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

Issue #252, 8/30/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: War Crimes Against Patients
  2. Incarceration Nation: US Population Under Correctional Control Hits New Record
  3. Not All Students Will Start School This Week -- Tens of Thousands Lose Aid Due to Drug Convictions
  4. Initiative Foes Play Hardball in Michigan -- Effort Threatened by Certification Board, Conyers Calls for Investigation of Federal Lobbying
  5. RAVE Act Opponents Gear Up
  6. More Black Men in Prison Than College, Study Finds
  7. Dr. Hurwitz Calls It Quits: Leading National Pain Management Physician to Close Practice, Cites Fear of Feds
  8. The (F)Utility of DAWN: Experts Look at the Drug Abuse Warning Network
  9. Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Publishes Comprehensive, Nationwide Guide to Clemency
  10. Medical Marijuana Through the Ages: New Info on
  11. Offer: Tapes of Stossel Legalization Special Now Available
  12. Newsbrief: Texas Opens Belated Investigation into Tulia Bust
  13. Newsbrief: New Hampshire Cop Wants to Seize College Dorm After Drug Raid
  14. Newsbrief: Western Washington US Attorney Solicits Marijuana Cases, No Bust Too Small
  15. Newsbrief: Canadian Cops Call for National Drug Strategy, Oppose Legalization
  16. Newsbrief: Canada Medical Marijuana Battles Continue -- Protests in Toronto, Minister Changes Tune
  17. Newsbrief: Drug Raid Leads to Mini-Riot in Minneapolis
  18. Newsbrief: Oklahoma Governor Overrules Parole Board, Orders Man Held for Life for Cocaine Possession
  19. Newsbrief: Vietnam Beefs Up Customs Drug Budget
  20. Newsbrief: Asian Speed Shows Up, Feds Feed USA Today "New Drug" Story
  21. Demos Fellowships in Criminal Justice and Democracy Reform
  22. Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision
  23. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Editorial: War Crimes Against Patients

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 8/30/02

This week saw the sad news that Dr. William Hurwitz, a courageous northern Virginia doctor who dared to prescribe opioids (narcotics) to patients in severe, chronic pain based on their medical need, has decided to quit his practice at the end of this calendar year. Hurwitz has come under scrutiny more than once, and there is currently a federal investigation under way regarding his prescribing practices. The investigation was triggered by the fact that Dr. Hurwitz prescribes opioids to patients in severe, chronic pain based on their medical need.

Wait, you're asking, isn't that what every doctor does? Actually, no. Opioids are also used non-medically by recreational users and habitually by addicts, and there are large numbers of drug police throughout the country who make a living hunting down those non-medical users and their sellers. Unfortunately, precious few of the drug police have the faintest clue about medicine. Hence, they frequently perceive illegality where it doesn't exist.

Pain patients wind up in the crossfire and tend to wind up without proper treatment for their long-term, debilitating conditions. Doctors who, like Hurwitz, dare to do the right thing, wind up losing their prescribing licenses. Doctors and patients both sometimes end up in prison, sometimes for decades -- often for simple good medicine or reasonable behavior to be expected of any sufferer.

The result is a quiet but widespread and unnecessary national tragedy of serious under-treatment of agonizing pain. Police and prosecutors bear most of the blame. Their mindless and monstrous attacks on doctors and patients have chilled pain treatment nationwide. The word "monstrous" is not an exaggeration. There is currently a criminal case in process where a doctor and his nursing staff are being prosecuted on RICO charges because someone in law enforcement who is ignorant of medicine decided he could get away with it. RICO is a law that was written to help prosecutors go after major figures in organized crime. Even if guilty, the doctor and his nurses are clearly not gang kingpins, yet they potentially face life in prison if convicted. And it is likely that the full resources and power of the government will be brought to bear to make that happen. It is a grotesque abuse of power and a betrayal of patients and the spirit of law.

So who can really blame the doctors? Collectively perhaps, the profession does bear some responsibility for failing to stand up forcefully to the thugs in suits and uniforms who are ruining pain control. (Not all police or prosecutors deserve that term, to be sure -- some of them are even trying to help the situation -- but it only takes a few crazies in positions of power and the profession as a whole to allow them to operate to create a climate of fear that affects everyone.) Individually, there's little question that a doctor who does the right thing for a chronic pain patient is in fact stepping into the line of fire, at least outside of the academic setting where there's a little more protection.

Nevertheless, I don't believe Dr. Hurwitz is pulling out because of fear for himself. He's beaten the authorities before and he probably could again. But in the meantime, hundreds of pain patients would go untreated. Better for him to give them an opportunity to make alternate arrangements; the cops and the regulators won't give them any such warning. When Virginia's Board of Medicine suspended Hurwitz's prescribing rights back in 1996, at least one patient, a retired police officer, committed suicide from the resulting untreated pain; he recorded a dramatic video explaining his decision which was played on a Sixty Minutes report in the incident's wake. Dr. Hurwitz is trying to prevent the police and regulators from again provoking such a tragedy. Only time will show how his soon to be former patients will fare in the drug war.

By the way, my view on the Hurwitz case isn't based on mere news reports or secondhand accounts. I attended portions of the hearings in Richmond six years ago as an observer, when the medical board went after him the first time. His patients traveled distances and spent scarce cash on airfare and hotels in order to rally for their lives in his defense. There were people literally lying on the floor, moaning in pain. There was a man who had lost all his body below the waist -- but that hadn't stopped a drug squad from storming and ransacking his house -- their reason being that he had a pain prescription!

It's really that bad, and if it seemed like it was getting better for a few years, it's now getting worse. But it shouldn't be a surprise. Nearly 1.5 million people are arrested in the United States for nonviolent drug offenses every year, and nearly half a million are incarcerated. When there's a war, there are accidents and there are war crimes. The persecution of pain doctors, and the resulting mass torture of pain patients, is a war crime, and only one of the crimes committed by the drug warriors against patients every day. It's time to bring it to a stop.

2. Incarceration Nation: US Population Under Correctional Control Hits New Record

By the end of last year, the number of people in prison or jail or on probation or parole in the United States hit an all-time record of 6.6 million, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The number increased by 147,000 from that in 2000 and was 50% higher than the 1990 figure of 440,000.

"The overall figures suggest that we've come to rely on the criminal justice system as a way of responding to social problems in a way that is unprecedented," said the Sentencing Project's ( Marc Mauer in a statement commenting on the figures.

Nora Callahan of the November Coalition (, an advocacy group for drug war prisoners and their loved ones, was a bit harder-edged. "The gap between what is and what should be grows wider. I don't believe the public is behind this policy of imprisonment any longer," she said. "The facts are in; this failed experiment needs to end."

But Callahan also saw a ray of immediate hope. "The states, at least, are finally realizing they cannot afford this injustice," she said. "As more and more states face budget crises, we will see them looking at drug law violators as a first choice for early release."

If those prisoners do get out, most of them will likely join the now almost 4 million people on probation or 730,000 on parole at the end of last year. In 1990, there were less than one million on probation and parole combined.

Persons under some form of correctional supervision now constitute 3.1% of the adult population, or one out of every 32 adults, BJS reported. Many of them are drug law offenders. In fact, drug offenders constitute the single largest group of probationers, 25%, followed by drunk drivers (18%), minor traffic offenders (7%) and wife-beaters (7%).

The fact that the number of probationers and parolees rose at a faster rate than the number of people behind bars (2.8% for probationers, 1.0% for parolees, 1.1% for prisoners) is both heartening and disturbing. The US could be moving from a quick resort to imprisonment to the implementation of kinder, gentler but more pervasive means of keeping suspect populations under the careful gaze of the state.

And some observers do think the increase in probationers and parolees in part is taking the place of incarceration. "The collection of reforms, from drug courts to treatment in lieu of incarceration to sentence reforms like getting rid of mandatory minimums and expanding community corrections, have the effect of redirecting people from prison to probation," said Nick Turner, director of national programs for the Vera Institute of Justice, in an interview with the Associated Press.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2001 is available at online.

3. Not All Students Will Start School This Week -- Tens of Thousands Lose Aid Due to Drug Convictions

According to new Department of Education data, over 30,000 college students have been denied federal loans and grants for the 2002-2003 school year due to the 1998 Higher Education Act drug provision. Since the HEA drug provision was first enforced in 2000, a total of 86,898 students have been denied aid. A drug conviction is the only crime that can result in the loss of federal financial aid.

"The latest Department of Education statistics confirm that the punitive HEA drug provision remains the number one obstacle for people seeking higher education," says Shawn Heller, National Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "Since African Americans make up half of all people convicted of drug crimes, yet only represent 13% of all drug users, it's evident that this regulation disproportionately punishes minorities. Tens of thousands more have likely not bothered to apply for college because they know they won't receive loans or grants. SSDP is working on 500 campuses to end this education disaster," says Heller.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy has 148 officially recognized chapters on college campuses across the country, but the network is expected to grow this fall. "SSDP has experienced phenomenal growth due to a student backlash to the HEA Drug Provision, and we know of students on 350 other campuses who are working to establish new SSDP chapters this fall," says Darrell Rogers, SSDP National Outreach Coordinator.

SSDP organizers are gearing up for protests and civil disobedience this fall to increase public pressure on lawmakers to repeal the HEA drug provision. Amanda Brazel, a senior at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, says, "I believe in equality, freedom, and truth, values that are lost in the war on drugs, values worth working to restore." Brazel knows numerous people who have been impacted by the legislation. "I'm one of those people who thinks I need to stand up and do something about America's un-American war on its own citizens."

In the past couple of years, members of Congress have taken notice of the terrible impact the HEA drug provision has had on middle and lower income students. Even the author of the HEA Drug Provision, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), asked the Department of Education to find ways to reduce the number students affected, but the agency has concluded that only congressional action can reduce the huge number of students that are denied a chance to improve their lives.

In a letter sent by the DRCNet-coordinated Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform to Congress in May, 41 national education, civil rights and drug policy organizations including SSDP, the National Education Association, the NAACP, the ACLU, the United States Student Association, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and the National Black Police Association, urged full repeal of the Higher Education Act Drug Provision (visit to see the letter). A bill to repeal the provision, H.R. 786, has 67 cosponsors, but is unlikely to be passed before the 107th Congress dissolves at the end of this year.

Visit and for further information.

4. Initiative Foes Play Hardball in Michigan -- Effort Threatened by Certification Board, Conyers Calls for Investigation of Federal Lobbying

Organizers of Michigan's "treatment not jail" initiative are getting a crash course in political hardball courtesy of political appointees in the state government and their allies in Washington, DC. The Michigan Drug Reform Initiative suffered a major -- possibly fatal -- blow on Monday when the Michigan Board of Canvassers balked at its wording. What should have been a simple matter of certifying petitions to put the initiative on the ballot instead became an opportunity for organized opponents to attack the initiative and for the Board to delay a decision on whether to approve the initiative for November.

The Board will reconvene next Tuesday to decide whether the initiative meets legislative requirements that it include the wording of all sections of the state constitution it would impact, but initiative organizers fear the worst. "I am apprehensive, given the way the powers-that-be in the state have lined up against us," said Maia J. Storm, a spokesperson for the initiative. "I am afraid the Board will force us to go to the courts, which are packed with Englerites [supporters of Michigan Gov. John Engler, who strongly opposes the measure]," she told DRCNet. "That could be the doom of the initiative. Everyone should be very upset by this maneuver; this is raw power politics being wielded to deny the people a chance to vote."

Opponents will need to rely on a stacked court, if their arguments against the initiative at the Board are any measure of their honesty. One opponent, Craig Yaldoo, head of the state health department's drug control unit, outrageously told the Board the measure would result in "the legalization of crack cocaine, heroin and PCP." Needless to say, the measure does not legalize any drugs.

While in-state foes of the measure appear to be manipulating the system in an anti-democratic fashion, Sen. John Conyers, the long-time Michigan Democrat, has lashed out at the DEA for attempting to lobby against the initiative. In a press release on August 23, Conyers accused the DEA of "possible misuse of federal funds without proper authorization by Congress and in contravention of existing law."

Conyers said: "It appears that the DEA has been actively engaged across the country in collaboration with groups who are opposed to ballot proposals involving reform of our drug laws. Citizens opposed to this kind of ballot initiative clearly are permitted to campaign and lobby in support of their point of view in an effort to win public support for their position. This is what our democracy is all about. But it is far from clear whether federally funded agencies and their employees can be used to spread a message or promote a campaign for or against a ballot initiative, on federal property and on government time.

"The use of our local DEA office by those opposed to the Drug Reform ballot initiative seems clearly in violation of Section 601 of Public Law 107-77 (November 28, 2001), which clearly states that no part of any appropriation for DEA can be used for 'publicity or propaganda purposes' not authorized by Congress. I am concerned that DEA has actively been involved in a campaign, both locally and nationally, to oppose drug reform proposals which have been properly and legally put before the citizens of this state for their approval or rejection. There seems little doubt that the appropriations for DEA are specifically prohibited from being used for this purpose. This apparently unlawful involvement of the DEA to promote a political agenda must cease immediately. We cannot allow the integrity of our national government to be compromised for any purpose, regardless of the intent of these over zealous federal activists. I am shocked that judges in violation of their Canon of Ethics would participate as well."

Conyers may be shocked, but such shenanigans are nothing new to Dane Waters, head of the Initiative and Referendum Institute (, a nonpartisan watchdog group. "There has always been conflict between the government and the people on some ballot measures," he told DRCNet. "There have been cases where local officials let their prejudices show through; you often see that in supposedly neutral ballot summaries, but what is going on in Michigan appears to be one of the more blatant efforts," he said. "The Board is not specifically empowered to deal with the subject matter of the initiative, but the Board clearly knows the governor's position. And those Michigan judges, there have been cases where judges there really strained to get around the law."

"Nationally, there seems to be some collusion among federal and state governments about these drug policy issues," Waters told DRCNet. "They've seen how popular they are with the people. As far as the legality, it's hard to say. There is no distinct federal law on this, but my personal belief is what they're doing crosses the line. We've sent a FOIA to the DEA regarding what position they take on ballot measures and initiatives, but they haven't responded yet," he said. "If the head of the DEA wants to talk about the overall issue that's one thing, but when they start advocating a specific vote that's probably illegal activity," said Waters.

"The Republican establishment doesn't like all this drug policy reform, even though it is very clear, at least from election results since 1998, that voters support it," Waters continued. "You see similar things going on in Ohio ( where Hope Taft and her husband the governor are trying to stop reform from occurring. Whether it's Asa Hutchison going to Nevada to badmouth the marijuana decrim, or President Bush, or Karl Rove, they are all doing what they can to stop these initiatives. They're saying if they can't beat it at the ballot box, they'll go the judicial route."

And so may the Michigan Drug Reform Initiative, said Storm. "There is a nasty pattern of DEA and state government spending money to oppose us. We are exploring our legal options."

5. RAVE Act Opponents Gear Up

Congressional drug warriors may have thought they had an easy issue with the RAVE (Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy) Act. After all, the drug war establishment has been hyping the "club drug menace" for years now, and a largely compliant mass media has been lapping it up. So why not try to pass a bill to shut down the raves and prosecute the people who organize or sponsor them? It worked it committee, where the bill slid by easily last month. But as a floor vote looms, an alliance of civil libertarians, concerned businessmen, drug reformers and ravers is beginning to wage a campaign to kill the bill in its tracks or at least water down its most harmful provisions.

Sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and author of the 1980s federal "crack house" laws, the RAVE Act, or S. 2633, is intended to do just that. Under its provisions, the "crack house" statutes are expanded to include any businessman, club owner or promoter on whose premises or at whose events illicit drugs are used or sold. And while the rave community is clearly the intended target of the RAVE Act, the bill's language specifies "any controlled substance," making events such as smoke-ins and hemp fests liable to prosecution as well. And since the bill specifies even temporary use of a property for the purpose of using an illicit drug, even homeowners entertaining at home could be liable. Under the bill's provisions, property owners, promoters and event managers could be fined up to $250,000 and face up to 20 years in prison on federal criminal charges. That's too much for the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Electronic Music Education and Defense Fund, which along with youth-oriented groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy and local ad hoc groups such as DC's ROAR (Ravers Organized Against the Rave Act) and Los Angeles' Freedom to Dance, have formed a loose coalition to stop the RAVE Act.

"The RAVE Act is an attack against young people and the dance culture," said Darrell Rogers, national outreach coordinator for Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( "But that's nothing new. The older generation has always used every tool in its power to suppress youthful subcultures, whether it was the jazz hipsters of the '40s, the beatniks of the '50s, the hippies of the '60s, or the punks of the '80s," Rogers told DRCNet. "There's something ironic -- or is hypocritical a better word? -- in the fact that someone like Sen. Pat Leahy [D-VT], who cosponsored this bill is a self-confessed Grateful Dead fan. Nobody ever did drugs at a Dead show, right? Now Leahy is a protector of youth," Rogers moaned.

Rogers is one face of the youthful opposition to the RAVE Act, a paid staffer of a nationally-organized reform group; Legba Carrefour is another. A member of ROAR (, Carrefour comes out of DC's thriving dance and electronic music culture and was not an activist before this summer. "When some of us in the DC party community heard that the RAVE Act had passed out of committee, we formed ROAR to fight it," said Carrefour. "We contacted the Drug Policy Alliance several weeks ago to get the ball rolling, and we are working with them and other groups to stop this bill," he said.

In fact, Carrefour and his associates are launching a series of protests around the country, starting with a rave on the grounds of the US Capitol on Friday, September 6th. "We'll do a media campaign ahead of time, and we'll do a public rave at the Capitol," he told DRCNet. "We'll have five DJs, along with speakers. It should be a lot of fun."

Similar events to raise awareness and opposition to the RAVE Act are tentatively scheduled for Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Charlotte, Chicago and Austin, Carrefour said. The RAVE Act has mobilized youth across the country, he added. "It's ironic, but with this bill Sen. Biden has done what others have been unable to do," laughed Carrefour, "which is to start to mobilize an entire generation of disaffected youth."

The youth may be playing an outside game with their public protests, but they are also playing an inside game, and in doing so they are joined by some serious organizational clout and seasoned drug reform veterans. Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance's ( Washington, DC, office, is heading DPA's effort to rein in the senatorial madness.

"The clock is ticking," Piper told DRCNet. "Biden's office told us they plan to push this bill as soon as the session starts next week. We've called for September 6th to be a national day of call-ins to legislators. We're encouraging people to flood the phone banks next Friday," he said. "We think if we can cast a big enough spotlight on this bill, create enough controversy, we can at least prevent the bill from being passed without debate. And if they can't do that, they may not have time to get to it this fall," Piper continued. "After all, they have some other things to deal with, like Iraq, homeland security, appropriations bills, little things like that."

But reformers have also been involved in negotiations with Biden's staff and other key movers on the Hill, Piper said. "The ACLU, DPA, members of the business community and ROAR representatives are talking to Biden's people, and we hope to meet again with them next week," he said. "Biden's people have already heard us out and asked us to rewrite specific language to improve the bill. But they didn't expect any opposition at all," Piper added.

According to Piper, possible reforms of the bill's language could include: removing the civil provisions, which lower the burden of proof for prosecutors; inserting language to ensure that business owners or promoters are not punished for legal activities, such as the sale of glow sticks, or harm reduction actions, such as providing water and "cool down" rooms; and weakening provisions that could make an uninvolved property owner liable for the actions of others. "We would prefer that this bill not become law in any form," said Piper, "but we're also taking a harm reduction approach. If we can't defeat it -- and it would pass easily right now -- we can at least try to improve it," he argued.

Piper is guardedly optimistic about fending off the bill this fall. "We've talked to some of the other cosponsors, and they are beginning to see the bill is broader than they thought," he said. "They didn't get it. Everyone thought this was an innocuous bill, a slight change in the "crack house" laws. And now we have an impressive coalition building against it. We've sent 33,000 faxes to the Senate, and other groups have sent more. We've generated significant media coverage. The sponsors are surprised and worried," Piper said, "and the rave protests will just take it to a whole new level."

SSDP will be there, said Rogers. "We want to defeat this act and we're organizing our students around the country to contact elected officials, do to letter-writing campaigns, to hold direct actions, and yes, to dance."

"Biden and the others gravely underestimated the opposition," said DPA's Piper. "They may live to regret this bill. They're politicizing a new anti-drug war constituency and alienating a key segment of the Democratic base -- young people."

6. More Black Men in Prison Than College, Study Finds

A new study from the Justice Policy Institute (, a Washington, DC-based think-tank that advocates for alternatives to prison, has found that after two decades of harsh criminal justice policies, there are more black men in jail or prison than in college. At the end of 2000, 791,600 black men were behind bars and 603,032 were enrolled in colleges or universities. By contrast, in 1980 -- before the prison boom -- black men in college outnumbered black men behind bars by a ratio of more than 3 to 1, the study found.

The report, "Cellblocks or Classrooms? The Funding of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men," also found that spending on education has suffered as a result of the imprisonment binge. Between 1985 and 2000, the increase in state spending on corrections was nearly double that of the increase to higher education ($20 billion versus $10.7 billion), and the total increase in spending on higher education by states was 24%, compared with 166% for corrections.

"This report underlines the sad reality that the nation's colleges and universities have lost budget battles to the growing prison system," said Vincent Schiraldi, JPI President and report co-author. "With harder economic times ahead, we need to find a way to responsibly reduce this country's reliance on expensive prisons so that we don't bankrupt our institutions of higher learning."

In addition to providing aggregate national figures, the report also gives a state-by-state breakdown of the contrasts between prison and education spending. In California, for example, since 1985 higher education spending from the state's general fund has declined 16%, while prison spending has increased by 184%. By 2000, prison expenditures ($4.7 billion) nearly equaled higher education expenditures ($5.5 billion). As a result, tuition rates are up, the number of black men in prison in California is up (by 39,400 since 1980) and the number of black men in college is down. Four thousand fewer black men are enrolled in college in California than in 1980.

In Texas, whose prison population is second only to California's, prison spending has increased from $590 million in 1980 to $2.629 billion in 2000 -- an increase of 346%. Education spending, meanwhile, also grew, but only by 24%. In other words, the increase in prison spending in the last twenty years in Texas has outstripped the increase in education spending by a factor of 7 to 1. Again, college students subsidized prison spending with tuition increases, as community college students saw tuition jump 29% and state university students saw a whopping 63% increase in tuition over the two-decade period.

"The dramatic tradeoff between growing prisons and shrinking classrooms is outrageous," said United States Students Association President Jo'ie Taylor. "American students will not tolerate the prioritizing of unnecessary prisons over our education. The United States Students Association opposes budget policies that hurt students and African Americans, and demands that states give schools the resources they need to provide fair access to education."

"It is sad that our states are finding it easier to contribute more to incarcerating our men and women and creating a downward spiral of poverty and destitution rather than investing through our educational system to create an upward spiral of accomplishment and achievement," said Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau. "The NAACP sees a direct link between the spending trends of the states and the plight of African American men today, and we are committed to correcting these misplaced priorities."

Todd Clear, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the New York Times the study's findings were significant and "tell us there has been a public policy far overemphasizing investment in criminal justice instead of in education for this population. It tells you that the life chances of a black male going to prison is greater today than the chances of a black male going to college, and it wasn't always this way," Clear said.

The study also suggests that states should consider revamping criminal justice policies with an expensive emphasis on incarceration. "If fiscal year 2003 is, as predicted, as difficult on the states as the previous year, recent history suggests that states will make up some of their shortfalls by constricting spending on education and social services, including higher education," wrote the study's authors. "If spending on higher education is limited or cut, these decisions would compound declining state investment in higher education over the fifteen-year period, as the growing corrections system crowds out colleges and universities. State legislators have an historic opportunity to choose new correctional policies that might unlock the resources they need to stave off cuts to higher education."

7. Dr. Hurwitz Calls It Quits: Leading National Pain Management Physician to Close Practice, Cites Fear of Feds

With federal prosecutors driven to a frenzy by Oxycontin mania, a nationwide federal investigation of doctors who prescribe large amounts of painkilling drugs underway, and other pain doctors being arrested, prosecuted, and even imprisoned over their pain management practices, one of the nation's most prominent pain management physicians has decided it is unsafe for both himself and his patients for his practice to continue. McLean, Virginia, physician Dr. William Hurwitz will shut down his practice at year's end, he told DRCNet this week.

Hurwitz and fellow Virginia physician Joseph Statkus have been publicly identified by federal prosecutors as the primary targets in a criminal investigation targeting doctors whom the feds believe have been selling Oxycontin and other potent painkillers that have been diverted from legitimate medical uses. For more than a year, a dozen federal agencies and numerous state and local officials have been attempting to build cases against Hurwitz, Statkus and other pain management physicians.

"The growing national plague of Oxy addictions, overdoses and deaths caused by the illegal activity of some doctors, pharmacists, and patients has been focused on like a laser beam by this office and other US Attorney's offices," Alexandria, Virginia, federal prosecutor Gene Rossi told the Washington Post earlier this month. "If any person falls into one of those three categories, our office will try our best to root out that person like the Taliban. Stay tuned," he blustered.

Hurwitz told DRCNet he was doing nothing illegal, but that he was a target nonetheless. He owed it to his patients to close up shop in a responsible manner, he said.

"My feeling is that if they're targeting me for criminal prosecution and the risk of summary shutdown of my practice, I don't want the horror show of 300 patients suddenly cut off from all support," said Hurwitz. "I will shut down in December; I have decided to announce this now so my patients have due notice to either taper off or try to find another doctor to take care of them."

Hurwitz told DRCNet he had attempted to reach an agreement on acceptable practices with the DEA to no avail. "We have offered to have open discussions with the DEA and prosecutors about problematic areas of this practice, but have been spurned," he said. That attitude contributed to his decision to end his practice, he said.

"That's terrible," said Skip Baker, director of the American Society for Action on Pain ( "Bill Hurwitz has saved so many lives, yet they've intimidated him so much that he feels he has to go out of business," he told DRCNet. "This is a real disaster. Dr. Hurwitz was the last chance for so many patients in intractable pain. What a sad day it will be when he is gone."

One of Hurwitz's patients, who asked to be identified only as a Pennsylvania resident named Marianne, agreed that Hurwitz' imminent departure was a disaster. "I have degenerative joint disease -- every one of my discs and joints is affected -- and the only thing that worked for me was opioids," she told DRCNet. "I tried acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, you name it. After my last physician refused to prescribe me any more opioids, I was about ready to do myself in. Dr. Hurwitz was a godsend. He agreed to see me quickly, and within five days of titrating [adjusting the dosage for] me, I was walking and working again," she said. "Dr. Hurwitz is a brilliant, dedicated man. I am heart broken that he is closing his practice. I feel like he saved my life, and I appreciate that."

Jim Klimek, a Hurwitz patient from Kentucky who lost all his body beneath the waist in a truck accident, feels betrayed -- not by Hurwitz but by the federal government. "I just don't understand their thinking," he told DRCNet. "There are people bombing us. Don't they have better things to do than shutting down a bunch of doctors? I don't know what to think about this country anymore," he said.

Neither does Klimek know where to turn for help. "I don't know what I'll do now," he said. "I'll just have to try to find another doctor, but it's hard to find one here who will prescribe adequate medications. I'll just have to go at it day by day," he said.

Hurwitz told DRCNet he recognized there are legitimate concerns about diversion of pain medicines for recreational use, but argued that the federal government is unable or unwilling to engage in a process of working with doctors to address those concerns. "Anyone would recognize there is a problem with leakage from legitimate prescribing," he said, "but there are certainly different instrumentalities other than prosecuting pain doctors that would minimize that problem. Unfortunately, they don't want to talk to us. The attitude of the prosecutors is that I'm a drug pusher with a license."

"Dr. Hurwitz is no Dr. Feelgood," said Marianne. "There are doctors who are operating pill mills, and I say it's great when they get shut down, but Hurwitz isn't one of those. He may get deceived occasionally because he gives the benefit of the doubt to patients. But people like me aren't taking these drugs to get high or abuse them; they are my lifeline."

But for doctors, it may be becoming too dangerous to extend that lifeline. "The real problem is as long as this police regime continues," said Hurwitz, "no one should be doing what I was doing. It's not safe. Not for patients, not for doctors. We have a bunch of naïve doctors who were conned by patients and now they're spending time in jail or facing the threat of prosecution. This is a horrible, draconian response; it is a pseudo-solution to a real problem foisted on the American public. A handful of doctors have become scapegoats for the sins of our society."

And support from either the medical establishment or the pharmaceutical companies that profit from the sale of opioid pain medications has been nil, said Hurwitz. "I'm waiting for support," Hurwitz laughed grimly. "I would call upon the leaders of the Academy of Pain Medicine and other groups to convene an urgent summit with their counterparts in government to review the impact of present policy on the ability of pain patients to get access to their medicine," he said. "Asa Hutchinson said they were only going after a few bad apples, but it ain't so," he said. As for the drug companies, "those guys have avoided any backing," said Hurwitz. "They don't want to be contaminated by the possibility of a guilty doctor."

Hurwitz told DRCNet that doctors in pain management needed a legal defense fund to come to their aid. As for himself, "I've engaged counsel."

And the patients are out of luck.

See our October 1996 report on Dr. Hurwitz's major battle with the Virginia medical board and the patients who rallied to his defense -- -- includes photographs.

8. The (F)Utility of DAWN: Experts Look at the Drug Abuse Warning Network

In a Week Online newsbrief last week (, DRCNet quickly surveyed the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) report on the latest statistics from DAWN (the Drug Abuse Warning Network) and promised a deeper look this week. Here we deliver.

Last week, SAMHSA's news release announcing the numbers emphasized an increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits, raising eyebrows and causing consternation to drug reformers while providing ammunition for drug czar John Walters to fire another salvo in his crusade. "Marijuana-related medical emergencies are increasing at an alarming rate, exceeding even those for heroin. This report helps dispel the pervasive myth that marijuana is harmless," Walters railed. "In reality, marijuana is a dangerous drug, and adults and youth alike should be aware of the serious consequences that can come from smoking it."

Provoked by Walters' propaganda move, DRCNet asked Dr. David Duncan, a clinical associate professor at the Brown University School of Medicine and private research consultant, just what the marijuana figures indicated. "They tell us very little," he replied. "Does a marijuana 'mention' mean that marijuana played a vital role or was it ancillary? No one knows because DAWN was not set up to collect that data," he said.

"Mr. Walters and many, many others have used this data in the wrong way," Duncan continued. "DAWN was never set up to collect enough information to tell you useful things about problems coming into the emergency room. When someone uses DAWN numbers to try to tell you how dangerous a drug is, it's just not set up for that."

Duncan also questioned DAWN's 30,000 marijuana-only "unexpected reaction or overdose" reports. He scoffed at the very notion of a marijuana overdose. "Marijuana overdose just doesn't happen, as the term is normally used in medicine," he said. "What I expect is being labeled an overdose is really an unexpected reaction. You can get very stoned or paranoid or have psychedelic effects with very large doses, but that is not an overdose in the normal sense of the term."

A cannabis overdose is theoretically possible, Duncan conceded, but a practical impossibility. "The estimate is that a 150-pound man would have to eat five pounds of hashish," he said. "What that means is that you can't eat enough to produce a life-threatening overdose."

If the marijuana numbers are misleading in that they can over-dramatize the weed's ill effects, the methamphetamine numbers may be misleading in the opposite way, according to Duncan and E. Michael Gorman, a professor of social policy and drug abuse policy at San Jose State University. According to DAWN, "there were no significant changes in the number of mentions" of either amphetamines or methamphetamines nationwide, with 33,000 mentions for 2001.

Gorman was skeptical, but conceded that the wave of methamphetamine abuse may have plateaued. Still, he told DRCNet, "DAWN is a very limited data set, and you have to look at other numbers as well. I think we are seeing an increase in treatment admissions; I know that in Santa Clara county meth admissions are now exceeding alcohol admissions," he said.

Gorman seconded Duncan's opinion of DAWN's limited utility and added another complaint: regional bias. "DAWN does not reflect regional variations very well," he said. "It was an ongoing battle between us and SAMHSA, because we felt they were not paying enough attention to the West Coast. What you get is a skewed, East Coast perspective and a disinclination to address real regional issues. As a result, the meth epidemic is the elephant sitting in the living room," Gorman said. "This is a policy issue. Not only is there a regional bias, there is an urban bias," Gorman continued. "As a result, meth is the redheaded stepchild of drug research. Too many New York-based researchers dismiss attempts to get funding for meth studies because they don't see it as a big problem."

DAWN may also understate the extent of meth use because of the drug's characteristics, added Duncan. "You don't see a significant number of true meth overdoses," he said, "because in classic terms, amphetamine overdose is possible but very rare. You may get unexpected effects, paranoia, but those guys are more likely to end up in jail than the emergency room."

Rick Doblin heads the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ( and is in the process of prodding the DEA to approve studies of ecstasy as a therapeutic agent in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Doblin was also skeptical of the DAWN figures' significance. DAWN reported "no significant changes from 2000 to 2002" in ecstasy-related emergency room mentions. But Doblin told DRCNet, "As far as I can tell, according to other survey data, use rates are still climbing for ecstasy, so I'm not sure what these numbers mean." The stability in ecstasy mentions could mean that harm reduction measures are taking hold, Doblin suggested. "Perhaps people are learning to minimize harm, developing a certain collective wisdom and creating informal social controls," he mused. "The other possibility is that pill testing is having an impact. Programs like those on Erowid ( are getting a lot of use and are finding a lot of fakes. When people are informed they will be less likely to take pills that could send them to the hospital."

But Doblin is less concerned about DAWN's utility than the RAVE Act now pending in Congress. "The RAVE Act could transform current harm reduction practices into 'signs of drug use,'" Doblin said. "If the RAVE act passes, I would predict there would be an increase in ecstasy emergency room mentions."

So where does that leave DAWN? Primarily as a resource for propagandists, said Duncan. "DAWN tells us very little about a particular drug. It was set up to provide an early warning of new drugs showing up or new trends. It was not intended to function as a means of monitoring detailed statistics about a particular drug. DAWN's conclusions are too often used for political purposes, and it is mostly a matter of distorting DAWN's own conclusions."

9. Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Publishes Comprehensive, Nationwide Guide to Clemency

This week the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (CJPF) published the nation's first compilation of state-by-state and federal information on executive clemency for prisoners. There are approximately 1.3 million incarcerated persons now serving state sentences and 120,000 sentenced federal prisoners. Tens of thousands of persons are serving sentences that have been criticized as draconian, due to mandatory minimum sentencing and other criminal justice excesses. CJPF's clemency guide is available at online.

CJPF pointed in a press release to the fraudulent mass drug prosecutions in Tulia, Texas, in which many defendants plead guilty even though they were innocent, as part of plea bargains enabling them to avoid decades-long sentences. Those who plead guilty are almost never able to appeal their sentences -- even if they are in fact innocent, as is the case in Tulia. Receiving an excessively long sentence is not a basis for an appeal; hence for such prisoners, often the only remedy is executive clemency.

CJPF also pointed out the case of Maryann Gomez-Velasquez, sentenced to 25 ½ years in prison because she was addicted to Tylenol with Codeine and forged pain medication prescriptions to feed her addiction. Gov. Gary Johnson (R) of New Mexico commuted her sentence, stating that "[o]ur drug laws have become so irrational that we actually hand out harsher penalties for forging Tylenol with codeine prescriptions than we do for killing people" (

CJPF's clemency guide provides information on the procedure to obtain clemency and commutation of sentence in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, as well as the federal procedure. It gives prisoners, their attorneys and their families the information they need to apply for an early release from a state or federal prison sentence. Sample application forms are provided for some states and the federal government.

Every state has a mechanism, usually at the governor's discretion, to reduce the sentence of a deserving prisoner, similar to the constitutional power of the President of the United States for federal offenses (Article II, Section 2). But these procedures must be initiated by the prisoner, therefore they and their families and supporters need to know what these procedures are.

In 2000, CJPF spearheaded a campaign to commute the sentences of lowlevel non-violent federal drug offenders. Before he left office, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 21 such prisoners. While there are over 120,000 sentenced federal prisoners, there are more than 10 times that number of state prisoners. Prison operating costs are significant burdens on the taxpayers of many states, which the economy is currently aggravating.

"We are at a historical moment in which a spirit of justice and compassion is aligned with the necessity to save tax revenues for high priority matters. Clemency enables governors to save hundreds of thousands of dollars and to mitigate the excesses of the criminal justice system, especially the long sentences of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. CJPF believes the nation needs an easy way to learn the unique and often complex clemency procedures available in each state," said CJPF president Eric Sterling.

There were 1,236,476 persons incarcerated in state prisons by December, 2000, with the number constantly growing. The number of imprisoned drug offenders is estimated to be in the range of 400,000 persons. Many states have mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses that have been widely criticized by judges and correctional officials because they result in unjustly long sentences. Prisoners sentenced under such laws are often ideal candidates for release to the community.

"We want ex-offenders to rebuild their families and their lives, and to contribute positively to the community and the economy. Keeping people in prison too long is counterproductive as well as wasteful. Common sense tells us: when vital services have to be cut to meet shrinking state revenues, it is time to release prisoners who no longer belong there," said Sterling.

10. Medical Marijuana Through the Ages: New Info on

Last May, DRCNet reported on the launching of, an in-depth information site created by the A-Mark Foundation presenting facts and opinions as attributed to a wide range of experts and advocates on both sides of the medical marijuana debate ( now offers a major new section, "A 4,739 Year History of Cannabis (Marijuana) as Medicine." In keeping with MarijuanaInfo's strategy of serving as neutral presenter of referenced expert opinions, the History quotes from a range of scholarly reports, scientific and medical journals, history books, activist writings and press reports, all referenced individually to help readers form their own conclusions.

Beginning pretty near the beginning (2737 BC) and continuing through the present, the "4,739 Year History" lists events of relevance to medical marijuana and categorizes them as "Pro Events for Medical Marijuana," "Neutral" and "Con Events Against Medical Marijuana."

The History is fascinating beyond its medical and political implications, particularly its references from antiquity regarding medical marijuana's uses and standing in places such as ancient China, Egypt, India, the Mediterranean, Greece, Rome and Persia. A perhaps mythological Chinese emperor prescribes it for beri beri; religious mendicants in India use it to overcome hunger and thirst; Mohammed allows cannabis but forbids alcohol.

Most of the History, of course, deals with the 20th century. Federal agencies such as the FDA and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs figure prominently, not surprisingly, but even the short-lived League of Nations comes up too.

Those who have followed this issue in recent years may get a rise reading about events they lived through or read about at the time. Just because you remember it, doesn't mean it isn't history yet!

Visit and click on the "5,000 Year History" link to gain more background knowledge of this important issue at the intersection of medicine and anti-drug policy. And as always, feel free to submit your own info to, especially if you have credentials in a related subject or know of useful reference materials that can be cited.

11. Offer: Tapes of Stossel Legalization Special Now Available

Since we issued our "call to action" to write to ABC News in support of John Stossel's excellent coverage of the drug war and legalization last late month -- responding to an action alert by the "other side" asking people to criticize it -- over 450 of you have sent us copies of letters you sent to ABC News at our request. Thank you for taking action!

We are pleased to announce that DRCNet is now offering VHS copies of this pivotal Stossel/ABC News report. You can purchase a copy for $34 (shipping included), or you can make a $65 or greater membership donation (or sign up for a $6 or greater monthly credit card donation) and receive a complimentary copy. Visit to make your donation or purchase by credit card (you'll be forwarded to our secure transaction server), watch the show if you missed it and play it for your family and friends. Or, send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

"War on Drugs: A War on Ourselves" featured interviews with California judge James P. Gray, Detroit police chief Jerry Oliver, New York priest Father Joe Kane, drug reform advocate Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies, DEA chief Asa Hutchison and others. Host John Stossel went the full mile and presented a thought provoking discussion of the case for legalization and the realities of the drug war at home and abroad. It is quite simply one of the best reports ever done on the issue by a mainstream news network. So please visit and order your copy today!

Your donation to DRCNet will support work such as our international anti-prohibition conference series, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century." DRCNet is organizing with drug reform and other supportive organizations and institutions worldwide to mobilize reform forces in a clarion call for ending drug prohibition outright. We will convene in February in the city of Merida, capital of the Yucatan state of Mexico, and other events are in the works (pending funding) at the European Parliament in Brussels, Canada and the United States. Stay tuned to DRCNet for further details!

Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying programs, are not tax-deductible. If you need or want a tax deduction, you can also contribute to the DRCNet Foundation, same address. (Make sure to use the correct web form or organizational name on your check.)

Again, please visit to contribute or purchase today! Your donation marks a vote cast for ending drug prohibition in the 21st century -- you are part of that making it happen! Thank you for being a part of DRCNet.

12. Newsbrief: Texas Opens Belated Investigation into Tulia Bust

Only three years after a rogue lawman abetted by Swisher County authorities rounded up 43 people -- all but six of the black -- on false drug charges in the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, the state of Texas has moved to investigate the incident. In the meantime, most of the Tulia defendants remain behind bars, despite the discrediting of the undercover investigator responsible for the arrests, a national media outcry over the bust's apparent racism and the failure of prosecutors to win convictions in the latest cases.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, who is running for the US Senate this year, announced on Monday that he had ordered a state investigation opened after a federal Justice Department investigation has bogged down due to apparent lack of interest. Justice Department spokespersons said the investigation was still alive, but from all signs it is comatose.

Cornyn asked the Justice Department to allow state investigators to review the federal case, but the Justice Department has yet to respond, the Houston Chronicle reported. Cornyn said he didn't want to step on federal toes, but that the state investigation would look at whether violations of state law occurred.

Ironically, Cornyn's office is charged with defending the state in federal court against a habeas corpus petition filed by one of the imprisoned Tulia defendants. Cornyn said the habeas corpus appeal would not interfere with the state investigation.

13. Newsbrief: New Hampshire Cop Wants to Seize College Dorm After Drug Raid

Heavily armed police SWAT teams raided a dormitory at McIntosh College in Dover, NH, on Monday, arresting nine students (seven on marijuana charges, one for ecstasy, and one for marijuana, ecstasy, and Valium) and urging federal prosecutors to seize the dorm under federal "crack house" laws.

"It's an open air drug market like we've never seen in this city," said Dover Police Chief William Fenniman. "My idea is to stop the building from being used for any illicit activity. Whatever it takes to do that, I'm willing to do," he told the Associated Press, leading concerned readers to wonder whether the chief had considered a cruise missile attack.

According to students at the college's Atlantic Culinary Academy, whose students occupied the dorm in question, Fenniman's raid was over the top. Fenniman had apparently notified the media beforehand, students told the AP, because reporters and photographers were present as body-armored raiders threw students to the ground and arrested them. "Why do you need M-14s to arrest kids with weed?" asked student Cecilia Self.

14. Newsbrief: Western Washington US Attorney Solicits Marijuana Cases, No Bust Too Small

Overworked US Attorneys have traditionally had an informal standard for handling marijuana cases. Depending on the location, busts involving less than 50 pounds or 500 pounds or another arbitrary figure have been foisted on local authorities for prosecution. But according to Seattle criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn, that is changing, at least in Western Washington and perhaps nationwide.

"US Attorney for Western Washington John McKay met with local defense attorneys recently and told them he was soliciting any marijuana case for federal prosecution, no matter how small," Steinborn told DRCNet. "This is a real change. Up until now, usually if you had 100 plants or less, they wouldn't mess with you," he said.

"This is aimed at growers and medical marijuana providers," Steinborn added. "The feds will be relentless, they're following the Ashcroft line, and this guy is so obviously un-American that even the secret courts have had to rebuke him. There is no moral justification for these savage prosecutions of nonviolent people. These guys will say they're just following orders, but the Nuremburg defense didn't work after World War II and it won't work when this is all over."

Steinborn derided the idea that the move came on McKay's own initiative. "He's following orders from der fuehrer," said the long-time reform advocate.

The move will have real world ramifications for people arrested for marijuana crimes in Western Washington. Under Washington law, which recognizes medical marijuana, certified medical marijuana patients and providers have an affirmative defense to marijuana charges. And recreational marijuana cultivation or sales is punishable by a maximum five-year sentence. In practice, the maximum sentence is rarely handed out. Federal law, however, makes no distinction for medical marijuana and treats both recreational and medicinal marijuana cases harshly. Under federal law, sale or cultivation of up to 50 pounds or 50 plants gets up to five years with no parole; more than 50 pounds or plants draws a sentence of up to 20 years.

The US Attorney's office in Seattle had not responded to DRCNet requests for confirmation of the shift by press time.

15. Newsbrief: Canadian Cops Call for National Drug Strategy, Oppose Legalization

The Canadian Association of Police Boards, which represents municipal police forces across the country, passed a resolution last Saturday denouncing the legalization of illicit drugs, including marijuana, and calling for the federal government to implement a national drug strategy. The resolution also has the support of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association, Police Boards president Herb Kreling told an Ottawa news conference announcing the stand.

The assembled officers took time off from a convention barbeque and golf tournament to sit through a Saturday workshop where leaders from the three law enforcement groups presented a pre-packaged resolution for members to ratify. They did as expected.

"This resolution, which has been endorsed by all three of the country's national policing advocates -- the boards, the officers, and the chiefs -- we believe will send a clear message to our nation's leaders," said Kreling.

But while the police board resolution calls for tougher prison sentences and financial penalties for pot growers and sellers, it also calls for a national task force to explore the regulation or legal status of the use, possession and distribution of marijuana. The police seem to suggest that even some sort of decriminalization, as obnoxious as they may find it, may be better than the twilight zone that is current Canadian marijuana policy.

16. Newsbrief: Canada Medical Marijuana Battles Continue -- Protests in Toronto, Minister Changes Tune

Medical marijuana patients and supporters took to the streets of Toronto Saturday to protest last week's raid on the Toronto Compassion Center, a medical marijuana dispensary, and to lambaste Health Minister Anne McClellan for indefinitely delaying the start of the Canadian government's long-promised medical marijuana program ( While the Canadian government has dithered on medical marijuana, providers like the Toronto Compassion Center have sprung up to supply the needs of cannabis patients. Before it was raided last week, the Toronto center was providing medicinal marijuana to 1,200 patients.

About 100 medical marijuana supporters took their medicine in front of the Justice Department offices in Toronto on Saturday, the Toronto Star reported. "We operated for four years with impunity," said criminal lawyer Alan Young, one of the center's founders. "The police knew about it and for reasons that will never be completely understood be me, they raided them last week and put them out of business," he told the Star.

Young and three others were charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

The demonstrators' anger was further fueled by McClellan's announcement last week that she would delay the release of medical marijuana grown under government contract pending clinical studies -- which have yet to begin. "Either the government has to provide the medicine or they have to allow the clubs to operate," said Young.

You can't give the protests all the credit -- McClellan's move was widely attacked in the Canadian press -- but by Monday the Health Minister was moving away from last week's position, rhetorically if not practically. During a Monday press conference, McLellan bristled at charges she was killing the program. "In fact, far from shelving it, what we're doing is implementing the second stage," she claimed. The first stage was the passing of legislation last year enabling persons with specified illnesses to use the weed. The second stage, which came as a surprise to all but McLellan, is clinical trials, she said.

"If we let it go on the market and somebody died, you people would be the first to say: 'Oh, look, there's the Department of Health not discharging its responsibility in relation to protecting the safety and security of Canadians,'" she ventured.

Also, McLellan claimed, the government delayed clinical trials because its first contracted crop wasn't standardized and therefore wasn't suitable for trials. But Health Canada in December said the first crop was quality-tested and ready for distribution to patients. A department spokesman could not explain the discrepancy.

17. Newsbrief: Drug Raid Leads to Mini-Riot in Minneapolis

An August 22 drug raid in the North Minneapolis neighborhood of Jordan ended in a small riot after a 11-year-old boy was wounded by police gunfire. Minneapolis police officers executing a marijuana warrant shot and killed a pit bull in front of the target house when at least one bullet ricocheted, wounding the youth and angering a quickly-gathering crowd. Tensions have been rising between the black community and Minneapolis police since August 13, when police shot and wounded a 19-year-old neighborhood man. Earlier this summer, a black woman and a white police officer shot each other to death in a shoot-out.

In the wake of last week's shooting, between 75 and 100 people burned cars, smashed windows, railed at police and assaulted local TV news crews who had arrived to cover the incident. Police retreated temporarily before massing in force around midnight that night to retake control. "They were pelting us with rocks and bottles," a police spokesman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "We needed to get out of there."

Police arrested one person, Sylvia Powell, on drug charges and seized one weapon and several bags of marijuana. Minneapolis police portrayed the extended Powell family as anti-police and heavily involved in "narcotics," and told reporters that threats from the Powells during a previous marijuana raid caused them to wear full body armor during last week's assault. But the Pioneer Press also reported that Powell family members, including the wounded youth, Julius Powell, were active in a community "peace garden" next door to the raided house.

Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and city council members met Saturday with a Justice Department mediator to discuss working with the black community to reduce tensions in the wake of three police shootings of blacks this month.

The Minneapolis NAACP this week called for an independent federal, state or local agency to investigate reports of brutality, excessive force and misconduct by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. But a younger generation of community activists, including groups such as Communities United Against Police Brutality, met Saturday afternoon to develop a list of community demands for change at the Minneapolis Police Department.

The group meeting Saturday is considering filing a federal lawsuit against the police department and challenging the Civilian Review Authority, which they charge is weak and unable to effectively address police misconduct. In a depressing indication of the state of affairs in the Twin Cities, the group's demands of police include a "zero-tolerance policy for officers who use racial slurs," "end the department's shoot-to-kill policy," and "no arrests for 'talking back.'"

18. Newsbrief: Oklahoma Governor Overrules Parole Board, Orders Man Held for Life for Cocaine Possession

Ignoring the recommendations of his own Pardon and Parole Board, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating on August 22 rejected a plea from a man convicted of possessing an ounce of powder cocaine to reduce his sentence from life without parole to 20 years. Larry Yarbrough was convicted in 1997, and because he had a group of previous felonies for distribution of LSD and marijuana in 1982, he was sentenced under the state's draconian drug trafficking laws. Under those laws, life without parole is an automatic sentence for anyone with two previous drug felonies.

In what the Daily Oklahoman, the state's most influential newspaper called "a historic vote," the parole board voted 3-2 on August 6 to recommend that Yarbrough's sentence be reduced to 20 years, meaning he could be paroled as early as next year. The other two members voted to commute his sentence to time served.

But Keating, a law and order Republican, was having none of it. "This is a habitual offender with a 20-year history who was convicted and sentenced by a jury under existing state law," Keating said in a press statement, neglecting to note that the jury had no role in setting the mandatory life sentence. He also found the prospect of Yarbrough being paroled soon unsettling. "That is unacceptable," he said. "The Pardon and Parole Board should not act as a 'super court' that changes sentences it may disagree with."

"I don't think we tried to act like a court, a jury, or an appellate court," parole board member Marc Dryer told the Oklahoman. "We saw it one way and the governor saw it another, and the ultimate decision rests with the governor."

19. Newsbrief: Vietnam Beefs Up Customs Drug Budget

Tormented by rising drug use rates despite increased enforcement, coerced treatment camps and tough trafficking penalties -- 55 drug traffickers were executed last year -- Vietnam announced August 23 that it was beefing up its customs agency. The poverty-stricken Southeast Asian nation will spend 77 billion dong ($5 million) on new equipment, training and drug-sniffing drugs, the Malaysia Star reported. A Vietnamese drug policy official told the Star Vietnam hoped to curb drug smuggling at the borders rather than trying to stop the trade inside the country.

According to official figures, Vietnam has seen a 10% increase in drug addiction, mainly heroin but also methamphetamines, in the last year, despite a stated of goal of reducing drug addiction by 10% to 20% for the next five years. As part of that effort, Vietnam has imprisoned thousands of drug offenders in treatment camps -- despite reported failure rates of 97% and repeated mass escapes (

20. Newsbrief: Asian Speed Shows Up, Feds Feed USA Today "New Drug" Story

"Fed Raid Targets New Asian Drug," screamed the headline in USA Today on August 21, as Gannett Corporation headline writers dutifully regurgitated a story spoon-fed their reporter by US Customs officials. The feds had busted 10 people in the Sacramento area on conspiracy charges for attempting to import a "new drug," known as "Ya Ba," into the United States. The "new drug," however, is not so new: Ya Ba (Thai for "crazy medicine") is plain old methamphetamine, produced in pill form by mass production laboratories operated by Burmese rebels the United Wa States Army.

The stuff has fed a speed frenzy across Southeast Asia and has been dribbling into the US for at least the last two years -- Customs said it had seized 45 shipments since 2000 -- but the Sacramento bust appears to mark the coming out party for a new "drug threat." Ya Ba packs a "powerful and long-lasting high stronger than that provided by the club drug Ecstasy," worried USA Today, and more insidiously, the pills are often flavored, "apparently to make them more appealing to young people," Customs told the newspaper.

The "powerful methamphetamine from Asia is gaining favor among teens and young adults on the West Coast," Customs warned USA Today. Heck, maybe they'll stop blowing themselves up with kitchen meth labs.

21. Demos Fellowships in Criminal Justice and Democracy Reform

Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action is seeking fellowship applicants on criminal justice and democracy reform for innovative national, regional or local work addressing the corrosive impact of criminal justice policies on the American democracy. A variety of approaches may be applied, including academic research, policy analysis, community advocacy and organizing, and journalistic muckraking. Candidates should be able to link harsh sentencing laws and other such policies to voter eligibility, redistricting and other important democracy issues.

Resumes must be submitted by September 3rd, and should be accompanied by a one page description of how your organizing, academic or other professional experience makes you an outstanding candidate. Applicants must be available to start either Spring or Summer 2003. Demos will respond to applicants that have a bachelor's degree and at least a two-year history in domestic democracy and/or criminal justice work. Applications from former prisoners are welcomed.

E-mail your resume and description to [email protected]. Visit for more information about Demos.

22. Legislative 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 for information.

Support States' Rights to Medical Marijuana: Visit to write to Congress today!

Visit 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.

23. The Reformer's Calendar

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

August 30-September 2, Kansas City, Joplin, Columbia and St. Louis, MO, second annual "Cannabis Crawl." Caravan from event to event, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (314) 265-6189 for 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 5, 7:30pm, Portland, OR, prominent defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn will discuss the marijuana laws and how individuals can protect themselves. Sponsored by Jeff and Tracy, at The Old Church, SW 11th and Clay, $5 admission, 16 years or older, music and refreshments will be provided. Visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

September 6, 3:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, Rave on the Capitol Lawn. Protest of the RAVE Act, sponsored by Ravers Organizing Against the Rave Act (ROAR), on the west lawn of the US Capitol. For further information, visit or contact Joey at (703) 593-9297 or [email protected] or Legba at (703) 354-2044 or [email protected].

September 6, 3:00-8:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, rave in protest of the Rave Act. At the Westwood Federal Building, 11000 Wilshire Blvd., organized by Freedom to Dance. Park in Westwood Village, call (310) 854-2016 for further information.

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 for further information, or contact Terry Keleher at (773) 278-4800 x162 or [email protected].

September 26, Eugene, OR, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo theatrical performance by Sheldon Norberg. At the Wow Hall, not recommended for children under 13, call (415) 666-3939 or visit for further information.

September 26-28, Los Angeles, CA, "Breaking the Chains: People of Color and the War on Drugs." Conference by the Drug Policy Alliance, e-mail [email protected] to be placed on mailing list for when details become available.

September 29, sunset, nationwide vigil for medical marijuana. Contact [email protected] or (510) 486-8083 or visit for further information.

September 30-October 1, Washington, DC, "National Symposium on Felony Disenfranchisement," conference sponsored by The Sentencing Project. Admission free, advance registration required, visit or call (202) 628-0871 for further information.

October 1-6, Negril, Jamaica, "Mind States Jamaica," seminar featuring speakers such as Richard Glen Boire, Earth Erowid, Fire Erowid, Alex Grey, Jon Hanna, Stephen Kent, Jonathan Ott, Mark Pesce, Ann Shulgin and Sasha Shulgin. Registration $1,300 through September 15, includes admission, double occupancy accommodations, meals and drinks. Contact [email protected] or visit 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 or call (503) 605-5182 for info.

October 10, 5:00pm, Higganum, CT, Community Forum on the "War on Drugs." Featuring Cliff Thornton and Adam Hurter of Efficacy, at the gazebo in town center, contact Kevin at (860) 345-3387 or [email protected] for further information.

October 25-29, Albuquerque, NM, "International Conference on Altered States of Consciousness." At the Crowne Plaza Pyramid, visit for further information.

November 2, Davis, CA, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo theatrical performance by Sheldon Norberg. At the Varsity Theater, not recommended for children under 13, call (415) 666-3939 or visit for further 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 for information.

November 8-10, Anaheim, CA, combined national conference of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Early bird registration $150, $45 for students with financial need, visit for further information.

November 9, Anaheim, CA, Bill Maher benefit show for Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project. Admission $50, or $1,000 VIP package including front-row seat and private reception with Bill Maher. Visit for further information.

November 22-24, Amsterdam, Netherlands, "Psychoactivity III," speakers including Arno Adelaars, Hans Bogers, Jace Callaway PhD, Hilario Chiriap, Piers Gibbon, Luis Eduardo Luna PhD, Dr. phil. Claudia Mueller-Ebeling. Visit for further information.

December 1-4, Seattle, WA, "Taking Drug Users Seriously," Fourth National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former US Surgeon General. For information, e-mail [email protected], visit or call (212) 213-6376.

April 6-10, 2003, Chiangmai, Thailand, "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 or contact [email protected] or (6653) 223624, 894112 x102.

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