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

Issue #247, 7/26/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Silliness on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
  2. State Supreme Court Upholds California's Proposition 215, San Francisco Prepares to Grow Own Medical Marijuana Supply
  3. British Decrim Move Inspires US Editorialists
  4. Transnational Radical Party Takes Aim at Russian Drug Laws
  5. Capitol Hill Press Conference Calls for States' Rights to Medical Marijuana
  6. Libertarian Party Plans Offensive Against Drug Warriors
  7. Newsbrief: Dutch Cannabis Café Chains Vow to Invade Britain
  8. Newsbrief: Cancer Pain Inadequately Treated, Says NIH
  9. Newsbrief: Democratic Presidential Candidate Plays Crime Card -- Calls for Parole End, More Drug Testing for Probationers
  10. Newsbrief: Narcocorridos Banned in Baja California
  11. Newsbrief: Kenyan Students Riot Over Deadly Marijuana Bust
  12. Newsbrief: Portland, Maine, Moving to Provide Anti-Overdose Drug to Addicts, EMTs
  13. Newsbrief: Coked-Out Judge Busted
  14. Newsbrief: Budget Crisis Kills Connecticut Drug Courts
  15. Newsbrief: Bad Week for Marijuana Police -- Two Dead, One Injured in Accidents
  16. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision
  17. Addictions Discrimination Panel Seeking Testimony
  18. Addendum: Jeff and Tracy
  19. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. Editorial: Silliness on the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 7/26/02

In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal several years ago (June 1998), Nobel laureate Milton Friedman laid out a detailed case for ending our nation's "war on drugs." The letter was one of many he'd written on the topic, but this one he had chosen to conclude with a little personal history of his own. The octogenarian economist had never tried any illegal drugs, he wrote, but would "make no guarantees for the future."

Silly? Maybe. But he was responding to some very silly people: the editorialists of the Journal itself. The occasion was the release of an open letter, signed by 500 prominent citizens from around the world and published in the New York Times, expressing that "we believe the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." The signatories called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to use the global drug summit taking place in New York that day as an opportunity for reevaluation rather than escalation. Along with Dr. Friedman, the signatory list included a number of retired heads of state and numerous other luminaries.

The Wall Street Journal editorialists weren't happy, at least not the one who wrote their editorial on the subject. Dismissing the signers of the letter as "500 drug geniuses," the Journal went so far as to suggest they had signed it because they themselves used drugs! Friedman used humor to illustrate what a stupid thing that was for the Journal to suggest.

The Journal's crazy editorializing on drug issues -- which it does regularly and displaying little more intellect than on that occasion -- contrasts starkly with the dispassionate reporting and cerebral economic analysis in the rest of the paper. I once submitted a letter of my own to the Journal -- never published -- in which I suggested that the editorial writers spend some time learning about economics from the reporters. Then they might understand why drug prohibition and the rest of the drug war can't possibly work, because they conflict with the fundamental economic law of supply and demand.

So it's not hard to understand why the recent British move to decriminalize cannabis (marijuana) could throw the Wall Street Journal editorialists into a tizzy. In just a few weeks, in fact, they ran not one but two editorials about it, plus an op-ed on the topic by drug czar John Walters. Though showing slight progress by acknowledging that "the arguments for decriminalizing marijuana are well-known and not without appeal," the Journal then went on to claim, using highly specious reasoning, that liberalization of drug laws in Europe had led to higher crime rates.

If the Journal's editorialists aren't interested in discussing the issue with the Journal's economic writers, maybe they'd be willing to touch base with fellow editorialists at The Economist, which has regularly called for the legalization of all drugs for years. I suppose it's not surprising that a British publication with an economic focus would interpret drug law economics more accurately than the editorial writers at an American economics-focused publication -- just as British policymakers are self-evidently more logical in their drug policies than their counterparts in Washington, DC.

It's not clear which group of people gets more silly from the influence of illegal drugs, users or lawmakers. But on this count, I'm afraid the editorialists at the Wall Street Journal have both of them beat.


2. State Supreme Court Upholds California's Proposition 215, San Francisco Prepares to Grow Own Medical Marijuana Supply

Although the federal government appears determined to quash medical marijuana in California, the state's institutions are weighing in in support of the state's groundbreaking medical marijuana law. In two moves that herald a looming confrontation between the feds and Californians, the state's highest court and San Francisco's Board of Supervisors have challenged the federal government, the court obliquely and the city directly.

On July 18, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 215, the basis for the state's medical marijuana law, ruling that Californians who use or grow marijuana with a doctor's recommendation are protected from prosecution under state law. Medical marijuana users who have been arrested may have the charges dismissed without going to trial if they have a doctor's recommendation. "The possession and cultivation of marijuana is no more criminal -- so long as [the court's] conditions are satisfied -- than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug with a physician's prescription," wrote Chief Justice Ronald M. George for a unanimous court.

The US Supreme Court ruled last year that there is no medical exception for the use of marijuana under federal law, but the vast majority of California arrests for marijuana take place under state laws, which are subject to the state Supreme Court's ruling. Dozens of Californians who legitimately used medical marijuana have been arrested since the passage of Prop. 215 in 1996. In the case that provoked the state Supreme Court ruling, police in Tuolumne County had arrested a blind diabetic for growing 31 marijuana plants in his front yard.

"This is a definite victory for the state's medical marijuana patients," said Hilary McQuie, coordinator for Americans for Safe Access (http://www.safeaccessnow.org), a campaign initiated by the Cannabis Action Network to protect the rights of medical marijuana users, providers and distributors against the ongoing federal campaign of raids and prosecutions. "The Supreme Court's ruling is crucial in ensuring state protection for medical marijuana users and growers," she told DRCNet. "It also reaffirms the state judicial system's adherence to Prop. 215, and that is very important for patients."

Jeff Jones, head of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Co-op (http://www.rxcbc.org), which was forced to stop distributing medicine after the US Supreme Court decision, also applauded the ruling. "We couldn't have asked for a more positive ruling," he told DRCNet. "It was unanimous and it set a precedent for other states on the legal status of the medical marijuana law. There is now reason for patients across the state to feel that they will be free from police harassment."

As the state Supreme Court reaffirmed the state's Compassionate Use Act, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was threatening to grow its own medical marijuana supply, a move that could place the city on a collision course with the Justice Department. The Board on Monday passed a measure that will give San Francisco voters the opportunity to vote in November on a resolution urging city officials to explore growing and distributing medical marijuana to patients.

Passage of the resolution would not mean the city would start growing marijuana. Instead, city officials would be directed to look into it. If city officials decided to move ahead, they would have to pass legislation detailing where and how medical marijuana would be grown, how it would be distributed, and who would have access to the supply. The city would also have to plot a strategy for an expected legal battle with the feds.

"If the federal government insists on standing in our way locally, we must take matters into our own hands and protect the lives of our community members and protect their right to access life-saving medicine," said Supervisor Mark Leno, who added that he introduced the measure out of frustration with DEA's effort to close down California medical marijuana clubs.

"This is really exciting," said the Oakland co-op's Jones. "The state of California didn't properly implement Prop. 215, and the San Francisco proposal fills the gap of providing safe access to medical marijuana. The federal government has to wake up," Jones added. "We're supposed to be waging a war against terrorists, but here in California we've had a dozen medical marijuana raids, but no raids on terrorists. This just highlights the hypocrisy of the Bush administration. Enron head Kenneth Lay stole people's life savings and he doesn't face a day of jail time, while Ed Rosenthal, who was growing medicine for sick people, is looking at 40 years in federal prison. Something is very wrong here," Jones said.

"This is a huge victory, that San Francisco wants to address the needs of Californians who have a legal use for this medicine," Jones added. "The city is daring the feds to come in and run over a popular, locally-approved program. I'd love to see the DEA come after this."


3. British Decrim Move Inspires US Editorialists

When British Home Secretary David Blunkett announced earlier this month that England would effectively decriminalize simple marijuana possession -- it will become a ticketable offense next year -- the story played in newspapers across the land on this side of the water. And while editorial writers at leading newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post couldn't be bothered to address the subject, other editorial writers and newspaper columnists jumped in with both feet. The reaction was overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, positive.

The Santa Barbara Press News ran editorials lauding the British move on two consecutive days (July 15 and 16). "America's laws punishing the possession of marijuana for personal use do more harm than good," wrote the southern California newspaper. "The hypocrisy over medical marijuana shows how hard it will be to loosen the laws for other personal uses of cannabis. But it's high time to begin discussions about decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of the plant and giving people the right to decide what's best for their bodies."

The next day, under the headline "How to Lighten Up on Marijuana Laws," the Press News wrote that the US should follow the British example. Citing British police comments that enforcing the marijuana laws threatened respect for the legal system, the Press News wrote: "This is the kind of realistic attitude that law enforcement officers and political leaders in this country ought to adopt. But voters will have to lead the way."

The Colorado Gazette (July 16) also approved of the British move, calling it "an important step that will create a record US officials should study." The Gazette editorial also noted that the "main difference between Great Britain and the United States seems to be that some British officials have paid attention to scientific reports. Maybe US citizens should require politicians, DEA honcho Asa Hutchinson and other officials to read and pass a test on the 1999 Institute of Medicine report and the 1972 Shafer Commission Report before discussing marijuana again in public."

The Gazette editorial, which was syndicated for Freedom Newspapers, Inc., also showed up elsewhere. From Ohio, the Lima News (July 16) ran the editorial under the headline "Good Sense in England." In North Carolina, the Kinston Free Press (July 16) chimed in with a shortened version of the same editorial titled "Science Guides Britain's New Marijuana Law." And the Northwest Florida Daily News (July 20) titled its version of the editorial "British Have Better Idea for Marijuana."

The Chicago Tribune (July 20), in an editorial decrying congressional efforts to bar Washington, DC, residents from voting to approve the use of medical marijuana, also pointed to the British move to decriminalize. "Marijuana does not appear to concern people as much as it used to," wrote the Tribune. "Great Britain, which has the highest rates of cannabis use in Europe, has announced that Her Majesty's government will no longer arrest private users of marijuana. The controlled medicinal use of marijuana, as proposed in the District of Columbia, is hardly a threat to anyone. More frightening are politicians who stand in the way of anyone's right to vote on issues of great public concern."

At least two syndicated columnists whose work is widely distributed also addressed the issue. New York Newsday (July 15) columnist Sheryl McCarthy endorsed the British move, writing that "the United States should emulate its closest ally. Enough finger-pointing at the decadent Dutch, with their pot shops and needle parks (sic). We'd be in the same league as the normally straitlaced Brits. A less flexible drug policy hasn't served the British well, since they have one of the highest drug-death rates in Western Europe. So it's time to try something more sensible."

Calling drug policy "the third rail of American politics," McCarthy wrote that most politicians are afraid to discuss drug reform, but are lagging behind their constituents. "The big obstacle is the federal law that forbids the use or possession or sale of marijuana, and even it use for medical reasons," wrote McCarthy. "The federal government should get out of the way and let the states adopt more reasonable policies if they see fit. And the states, in short, should follow the Brits."

And Waco (Texas) Tribune Herald (July 12) senior editor and nationally syndicated columnist Roland Nethaway added his two cents worth with some throwaway lines about stoned people now being able to tolerate Britain's lousy weather and cuisine. But despite his tired wisecracks and failure to really endorse or oppose the British decrim, Nethaway concluded: "Trying to follow the logic people use to combat drug abuse is enough to make you want to take two Valium tablets along with your evening cocktails."

Not all editorial reaction was positive. The Wall Street Journal editorial board was so deeply disturbed by the British move (or is just plain deeply disturbed) that it penned two editorials (July 12 and 16) opposing the move, and threw in a John Walters drug czar op-ed (July 19) for good measure. The first response was to criticize Home Secretary Blunkett for only going halfway, replete with a stupid pot reference: "It's not clear what this mishmash of carrots and sticks will accomplish, but it makes you wonder what the politicians have been smoking," yukked the wits at the Journal. A few days later, the Journal had hardened its position. Although it admitted that "the arguments for decriminalizing marijuana are well-known and not without appeal," it rejected those arguments. Instead it noted that the incoming Dutch government plans to restrict coffeehouses (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/246.html#netherlands) and argued that the European experience showed liberalization led to higher crime rates. "For the US," wrote the Journal, "the lesson would appear to be to beware legalizers bearing British gifts... The US is better off just saying no."

As if two editorials weren't enough, three days later the Journal provided drug czar John Walters with a bully pulpit to denounce the British move and drug liberalization in general. After worrying, among other things, that legal drugs could become "a disability entitlement," Walters intoned that, "The laws are not the problem."

Last, and in this case, probably least, was the Des Moines Register (July 13). Iowa's largest newspaper couldn't bring itself to actually editorialize on the issue, but it did run an article mentioning the British decrim and citing a local juvenile court officer who worried about relaxed attitudes toward marijuana. "The attitude is definitely more lenient," said the court officer. "Kids and parents do not take experimentation and use as seriously as they should."

Bringing an end to the drug war requires first winning the war of public opinion. If the editorial reaction to the British decrim move is any indication, pot prohibition in the US could crumble faster than one would dare to hope.


4. Transnational Radical Party Takes Aim at Russian Drug Laws

Moscow's Pushkin Square was the scene of a "street referendum" on legalizing marijuana and hashish on July 16. Members of the Transnational Radical Party (http://www.radicalparty.org), an Italy-based international political grouping with members in the European Parliament, took to the streets to extol the virtues of legalizing cannabis and ask passersby whether they, too, favored changing Russia's stiff drug laws. Under current law, simple possession of marijuana can bring a three-year prison sentence, while trafficking offenses can bring up to 15 years in prison.

"Hemp and its derivatives are less harmful than alcohol and tobacco," TRP Moscow office head Nikolaj Khramov told the Moscow Times. "Light drugs remain under the control of mafia structures and bring them tremendous profits," he said, suggesting that legalizing cannabis would remove it from the criminal realm of the black market.

But while the street theatre emphasized the status of cannabis, the TRP enunciated a broader, three-point agenda for reform in Russia. Drug use should not be a crime said Khramov; a distinction between "hard" and "soft" drugs must be made; and medical treatment and rehabilitation for addicts must be made available.

The Russian government's top drug abuse expert was having none of it. Nikolai Ivanets of the Russian Health Ministry told the Times that legalizing marijuana would be "a danger to the nation." Ivanets then resorted to the "gateway" myth: "It would be terrible if this is allowed," he said. "From a medical point of view, marijuana opens the way to harder drugs."

Even if Ivanets is misguided regarding the link between marijuana and other drugs, he should be concentrating on the harder drugs. Russian heroin injectors are fueling a dramatic increase in AIDS cases, the global conference on AIDS in Barcelona heard two weeks ago. Russia has the highest rate of new AIDS cases in Europe, researchers announced at the conference. And alcoholism remains at historically high levels.

At least one Russian parliamentarian thought Russians couldn't handle a regulated and controlled drug market. "It would be something awful if drugs were legalized in Russia," he told the Times. "You have to take into account the culture and mentality of a people -- not compare them to, say, Holland." But perhaps the Russian people have a higher opinion of themselves than some of their leaders.

The TRP and Russian political leadership have a history. In July 2000, representatives of the Russian Federation tried have the Party stripped of its consultative status at the United Nations, using their stance opposing drug prohibition as the rationalization (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/146.html#radicalparty). In fact, the Kremlin's real problem with the Radicals was that they used their UN status to provide a forum for officials of the Chechen government to denounce human rights abuses by Russian forces in the civil war.

In addition to continued advocacy for the Chechens (Chechnya's Health Minister was a guest at the Party's General Council in Rome last week), other TRP causes include freedom of research, the International Criminal Court, providing a voice for abused, unrepresented minorities such as the Christian Vietnamese group the Montagnard and the muslim Uyghur group in northwest China, and democracy and rule of law overall.


5. Capitol Hill Press Conference Calls for States' Rights to Medical Marijuana

courtesy NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org

Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) joined former Ronald Reagan presidential aide Lyn Nofziger and seriously ill patients Wednesday (7/24) in a first-ever Capitol Hill press conference calling on Congress to allow the state-sanctioned use of medicinal marijuana.

"As a physician, I of course support the right of doctors and patients to decide for themselves what treatments are appropriate, without interference from the federal government," said Rep. Paul, cosponsor of H.R. 2592, the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act," which seeks to amend federal law so that states wishing to legalize and distribute medicinal marijuana may do so without running afoul of federal law. "The idea that [the federal government] is attacking sick people and the doctor-patient relationship is criminal. It's a criminal act."

Former Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger offered his support for H.R. 2592 after explaining how marijuana helped alleviate the suffering of his daughter while she underwent cancer chemotherapy. "Because of this [experience,] I have become an avid supporter of efforts to legalize marijuana's use for medicinal purposes," he said. "An administration that claims to be compassionate and conservative should enthusiastically support legislation that is truly compassionate and that also would return rights to the states that the 10th Amendment theoretically guarantees them."

The legalization of medical marijuana is "an issue on which people around the country are ahead of the politicians," Rep. Frank said, adding that his proposal is "a common sense idea that will give some people who are suffering a measure of relief." House Bill 2592 currently has 36 cosponsors.

Keith Stroup, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which organized the press conference, said that Wednesday' event should show elected officials that they must no longer ignore the medical marijuana issue.

"Congress must no longer ignore the will of the American people and the needs of seriously ill patients," he said.

Two such patients, Gary Storck of Wisconsin, who suffers from glaucoma and chronic pain, and Cheryl Miller of New Jersey, who suffers from the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, explained how marijuana provides symptomatic relief of their conditions. Cheryl's husband Jim demanded Congress act on H.R. 2592, noting that it may be "too late for Cheryl, but there's lots of Cheryl's left" who would benefit from the legal use of medical marijuana.

"The alleviation of human suffering must no longer be held hostage to politics," Stroup concluded. "Congress needs to approve H.R. 2592 and allow states to implement their own medical marijuana policies unimpeded by the federal government."

Visit http://www.norml.org to view photos from the press conferences. Visit http://highwire.stanford.edu/~straffin/dp/ to view Crossfire and Wolf Blitzer debates with NORML director Keith Stroup and CSDP president Kevin Zeese.


6. Libertarian Party Plans Offensive Against Drug Warriors

The Libertarian Party (http://www.LP.org) is heading for the November elections with an eye toward removing selected congressional drug warriors from office. The electoral campaign grew out of a year-long strategic planning process last year and reflects the party's decision to make drug policy its strategic focus this year. The move is part of a medium-term LP strategy "to achieve the repeal of drug prohibition at the federal level by 2010," according to a copy of the plan's Executive Summary provided to DRCNet.

The party has targeted five legislative drug warriors this year: Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). But that could change, according to the LP's drug strategy. The party will monitor another dozen races this fall to see if other opportunities for attack present themselves.

LP national Political Director Ron Crickenberger told DRCNet the five were selected for three reasons. "The first thing was to target the worst drug warriors in Congress," said Crickenberger. "Everyone votes for bad drug bills, so we looked at who sponsored and cosponsored the most egregious bills, who the instigators are. Second, we looked for races that were closely competitive, where a relatively small number of votes could throw the race on way or the other," he said. "Finally, we looked for districts where we have historically had good Libertarian turnout, more votes than the margin of victory for the winning candidate."

Bob Barr, the man who blocked the Washington, DC, medical marijuana vote from being counted and then prevented it from being implemented, is public enemy number one for the Libertarians. Describing Barr as a "cancerous tumor in the body politic" and "the equivalent of the anti-Christ" for the medical marijuana movement, the LP's drug strategy is heavily focused on shooting Barr's candidacy down in flames.

To get Barr, however, the party needs to work fast. Unlike the LP's other targets, the key election for Barr is the Republican primary, set for August 20. Because of congressional redistricting, Barr finds himself up against incumbent Republican Rep. John Linder in the primary. In the heavily Republican district, the Republican primary winner is almost guaranteed election.

And although the LP isn't running a candidate in the Republican primary, it is fielding a candidate for Barr's district in the November general election. Carole Ann Rand, a grandmotherly businesswoman and long-time Libertarian -- she became the first woman to run for governor of Georgia, garnering 37,000 votes in 1990 -- is running on traditional Libertarian themes such as free enterprise and civil liberties, but heavily emphasizing Barr's drug war record.

"I am also running because one of the incumbent congressmen seeking the new 7th District seat is particularly out of touch," wrote Rand on her campaign site (http://www.randforcongress.com). "While terrorists around the globe plot more attacks against our country, Bob Barr's most pressing priority has been to send armies of armed agents to arrest critically ill medical marijuana patients. 73% of Americans believe that doctors and patients should make the decision about what drugs should be prescribed to treat their life threatening diseases, not politicians. Yet Bob Barr thinks it is his job to trample the wishes of the people, and he has done everything he can to overturn the legal will of voters in initiative after initiative and in after state. In the year before 9/11 we arrested 735,000 marijuana smokers and only 2 international terrorists. That is an appalling misdirection of our precious law enforcement resources. Government's first priority should be protecting all of us from foreign attack. Instead Bob Barr sends the government against the weakest among us -- patients with critical or painful diseases who just want a little relief from their symptoms."

The Rand candidacy also provides the LP with a platform for a hard-hitting advertising campaign. Although the ads will tout Rand, they will really be anti-Barr attack ads, said Crickenberger. "The entire campaign is oriented toward taking out Bob Barr," said Crickenberger. "We are now filming commercials that will be asking questions like "Why does Bob Barr want to throw MS patients in jail?" Crickenberger said.

Crickenberger is guardedly optimistic that the plan will work. "We've been privy to some of Rep. Lindner's polling, and we're seeing a slight lead for Lindner. The pundits are calling it a dead heat," he said. "This is a district that has historically polled 6% to 9% for Libertarians. We think the margin of victory will be smaller than that, and we can use the spoiler effect to great impact," he said.

The party is putting its money where its mouth is. The Libertarian National Committee has approved expenditures of more than $300,000 for this year's effort and plans on spending up to campaign limits in each of the races it has targeted. "We can make direct donations of $5,000 to a candidate and spend another $36,000 in coordinated expenditures for a House race," said Crickenberger. "That means we can spend $41,000 against Barr, and we will."

While the August 20 Georgia primary will be a key early test of the party's spoiler strategy, the LP's broader drug strategy has other, more locally-oriented planks as well:

  • Development of model local drug reform legislation in conjunction with NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project and Libertarian law enforcement officials.
  • Working with the more than 50 Libertarians who currently hold city or county office to introduce model legislation.
  • Working to achieve Libertarian majorities on city and county councils.
  • Sponsoring drug reform initiatives, such as the Detroit medical marijuana initiative and a pending Alaska paraphernalia initiative.
The Libertarian drug war focus emerged from both the party's grassroots and its leadership, said Crickenberger. "Last year, we sought input from activists, state chairs and the National Committee on how to improve the party, and while the idea of a single-issue focus was controversial, the consensus was that if we had any single focus, it would be the drug war," he explained.

That focus was reflected in the party's annual national convention, held in Indianapolis over the 4th of July holiday, Crickenberger said. "Sheriff Bill Masters from Colorado was our keynote speaker, Gov. Johnson also addressed the convention, and we had many, many drug war panels," he said.

The Libertarians are rolling out of Indianapolis with a powerful head of steam, and they have their eyes firmly fixed on making drug warriors pay the ultimate political price at the ballot box. As they note in their drug strategy, "For there to be real drug policy reform, many of our current elected officials must change the way they vote on drug policy, and a large number of new officials must be put in office. There is no other way."


7. Newsbrief: Dutch Cannabis Café Chains Vow to Invade Britain

Two famous Dutch cannabis café companies have announced plans to open as many as 50 coffeehouses in Britain, vowing a full frontal assault on the police's ability to enforce the cannabis laws, the London Sunday Telegraph reported this week. Owners of the Bulldog and the Dutch Experience, both Amsterdam landmarks for the cannabis crowd, told the newspaper they planned to open the coffeehouses in an attempt to force acceptance of the drug.

Under the decriminalization plan recently announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett, there is no provision for the legal sales of cannabis. But, as the cannabis café chain owners pointed out, their businesses are technically illegal in Holland, too, but their success forced a change in Dutch policy which allows them to operate freely.

The coffeehouse entrepreneurs told the Telegraph they believed the sheer number of coffeehouses and their popularity would overwhelm police efforts to suppress them.

The Dutch Experience café in Stockport, which opened in September, remains in business despite having been raided three times. The Dutch Experience 2 in Dorset was raided and four men arrested. It also remains open, but sells only tea, coffee and cannabis paraphernalia. Independent operators have already announced plans to open cafés in Edinburgh, Bournemouth and Lambeth.


8. Newsbrief: Cancer Pain Inadequately Treated, Says NIH

A study written for the National Institutes of Health and released last week found that cancer patients too often suffer needlessly from pain, and official barriers such as drug abuse-related measures contribute to the problem.

"Cancer-related pain, depression and fatigue are under-treated, and this situation is simply unacceptable," said Dr. Donald Patrick, chair of the committee that produced the report. "There are effective strategies to manage these symptoms, and all patients should have optimal symptom control," he told an NIH press conference.

"We have to move to the point that patient comfort and care are a part of the cancer treatment agenda," Dr. Andrew Turisi III told the press conference. "Some patients are more fearful of pain than they are of death itself."

"Optimal pain relief needs to be a minimally accepted standard," said the report. "Inadequately treated pain can be considered one indicator of poor quality of care."

The report blamed several factors for the lack of attention to cancer pain, which it estimated affects between 26% and 41% of cancer patients. Many doctors lack the knowledge to treat relentless pain, the study noted, and medical schools have failed to provide adequate training in pain management.

One committee member, Dr. Paul Frame of the Rochester University School of Medicine, also pointed the finger at federal drug war measures. The tight regulations around the prescription of opiates deter doctors, he said. "Sometimes doctors don't want to go to the hassle of prescribing a triplicate drug," he told the press conference. "They may decide to use something less effective instead." Also, said Frame, patients who run out of pain medications on a holiday or weekend may be out of luck. "Sometimes pharmacists will fill the prescription and then call the doctor on Monday, but they are putting their license at risk," he explained. "Most pharmacists, though, follow the regulations to the letter," leaving their patients in pain.

But neither Frame nor the report mentioned another factor aggravating the situation: The increasing numbers of arrests and prosecutions of pain doctors across the country. Fear of a decades-long prison sentence can easily override worries about whether patients are hurting.


9. Newsbrief: Democratic Presidential Candidate Plays Crime Card -- Calls for Parole End, More Drug Testing for Probationers

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, a telegenic lawyer with presidential aspirations, has been accused of being an empty suit -- a nice smile, but no political convictions. As Edwards begins to position himself for the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and looks for issues to make his own, he has latched onto a perennial favorite of political demagogues: the crime issue.

At a July 16 speech before students at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Edwards called for a federal effort to tighten parole and probation systems in the states, which he called "overburdened, understaffed, inconsistent, and almost completely unsuccessful."

Edwards said early-release programs in state prisons were "a festering problem" and urged much more frequent drug testing of the nation's 4.5 million parolees and probationers. Those found to be using drugs should be punished swiftly and automatically, he said.

"Anyone who has ever lost a loved one to a street thug or sexual predator knows that violent crime can be the terrorism of everyday life," he said, failing to acknowledge that at least 450,000 prisoners and more than a million probationers and parolees are nonviolent drug offenders.

Edwards also attempted to score political points by portraying his tough-on-crime stance as somehow favoring poor communities, which bear the brunt of both the social pathologies surrounding the black market in drugs and enforcement efforts designed to stop drug sales and use. "The administration acts as though cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans is more important than cutting crime in the very poorest communities," said Edwards.

It wasn't all bad. Edwards also called for more literacy and rehabilitation programs for prisoners and for a stronger effort to help ex-convicts fit back into society. "We know that when somebody leaves jail, giving him a sweat suit and sending him to the bus station in the dead of night is not the way to give him a fresh start," he said.

But if Edwards wants to leave the empty suit image behind, he still has a ways to go. During a question and answer session after the speech, one student asked Edwards whether he would support repealing the Higher Education Act's ban on providing financial aid to drug offenders.

"I don't know the answer to that one of the top of my head," said Edwards. "I'll have to think about it."


10. Newsbrief: Narcocorridos Banned in Baja California

Radio stations in Baja California Norte, the Mexican state bordering California whose largest city is Tijuana, have voluntarily banned the playing of narcocorridos, the popular border ballads that describe the exploits of drug smugglers and extol their virtues. Instead, they will play songs that promote positive messages and good values. The Baja California stations also urged their counterparts to the north to follow suit.

Fat chance. Narcocorridos are a big business. Narcocorrido artists such as Los Tucanes de Tijuana and Los Aces sell hundreds of thousands of CDs and cassettes on both sides of the border and regularly play before tens of thousands of cheering fans.

A representative of the Baja California Norte Radio and Television Industry Chamber acknowledged as much, telling the Associated Press that the Mexican stations would not be able to compete if US stations continue to play the songs. But the Mexicans will try. "We should promote this self-imposed regulation to avoid making people who break the laws of our country into heroes and examples," said Casio Carlos Narvaez.

Although narcocorridos may be the cultural equivalent of gangster rap for Mexicans and Chicanos alike, the musical form is based on centuries-old Spanish and then Mexican ballad traditions. A hundred or even 40 years ago, the heroes of the corridos, as the ballad form is known, were crafty bandits, humble Mexicans who outwitted the despised Texas Rangers, or revolutionary generals. But in recent years, with the huge growth in the cross-border drug trade, a new variation, the narcocorrido, has arrived.

Previous attempts to ban narcorridos have faltered as radio stations pay heed to popular demand. "I am the doctor," sing Los Tucanes in one hit song. "I take medicine to clients in Las Vegas, Utah, and Chicago."

Read Phil Smith's book review of "Narcocorridos: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas," online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/215.html#narcocorridos in the Week Online archives.


11. Newsbrief: Kenyan Students Riot Over Deadly Marijuana Bust

College students in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, fought running street battles with police on July 18 and 19 after a Nairobi University student was killed in what police said was a bhang (marijuana) arrest gone bad. Students threw rocks at police and blocked Uhuru Highway, Nairobi's main thoroughfare, over a two-day period. Police responded with volleys of tear gas. BBC News reported that the situation had calmed by Saturday.

"We are angry, we want revenge," the students chanted, charging police lines.

The rioting, the worst in more than a year, came as students learned that fellow student David Sila Kimuyu had been shot and killed in an on-campus drug raid on July 17. Police claimed they came across a group of students smoking bhang in a wooded area on campus, one of whom they had to shoot after he lunged at him with a knife.

Some students rejected the police version of events. "The police planted the evidence that there was bhang," one student told BBC. "Our colleague was shot, but there is no issue of bhang."


12. Newsbrief: Portland, Maine, Moving to Provide Anti-Overdose Drug to Addicts, EMTs

Faced with a rising number of overdose deaths, officials in Portland, Maine, are moving forward with plans to increase the availability of Naloxone, a drug administered to overdosing heroin users. According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, police, fire and public health officials met on July 17 to find ways to blunt the increase in overdose deaths, which rose from 16 in 2001 to 20 so far this year.

Local officials plan to offer naloxone to addicts who participate in the city's India Street Clinic needle exchange program, the newspaper reported. Under the plan, participants would have to undergo training in how to properly administer the drug, then they would be provided with a kit that includes a dose of naloxone, latex gloves and alcohol wipes. Drug users would also be encouraged to call 911 to report overdoses, because naloxone's opiate-blocking effects are only temporary. The local police chief has said he will not "subvert criminal investigations" if confronted by an overdose, but would take all factors into account because "after all, we're trying to save lives."

The plan will also extend Naloxone availability to all 52 of the city's ambulances and fire trucks. Currently, only 30 paramedics are authorized to stock the anti-overdose drug, but city officials are working to win state approval for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) as well as paramedics to administer the drug.

Citing efforts in Chicago, San Francisco, New Mexico, Germany and Australia, Portland officials embraced harm reduction principles in dealing with the rising death toll. "We're focusing on the problem as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue," Portland Director of Health and Human Services Gerald Cayer told the Press Herald. "Our short-term goal is to reduce mortality. Our long-term goal is to reduce opiate use."

Portland officials said they hope to have the program in place by September.


13. Newsbrief: Coked-Out Judge Busted

Utah 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding, Jr. faces cocaine and heroin possession charges after his wife called police to their suburban Salt Lake City home on July 13. Anne Harding told police in a call at 7:30am on a Saturday morning that her husband had been up all night using cocaine and heroin and "had been acting out of her control," the Salt Lake Tribune reported. She handed arriving officers a bag containing approximately one-half gram of cocaine.

Police found another one-third of a gram hidden in the home studio, as well as "snort tubes" [Ed: Do they mean straws?] which tested positive for cocaine, and other paraphernalia, including pieces of tinfoil with burned residue, baking soda and a burned metal spoon as they searched the house. They also seized a copy of "Faith, Hope, and Courage," a self-help book for cocaine abusers.

Harding tested positive for cocaine, opiates and barbiturates that afternoon, police said. Police described Harding as staggering, shaky and unstable on his feet when arrested, adding that he fell asleep as they watched.

Criminal charges are pending. In the meantime, Harding, who regularly presided over drug cases, has been suspended from his judicial duties by the Utah Supreme Court.


14. Newsbrief: Budget Crisis Kills Connecticut Drug Courts

Faced with a severe state budget crunch, Connecticut is closing all of its drug courts, the Associated Press reported on July 11. The state will save $1 million, and the 170 persons going through the drug court program will be transferred to prison. The program will end on August 1.

State court system chief administrator Joseph Pellegrino told the AP the courts' primary goals in the face of the budget crunch were to provide constitutionally-mandated services and to avoid layoffs. Drug courts "may not have been as successful as we may have thought," he added.


15. Newsbrief: Bad Week for Marijuana Police -- Two Dead, One Injured in Accidents

Law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and Wisconsin took self-inflicted casualties last week in their efforts to enforce marijuana prohibition. In Wisconsin, one police officer was shot and wounded, while in North Carolina a sheriff's deputy and two police officers died.

On July 15, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Sgt. Anthony Futrell, Chowan County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Ashley and Boone police Major Robert Kennedy died when their pot-spotter aircraft crashed in Chowan County in the northwest part of the state. Futrell was the plane's pilot, while Kennedy was the flight's trained "spotter" for marijuana. Ashley communicated with law enforcement officials on the ground, directing them to locations where marijuana had been spotted.

The flights were part of a 20-year-old marijuana eradication program conducted in cooperation with the North Carolina Wing of the Civil Air Patrol. The lost Cessna represented half of the CAP's drug eradication fleet, but surveillance flights are also conducted by the North Carolina Highway Patrol's air force, the NC National Guard and the State Bureau of Investigation.

The following day in Wisconsin, Sauk County Sheriff's Deputy William Steinhorst was shot in both legs by a fellow deputy in a SWAT-style "no-knock" raid that resulted in the arrest of a 20-year-old man on marijuana charges. The Sauk County Emergency Response Team split into two groups to search the residence after knocking down the door. When the two groups unexpectedly encountered each other, Deputy Charles Scrieber opened fire, wounding Steinhorst in both upper thighs. Steinhorst is recovering; Scrieber has been placed on administrative duty pending investigation.

The drug war kills and wounds cops, too.


16. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision

URGENT: Help stop S. 2633, the "Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act of 2002" -- call your Senators at (202) 224-3121, visit http://www.emdef.org for information.

Support States' Rights to Medical Marijuana: Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to write to Congress today!

Visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to tell Congress to repeal the Higher Education Act's drug provision in full and let tens of thousands of young people with drug convictions go back to college.


17. Addictions Discrimination Panel Seeking Testimony

Join Together, a substance abuse project of the Boston University School of Public Health, and the American Bar Association, have formed a joint national policy panel to address the issue of discrimination as it relates to substance use. The panel, which represents a cross section of the legal and judicial communities, the scientific community, and policy leaders, is seeking feedback -- particularly from persons facing such discrimination issues in their own lives (such as loss of financial aid due to drug convictions, problematic access to medical care, etc.) -- as it develops its recommendations.

Visit http://www.jointogether.org/discrimination/ to learn more about the Join Together/ABA discrimination project, read the results of their national survey, find out how to submit written testimony or share your experiences and ideas in an online chat.


18. Addendum: Jeff and Tracy

In last week's article on Portland, OR, activists Jeff and Tracy, we forgot to include their web site: http://www.jeffandtracy.com


19. The Reformer's Calendar

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

July 28, 8:00pm, New York, NY, Benefit for the Marijuana Reform Party and presentation of Lifetime Achievement Award to Dana Beal by the Big Apple Buyers Club. At The Frying Pan, 23rd and West Side Highway (behind Basketball City), featuring Team Alliance and Medical Marijuana Barbie, admission $8.

August 12-16, 8:30am-noon, Oakland, CA, Summer Seminar in Political Economy, student session open to non-students, sponsored by The Independent Institute. Registration $175, includes books and refreshements, one unit of college credit available at extra cost, contact (510) 632-1366 or [email protected] or visit http://www.independent.org/tii/students/SummerSeminar.html for further information.

August 17-18, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest. At Myrtle Edwards Park, Pier 70, call (206) 781-5734, e-mail [email protected] or contact http://www.seattlehempfest.com for further information.

August 21st, Portland, OR, "Media Awareness Forum," featuring KOIN TV-6 anchor Reed Coleman and conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson discussing how drug reform advocates about increasing the quality and quantity of local news coverage. Visit http://www.jeffandtracy.com or call (503) 605-5182 for info.

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 4-6, Missoula, MT, First Annual Montana Drug Policy Summit. At the University of Montana, speakers to include Dr. Ethan Russo of the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Cliff Thornton of Efficacy, Scott Crichton of the Montana ACLU, Ron Mann director of the movie "Grass," Missoula attorney John Smith and others. For further info, contact [email protected].

September 8-11, Chicago, IL, "Racial Justice Leadership Institute," seminar sponsored by the Applied Research Center. Limited to 30 participants, application deadline August 5, visit http://www.arc.org/action_ed/ for further information, or contact Terry Keleher at (773) 278-4800 x162 or [email protected].

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. October 19, Portland, OR, "PottyMouth Comedy Competition: Flushing Away the DEA," $5,000 first prize. Visit http://www.jeffandtracy.com or call (503) 605-5182 for info.

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, "Strengthening Partnerships for a Safer Future," 14th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Coalition in partnership with the Asian Harm Reduction Network. For further information, visit http://www.ihrc2003.net or contact [email protected] or (6653) 223624, 894112 x102.


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