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

Issue #244, 7/5/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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This week's issue is shorter than usual due to the July 4th holiday and staff travel schedules. DRCNet's full reporting and editorializing will be back next week.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Bolivian Voters Tell US to Butt Out: Coca Grower Leader Morales Emerges as Presidential Kingmaker
  2. Unitarian Drug Stand Draws Favorable Response from West Virginia Paper
  3. British Columbia Marijuana Activists Celebrate 4th of July by Burning US Flag in Protest of Local DEA office
  4. Newsbrief: Kids Are Consuming More Alcohol, Cigarettes, Cocaine, but Are Less Reckless, Says CDC
  5. Newsbrief: Eighty Marines and Sailors Convicted of Using, Selling Drugs
  6. Newsbrief: No Honor Among Thieves -- Informant Sues FBI for His Cut of Forfeitures
  7. Newsbrief: More Complications in Epis Case
  8. Newsbrief: Drug Czar Declares War on Kingpins, Casual Users
  9. Newsbrief: US to Resume Airplane Shootdown Program
  10. Newsbrief: Report Says Post September 11 Security Not Stopping Drugs
  11. Will Foster Free Again
  12. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. Bolivian Voters Tell US to Butt Out: Coca Grower Leader Morales Emerges as Presidential Kingmaker

The US drug war in Bolivia took a severe blow this week as results trickled in from last Sunday's presidential elections. Despite -- or more likely, because of -- an ill-timed, last minute intervention by the US Ambassador designed to frighten voters into choosing "made in America" candidates, Evo Morales and his Movement to Socialism party made an unexpectedly strong showing in the elections and are now positioned to help choose the nation's next leaders and help set the nation's coca policies.

Morales rose to international prominence as a charismatic leader of Bolivia's embattled coca growers and campaigned on an openly anti-US and anti-eradication platform. According to the latest election results, he polled 17% of the vote, trailing only two other candidates, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and Manfred Reyes Villa, by less than five percentage points. Morales called the results a "moral victory" for him and the cocaleros.

Now, Morales, as leader of the Movement to Socialism, is poised to lead as many as six of his fellow party members into Bolivia's 27-member senate, where he will be well-positioned to thwart new efforts to punish coca growers. Also, Morales and the party could conceivably trade their political weight to one of the other candidates in return for pledges to halt or reverse Plan Dignity, the US-imposed "zero coca" eradication program that has created festering violent upheaval across the country.

Morales, an Aymara Indian, will now also play a key role in a planned special session of the Bolivian congress designed to amend the country's constitution. Bolivia's indigenous population will seek greater control over mineral deposits during the session, and Morales will now be able to take his constituents' concerns into the constitutional convention.

Morales had been running at about 10% in the polls, only to get an inadvertent last-minute boost from US Ambassador Manuel Rocha, playing the role of the Ugly American. Last Wednesday, Rocha attempted to threaten Bolivia with dire consequences if voters made the wrong choice, but his heavy-handed effort backfired.

"As a representative of the United States, I want to remind the Bolivian electorate that if you elect those who want Bolivia to become a major cocaine exporter again, this will endanger the future of US assistance to Bolivia," Rocha said in a widely reported and widely condemned speech.

As criticism of Rocha's remarks from all parts of the Bolivian political spectrum grew, Morales dubbed Rocha his "campaign manager" and skillfully played to Bolivian nationalism. Morales repeatedly mentioned that the US had failed to reward anti-coca efforts with open markets for Bolivian fruits and textiles. That message resonated with voters in South America's poorest country.

Now, the US faces a new, restive and less compliant Bolivia. Morales polled especially well among the country's Indians and mixed-race people, who make up a majority of the country's 8.3 million population. Even if the US doesn't want to recognize the new political realities, Bolivian politicians will push coca eradication only at their own risk.

Bolivia, Washington's Latin America drug war "success story," is now on the verge of becoming a major problem for US drug warriors. Policies crafted in Washington have thrown up a new leader in Bolivia, and Morales is no friend of what people south of the Rio Grande still widely refer to as "US imperialism."


2. Unitarian Drug Stand Draws Favorable Response from West Virginia Paper

Last week, DRCNet reported on the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly vote to make ending the war on drugs part of church policy (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/243.html#statementofconscience). In their newly adopted platform, the UUs call for a legal, regulated marijuana market; an end to criminal penalties for simple drug possession; and the provision of hard drugs through a legal prescription regime.

Their stand has resonated in at least one unexpected place. On Tuesday, a leading West Virginia newspaper noted with approval the UU's new drug policy platform and called drug prohibition "a colossal flop." In its editorial, the Charleston Gazette wrote: "Believe it or not, an American religious denomination has called for legalizing all narcotics, which would halt the billion-dollar national 'war on drugs' and free hundreds of thousands of prison inmates."

The Gazette, with a circulation of 52,000 in Charleston, West Virginia's Kanawha Valley, and nearby areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania, quoted from the UU platform and remarks made by UU leaders before noting: "Of course, conservative politicians will denounce this proposal and call instead for locking up more Americans. But we think the church stand reflects a lot of wisdom. Prohibition, America's historic attempt to ban alcohol, was a colossal flop. And the 'war on drugs' is virtually a carbon copy of it."

Chalk one up for the Unitarians. Who will be the next?


3. British Columbia Marijuana Activists Celebrate 4th of July by Burning US Flag in Protest of Local DEA office

While US marijuana protesters have often and deliberately embraced American patriotism -- the flag is on prominent display at events such as Washington DC's annual hemp fest -- activists in other countries have felt no such compunction. In some places, in fact, the stars and stripes are viewed not as a symbol of freedom but of oppression, and the drug war is again one of the reasons. British Columbia is now apparently among those places, at least as seen by some activists with the British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP).

Local activists Tim Felger and Joe Fulford joined BCMP candidate Norm Siefken in to burn an American flag at a rally in the Vancouver suburb of Abbotsford, according to the Aldergrove Star. Felger, Fulford and Siefken's protest was prompted by US marijuana policy and its insidious effect on Canadian politics, they said.

"The freedom and liberty which was defined by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington is not the same freedom and liberty that exists now under George W. Bush's dictatorship of scandals and corruption," they told the Star.

"I'm proud to stand alongside the Fraser Valley's finest marijuana activists in solidarity, and to burn the American flag; it's pretty scary that the Drug Enforcement Agency is opening up camp on our sovereign soil," said Siefken, who has run for local and national office on the BCMP ticket.

Citing concerns about British Columbia's $4 billion per year marijuana trade, the DEA opened an office in Vancouver in January. The DEA has been hyping the threat from "BC Bud," charging that it is many times stronger than marijuana smoked in the 1970s. But as the Justice Department's own web site noted: "Growers in both Canada and the United States have access to the same strains of cannabis seeds and the same cultivation technologies. Therefore, growers in both countries are capable of producing the same quality of high grade marijuana."

The BCMP activists also criticized Canadian government efforts to repress marijuana and the marijuana trade, which employs roughly 100,000 BC residents. "Right now there are a lot of statistics being abused by law enforcement, and I predict the next step will be to say BC has a high crime rate because of drugs and organized crime, but really that is because of the BC Liberals' cut to welfare," said Fulford. "Before the Americans can point fingers at the war on drugs, let's investigate the past CIA drug smuggling of crack cocaine from Nicaragua to Arkansas and South Central Los Angeles, which was documented by former LAPD officers and reported in San Jose newspapers."


4. Newsbrief: Kids Are Consuming More Alcohol, Cigarettes, Cocaine, but Are Less Reckless, Says CDC

At least they aren't shooting us. The Center for Disease Control last week released its latest annual survey of "youth risk behavior," and the findings reveal a youth population still eager to experiment with alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs, but more likely to buckle up behind the wheel and less likely to be packing heat.

The survey found that almost one out of ten high school students had used cocaine and 4.2% had used within the past 30 days, marking a dramatic increase in high school cocaine use over the past decade. Heroin, methamphetamine, steroid and injection drug usage also rose, while marijuana use decreased slightly since last year.

On the other hand, the report found that students were wearing seat belts more often, riding with a driver who had consumed alcohol less often and carrying weapons less often. Fewer teenagers have had sex, yet more are wearing condoms, though condom use stopped rising in 1999.

The trade-off between increased high school drug use and decreased levels of violent or reckless behavior could save teenage lives. The CDC identified the four most likely causes of death for those aged 10 to 25 years of age as motor-vehicle crashes, other intentional injuries, homicide and suicide. Though suicide rates remain steady, the increase in seat-belt use and decrease in riding with a drunk driver are likely to reduce fatalities due to motor-vehicle crashes and the decrease in violent behavior will likely mean fewer homicides. The most recent available data, from 1999, suggest that use of all legal and illegal drugs other than alcohol contributes to less than 1% of all deaths in the United States. That rate doubles, however, when alcohol is included.

Visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5104a1.htm to read the CDC report online.


5. Newsbrief: Eighty Marines and Sailors Convicted of Using, Selling Drugs

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that more than 80 US Marines and Navy personnel have been convicted by military courts of using or distributing cocaine, GHB, LSD, ecstasy and steroids at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A two-year investigation into the off-base club scene by military authorities, Operation Xterminator, led to charges against 61 Marines and sailors for drug distribution and 23 for using drugs. Law enforcement agencies working with the military have charged an additional 99 civilians with drug crimes and confiscated a reported $1.4 million worth of black market drugs, including 31,000 Ecstasy tablets, 13,000 doses of LSD, nearly five kilograms of cocaine, over 750 doses of GHB and 405 units of steroids.

The Camp Lejeune busts are only the most recent indication that ecstasy's widespread popularity among young people extends into the armed forces. The US Air Force Academy was rocked by an ecstasy scandal last year, and just two months ago, the US Navy ferreted out 13 ecstasy or methamphetamine users on the USS Nimitz and 11 more at a Hawaii-based sub-hunting aviation unit. Last year, a Marine from Camp Pendleton was arrested with methamphetamine, marijuana and one pound of C-4 plastic explosive smuggled off-base. Two years ago, Naval Intelligence agents were criticized for targeting gay clubs in Washington, DC, as part of an investigation into military drug use in the nation's capital.

In response to the growing number of incidents involving drug use in the military, the armed forces have begun using more frequent and more sophisticated urine screenings.


6. Newsbrief: No Honor Among Thieves -- Informant Sues FBI for His Cut of Forfeitures

A former police chief turned confidential informant has filed a lawsuit against the FBI for failing to live up to its promises to protect him and his family and to give him 10% of the proceeds from everything confiscated, according to an article appearing in the Baltimore Sun on Sunday. Informant Avery Ensley has a long history in law enforcement, including a stint as police chief of North Sioux City, SD, but now says he is filing the lawsuit in part to make people aware that the "FBI does not take care of its people."

Ensley was upset because although he claimed to have contributed to drug seizures totaling $12 million in cash and 1,200 kilos of cocaine, he only received a paltry $50,000. Ensley made more than 15 trips to Mexico gathering evidence for the FBI regarding the Arellano-Felix drug cartel. Ensely claimed that because of his commitment to pursuing his career as an FBI snitch, he and his wife lost several homes and businesses.

"One of the reasons I'm going forward with this thing is that I want other people to know the FBI does not take care of its people," Ensley said. "My experience is that they will put anybody at risk for their own benefit."

The FBI had no comment.


7. Newsbrief: More Complications in Epis Case

A technicality may have big consequences in the trial of Bryan James Epis. Epis, the founder and supplier of Chico Medical Marijuana Caregivers, has been charged with growing marijuana, but claims he was compliant with California's Compassionate Use Act. During a lunch break in the trial on Friday, according to various local newspapers, US District Judge Frank C. Damrell, after consultations with Epis's attorney, decided that the charges and indictment may not be valid because no plea was ever entered by Epis.

Damrell did not say when he would make a formal ruling.

Meanwhile, Judge Damrell has found himself in the middle of another controversy surrounding the Epis case. At one point during the proceedings, police ordered medical marijuana activists protesting outside the courtroom to leave, claiming that Damrell gave the order to disperse the demonstrators. Damrell denied giving any such order, raising the question if police, without any authorization, violated protesters' constitutional rights to gather at the courthouse.


8. Newsbrief: Drug Czar Declares War on Kingpins, Casual Users

In a visit to law enforcement agencies in El Paso last Wednesday, drug czar John P. Walters announced that he plans to go after drug kingpins. He cited earlier successes in breaking up Colombian cartels, noting that the leaders "are dead or in jail," according to an article in the El Paso Times. (Walters did not comment on the continuing flood of cocaine being directed at this country by the successors of those dead or jailed cartel heads.)

But drug kingpins were not the only threat Walters saw on the horizon. Walters added that he also planned "to vigorously attack the non-addicted, casual user," whom he held accountable for encouraging others to use drugs. Walters advocated a broad-based effort to identify and confront drug users, the Times reported. Currently, 58% of inmates in federal prison are there for drug offenses.

If Walters' boilerplate speech-making wowed the narc set, it didn't sit so well with at least one observer, San Antonio News-Express columnist Jan Jarboe Russell. In a June 29 column, Russell ripped into Walters as deluded and in denial.

"After an hour-long conversation with John P. Walters, President Bush's drug czar, I haven't got a clue how to win the war on drugs," wrote Jarboe. "But I do have a much clearer understanding of why we haven't got a hope of winning it. We are doomed, because Walters is not so much a drug czar as he is a moralist and propagandist."

Jarboe criticized Walters for "earnest idealism" and quoted him as telling her that "smoking a joint is harming democracy."

"Oh, please," she wrote in response.

Jarboe also raked Walters over the coals for continuing the expensive yet ineffective youth anti-drug media campaign. "Perhaps the correct conclusion of the market research should be that all anti-drug TV advertisements are a waste of money," she wrote. "Drug use is simply too vast and complex a problem --driven by biochemical factors as well as psychological and social ones -- to be approached with a 30-second slogan. If that's the correct conclusion, Walters is suffering from denial, which is deadly for the nation's drug czar," she told her Central Texas readers.


9. Newsbrief: US to Resume Airplane Shootdown Program

President Bush has decided to restart a controversial anti-drug program in which US officials aid the Colombian and Peruvian militaries in identifying, tracking and blowing out of the sky suspected drug-running planes in northern South America. That program was suspended last year after CIA employees and the Peruvian Air Force mistakenly shot down a civilian aircraft over the Amazon, killing a US missionary and her infant child.

Although the shoot-down policy violated international civil aviation regulations and amounted to extrajudicial execution of unwary pilots without trial, it had been in place throughout the 1990s, except for a short period during the Clinton administration when US officials suspended the program long enough to rewrite US law so that US officials would not face potential international criminal or civil charges for attacking civilian aircraft.

According to the New York Times, Bush will resume the program shortly, but the CIA will no longer be involved. Instead, the State Department and the Pentagon will handle the liaison with first Peruvian and then Colombian military officials. Both Peru and Colombia have clamored loudly for the reinstatement of the shoot-down program, claiming it is necessary to suppress the cocaine traffic.


10. Newsbrief: Report Says Post September 11 Security Not Stopping Drugs

Drug traffickers have proven impervious to US efforts to make the nation's borders more impermeable, according to a new report from the World Customs Organization (WCO), an international body seeking to rationalize and harmonize customs requirements. In its annual report, "Customs and Drugs," the WCO found that security measures implemented in the wake of last September's attacks on New York and Washington had a "negligible" effect on global drug trafficking.

According to the WCO report, new security measures led to a decrease in illicit drugs delivered by air to the US last September and October, but that effect has vanished as traffickers adapt to the new environment. By November, the WCO said, business was back to normal.

The report also found that South American cocaine trafficking through Mexico continues to increase despite the billions spent in recent years by the US to suppress Colombian and Bolivian coca growers and cocaine traffickers.

But hey, at least we busted Dionne Warwick and her lipstick case full of joints at the Miami airport.


11. Will Foster Free Again

Five weeks ago, DRCNet asked our readers to contact the parole authorities in Nevada County, California, in support of Will Foster remaining free and in California following extremely minor parole violations. A parole officer who had never met him in person recommended he be returned to an Oklahoma prison despite the fact the insignificant nature of his violations, which included driving a few counties north to provide expert testimony in a court case.

This time reasonableness came from Oklahoma. On June 28, Foster was released, after Oklahoma officials stated they didn't believe the charges merited parole revocation and that they weren't interested in having him back. Foster is now back in the San Francisco Bay Area.


12. The Reformer's Calendar

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

June 28, 8:00pm, San Francisco, CA, Musicians for Medical Marijuana benefit concert, dance party and information sharing forum. Proceeds will benefit public education efforts, medical cannabis research and financial assistance for patients and their caregivers facing legal challenges. Music by The Venusians and DJ Dragonfly, speakers including Dr. Frank Lucido and Ed Rosenthal, $15 minimum donation. At the CELLspace, 2050 Bryant St., call (510)869-5391 or visit http://www.m4mmj.org for information.

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 3, 8:00-11:00pm, Portland, OR, "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 the Red & Black Cafe, 22nd & Division, $5 cover, call (509) 684-1550 for further information.

July 4, noon-1:00pm, Altoona, PA, Anti-Drug War/Anti-Narcs in Schools Demonstration. Sponsored by the Tri-State Drug Policy Forum, at the Field House, 1415 6th Ave., e-mail [email protected] or call (215) 633-9812 for further information.

July 4, Washington, DC, noon, "33rd Annual Rally March and Concert To End Marijuana Prohibition," sponsored by the Fourth of July Hemp Coalition. Noon activist rally at Farragut Square, 3:00pm march, 2:00-9:00pm concert near the Lincoln Memorial, 10:00pm Hemp Seed Cafe After Show Party at the Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St. NW. Visit http://www.fourthofjuly.org or e-mail [email protected] for further 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.

July 6, 8:00pm, Oakland, CA, "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 the Nameless Cafe, 3906 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, admission $7.50 ($6.50 seniors, $5 children), call (509) 684-1550 for further information.

July 11, Colorado Springs, CO, "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 the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, 29 S. Institute, call (719) 632-6189 for time and admission or call (509) 684-1550 for further information.

July 11-14, noon-7:00pm, State College, PA, "5th Annual 30-hour Anti-Drug War Demonstration." Led by professor emeritus of chemistry Dr. Julian Heicklen, at Penn State University Main Gates, coinciding with the Arts Festival. For further information, e-mail [email protected] or call (814) 238-8054.

July 12, 7:00pm, Boulder, CO, "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 the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, suggested donation $10, call (303) 444-6981 for directions or call (509) 684-1550 for further information.

July 13, 5:00-7:00pm, Denver, CO, "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 Mercury Cafe, 22nd & California, call (303) 444-6981 for directions or call (509) 684-1550 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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