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

Issue #241, 6/14/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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DRCNet will soon announce the first two events in our international conference series, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century." We hope to have exact dates and locations confirmed within a week, but in the meantime want to let interested parties know that they will probably be in Brussels, Belgium in the fall and Merida, Yucatan, Mexico in February. Send an e-mail to [email protected] to receive a formal announcement, or just keep reading DRCNet! (Groups in Latin America should also be aware of the availability of drug reform funding from the Tides Foundation, proposals due on the 24th of this month -- see below.)

Stop the DEA's war on medical marijuana! Visit to write to Congress and the president today!


  1. Federal Judge Issues Injunction Against California Cannabis Clubs
  2. The June 6th Medical Marijuana Actions: One Week Later
  3. With Competing Drug Reform Bills Passed, NY Governor and Assembly Have One Week to Reach Compromise
  4. Border Governors to Discuss Chihuahua Marijuana Legalization
  5. Dan Forbes Goes After Ad Age for "McCarthyite" Smear
  6. London Borough Proposes De Facto Hard Drug Decrim
  7. Philippines Enacts Death Penalty for Drug Dealing, Possession of a Pound of Marijuana or Tens Grams of Ecstasy
  8. Colombian Paramilitary Leader Again Admits Links with Cocaine Traffic, Calls for Tactical Retreat from the Trade
  9. Newsbrief: Mexico Drug Trade Helps Prevent Social Explosion, Says Researcher
  10. Newsbrief: DARE Dropped in Toledo
  11. Newsbrief: Maryland GOP Governor Candidate Talks Treatment Not Jail
  12. Newsbrief: Supreme Court Ruling Leads to Public Housing Eviction for Son's Marijuana Pipe
  13. Newsbrief: Addicts Vote with Their Feet on Vietnam's New, Lengthy Mandatory Drug Rehab
  14. Newsbrief: Louisiana Judge Busted in Dope-Planting Scheme
  15. Newsbrief: Life for Brownies? California Man Faces Three-Strikes Penalty
  16. Grant Program: Tides Foundation RFPs for Latin America, Prop. 36 Implementation and Overdose Prevention
  17. New DRCNet/ Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available
  18. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Federal Judge Issues Injunction Against California Cannabis Clubs

US District Judge Charles Breyer issued a permanent injunction Monday against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop and two other coops that have already shut down, ordering them to immediately halt the distribution of medical marijuana. Medical marijuana supporters fear the injunction will be a green light for the DEA to step up its persecution of activities that are legal under California law but banned by the federal government.

By following the route of civil injunctions, the DEA and the Justice Department avoid having to resort to criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana providers, a tactic that could backfire dramatically in a state where voters overwhelming approved medical marijuana at the ballot box.

The ruling was not unexpected. Breyer had in early May issued a temporary injunction after denying numerous requests from medical marijuana lawyers to find a way to allow the distribution of medical marijuana within federal law. That ruling came in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop case, in which a unanimous court held that California's medical marijuana law did not override federal restrictions on marijuana distribution.

"A medical-necessity exception for marijuana is at odds with the terms of the Controlled Substances Act," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion. "The statute reflects a determination that marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception, outside the confines of a government-approved research project."

The DEA has in recent months stepped up its persecution of medical marijuana providers, provoking the formation of Americans for Safe Access (, the umbrella group that organized last week's demonstrations at DEA offices around the country. ASA has an emergency response plan for raids that may follow this ruling.

2. The June 6th Medical Marijuana Actions: One Week Later

As DRCNet initially reported last week, a campaign organized by Americans for Safe Access ( saw protest actions at 54 DEA offices and other federal buildings across the country. Because of the Week Online's publication deadline (the evening of the event), our coverage was necessarily sketchy and could not include an analysis of media responses to the events. This week, DRCNet looks a little deeper into the demonstrations and their ramifications.

The June 6th actions, part of a growing national campaign to force the Justice Department and the DEA to "Cease and Desist" from arresting medical marijuana providers and patients, included a large contingent of cities in California, where the DEA has recently undertaken a series of raids aimed at medical marijuana providers, but also included cities across the country ranging from such obvious sites as Washington, DC, Portland, and Seattle, to more surprising locations, such as San Antonio, Wichita, Tampa, and even Rock Island, IL and Saginaw, MI.

In two cities, Washington and San Francisco, protestors engaged in acts of civil disobedience. In both cases, protestors blocked the doors of federal buildings. Ten were arrested and released in Washington, plus eight in San Francisco.

In other cities, events ranged from simple picket lines to demonstrations to direct actions, such as banner drops in highly visible locations. The single largest demonstration was in Santa Rosa, CA, where more than 300 people showed up to protest DEA raids there the previous week.

According to press reports compiled by ASA and the Media Awareness Project (, the demonstrations forced the closing of federal buildings or DEA offices in various series. In other cities, buildings were operating with skeleton crews. The series of demonstrations garnered extensive local media coverage in mid-size and smaller cities, but largely failed to dent the national media. In Washington, DC, for example, the small conservative newspaper the Washington Times published a large article, but the nationally prominent Washington Post covered the arrests at the Justice Department with just two sentences. Neither were the demonstrations picked up by the national TV networks.

"There were not a whole lot of print stories," conceded Adam Eidinger, whose DC-based Mintwood Media worked with ASA to organize and promote the national action, "but there were quite a few TV hits on local news -- and those are worth many thousands of dollars of advertising. Reuters did a dispatch that went out worldwide," Eidinger told DRCNet. "It could have been better, but with the war on terror and other hard news happening, I think we got a significant amount of press."

Berkeley-based Steph Sherer is the ASA's lead organizer. She told DRCNet that national media coverage was less than hoped for, but that she expected that to change. "At almost every place there was a protest, at least one local media outlet covered it," she said, "but we still face some challenges with the national media. That's nothing new. But I'm confident that as this movement grows, it is only a matter of time until the national press picks this up and begins seeing it as a national movement."

According to accounts provided by ASA, the Media Awareness Project and Mintwood Media, the protests garnered at least 17 stories in local newspapers (12 of them major dailies) and at least 34 local TV news reports. But Mintwood's Eidinger told DRCNet that if syndicated news services, such as Conus, which feed stories to small local TV stations are included, the number of stories is probably greater than one hundred.

"The effort was not in vain," said Eidinger. "It was a heavy news day and we still managed to generate coverage. What is clear is that we can generate positive press with this demonstration strategy. We need to continue organizing the grassroots and holding demonstrations," he added. "And with the extensive work done making media contacts prior to the demonstrations, we have laid the groundwork for future coverage. We may not have been covered as much as we would like, but now we are on the radar in newsrooms across the country. With more protests and more militant protests, we will begin to garner more attention," Eidinger said.

ASA's Sherer pronounced herself pleased with the June 6th actions, but called them "only a great first step." More is coming, she vowed. "Bush and the DEA have been put on notice," she said. "We had only 3 ½ weeks to organize these actions, and this one small call to action shut down federal buildings across the country."

The movement will continue to broaden its support base and organize more intensely locally, said Sherer. "We need to build larger constituencies, and we need to prepare for an emergency response if and when the DEA makes its next move," she said.

That could come soon. On Thursday, US District Judge Charles Breyer issued a permanent injunction barring the Oakland Cannabis Co-op and several other medical marijuana providers from distributing the medicine to their patients. That move could be the green light the DEA has been waiting for.

But Sherer and ASA aren't waiting. "People are coming to us from all over the country, wanting to organize ASA chapters," she said. "We need them, we need them to organize their communities. This will take the effort of the entire nation."

Eidinger's eyes aren't raised that high, but he also advocates a higher level of resistance. "We had 300 people here, 100 there, 200 somewhere else," he said. "We need thousands of people in the streets. Then they'll start to listen."

3. With Competing Drug Reform Bills Passed, NY Governor and Assembly Have One Week to Reach Compromise

In a sudden spate of political maneuvering after months of inactivity on the issue, the New York Assembly last week passed a bill to reform the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. This week, the New York Senate approved a different reform bill, one sponsored by Republican Gov. George Pataki. Now the Democrat-led Assembly and Gov. Pataki have one week to settle their differences before the legislative session ends. For drug reformers who have lobbied for years to repeal the Rockefeller laws, however, neither proposal goes nearly far enough.

Under the Rockefeller laws, passed under Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1973 and 1974, persons convicted of possessing four ounces of hard drugs or two ounces for sale are subject to a sentence of 15-years-to-life. Other drug offenders are subjected to similarly harsh mandatory minimum sentences. More than 19,000 men and women are currently imprisoned under the Rockefeller laws, 94% of them non-white.

While Gov. Pataki has for the past two years claimed he wanted to reform the Rockefeller laws, progress had been stymied by Pataki's refusal to relinquish prosecutorial control over sentencing decisions, his demand that parole be eliminated as part of the reforms, and his efforts to add punitive enhancements (using the Internet, selling in a park) to actually increase some sentences.

With its bill last week, the Assembly moved toward a compromise with Pataki and the Republican-led state Senate. Under both bills, broad groups of drug offenders would remain ineligible for diversion into drug treatment, including all A-1 and A-2 (most serious) offenders, all non-addicted offenders, anyone previously convicted of a "violent crime" (including misdemeanor assault, i.e. punching someone), offenders who committed a drug offense involving minors, and persons who committed a drug offense on school grounds.

Similarly, both bills provide for substantial prosecutorial involvement in diverting offenders into treatment or drug court. Both give prosecutors the first shot at decision-making, but the Assembly bill provides for stronger judicial review of prosecutorial decisions.

Regarding retroactivity, both the governor's bill and the Assembly bill provide for limited redress for offenders already serving time. Under the governor's bill, only A-1 offenders -- those serving 15-years-to-life -- are eligible for resentencing, leaving the largest group of drug offenders, the B class, without any redress. The Assembly bill provides retroactivity for A and B class offenders, with some restrictions.

Parole elimination had been a particular sticking point and still is. Under the governor's bill, parole would be eliminated for all drug offenders, in line with Pataki's desire to do away with parole throughout the state criminal justice system. The Assembly bill, on the other hand, retains parole for all but A class offenders -- those doing the longest stretches. "These two proposals share a lot of similarities and a lot of fundamental problems," said Robert Gangi, head of the Correctional Association of New York. "They fall far short of what is needed, which is full repeal of the Rockefeller laws and return to judicial discretion over sentencing," he told DRCNet. "Both bills exclude large categories of prisoners from judicial diversion to treatment, both bills have punitive enhancements that will increase some sentences," said Gangi, whose organization is part of the Drop The Rock ( coalition seeking full repeal of the Rockefeller laws.

Randy Credico of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, another Drop The Rock member group, was equally unhappy with the competing bills. "If either of these bills passes, New York will go from having the worst drug laws in the nation to having the worst drug laws in the nation," he told DRCNet. "I am disappointed in both parties," he said. "This was a great opportunity to drastically reform the Rockefeller laws and create a model for the rest of the country, but both parties fell way short," said Credico.

Now, as the clock ticks and the state waits for Pataki to sit down with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to cut a back-room deal, drug reformers face a dilemma. "We don't want to wait a year for something to happen," said Credico. "But if a half-hearted reform bill passes this year, will that stop the momentum for full repeal? On the other hand, there are a lot of people in prison in a hopeless situation, and any step forward will give them some hope."

Whatever happens, Credico promised, "people will continue to mobilize if people don't start getting out of jail. This mobilization needs to continue until it looks like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We need an organic grassroots movement of Blacks and Latinos, and we need to be looking at broader issues of social justice. Until that happens, there will be no jobs, no education, no housing programs for poor Blacks and Latinos," said Credico. "But with the movement where it is, it's not enough. Three hundred people at a rally isn't enough; we need 10,000 people. We need that sort of pressure; it's the asses of the masses that make a difference."

4. Border Governors to Discuss Chihuahua Marijuana Legalization

The administration of Chihuahua, Mexico, Governor Patricio Martinez has launched a study of marijuana legalization in the Mexican border state most widely known for the violent drug running organizations based in its largest city, the border town of Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso. The move comes after discussions on the topic during an April meeting of the governors of the Mexican border states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamulipas, and leads the way to putting the topic on the agenda of the Commission of Border Governors, which includes both Mexican and US governors. The governors will meet later this month.

Gov. Martinez was already pumping up the idea of marijuana legalization at last year's border governor's conference in Tampico, Mexico, last June, when in a sign of independence from drug war orthodoxies, the governors issued a statement calling for drug use and the drug traffic on the border to be viewed primarily as a public health -- not crime -- issue. At that time, he said: "This should be studied, analyzed, and looked at to see what the people want and what the effects are from a different perspective that considers not only their prohibition, but also in given time their approval for medical purposes or rehabilitation or other reasons. We need to study all aspects of drug use, especially marijuana."

Despite the failure of his cross-border colleague, New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, to get a marijuana decrim bill passed this year, Martinez has not lost his ardor for the cause. "We, the border governors, have asked different institutions to study the issue of legalizing drugs," Martinez told a Mexico City newspaper. "Until now, what's been done hasn't worked because the use of drugs continues to grow, despite the war that has been launched."

While Martinez spoke about drugs in general, the study his administration has launched is looking only at the consequences of legalizing marijuana. The weed is so common in the border region, a Martinez spokesman told the Dallas Morning News, and efforts to curb it have failed so badly, that the governor had to look at the legalization option.

"We're studying the issue of legalizing marijuana from addiction to economics and everything in between," said spokesman Fernando Medina. "The governor has said that despite the countless offensives launched as part of the war against drugs, smuggling and drug use continue to grow. It's an issue we really need to study."

Not surprisingly for those who follow Mexico, the idea of legalizing marijuana has some support. The idea of legalizing marijuana in Chihuahua has so far been endorsed by Sen. Elias Moreno, president of the Commission on Health and Public Safety and Rep. Gregorio Urias, co-coordinator of a banking industry trade group and a member of the Commission on Public Accounts and Loans.

As well, Mexican social and political groups, some of which participated in Million Marijuana Marches in Mexico City last month, are coming on board. Among them are the Mexican Society for the Study of Cannabis, the Multiforo Alicia, a coalition of social and political organizations, some of which are linked to the Zapatistas, and the faculty of philosophy and letters at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

The DEA is not amused. Osvaldo Amado, agency spokesman in El Paso, told the Morning News legalization would make the agency's job all the more difficult. "If it were to happen, the impact would be tremendous because it would put the whole burden on us," said Amado. "It would be very difficult for us. We just don't have the resources to deal with something like that."

It is a big business. Last fiscal year, DEA agents seized 184,000 pounds of pot in the El Paso sector alone, while Customs agents working the same sector seized 306,000 pounds in the same period. That is approaching a half-million pounds at El Paso alone, and that's only what got caught.

Almost a century ago, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa led US troops on a fruitless chase through Chihuahua as his soldiers sang border ballads about the weed. The famous tune "La Cucaracha" was one of them. "The cockroach can't walk because he doesn't have any marijuana to smoke," goes the famous line, although it loses something in the translation. Is a Pancho Villa Cannabis Cafe coming to Ciudad Juarez? Stay tuned.

5. Dan Forbes Goes After Ad Age for "McCarthyite" Smear

Award-winning journalist Dan Forbes' recently published investigative piece revealing a conspiracy among state and national officials, publicly-funded anti-drug groups and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA) to block drug reform initiatives is apparently raising hackles. Forbes, the journalist who broke the story of the drug czar's media manipulation campaign two years ago, came under a slash and burn attack for his most recent report from Ad Age columnist Richard Linnett in an article published Monday.

Linnett dismissed Forbes' findings, knocked down a couple of straw men, and along the way, repeated without verification a slur against Forbes out of the mouth of PDFA public relations chief Steve Dnistrian. "Clearly, Dan is smoking some of the wacky weed that he has a great affection for when he is sitting down writing these things," Linnett quoted Dnistrian as saying.

Viewed generously, such remarks could be seen as failed attempts at humor, but when they take place in the context of accusations of improper conduct by PDFA, they take on the tenor of character assassination and attacking the messenger. But Forbes is one messenger who isn't just going to roll over. Instead, he responded with a blistering counterattack published as an open letter on Wednesday on Alternet. "Dnistrian's McCarthyite attack demands either evidence that I produce my work under the influence of "wacky weed" (how precious, how positively fey), or an apology and a retraction from both the PDFA and Ad Age," wrote Forbes. "On what basis does Dnistrian make this accusation? More to the point, on what basis does a presumably responsible reporter give credence to the obviously absurd notion that Dnistrian has any idea whatsoever of my work habits? Just because a PR guy at an organization I write about makes an ad hominem attack, is that alone reason enough to print it? It's not incumbent on the reporter to offer me a chance to respond? Do his editors exercise no fact-checking authority? Do Ad Age's lawyers know this?" Forbes asked.

"All the PDFA has in its corner is smear and attempted character assassination. Dnistrian's slur just underscores the cheapness of its response," Forbes continued. "It's classic PR: attack the journalist personally, deflect attention, obfuscate."

Ad Age columnist Linnett had not returned DRCNet calls for comment at press time. PDFA PR flack Dnistrian had not returned DRCNet calls for comment at press time.

In his Ad Age article, Linnett wrote that there was no "smoking gun" in Forbes' report tying the Ohio governor, his wife, anti-drug officials in three states and Washington, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and the PDFA into a conspiracy to subvert the democratic process in Ohio by attempting to squash an on-going "treatment not jail" initiative. But Forbes documented numerous examples of PDFA officials working hand in glove with Ohio officials to derail the initiative:

* Forbes described a strategy meeting last July in which Ohio first lady Hope Taft, an ardent anti-drug crusader, two Ohio cabinet members, and four high-ranking PDFA executives, among others, were hosted by a US Senate staffer. In a document uncovered through adroit use of the Freedom of Information Act, Forbes cites a letter about the meeting from PDFA director of operations Michael Townsend, who referred to the meeting as a "counter-legalization brainstorm session."

* In another document discussing that same meeting, Forbes found Hope Taft writing to her husband the governor about gathering "a group of people to see how some of the national groups like... PDFA, etc. can develop PSAs that highlight the best aspects of the current drug court system." Such PSAs, of course, would sway Ohio voters in favor of the status quo."

* And in yet another document from that meeting, a set of minutes generated by Hope Taft's chief of staff Marcie Seidel, Seidel wrote in boldface: "Partnership for Drug Free America is to present a couple page concept on how they can help." Seidel added: "PDFA can do educational PSAs starting now [July, 2001] about success stories of people who were required to get treatment. Ohio has enough treatment systems to do this type of campaign. They could start these educational PSAs before the political season begins." She added, "We have two media tracks: 1) the Partnership's educational, nonpolitical piece and 2) the political ads to get out the vote."

Both Forbes' original report and his open letter offer numerous further examples of PDFA involvement in a campaign to thwart the democratic process in Ohio.

Linnett wrote that Forbes' report was much ado about nothing because PDFA did not create any advertising to help Ohio officials fend off the initiative. Forbes agreed that that was the case, but arrived at a radically different conclusion from Linnett. "The PDFA's PR chief, Steve Dnistrian is correct when Linnett quotes him saying the PDFA did not actually create any advertising to influence state elections," Forbes responded. "My report makes that clear. But his statement does not address the fact that, in league with the Taft administration, the PDFA was up to its eyebrows in planning how to do so."

Forbes has caught the "apolitical" PDFA plotting to engage in some most political maneuvering to prevent the adoption of drug reforms in Ohio and elsewhere. PDFA doesn't like it. But all it can find to fight back is cheap shot character assassination. That's a clear sign of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. What is Linnett's excuse?

Visit to read Forbes' response to the PDFA and Ad Week in full. Visit to read the original report.

6. London Borough Proposes De Facto Hard Drug Decrim

Britain's third political force, the Liberal Democrat Party, is moving to put its policy where its platform is. In the party's March convention, delegates outpaced the party leadership by adopting a platform calling for the legalization of cannabis, the decriminalization of hard drug possession and an effort to repeal the United Nations drug treaties that effectively bar outright legalization of the drug trade ( Now, a London borough council dominated by Lib Dems is ready to order police to stop arresting hard drug users in possession of small amounts of cocaine and heroin. Under the plan, small time drug offenders would be issued a caution, or ticket, and their drugs confiscated. The plan would effectively decriminalize hard drug possession in the London borough of Southwick.

According to Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes, the policy of non-arrest would be extended to the 14 other local councils controlled by the party if it proved successful in Southwark. The borough of Southwark is home to the Camberwell Green neighborhood, one of the five communities across England and Wales designated a crime "hot-spot" subject to special police efforts in March by Home Secretary David Blunkett of the ruling Labor Party. To its immediate west is the borough of Lambeth, where a similar ticketing scheme for cannabis has resulted in the virtual decriminalization of the weed for a year now. Both boroughs have significant minority populations and sometimes tense relations with police.

The Southwark decrim plan is based on the Lambeth experiment, Hughes told the Independent (London), and the Southwark pilot project will be discussed at a national meeting of newly elected Liberal Democrat council leaders later this month. Hughes told the Independent that under the decrim plan, police would concentrate on drug dealers and persons possessing weapons. The borough would have "zero tolerance" for arms, he said. "We will ask the police not to pursue anyone for drugs, but to have zero tolerance for guns and knives," he said. "I hope Southwark will lead the way in trying to persuade the police to take a tough line on dealers and people with weapons and step back from chasing drug users," he added.

The proposal has drawn support from public health officials and drug organizations, but got a decidely cold shoulder from the Tony Blair government. But getting the project underway probably relies more on the attitude of local police commanders than the Blair Home Office and the police may be receptive. Last month, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) issued its new drug policy, which called for hard drug users to offered treatment instead of being arrested. While the Southwark plan does not envision mandatory treatment, high police officials, faced with rising crime and quickly spreading crack cocaine use, may see the move as a means to free up street officers to fight violent crime.

That concern was articulated by Southwark community safety and support officer Richard Porter. He told the Independent punishing drug users was a waste of resources. "As a paramedic, I rarely come across people who have had a bad time on drugs, but I frequently have to treat the victims of knife attacks," he said. "I don't believe recreational drug users are criminals. The police are already under-resourced," he said.

The move gained the support of drug charity DrugScope. "This is in line with what we recommended to the Home Affairs Select Committee," chief executive Roger Howard told the Independent. "We would support the non-arrest for possession of small amounts of any drug for personal use," he said. "Dealers must be targeted."

But a Home Office spokesman disagreed, telling the Independent the idea was "barmy" (British for "balmy").

7. Philippines Enacts Death Penalty for Drug Dealing, Possession of a Pound of Marijuana or Tens Grams of Ecstasy

The Philippines congress has approved and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed a draconian new anti-drug measure, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. The act mandates the death penalty for drug dealing -- no matter how small the quantity -- or for possession of as little as 500 grams or marijuana (a pound is 454 grams), ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine, or 50 grams of methamphetamine, or "shabu," as it is called in the Philippines. The new law will go into effect in July.

"I want to deliver a message to all illegal drug traffickers to immediately close their business," said Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City) at a press conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila after President Macapagal-Arroyo signed the bill into law on June 7. "They have no future. If they are caught, they will be punished with life imprisonment or a death sentence," said Cuenco, one of the bill's most ardent proponents.

Among other provisions, the new law includes:

  • The death penalty for any trafficking, cultivating, importing, selling, or trading controlled drugs or their chemical precursors.
  • The death penalty for possession of the amounts listed above.
  • The death penalty for any government official found guilty of trafficking or of planting drugs.
  • A life sentence for possession of more than five grams of hard drugs.
  • A 12-year prison sentence for possession of less than five grams of hard drugs.
  • Stiff new penalties for using cell phones or the Internet to make drug deals.
  • Stiff new penalties for "dangerous drug financiers, protectors, and coddlers."
  • Mandatory drug tests for persons seeking drivers' licenses or weapons permits.
  • Mandatory drug tests for candidates for public office.
  • Mandatory drug tests for persons charged with a crime punishable by more than six years in prison.
  • Random drug tests for students and workers in government and the private sector
  • Compulsory drug education in all school levels.
The new law has broad support among the political and opinion-leader classes. In a column Monday lauding the new law, Manila Times columnist Ernesto Herrera referred to the drug trade as "the Dark Pied Piper" and as "our modern-day Hitler." In metaphor-mixing, lurid prose, Herrera urged public support for the new law. "The drug menace has become the dark Pied Piper of the new millennium," he wrote, "luring our young people away from what is decent and moral, toward a huge cave and right into the bowels of despair and decadence, where hope dare not show its face."

According to the Filipino government, the country has between 1.7 million and 2.1 million illegal drug users, "close to 10% of the youth population." DRCNet could find no sign of any organized drug reform effort in the Philippines.

8. Colombian Paramilitary Leader Again Admits Links with Cocaine Traffic, Calls for Tactical Retreat from the Trade

Carlos Castaño, the head of Colombia's murderous, 8,000-strong, right-wing paramilitary group, the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC in the Spanish acronym), admitted Sunday in a signed editorial on the organization's web site that the AUC remains tied to the cocaine traffic and warned his commanders that those links could cause the Colombian and US governments to strike against them. The AUC should break with the trade for that reason, said Castaño.

Along with the leftist guerrillas of the FARC and ELN, the AUC is deemed a terrorist organization by the US State Department. They are widely reported to be responsible for the vast majority of killings of non-combatants in the festering civil war that is taking 3,500 lives each year. But the paramilitaries, who have roots in drug trade enforcer groups and as hired guns for wealthy landowners, have established long-lasting links to segments of the Colombian military, according to all observers, and are de facto allies of the US and Colombian governments in their battle against the armed left.

"The penetration of the drug traffic in various groups that belong to the AUC is unsustainable and well-known by the intelligence organisms of Colombia and the United States, which could quite possibly lead the North American government to choose a high-priority generalized confrontation with the AUC," wrote Castaño.

The only way for the AUC to achieve "social normality," said Castaño, was to break with the drug trade.

"Only a complete break with the drug trade could open a door through which we could return one day to what was social normality," wrote Castaño. "On the contrary, an international offensive against the AUC would be unsupportable for us."

Signaling divisions within the AUC, Castaño openly accused one of his AUC co-leaders, Ernesto Baez, of involvement in the drug trade and wrote that his activities "damaged" the good image of the AUC. Shedding crocodile tears, Castaño wrote that "it is not easy and pains much" to denounce his comrades-in-arms, but that he had an "obligation" to do so.

The paramilitary chief warned his fellow AUC commanders that "our inability to end links with the drug traffic" could work to the benefit of leftist guerrillas by distracting attention from the civil war. Still, Castaño wrote that it would still be necessary to "tax" peasant coca and opium growers to support the AUC's war effort.

Castaño's warning appears to be part of an ongoing attempt to redefine his image from bloody-handed mass murderer to concerned citizen. Last year, after revealing that two-thirds of the AUC's funding came from the drug trade, Castaño retired as an active commander to pursue a political role for himself and his paramilitaries. Now, with the election of conservative hard-liner Alvaro Uribe as incoming president, Castaño is angling for a place at the negotiating table. When Uribe was governor of Antioquia province in the 1990s, he sponsored the organization of local "self defense forces" similar to the AUC, and he has announced plans to create a million-member "self defense force" among peasant villagers in the war-ravaged Andean nation.

Uribe has also signaled a willingness to sit down with the AUC, something his predecessors had refused to do. But he has also reiterated his support for an intensified war on drugs, which could make it difficult for the Colombian government to sit down with a drug-connected armed group.

On May 28, Uribe called the drug war "essential" because all sides in the armed conflict were profiting from the drug trade. "Colombia has to defeat drugs," the Harvard-educated president-elect told a news conference. "If not, we will not create conditions to negotiate peace. As long as the violent groups are financed, we will remain far from obtaining final accords."

Uribe, who promised a "hard hand" against the guerrillas, won the late May election with 53% of the vote. Liberal Party standard bearer Horacio Serpa came in second with 31%, and leftist candidate Luis Garzon, who has called for the legalization of the drug trade, came in third with 12% of the popular vote.

9. Newsbrief: Mexico Drug Trade Helps Prevent Social Explosion, Says Researcher

Despite the grinding poverty that afflicts millions of Mexicans, the nation of 100 million on the US southern border has so far avoided a repeat of last century's Mexican Revolution, a decade-long, multi-sided civil war beginning in 1910 that left two million Mexicans dead. Part of the reason is the drug trade, a prominent Mexican researcher told a Mexico City conference on drug use Sunday.

Nelia Tello Peon, professor in the National School of Social Work at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told the conference a social explosion has been avoided because poor people have "found alternate ways of survival," including migration to the US, working as ambulant vendors in the informal sector of the economy and working in the drug trade. Peon criticized the drug trade as an activity that "destroys or degenerates everything it touches," but added that "you cannot forget that the drug trade is fundamentally a problem of the market."

Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans participate in the drug traffic -- as peasant growers, middlemen, drivers, warehousemen, pistoleros, accountants and money managers, among others. Countless others benefit indirectly from profits generated by the drug trade. But Mexico is also seeing higher rates of drug use and abuse as some proportion of drugs in transit through the country on the way north "fall off the back of the truck."

10. Newsbrief: DARE Dropped in Toledo

DARE seems to be on a roll these days, but it's all downhill for the embattled police-as-lawyer/doctor/social worker/educator drug education program. Last week, DRCNet reported on the Fort Worth, TX, police chief's decision to can the widely panned program (, and this week Toledo, OH, joined the growing number of cities and states that have dumped DARE. So far, that list also includes Salt Lake City, Snohomish County (suburban Seattle, WA) and the Michigan State Police.

In Toledo, Police Chief Michael Navarre told public and Catholic school officials on Monday that DARE was dead with the end of the school year. Navarre cited a series of studies questioning DARE's effectiveness, dating back to a 1994 National Institute of Justice review that found DARE had little or no impact on whether participants would go on to use alcohol or other drugs. Navarre had long been a DARE supporter, he told the Toledo Blade, but the accumulating studies questioning the program and DARE America's announcement last year it would revamp its curriculum prompted his decision.

But Navarre and school board members vowed to develop a new anti-drug program also using police officers as in-school presenters. "We're not going to walk away from drug education in the elementary schools," said Chief Navarre. "It is an important aspect of a child's education."

11. Newsbrief: Maryland GOP Governor Candidate Talks Treatment Not Jail

Maryland State Rep. Robert Ehrlich, who announced last month he was seeking to be the Republican Party candidate for governor in this fall's election, hewed to a traditional GOP tough-on-crime position as he laid out a series of criminal justices proposals -- except on the drug war. In a June 1 speech in at the Republican Party's spring convention in Ocean City, Ehrlich laid into Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening and Lt. Gov Kathleen Kennedy Townsend over Glendening's announcement on a one-year moratorium on the death penalty in the state and Townsend's support of that move. Townsend is seeking the Democratic Party nomination.

Ehrlich called for an end to the moratorium, the creation of a new police academy to provide training for expanded DNA testing and crime scene technicians statewide, and a program to aggressively target violent offenders. Ehrlich touted Virginia's Project Exile as a model for Maryland. Under Exile, state prosecutors feed gun cases to federal prosecutors, who seek long mandatory sentences for such crimes.

But on drug policy, Erhlich sang a slightly different tune. On drug treatment in the prisons, Ehrlich promised a "significant increase," but more notably, he also called for less emphasis on imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders. "You can't warehouse nonviolent addicts forever," he said. Enticing his fellow Republicans with visions of inner city black votes from Baltimore, Ehrlich said such a policy could help the party regain credibility. "That builds credibility in some areas where we have very little credibility," he told the party faithful.

Ehrlich could have been thinking about a poll his staffers ran among Baltimore voters in February. Facing off against Townsend, the probable Democratic nominee, he won among white voters by 58% to 40%, but lost by an eight-to-one margin with black voters. No Republican has won the Maryland governorship since Spiro Agnew in 1968.

12. Newsbrief: Supreme Court Ruling Leads to Public Housing Eviction for Son's Marijuana Pipe

In March, the Supreme Court ruled that federally funded public housing authorities could evict tenants for any drug violation of a renter, family member, or guest -- no matter how minor and no matter whether the offense occurred on or off the property ( That ruling has begun to bear fruit, and strange fruit it is.

Among the first victims of the Supreme Court ruling is Marisa Perez, 34, mother of three, employee at a Santa Clara, CA, software firm and resident in the federally subsidized Elena Gardens Apartments in North San Jose. She won't be a resident long. Her 17-year-old son was arrested outside the apartment with a marijuana pipe last month. The apartment managers responded by serving her an eviction notice. She was supposed to be out on Monday, but told the San Jose Mercury News she would stay and fight for her home in court. Her $700 a month rent would soar to $2,000 in non-subsidized housing, she said.

Not that Perez was a negligent parent. She had called police on two occasions last year to turn her son in to a drug treatment program which he was supposed to be attending. He had gotten into trouble with the law for burning a horse trailer, did eight months at a youth camp, but then kept running afoul of authorities with repeated positive drug tests for marijuana. Fed up with his behavior, she had kicked him out of the house months earlier, but he would sneak back to the apartment during the day. On May 2, police arrested him on a probation violation warrant, then found the pipe. The eviction letter arrived May 10.

Ironically, young Perez must serve a 90-day house arrest sentence for the marijuana pipe -- at his mother's apartment. His mother said she is making him spend his days calling landlords to inquire about available apartments.

13. Newsbrief: Addicts Vote with Their Feet on Vietnam's New, Lengthy Mandatory Drug Rehab

The Associated Press reported that 369 Vietnamese drug offenders escaped from a government-run "drug rehabilitation center" June 6. Police recaptured more than 200 of the escapees, but as of press time, 101 had still evaded capture. The mass break-out from the center at Can Tho, 125 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City, was the third since the government announced in December it was extending the length of mandatory drug rehabilitation from three months to one year.

In December, Vietnam announced ambitious plans to send all 112,000 known "drug addicts" to mandatory treatment by 2005, despite an officially admitted failure rate of 90%. Officials told AP they hope to cut the relapse rate to only 60% in the future. Heroin is the most widely used hard drug in Vietnam, although methamphetamine is coming on strong, as is the case throughout Southeast Asia.

14. Newsbrief: Louisiana Judge Busted in Dope-Planting Scheme

Tough-on-crime prosecutor turned hang-'em-high Jefferson Parish Judge Ronald Bodenheimer was arrested on June 5 on charges of plotting to plant illegal drugs in the car of a man who had complained about a New Orleans marina owned by Bodenheimer. Bodenheimer and his associate, Curley Joseph Chewning, were booked for distribution and possession with intent to distribute Oxycontin, along with matching conspiracy charges for each count.

The target of the plot, who remains unidentified, had been supplying information about Bodenheimer and the marina to the FBI since 1999 and had filed numerous complaints to law enforcement and regulatory bodies about drug trafficking and safety and zoning violations at the marina. According to charging documents, Chewning, acting at Bodenheimer's bequest, planted Oxycontin in the man's car on April 19.

Prosecutors released wiretap transcripts that appeared to implicate Bodenheimer in the plot. In one section, Bodenheimer's private investigator, referring to the plot target, said, "I say somebody ought to kick the fuck out of him." Bodenheimer replied, "I want to hurt him worse than that. You know, this boy, the sad part is, he ain't got a shot, he ain't got a chance, he ain't gonna know what hit him."

Bodenheimer had bragged of sending five men to Death Row. Now he is looking at a 20-year sentence himself.

15. Newsbrief: Life for Brownies? California Man Faces Three-Strikes Penalty

A suburban San Diego man is facing a possible life sentence under California's Three-Strikes law for helping his 15-year-old son make marijuana brownies. Steven Wells, 48, of Mira Mesa, faces felony charges of furnishing marijuana to a minor, adulterating food and failing to register as a sex offender. Wells was convicted in 1992 of two child molestation charges, making him eligible for the state's 25-years-to-life Three-Strikes sentencing provision if convicted.

San Diego prosecutors also charged Wells with child abuse, arguing that he hurt his son when he gave him marijuana, but Superior Court Judge Marguerite Wiss viewed that as overreaching and dismissed that count. "I'm not convinced it causes great bodily injury for a 15-year-old to have a [pot-laced] brownie," she told prosecutors. The charge of adulterating food may also be a stretch.

Defense attorney Bill Nimmo conceded in court that Wells gave his son the marijuana, but said the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor. "He likes his marijuana," Nimmo told the court. Nimmo told the San Jose Mercury News that giving Wells a life sentence for making brownies with his son was absurd. "It's a sign of government out of control," he said.

16. Grant Program: Tides Foundation RFPs for Latin America, Prop. 36 Implementation and Overdose Prevention

The current round of the Fund for Drug Policy Reform, administered by the Tides Foundation, is accepting proposals in three areas: Drug Policy Reform in Latin America, Implementation of Proposition 36 (California only) and Reducing the Incidence of Fatal Drug Overdose.

Proposals are due on 5:00pm, June 24, two weeks from today. Questions and comments can be made to the New York City office of the Tides Foundation at (212) 509-1049 x400 or [email protected]. Visit to read more, including grant guidelines and the three RFPs.

17. New DRCNet/ Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available

DRCNet now offers new t-shirts, mugs and mousepads featuring the stop sign logo, free to new or renewing members, or for purchase. Sale-only prices are $17 for t-shirts and $12 for mugs or mousepads, shipping included. For membership and one or more gift items, donate $35 or more for a free t-shirt, $30 or more for a free mug or mousepad, $60 for any two or $90 for one of each.

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18. The Reformer's Calendar

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

June 15, 12:30pm, New York, NY, Drop the Rock demonstration and concert in Harlem, opposing the Rockefeller drug laws. March at 12:30 from 126th St. between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglas Blvd. (subway lines 1, 2, 3, B, D or A to 125th St.), Concert Rally at 2:30 in Marcus Garvey Park, 122nd & Madison Ave. Contact Tamar Kraft-Stolar at [email protected] or (212) 254-5700 x306 or visit for further info about Drop The Rock.

June 15, 1:00pm-6:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Second Annual Peter McWilliams Memorial Rally," demonstration against the drug war, organized by the Libertarian Party of California Political Prisoner Support Committee (LPCPPSC). At the Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., contact Hal Chiprin at [email protected] or (605) 653-1999 for further information.

June 15, 1:00pm-6:00pm, San Diego, CA, "Second Annual Peter McWilliams Memorial Rally," demonstration against the drug war, organized by the Libertarian Party of California Political Prisoner Support Committee (LPCPPSC). In front of the Federal and State courthouses, intersection of Front and Broadway Streets, contact Gardner Osborne at [email protected] or (858) 459-7382.

June 15, 1:00pm-6:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Second Annual Peter McWilliams Memorial Rally," demonstration against the drug war, organized by the Libertarian Party of California Political Prisoner Support Committee. At the Burton Federal Building on Golden Gate Ave., contact Chris Matten at (415) 845-8202 for further information.

June 15, 6:30pm, Albuquerque, NM, "Collateral Damage: Just Say Know, Music Remembering the Injustices of Tulia, Texas," musical tour by Brad Carter, sponsored by Friends of Justice and the November Coalition. At Solid Grounds Coffee House, (505) 271-2513 for directions, or visit or call (806) 792-0566, (806) 995-3353 or (509) 684-1550 for 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, noon-7:00pm, New York, NY, Block Party for Repeal of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Sponsored by the Seven Neighborhood Action Partnership, featuring speeches by ex-prisoners and state and city officials. At Poor Richard's Playground, E. 109th St. and 3rd Ave. in East Harlem, near the 103rd stop on the 6 Train, contact Jessica Dias at (212) 348-8142 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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