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

Issue #242, 6/21/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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(Phil is on vacation this week, so much though not all of this week's issue consists of short newsbriefs. This issue is largely the work of DRCNet intern Gabriel Froymovich.)

Stop the DEA's war on medical marijuana! Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to write to Congress and the president today!

DRCNet's first global anti-prohibition conferences are coming up in Belgium and Mexico, under the banner "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century." Stay tuned to DRCNet for details, or e-mail [email protected] to receive an announcement when details are finalized.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Perspectives from Europe
  2. Indiana Man Challenges Constitutionality of Analogue Laws
  3. DRCNet Interview: Steven Silverman, Flex Your Rights
  4. New DRCNet/StopTheDrugWar.org Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available
  5. Newsbrief: Court Okays Police Pressure for Searches on Mass Transit
  6. Human Rights Watch Report Says 124,000 Children Have Lost Parents to New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws
  7. Newsbrief: Baltimore Anti-Drug Campaign Grant Shot Down
  8. Newsbrief: Unitarians to Consider "Statement of Conscience" on Drug Policy Next Week
  9. Newsbrief: New Zealand Greens Want to Talk About Legalization
  10. Newsbrief: Britain Tests Heroin Dispensers
  11. Newsbrief: Industrial Hemp to be on Ballot in South Dakota
  12. Newsbrief: Nevada Voters to Weigh Benefits of Decriminalization
  13. Newsbrief: Congress Questions Colombia's Drug War Performance
  14. Newsbrief: Actor Larry Hagman of "JR" Fame Speaks Out Against Prohibition in Autobiography
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. Editorial: Perspectives from Europe

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 6/21/02

One of the most cited arguments for liberalization of drug laws is the example of European nations that have moved down that path, the Netherlands being a striking example, Switzerland as well. The reality is complex and typically not very clearly presented, particularly by prohibitionists who wish to discredit any alternative to the drug war status quo. But it is true that much of Europe is in a very different place vis à vis drug policy than the United States. Last week I had the chance to visit a number of European cities and take a look at the scene myself for the first time.

Contrary to prohibitionist distortion and popular misconception, the Netherlands hasn't legalized drugs, technically not even marijuana. Marijuana policy is pretty close to constituting a de facto legalization, though, at least in some respects. Residents and visitors alike can freely walk into any number of downtown Amsterdam's "coffee shops."

No reasonable observer can stroll Amsterdam's streets and conclude that Dutch marijuana use is a major problem. The tolerance policy, actualized to a degree approaching regulated legalization, very clearly works for as far as it goes. Those hysterical voices labeling the country's drug scene a disaster are being profoundly dishonest. Liberalization of policies toward other drugs has not progressed as far -- they are still prohibited -- but users are not criminalized.

Some dealers of hard drugs don't seem to be too worried either. More than once I was followed up a block or more by sellers who didn't want to take "not interested" for an answer. When I finally convinced them I really wasn't planning to buy any drugs, they proceeded to beg for cash. They probably don't expect to wind up in prison, at least not for very long.

Annoying as they were, though, they didn't seem very dangerous; the minor annoyance of some over-aggressive street peddlers doesn't seem a good reason to abandon an enlightened policy that has lowered the human toll of punitive, ineffective drug prohibition laws. On the other hand, the phenomenon serves to illustrate the limitations of tolerance whilst drugs remain illegal -- ultimately only legalization can spare us the disorders of the illicit street market. It is ironic that the most striking aspect of the Dutch drug scene for me was one of the consequences of continued prohibition from which the country still suffers.

The drug policy debate in much of Western Europe has also advanced much further than the typical political dialogue here in the states. At a high-level seminar convened earlier this week by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a leading British think tank, participants examined the international drug treaties and the obstacles they present to states or nations that wish to enact drug policies that aren't based on prohibition. The consensus was that the treaties do not prevent signatory nations from moving quite far in the direction of liberalization, but do forbid them from stepping over the line to actual drug legalization.

The consensus was also that the end of prohibition won't truly be achieved without repealing or at least amending the treaties. Europe is a diverse continent made up of many neighboring nationalities and cultures, many of which warred for centuries. Europeans hence tend to view the system of international agreements as an important factor enabling their various societies to coexist in prosperity and peace. It is inconceivable to them that any European nation would simply pull out of the international drug conventions, regardless of how much of a liability its populace or politicians may come to view them.

Ireland was one exception discussed there -- they never ratified the drug conventions and hence aren't bound by them -- but Ireland has also never had the drug policy debate that some of its neighbors have, and there is little interest there even in harm reduction or decriminalization. Repeal of reform of the conventions, then, is not enough, as prohibition is certainly capable of existing without them. But as much as we American drug reformers may dream of it, Europe is not going to legalize drugs in the absence of a coordinated global shift in the ground rules governing drug policies.

The seminar also concluded that amending the treaties is not going to be easy. In March of next year, for example, the United Nations will hold another General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. (Readers may remember the 1998 UNGASS and its silly slogan -- "Drug Free in Ten, We Can Do It!") A scholar formerly employed by the UN pointed out that a decisive majority of nations would be needed to initiate the process of even considering modifying the treaties, and that the US and the set of poor, international aid recipient nations under its thumb are more than enough to block it. The US even has enough power to prevent such a vote from taking place, even though it hasn't paid up its UN dues and hence couldn't actually vote. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Republic's Senate of the Star Wars movies, corrupted under the influence of the Dark Lord of the Sith, hardly a model for enlightened international policymaking.

But if the loosening of drug prohibition's international stranglehold seems years away, it will be forever if we don't start to try. So start we have. At a meeting in Antwerp last weekend, representatives of a wide range of European organizations decided to join forces with sympathetic political leaders and organizations from other continents to preempt the UN's drug barons and call for an end to prohibition, with reform of the drug conventions as an initial step toward that goal. DRCNet is a proud sponsor and co-organizer of this event, which has affiliated with our upcoming international conference series, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century." We will in the near future present a special report on the organizations leading drug policy reform in Europe and their plans for this and related efforts.

Europe has further to go in drug policy than it sometimes seems to those of us watching from afar. Nevertheless, it seems true that the spirit of freedom burns there more strongly, while our own nation suffers under the burden of drug war ideology and terrorism-spawned police state policies. Opponents of drug prohibition and advocates of reform must work together across oceans and borders to usher in a new age of tolerance and enlightenment for the people of all nations.


2. Indiana Man Challenges Constitutionality of Analogue Laws

Mark Niemoeller sees himself as an all-American entrepreneur who works hard to make a living. The United States Attorney's Office sees him as an interstate drug trafficker facing up to 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Niemoeller, 45, has operated JLF Poisonous Non-Consumables for 16 years on a family farm that he has lived on his whole life in Elizabethtown, Indiana, about 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis. He used his own capital, never taking out a loan.

Niemoeller was indicted on January 22 on 13 counts of felony drug distribution. The alleged drugs in question were sold over the Internet, according to the US Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis.

Niemoeller maintains his innocence. He declined comment for this article, but did issue a prepared statement about the situation. "I legally purchased all my products on the open market without any special licenses, and still could today; no matter that most of my sources are still in operation and still sell those same items and to my knowledge have not been approached by the Feds," says Niemoeller in his statement.

Some of the charges are unconstitutional, says Niemoeller's lawyer, Andrew C. Maternowski, who is based in Indianapolis. The US Attorney's office alleges that Niemoeller sold 2C-T-7 and butanediol. Prosecutors further allege that the substances are similar enough to the controlled substances Nexus and GHB to be considered illegal.

"Butanediol, though, is not very similar" to the GHB, says Lesley Brown, a chemistry professor at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. Butanediol has a molecular arrangement that makes its properties significantly different, Brown says.

Butanediol, when consumed by humans, is broken down in the body to GHB, according to Christian Fibiger, Vice President of Neuroscience at Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical manufacturer headquartered in Indianapolis. 2C-T-7 and Nexus are "sufficiently similar" for there to be a possibility that they would have "similar biological activities," says Fibiger.

The Attorney's office will be calling expert witnesses from the Food and Drug Administration to testify that the substances are analogous. The FDA was the primary agency in Niemoeller's arrest.

Maternowski wants the three charges regarding butanediol and 2C-T-7 dismissed because the law that allows for prosecution of the sale of analogous substances is too vague for "a person of common knowledge" to determine if the substance is illegal; therefore the statute is unconstitutional, says Maternowski. Additionally, says Maternowski, GHB was not yet scheduled as a Schedule I or II substance. Controlled substance analogue laws only apply to Schedule I and II substances, legally considered to be the most harmful.

The Attorney's office is also charging Niemoeller with selling safrole, a substance used in the manufacture of the illegal drug Ecstasy, with the knowledge that it would be used for illegal purposes. Niemoeller denies he had reason to believe that the safrole was being used for illegal purposes, says Maternowski. The substance that Niemoeller was selling was actually sassafras oil, which contains safrole, but may or may not be covered by the same laws, according to Maternowski.

Most of the charges against Niemoeller are for dispensing prescription drugs without being "licensed by law to administer such drugs." Such distribution would only be illegal if the intended purpose were for human consumption, says Maternowski.

All products that JLF sells are sent with a disclaimer that gives directions for use of the product, indicating that all products are not to be ingested, along with a document indicating any potential hazards, according to the company's web site. Instead, according to the disclaimers posted on the Internet site, the goods are intended to be used as incense, sacraments, for art, research, collection and many other listed uses.

Niemoeller was arrested on January 29 and released the following day on his own recognizance after agreeing not to sell certain products. He is also required to submit to random urinalysis, court records show. The FDA, joined by Indiana State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration, conducted the arrest, according to Niemoeller. The FDA, says Maternowski, sent no warning that Niemoeller was doing anything illegal.

The indictment states that in accordance with asset forfeiture laws, the funds in two personal banks accounts, along with more than $6,000 in cash and a 1998 Dodge Ram Maxivan were seized along with other unspecified property. About $1.25 million in assets were seized including data, inventory and the vehicle and an additional $750,000 in bank accounts, according to Niemoeller's statement. Asset forfeiture laws allow any assets determined by the arresting agency to have been connected to a drug-related crime to be seized upon arrest. Maternowski is providing legal services without compensation, because Niemoeller's funds are seized, he says. Maternowski is currently petitioning the court to release some of Niemoeller's funds for him to be able to mount a defense.


3. DRCNet Interview: Steven Silverman, Flex Your Rights

In this nation's Hundred Years' War against some drugs, the collateral damage has included the millions of American citizens and residents who have suffered arrest at the hands of law enforcement agents enforcing the drug laws. The United States Constitution offers protections to citizens that could prevent that encounter with police from turning into an arrest, but, sadly, too many Americans have no idea of how to effectively use their hard-won rights to protect them from overzealous policing. Below, DRCNet interviews Steven Silverman, the head of a newly formed group, Flex Your Rights (http://www.FlexYourRights.org), designed to teach Americans how to protect themselves by flexing their constitutional rights.

Week Online: What is Flex Your Rights and what does it hope to accomplish?

Steven Silverman: Flex Your Rights is a nonprofit educational organization. Our mission is to train individuals to protect their civil liberties, specifically during police encounters. We use creative, interactive teaching methods, a hands-on, real world understanding of how the Bill of Rights applies to real life police encounters. We want to help people understand their constitutional rights. This project has become more urgent as those rights have been eroded over the decades. Decisions by the Supreme Court have expanded the scope of police powers, particularly search and seizure, for the purpose of fighting illegal drugs. This "drug exception" to the Constitution has included various tactics, including, notably racial profiling, where drivers are targeted on the basis of their race and searched for contraband. It is important that we recognize that part of the problem is many civil rights violations by police officers occur because people naively waive the rights they still have. Part of the solution is to train people how to assert their remaining constitutional rights. Those are still our best protection during encounters with the police.

We believe no one should have to undergo the humiliation, inconvenience and embarrassment of an illegal search. Interestingly enough, there were about 19.3 million traffic stops in 1999. Most encounters that people have with law officers are traffic stops. Police conducted 1.3 million searches of motorists that year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and about 90% of those searches resulted in no evidence of a crime. Most people who are searched are not guilty of anything. They should never have consented to a search.

WOL: If someone is not doing anything illegal, why shouldn't they let the police search them?

Silverman: Because you don't have to. People assume that if they deny a police request to search them, that is somehow an admission of guilt and that it will get them into more trouble than its worth. But you should remember that the only reason an officer is asking your permission to search you or your vehicle is that he doesn't yet have any legal reason to do so without your consent. By consenting to an unwarranted search, you are giving up one of the most important constitutional rights you have: the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

WOL: What are the most important things people need to know about how to behave during a police encounter?

Silverman: This is common sense stuff. First, avoid doing illegal things. Keep your car in legal working order, make sure your registration is up-to-date, your tail lights are working, things like that. Obey the speed limit. The police usually pull someone over for an alleged traffic violation, and they will use any pretext to stop you. Also, you should keep your private items out of view. Police do not need a search warrant to confiscate any illegal items that are within plain view and arrest their owners.

If you do get pulled over, turn off the car, turn on the dome light and keep your hands in view. Officers want to see your hands for their own safety. Be courteous. The first thing you should say is, "Good evening officer. Can you tell me why I am being pulled over?" Take the initiative here: You want to be the one asking questions. Show your license and registration if requested and step out of the car if ordered to do so. Above all, remain calm and quiet. If you get a ticket, just accept it quietly. That's what traffic stops are supposed to be about.

There are signals to look for to indicate whether the encounter is moving beyond a mere traffic stop. Any question not related to the traffic offense should be considered a red flag. The officer may ask you inappropriate questions about where you've been or where you're going. This can make you uncomfortable, but this is when you need to be ready to assert your rights. You want to respond to such improper questions with your own question. The most important question to ask is, "Officer, I have to be on my way. Am I free to go?" If he says anything but no, then assume you are free to go, but repeat the question anyway and prepare to leave -- driving away safely.

If he says "no," you still have options. Ask, "Officer, why am I not free to go?" If the officer says you are not free to go, you have now moved to a new level of police encounter. You are being detained. Do not answer any questions unless your attorney is sitting in the passenger seat, but continue to be courteous. Now the officer will try to search you, and when he asks for your permission, it is typically not done politely, but comes garbed in tones of command. It may seem like a command, but it is not -- it is a request. Do not consent to a request for a search. You have nothing to lose by not consenting, and anything found as a result of search to which you consented will be admissible as evidence. Because you consented, the search will be deemed legal.

If you are arrested, you still have options. Continue to remain calm and keep your mouth shut. Assert your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Anything you say can and most likely will be used against you later in court. I've talked to so many people who have said innocuous seeming thing talking to police officers, who in turn stretched and took out of context their remarks and used them against them in ways the person would never have imagined could be done. Never physically resist, but if you are being arrested, continue to assert your rights. Refuse to consent to any searches. Say nothing. You have nothing to lose by asserting your rights and much to gain. The ultimate goal is for people to drive away safely from a police encounter without being arrested or having their civil rights violated. Don't be a statistic.

WOL: How does Flex Your Rights differ from existing programs at the ACLU, for instance, that attempt to educate citizens about their rights?

Silverman: Those cards from the ACLU and NORML, for instance, are great. They were part of my inspiration for Flex Your Rights. We seek to take those "bust cards" and bring the information to life. It's difficult to recreate the confusion and anxiety that occurs during a real police encounter on the back of a business card. That is what we attempt to recreate with our training sessions and our video project, "Busted," which is now in the works.

WOL: What is one of your presentations like?

Silverman: I come in, dressed in a blazer and give the lecture about protecting your rights and how most people fail to assert their constitutional rights, and I tell them that's one reason so many are getting arrested for nonviolent drug offenses. Then I tell them I want to introduce them to a friend of mine to show what a real encounter with the police looks like. I put on a police cap, aviator shades, a real police badge, handcuffs, and wear a handcuff case on my belt. This generates a whole new vibe. At this point, I ask for a volunteer and ask her to imagine she is at an outdoor concert, a Phish show, maybe. I instruct the volunteer to act as she would during a real police encounter.

Then I begin my act. I walk up to her and say, "Hi, I'm Officer Friendly. How are you doing? We're just checking up on people for safety reasons because there's been a lot of drug use here. Can I ask you a question," I ask, doing my best to look intimidating. "Yes," replies the volunteer. "Have you seen anyone smoking pot?" I ask. "Don't lie to me, you can tell me the truth." She shakes her head. "I'll ask you again, have you seen anybody smoking pot?" The volunteer says, "no." Shaking my head in disbelief, I say, "Don't lie to me. Have you seen anybody smoking pot?"

By now the volunteer admits that, yes, she has seen that. So I ask, "What about you? Have you taken any drugs today?" Hoping to win points for honesty, the volunteer admits, "Yes, my friend and I smoked a joint earlier." Stupid admission. My cop instincts aroused, I tell her, "Can you go ahead and open up your bag for me?" She hesitates, ask something like, "Do I have to?" To which I respond, "If you don't you'll just have to stay here while I call the dogs. It'll be an inconvenience and an embarrassment for you. If you just open up the bag, it'll be easier for both of us."

Before long, the victim, er, volunteer opens up the bag, and I spot a plastic baggie. "Can you pull that plastic bag out for me, please? Is that marijuana?" When the volunteer sheepishly admits that the substance is indeed pot, I say, "I have to place you under arrest for possession of a controlled substance, please put your hands behind your back." I cuff her hands behind her back and read her her rights.

That gets people's attention. Then I explain that she really isn't under arrest, I'm really not a police officer, and that really wasn't pot in that baggie, but what is real is the way she reacted to the police officer and the fact that she ultimately consented to be searched. Now, we can focus on what she should have done differently. This leads to informative discussions, and I try to always have a legal expert, a defense attorney present who can address specific questions from the audience.

WOL: You are coming close to offering legal advice that could have a huge impact on people's lives. From what sources did you get your information?

Silverman: I have compiled information from groups like the ACLU, as well as numerous defense attorneys and even former police officers. The information I provide has been vetted by the legal experts. It is pretty basic stuff, just your basic constitutional rights. But the overwhelming majority of the public does not know and understand its constitutional rights and how to flex them during a police encounter. There is a real need for this information to be made available. That's what I'm trying to do.

WOL: How did you end up doing this?

Silverman: I had worked with DRCNet as campus coordinator for two years, and in the process I interviewed dozens of young people who had lost federal student aid because of drug convictions. During those interviews, I made a point of asking what happened during their encounters with police, and I found that many could have avoided arrest if they had been trained to assert their rights. I began to understand that there was a serious information gap out there. Then, when I started talking to defense attorneys, they uniformly told me that around 90% of their clients could have avoided arrest or gotten reduced charges if they had known how to assert their rights.

WOL: Who is making use of your services?

Silverman: This is a new program, but I've done two gigs at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) conferences and I've done one presentation for a District of Columbia charter school. The latter was my first word-of-mouth referral, and I'm hoping to get more and more as time goes by and the word gets out.

WOL: You're a white guy from the Philadelphia suburbs. We know that despite roughly equal levels of illicit drug use, blacks and Hispanics are arrested in hugely disproportionate numbers. How will you overcome the drug reform movement's traditional inability to reach out to minority communities?

Silverman: The presentation at the DC charter school is one good example of the kind of outreach we need to do. This presentation is fundamentally a harm reduction measure, and we know that it is primarily minority youth who are targeted by law enforcement. With Flex Your Rights, you don't have to identify as a drug policy reformer, you are merely equipping people with the tools to exercise their rights effectively, and they can come to their own conclusions about the role of the drug war in their daily lives. Police abuse is all too common in minority communities -- and believe me, the people who live in those communities know that -- and Flex Your Rights training can help mitigate the impact of over-zealous policing. This is real information people can use immediately in their daily lives. Flex Your Rights understands where the greatest need for us is, and that is why we are undertaking efforts to reach out to organizations such as local NAACP chapters or the New Jersey Council of Black Ministers, which has propelled the efforts to end racial profiling in that state.

WOL: You mentioned a video project earlier. Is the video available now?

Silverman: The "Busted" video is currently in development. It will accompany the training sessions and it will feature reenactments of real police encounters. We're looking for someone with some street credibility, maybe a current or former police officer, to be the narrator. I'm currently in the process of raising funds to produce the video.


4. New DRCNet/StopTheDrugWar.org Merchandise Out -- Discounted Purchase Available

DRCNet now offers new t-shirts, mugs and mousepads featuring the StopTheDrugWar.org 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.

Please visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/tshirts/ to place your order by credit card, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- but please fill out the form too, or e-mail us at [email protected], so we can include your request in the next order. (Also, please contact us if you wish to make a contribution of stock.)

Note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to support our educational work, make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address. The portion of your gift that is tax-deductible will be reduced by the retail value of any gifts that you choose to receive, as per IRS regulations.

Thank you in advance for your support.


5. Newsbrief: Court Okays Police Pressure for Searches on Mass Transit

The US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on Monday that police can pressure passengers on public-transit systems to consent to a search and need not inform them of their right to refuse. This is not a change from common police practice, but overturns the decision of a US Court of Appeals in Atlanta that ruled evidence inadmissible in the drug-trafficking convictions of Christopher Drayton and Clifton Brown.

The court in Atlanta ruled the evidence inadmissible because it was obtained through intimidation. According to the court in Atlanta, the officers used a "show of authority" that would cause any reasonable person to feel forced to consent. The court ruled that their consent to a search was invalid and therefore the packets of cocaine found on them were inadmissible in court.

Writing for the majority opinion of the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote there "was nothing coercive [or] confrontational. There was no application of force, no intimidating movement, no overwhelming show of force, no brandishing of weapons, no blocking of exits, no threat, no command, not even an authoritative tone of voice... The fact that an encounter takes place on a bus does not on its own transform standard police questioning of citizens into an illegal seizure."

Justice David Souter wrote a dissenting opinion, on behalf of himself and Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stating that the court's opinion had an "air of unreality" about it. In agreement with the Atlanta court, he wrote that "no reasonable passenger could have believed... he had a free choice to ignore the police altogether."

According to Steven Silverman, Executive Director of Flex Your Rights (http://www.FlexYourRights.org), "This ruling is not surprising because it is all too consistent with past rulings that have expanded police power to search and seize in the name of fighting drugs. It's worth noting that this ruling does not seem to radically change the rules of engagement regarding consent searches."

"For example," explains Silverman, "people on buses -- and everywhere else -- do not have to consent to a police officer's request to search them, as Drayton and Brown foolishly did. It's unfortunate that the police can now approach citizens in any public place and ask for their permission to search them, but this is precisely why all citizens need to be trained to properly assert the constitutional rights they still have."


6. Human Rights Watch Report Says 124,000 Children Have Lost Parents to New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws

(press release from Human Rights Watch)

Excessively severe drug laws have deprived thousands of children of their parents, Human Rights Watch stated in a report released on Wednesday (6/18). Governor Pataki and New York politicians in Albany are now debating legislation to reform these drug laws.

Releasing a new report with the first statistics on the number of children in New York who have had parents sent to prison for drug offenses, Human Rights Watch said the statistics should spur a swift agreement on major reform of the state's drug laws.

"Children of incarcerated drug offenders are one of the collateral casualties of the state's war on drugs," said Jamie Fellner, director of Human Rights Watch's US Program. "Disproportionately harsh drug sentences have not only led to the unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of low-level drug offenders, but also deprived thousands of children of their parents."

In "Collateral Casualties: Children of Incarcerated Drug Offenders in New York," Human Rights Watch presents a statistical snapshot developed from state and federal data. Among the findings are that an estimated 23,537 children currently have parents in New York prisons convicted of drug charges. An estimated 11,113 currently incarcerated New York drug offenders are parents of children. Since 1980, an estimated 124,496 children have had at least one parent imprisoned in New York on drug charges. Some 50% of mothers and fathers in New York prisons for drug convictions do not receive visits from their children.

Human Rights Watch has consistently urged New York to eliminate harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to authorize judges to tailor criminal sanctions that reflect the individual offender's conduct and other relevant factors.

Restoring fairness and proportionality to New York's drug laws would reduce the number of drug offenders needlessly sent to prison. For many low-level nonviolent drug offenders, alternatives to incarceration -- including community-based sanctions and drug treatment programs -- would be a "punishment that fits the crime." By reducing the number of offenders sent to prison, the state would also reduce the number of children who must suffer from losing a parent to prison.

"Safeguarding communities and protecting families from drug trafficking and drug abuse are important public interests," said Fellner. "But the means chosen to combat drugs should neither violate human rights nor inflict unnecessary collateral harm."

No New York agency tracks the number of children who have parents in prison. Human Rights Watch derived its figures from New York State Department of Correctional Services data on incarcerated drug offenders and from the results of a survey of a representative sample of New York prison inmates conducted in 1997 for the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice. The survey yielded data on such questions as the percentage of inmates who have children, the size of their families, current caregivers and the frequency with which the incarcerated parents are in contact with their children.

"Collateral Casualties: Children of Incarcerated Drug Offenders in New York," Human Rights Watch Report, June 2002, is available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usany/ online.


7. Newsbrief: Baltimore Anti-Drug Campaign Grant Shot Down

On Monday night (6/17), the Baltimore County Council refused a request from the City of Baltimore to support the city's "Believe" anti-drug campaign with a $5,000 grant, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun. They rejected the grant, which would have been used for advertisements and billboards, on the basis that the money would be more effectively spent on drug treatment. Baltimore's drug treatment programs were shown to significantly reduce crime and drug abuse in an independent study conducted in January of this year.

The campaign already has a $2 million budget, but County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has asked for the council to reconsider their decision. Though the grant would only increase the budget by one-quarter of a percent, the vote put the effectiveness of the campaign in a brighter spotlight than it previously had been.


8. Newsbrief: Unitarians to Consider "Statement of Conscience" on Drug Policy Next Week

Members of the Unitarian Universalist religious denomination will vote on a drug policy "statement of conscience" next week (6/24) during their General Assembly. The statement, is supported by Unitarians for Drug Policy Reform (http://www.uudpr.org), is "remarkably good, according to UUDPR founder Charles Thomas," who told ABCNews.com it "recogniz[es] the distinction between use and abuse, and call[s] for removal of criminal penalties for possession."

Thomas said that religious leaders who support the drug war are "doing the exact opposite of what Jesus taught." UUDPR plans to engage such leaders in dialogue, and present the statement, assuming it passes, to other religious denominations for their consideration.

The ABCNews.com article is available online at http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/christians_drugs020620.html.


9. Newsbrief: New Zealand Greens Want to Talk About Legalization

The New Zealand Green Party wants to negotiate the legalization of cannabis for personal use in any coalition talks with the Labour party after elections, the New Zealand Herald reported. This stance may have been spurred by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party's offer not to stand against Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons in the closely contested Coromandel election, if her party will make legalization of marijuana a "fundamental issue" in coalition talks.

Fitzsimons, however, has indicated that her party's primary issue is keeping genetically engineered organisms in the laboratory. In 1999, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party captured 268 votes in Coromandel. Fitzsimons' majority over the other main candidate from the National Party is maintained by only 250 votes.


10. Newsbrief: Britain Tests Heroin Dispensers

The United Kingdom's government is backing trials of heroin dispensers that would carefully measure doses in an attempt to reduce heroin-related deaths and reduce crime. The government also hopes the new technology will reduce needle-sharing and curb the spread of AIDS and hepatitis.

The dispenser is a programmable inhaler for methadone or heroin that an addict can self-dispense. The inhalers will be tamper-proof and the dosage set in advance. Dr. Philip Robson, medical director for GW pharmaceuticals, the company that will manufacture the dispensers says, that government figures show that every pound spent on treatment of heroin addicts saves £3 in afflicted areas.

There has also been debate in the Parliament regarding legalization of heroin to solve the nation's drug problems, and BBC has reported that the Parliament is likely to allow doctors more leeway on prescribing heroin to addicts through the National Health Service. According to Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of Action on Addiction, treatment of heroin addiction reduces criminal behavior by up to 80% and also discourages intravenous administration and overdoses.


11. Newsbrief: Industrial Hemp to be on Ballot in South Dakota

The issue of legalizing industrial hemp in South Dakota will be on the ballot for the general election on November 5 of this year. The petition drive gathered 15,845 signatures between May 8, 2001 and May 7, 2002. 13,010 signatures were necessary to place the measure, Initiated Law No. 1, on the ballot. South Dakota voters will decide whether or not to allow the planting, cultivation, harvesting, possession, processing, transportation of, sale of and buying of cannabis and cannabis-based products with a THC content of 1% or less.

The South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council submitted the petition in May. SDIHC believes that legalizing hemp cultivation in the state could save many of South Dakota's barely-surviving farms, judging by the $125 million industry of importing hemp into the United States, according to their web site (http://www.sodakhemp.org). SDIHC received support from the Body Shop Outlet in Sioux Falls.


12. Newsbrief: Nevada Voters to Weigh Benefits of Decriminalization

The group Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement has gathered more than 107,000 signatures from all 17 counties in Nevada to make decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana an issue on the November ballot. The number of signatures far surpasses the 61,336 needed to place the question on the ballot, making its appearance on the ballot a near certainty.

The initiative, which has been funded by the Marijuana Policy Project, would also provide for low-cost medical marijuana. It will have to be approved by voters this year and in 2004 to become a law. The measure would define a small amount of marijuana as three ounces or less and would ban smoking marijuana in public along with possession by or sale to a minor.


13. Newsbrief: Congress Questions Colombia's Drug War Performance

An unreleased Congressional report states that Colombia is not fulfilling its obligations in the joint effort with the US to fight drug trafficking, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. Colombia has failed to provide personnel to pilot 14 US-supplied Black Hawk helicopters, leaving the helicopters grounded. Colombia has also reduced drug crop-eradication operations due to "political concerns." The Bush administration is currently pushing to increase military funding to Colombia in order to enable the country to continue to fight the drug war.

Colombia drug war funding has been heavily criticized by human rights and environmental groups as well as organizations supporting the nation's peace process.


14. Newsbrief: Actor Larry Hagman of "JR" Fame Speaks Out Against Prohibition in Autobiography

Larry Hagman, who played "JR" on "Dallas" and starred in "I Dream of Jeannie," has written an autobiography titled "Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life." In his autobiography, Hagman details his experiences with his father, alcohol and mind-expanding drugs.

Hagman, now 70, had a liver transplant in 1995 due to alcohol damage. Though he regrets his heavy drinking, Hagman is not critical of the illicit drugs that he used, including marijuana, LSD and peyote. He questions the reasoning behind the prohibition of marijuana. Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, he said, "Why that stuff should be illegal is beyond me. It's so benign compared to alcohol. When you come right down to it, alcohol destroys your body and makes you do violent things. With grass you sit back and enjoy life," says Hagman.

Hagman also praises LSD, which he first took with singer David Crosby. "You lose your ego," he says. "It led me into having no fear of death, because you've been there, done that, and it ain't so bad. Matter of fact, it's wonderful." Hagman no longer uses any drugs, as part of a twelve-step alcohol recovery program.


15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 http://www.wpaonline.org/WEBSITE/rt.html 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 http://www.keepthetrust.org/summit/ 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 http://www.theihs.org/tab3/thefirst.html 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 http://www.interlog.com/~ritten/ 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 http://www.sentencingproject.org 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:/www.fcnetwork.org 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 http://www.mpp.org/conference/ 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 http://www.mpp.org/conference/ 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 http://www.harmreduction.org 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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