Tenth International Conference on Penal Abolition." Contact Prisoners Rehabilitation and Welfare Action (PRAWA) at 234-(0)1-4971356-8 or [email protected], Rittenhouse: A New Vision of Transformative Justice at (416) 972-9992 or [email protected], or visit 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.

October 7-9, San Diego, CA, "Inside-Out: Fostering Healthy Outcomes for the Incarcerated and Their Families." Contact Stacey Shank of Centerforce at (559) 241-6162 for information.

November 6-8, 2002, St. Louis, MO, "2nd North American Conference on Fathers Behind Bars and on the Street." Call (434) 589-3036, e-mail [email protected] or visit http:/ for 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.

April 6-10, 2003, Chiangmai, Thailand, 14th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm. Details to follow, e-mail [email protected] to request a full announcement by mail.

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