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

Issue #257, 10/4/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. DEA to California Medical Marijuana Patients: Drop Dead
  2. Federal Parole Bill Orphaned with Death of Sole Sponsor -- Activists, Prisoners Look to Other Bills, Other Sponsors
  3. Canadian Government Announces Parliament to Consider Marijuana Decriminalization -- US Worries, Blusters
  4. Widely Hyped Ecstasy Study Full of Holes, Critics Say
  5. In Brazil, "Parallel Power" of the Narcos Flexes Muscle on Eve of Elections
  6. Montana Drug Policy Task Force Calls for More Treatment and Prevention, War on Meth
  7. The November Coalition Hits the Road: Journey for Justice Aims to Mobilize Support for Freeing Drug War Prisoners
  8. Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca on Rise as Country Revamps Coca Eradication Effort
  9. Uribe Wants to Recriminalize Drug Possession in Colombia
  10. Newsbrief: California Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Syringe Sales, Vetoed Industrial Hemp Study Earlier
  11. Newsbrief: California Town to Pay $3 Million, Apologize for Drug Raid Death
  12. Newsbrief: And the Killing Continues
  13. Newsbrief: Nevada -- The Survey Says... Legalize It!
  14. Newsbrief: University of Missouri SSDP, NORML in Marijuana Decriminalization Petition Drive
  15. Newsbrief: US Explores Drugging Rioters
  16. Newsbrief: Drug Warrior Maginnis Leaves Family Research Council
  17. Newsbrief: DPA Campaign Provides Tools to Fight School Drug Testing
  18. Calling on Students to Raise Your Voices for Repeal of the HEA Drug Provision
  19. Do You Read The Week Online?
  20. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision
  21. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. DEA to California Medical Marijuana Patients: Drop Dead

In the wake of the DEA raid on the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) dispensary in Santa Cruz a month ago, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer bestirred himself long enough to dash off a letter to DEA administrator Asa Hutchinson and his boss, US Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking the feds to please butt out. The letter, which also went to all US Attorneys in California and the three DEA offices in the state, called the raids "wasteful, unwise and surprisingly insensitive," since California law allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The WAMM raid, Lockyer wrote, called into question the federal-state partnership to fight drug trafficking. "The apparent decision by the DEA to put any kind of priority on such raids demonstrates a lack of good judgment and seriously threatens to wreck the historic productive partnership of the DEA and California's state and local law enforcement, undermining our efforts to fight dangerous drugs and the major narco-terrorist organizations that manufacture and distribute them," Lockyer told the feds.

Lockyer asked for a meeting with federal officials to discuss the problem. He hasn't gotten a meeting, but he has now received a response from Hutchinson, and neither Lockyer nor the state's medical marijuana community will be pleased. The DEA will continue to raid marijuana operations, Hutchinson said, and will refuse to recognize any distinction between recreational and medical marijuana. "As long as marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, (the Drug Enforcement Administration) will continue its enforcement efforts targeting groups and individuals involved in its distribution," Hutchinson wrote in a September 30 letter to Lockyer.

Hutchinson also repeated the agency's dogmatic denial that such a thing as medical marijuana even exists. "Your repeated references to 'medical' or 'medicinal' marijuana illustrate a common misperception that marijuana is safe and effective medicine," Hutchinson wrote. "The scientific community has never determined this to be the case."

Hutchinson added that the DEA is "obliged by law" to seize marijuana even if no prosecution results, as is apparently the case with WAMM and with San Diego cultivator Steve McWilliams, whose garden was seized last week with no charges filed. He also contended that California's medical marijuana law is being "abused to facilitate traditional illegal marijuana trafficking and associated crime."

But medical marijuana advocates pointed out that many patients grow for themselves with no money or drugs changing hands and that some dispensaries, including WAMM, accepted no payment for providing medicine. Lockyer spokesperson Hallye Jordan told the San Diego Union Tribune Lockyer's office was still reviewing the letter but was pleased to get a response, no matter what the content. "The lines of communication are open," she said. "At least we're talking."

That may be good enough for Lockyer, but it's not good enough for the state's large and increasingly angry medical marijuana community. The stage appears to be set for a messy confrontation pitting the federal government against the state government, the federal government against the medical marijuana movement, and the medical marijuana movement against the state government, at least to the degree it refuses to protect the state's estimated 30,000 medical marijuana users.

2. Federal Parole Bill Orphaned with Death of Sole Sponsor -- Activists, Prisoners Look to Other Bills, Other Sponsors

It's been a rough week for drug war prisoners and their advocates. Just as prisoners were beginning to get excited about Rep. Patsy Mink's bill to reinstate parole in the federal system, the 74-year old Hawaii Democrat succumbed to complications from the chicken pox in Honolulu on Saturday.

"This is terribly sad news, and so sudden," said Monica Pratt, director of legal affairs for Families Against Mandatory Minimums ( "We applaud Patsy Mink for what she did. She showed leadership on an issue that is important but not popular, and that is courageous," Pratt told DRCNet.

"Patsy Mink believed in social justice and that bill was her swan song," said the November Coalition's ( Nora Callahan. "The prisoners are disappointed, naturally, but there is hope in the prisons that her fellow compassionate Democrats will step up. Any representative who recognizes the injustice of the drug war can honor Patsy Mink's bravery and memory by cosponsoring her bill," she told DRCNet.

But they will need to fix it first, said Pratt. In an indication of the complexity of writing sentencing legislation, jailhouse lawyers, activists and Mink's staff have been wrestling over whether the Mink bill as written would or would not actually have an impact on the thousands of prisoners serving mandatory minimum drug sentences and whether it would be retroactive.

"Our reading of the bill is that it would not be retroactive and would not apply to anyone sentenced under the mandatory minimums," said Pratt. "Mink intended for it to be retroactive and to affect those with mandatory minimum sentences, but there were technical errors in drafting the bill. We were talking to folks in Minks' office about improving the bill, and FAMM will do our part to make a new version the best bill it can be so it impacts the most people," she said.

The November Coalition's Callahan wasn't so sure the bill was flawed, but said, "if it isn't retroactive, then let's fix it. Bills are improved all the time." Callahan said that the Coalition had faxed some suggestions to Mink's office before the veteran legislator died. While Mink's bill was the most striking attack on the gluttonous growth of the federal gulag, it is not the only bill pending that addresses sentencing reform:

  • H.R. 1978, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) with 44 cosponsors, would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession, distribution, manufacture or importation of drugs. The Waters bill would also require the Attorney General's approval for federal prosecutors to take any drug case.
  • H.R. 697, the Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) with three cosponsors, would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses.
  • H.R. 765, the Safety Valve Fairness Act of 2001, sponsored by Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) with 23 cosponsors, would make the 1994 safety valve law retroactive. Under this bill, the courts could apply sentencing guidelines instead of mandatory sentences to drug offenders who meet specified criteria.
  • S.B. 1874, the Drug Sentencing Reform Act of 2001, sponsored by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), would amend the Controlled Substances Act to decrease the amount of powder cocaine and increase the amount of crack cocaine necessary to trigger mandatory minimum sentences. The bill would also limit sentences for minor players and would establish a pilot program of home detention for certain elderly prisoners.
Both FAMM and the November Coalition criticized the Sessions-Hatch bill for addressing the crack-powder sentencing disparity by increasing powder cocaine penalties. "FAMM doesn't support and can't support the bill because of the way it tinkers with the sentencing ratios," said Pratt, "but there are some good provisions that would address some of those outrageous conspiracy cases we see where girlfriends with minimal involvement get longer sentences than major players. And the fact that two Republican senators introduced the bill is important; they've had a change of heart on mandatory minimums."

November's Callahan wasn't so charitable. "This bill is simply two drug warriors crying about injustice and doing nothing to stop it," she said. "According to the Sentencing Commission, this bill would have provided relief to only 67 prisoners sentenced on crack charges in the last three years."

The November Coalition also has reservations about the Waters bill, Callahan said. "It is not retroactive and wouldn't help anyone already sitting in prison," she said. "And while it is good that it eliminates mandatory minimum sentences except for 'kingpins,' we believe that kingpins are made in the courtroom, not on the street. As long as there is a flourishing black market in banned substances, people will deal in those substances, and as long as a person can take the stand and incriminate others in exchange for his own freedom, petty drug dealers will magically turn into kingpins in the courtroom."

The Rangel bill has the support of both FAMM and the November Coalition, but has been introduced in three consecutive sessions and gone nowhere, Pratt said. And all of the bills will die at session's end. Still, said Pratt, they can be revived next year. "It is very important for people who support these bills to write their representatives now and let them know the support for reform is out there. Lawmakers tell us that just 25 letters from constituents is enough to make a difference," she said.

It is tough and depressing work, said Pratt, even for lawmakers. "When we have legislators sticking their necks out, we need to support and encourage them. Even Maxine Waters gets discouraged sometimes; she feels like she can't even get support from the constituencies that would benefit the most from her bill. We have to do a better job of letting these folks know we stand behind them. We have to be more strategic in our support of legislation."

Pratt counseled patience and fortitude. "I'm afraid I don't think the laws are going to change that quickly," she said. "Even though mandatory minimums are an issue of fundamental fairness, we still have a lot of work to do in educating the public. People should not lose hope, but they also need to get serious, because change won't happen without their help. People need to take their outrage and turn it into something productive. Our movement has not been effective enough in harnessing this outrage and anger in a way that actually affects the political process," she said.

"The sad thing is that for people working on these issues, in FAMM and in November, the people doing time in prison, the families doing time with them, it just seems impossible sometimes," Pratt continued. "These are dark times, but we have to keep working for a more positive future. And if you look at the history of the US, every social movement for change relied on the people to actually make the difference. We have to rally our people to get out and go to work to make the decision-makers get off their butts," she said.

The November Coalition's Callahan plans to kick some butt herself, she said, adding that the coalition's petition to end drug war injustice is becoming an organizing tool that is drawing in new blood and energizing existing members. The petition, which is not linked to any particular piece of legislation and which asks for some form of early release for drug war prisoners, is designed to show Congress that public support for sentencing reform exists and is growing, she said.

"Our petition will unite an entire federal prison population constituency," Callahan explained. "When you look inside the prisons, you see many people who are redeemable, most of whom are also nonviolent. For them to have no hope of earning early release is inhumane. We have one woman, a physician, sitting in a federal prison camp for seven years while her husband sits at home alone trying to raise three children. How dangerous is she? Well, there are no walls around her prison, yet we're keeping her family and thousands of others divided for no good reason. What's the sense in that?

[Ed: DRCNet is saddened by the untimely passing of Rep. Mink. Mrs. Mink spoke at our HEA reform press conference last May, sounding strong on the need to fully repeal the HEA drug provision, and as a prominent member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee was a key supporter of that effort. Her work helped advance many drug and justice reform causes, and she will be missed.]

3. Canadian Government Announces Parliament to Consider Marijuana Decriminalization -- US Worries, Blusters

Canada's governing Liberal Party announced Monday that it will consider decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The move fell short of a recent Senate select committee report recommending outright legalization and regulation of Canada's multi-billion dollar pot trade, but was still enough to elicit grunted warnings from US drug warriors.

Representing Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Adrienne Clarkson used the occasion of the Throne Speech, where the government lays out its annual agenda, to tell a packed Senate chamber that a new government drug strategy will emphasize treatment, but will also move on the marijuana issue. "The government will expand the number of drug treatment courts," Clarkson told the assembled lawmakers. "It will act on the results of parliamentary consultations with Canadians on options for change in our drug laws, including the possibility of the decriminalization of marijuana possession."

The mention of marijuana law reform in the Throne Speech was remarkably tentative -- mentioning only the "possibility" of decrim -- and is certain to please few, but signals that the Liberals may be ready to decriminalize. Justice Minister Maurice Cauchon had called for decrim weeks before being upstaged by the Senate committee call for outright legalization, but was vague when questioned after the Throne Speech. "We'll see," he told the Toronto Globe & Mail. "It's going to be part of an overall position from the government."

The Canadian government is certain to face renewed opposition from the US government and from groups such as the Canadian Police Association if it indeed moves to decriminalize. But neither have they pleased Canadian marijuana advocates and drug policy reformers. Like the British government of Tony Blair, the Chretien government may be headed for a middle-of-the-road policy where users could escape with citations, but their suppliers would remain criminalized. According to recent polls, almost half of Canadians support outright legalization, while as many as seven out of ten support decriminalization.

"The decriminalization scheme is not satisfying to anyone in the marijuana movement in Canada," said Vancouver marijuana seed maven Marc Emery. "Even the mayor of my city has called for full legalization. Still, it's a sign the world is changing," he told DRCNet.

Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation ( was similarly less than overwhelmed. "Our position is that it should not be a criminal offense for an adult to possess, produce, or transport small quantities of cannabis, or any other drug, for that matter. Larger amounts should be regulated, with age limits," he told DRCNet. "This doesn't go as far as we would like to see it go," he said. "Many people in the reform community here agree that decriminalization addresses only one small issue -- the issue of criminal records for possession. All of the police powers associated with the enforcement of marijuana prohibition would remain. The only real advance would be the lack of the criminal penalty," he said.

Without question, decriminalization would have an impact. Roughly 25,000 Canadians are arrested for marijuana possession each year, accounting for almost half of all drug arrests. While actual penalties vary widely depending on location, pot users face a criminal record, a $700 fine and up to six months in jail.

"Knowing the impediments that a criminal record can cause, the lack of a criminal penalty would be an advance," said Oscapella, "but will that become an excuse for not doing anything else?"

That's a question that also concerns Emery, who mixes marijuana entrepreneurship with activism as founder and president of the British Colombia Marijuana Party ( "We've been lobbying to amend the law to allow the growing of up to ten plants, he said. "I had a three-hour lunch the other day with the vice chair of the House committee examining the drug laws, and I hope the committee will go further than this decrim in its report." That report is due in November.

The Bush administration isn't waiting until then to weigh in against any liberalization of Canada's marijuana laws. "We recognize Canada's sovereignty, but caution the Canadian people not to fall for the same myths about marijuana that far too many Americans have fallen for," US drug czar John Walters said in statement delivered Tuesday to the Globe & Mail. "We have learned through hard experience that marijuana is a dangerous drug with serious public health and social consequences, and I hope the Canadian government does not head down the risky path of decriminalization or legalization."

While Walters played good cop, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), chairman of the US House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, played bad cop, threatening Canada with border hassles if it moved to liberalize the marijuana laws. "Obviously Canada can do whatever it wants with its laws," Souder told the Globe & Mail. "But to the degree there's less harmonization with our laws, it means that the border traffic is going to slow down. "If there's a higher risk of illegal drugs moving, because decriminalization functions as de facto legalization... we're not going to sit idly by and not check."

"Thank you for your interest, Mr. Drug Czar," replied Oscapella, "but most Canadians would say let us make our own mistakes. Canadians don't like being pushed around. We are economically vulnerable and we can't always challenge the US, but we do get our backs up a bit when pushed. Don't misunderstand," he continued, "our quarrel is not with the people of the US, who very much like us realize how futile and destructive this drug war is. Our quarrel is with the US administration."

"Comments like those from your drug czar only create resentment toward the US," added Emery. "Every time the drug czar threatens to tighten the border, that means he's fucking with us, and that gives more people the courage to oppose him because they resent the interference. But we have to consider the US position. I tell the Senate and Commons committees that if we move forward here, that will likely help lead to change in the US."

4. Widely Hyped Ecstasy Study Full of Holes, Critics Say

special to DRCNet by John Calvin Jones

(Jones is a PhD candidate writing his dissertation on US and Dutch drug policy at Panamerican University in Edinburg, TX.)

In 1974, a Tulane University researcher, Dr. Robert Heath, declared that marijuana was dangerous, caused brain damage and even death -- when taken in standard doses. Heath's evidence was from autopsies of monkeys that he "exposed" to marijuana. Heath had placed gas masks on the creatures and pumped the equivalent of 63 joints into their lungs in five minutes. Of course the monkeys had brain damage -- it was due to oxygen deprivation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Thirty years later "science" is at it again. The September 27 issue of Science presented an ecstasy study headed by John's Hopkins' neurologist Dr. George Ricaurte, in which the authors claim that ecstasy causes brain damage, leads to Parkinson's and can kill -- when taken in standard doses. Again the evidence was found in 10 dead primates, two that died from the ecstasy alone.

While the study is earning well-deserved criticism on methodological grounds (see below), it also smells of politics. The National Institutes of Health funded Ricaurte's study -- a proposal that sought to explain why ecstasy is a bad drug. Alan Leshner, the former chief at NIDA, now heads the American Association of the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science. So what looks like a scholarly study, published by a group of disinterested scientists, turns out to be a PR piece written and promoted by politically astute PhDs with a financial interest in touting pro-drug war messages.

Ricaurte's team planned to inject five squirrel monkeys and five baboons with three doses of ecstasy, 2mg/kg body weight, at three-hour intervals, for a total of 6mg/kg in six hours. The dose, 6mg/kg, is supposedly typical. "Partygoers... consume multiple doses [of MDMA] during the night," said Ricaurte and company, citing Erica Weir for this fact. In truth, the cited article made no mention of how much MDMA ravers consume in one night. Dr. Weir's only reference to ecstasy use was that European data (n=69) found that up to 57% of the pills sold as ecstasy contained no MDMA, and pills with MDMA had anywhere from 2-150mg.

Ricaurte and colleagues could have used American data to make dosage estimates. In three million pills seized by the DEA in 1999, the ecstasy content was about 90mg per pill. Although, as groups like the club scene hard reduction outfit DanceSafe ( and Australian pharmacologist Rod Irvine have shown, there is no way to know how much MDMA people take in one night, using the DEA sample one might assume that average ecstasy dose about 1-1.5mg/kg. Regardless Ricaurte chose three doses at 2mg/kg for the "typical dose." To justify the 6mg/kg further, Ricaurte et al. added that such was less than the amount typically taken by humans. Of course the authors had no way to know that.

So the animals were injected. What were the results of the heavy and repeated doses? The first set of five monkeys were all given the first two injections, then four got a third. One of the four died and the fifth "became less mobile and had an unstable tentative gait after the second dose," and was not given a third injection. For the five baboons, it was worse as one "baboon appeared unstable after the second dose," and one died after only two injections.

Of the initial survivors, the four monkeys and four baboons were killed two and eight weeks later for autopsy. Ricaurte's team found that MDMA-exposed animals had "lasting reductions" in serotonin levels and damaged dopamine synapses. They concluded that MDMA caused motor dysfunction, could lead to Parkinson's or kill.

A number of neurologists and researchers took issue with the Science piece. Critics challenged the MDMA-Parkinson's link, and claims that typical human self-administration of ecstasy causes permanent brain damage or death.

The nonprofit research and advocacy group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies" ( obtained reaction to the Science article from neurologists in the US and abroad. Robert Meadowcroft of the UK's Parkinson's Disease Society told New Scientist that despite the significant rise in MDMA use, "there is no evidence early-onset Parkinson's disease is on the increase or that MDMA users [show] Parkinson's symptoms." "If [ecstasy], used in large quantities, were responsible for the young-onset of Parkinson's disease, we might have expected to see some early evidence of this," Adrian Williams, a neurologist at the University of Birmingham, UK, told MAPS.

MAPS added that the scientific integrity of the paper was so bad that Ricaurte failed to cite his own previous studies that found long-term MDMA users showed no sign of lower dopamine production. As well, when interviewed by Time magazine in 2000, Ricaurte said that "the vast majority of people who have experimented with MDMA appear normal, and there's no obvious indication that something is amiss."

By far the study was condemned most strongly because of the high death rate, 20%, in the test subjects. Death rates this high tell us that ravers and others commonly take much lower doses. Research from England, Australia and the US shows that MDMA fatalities are exceptionally rare. Many supposed ecstasy deaths are, as Time reported, from kids taking mega-doses of dextromethorphan (DXM) or paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA).

We all know that no drug is "perfectly safe." You can wreck your liver on Tylenol. Too much aspirin causes gastrointestinal bleeding. Too much lithium damages the thyroid. Marijuana aside, too much of any substance, be it water, gasoline, alcohol or uranium, will damage tissues and cause death. It matters how much you take - the difference between a poison and a cure is the dose. And thanks to prohibition, no one from the raver to the scientist to the parent can know what is in a dose of ecstasy.

Like he used to do at NIDA, once again Leshner has failed to condemn more problematic and destructive recreational substances, tobacco and alcohol. To Leshner, Ricaurte and other agents of the drug war, we should recite the words of President Bush, "fool me once, shame... shame on you. And you're not gonna fool me again."

5. In Brazil, "Parallel Power" of the Narcos Flexes Muscle on Eve of Elections

When the social pathologies generated by prohibition and the black market drug trade intersect with the social pathologies of mass poverty, bizarre social phenomena can occur. Mix in an election on Sunday where a charismatic left populist leader loathed by the US government is poised to take control of South America's largest country, and things start getting downright weird.

It's happening in Brazil right now. Brazil is riding a wave of cocaine consumption, according to press and official accounts. The US State Department estimates that Brazil is now second only to the US in cocaine consumption, with Brazilians now snorting or smoking more of the drug than Germany or France. And consumption has been democratized: Where once powder cocaine was the fun drug of Rio's and Sao Paolo's jet set, now drug sellers market crack in the favelas of Sao Paolo and $1.50 lines of powder coke heavily cut with aspirin or caffeine. And while consumption per capita remains well below that of the US, the UN estimated that nearly a million Brazilians -- 0.7% of the population -- are coke users.

And drug trafficking groups grown rich off the trade have organized into various "commands" that are effectively governing many of the vast favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, the mega-cities where nearly one out of five of Brazil's 170 million inhabitants reside. The phenomenon is so widespread that the traffickers have become known as the Parallel Power, competing with -- perhaps defeating -- the power of the state to govern the lives of millions. Or perhaps that's a bit unfair: The Brazilian state has never really tried to govern or even provide basic services to the favelas, which originated as squatter communities, effectively ceding their control to whoever stepped in to fill the vacuum.

The Parallel Power has been flexing its muscle of late, murdering a popular investigative reporter, instigating bloody riots in Brazil's swollen prisons, and recently engaging in internecine warfare with murderous shoot-outs in the streets of Rio and Sao Paolo. This week, the Parallel Power called for a general strike in Rio and pulled it off, with schools and businesses across the city closing their doors on Monday. Even the world-famous luxury zones of Ipanema and Copacabana were affected, according to press reports.

The question of the day is why. The few US press reports on the rather astonishing power play by the traffickers emphasized the theory that the strike was an effort by imprisoned Red Command leader Fernando da Costa (known as Fernandinho Beira-Mar or "Seaside Freddy") to improve his prison conditions. Da Costa, who was arrested in Colombia while apparently dealing with the FARC, has been accused of orchestrating the recent wave of prison and street violence from his cell.

But the strike takes on a decidedly darker cast in non-US accounts. Argentine investigative journalist Stella Calloni, writing for the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, reported that Rio "lived a day of terror when the narcos ordered a massive closing of businesses and many schools in an evident effort to terrorize voters just as polls showed the rise of Benedita da Silva," a left-wing candidate for the governorship of Rio. Da Silva had angered the traffickers by attempting to combat them, Calloni wrote.

Calloni also noted that some Brazilians analysts thought this "conspiracy of narcos" was linked to "political groups with 'external' links," an apparent reference to a possible US role in destabilizing the country in order to prevent the election of Ignacio Da Silva, known universally as Lula, as president. Lula, a former union leader, heads the Workers Party and opposes the US on economic issues and the war in Colombia. He is so far ahead of the divided opposition that the main question in Sunday's election is whether he will the 50% plus one of all votes cast, enabling him to avoid a runoff election.

Whether or not the move by the Parallel Power was aimed at Lula and fellow Workers Party candidate Da Silva in Rio, the notion that the strike had political motives was not the exclusive domain of left-leaning journalists. Reuters reported on Tuesday that the state of Rio de Janeiro had requested federal troops to ensure safe voting. "State officials said gangs had threatened to lead an uprising in Rio to keep slum-dwellers from reaching the ballot box," the news agency reported.

Some Brazilians wonder who is the power behind the Parallel Power. The lines between politics and criminality have recently been blurred as Brazilians ponder the results of an 18-month congressional investigation into the drug trade. That investigation tied more than 800 prominent political, law enforcement and commercial figures to the drug trade, including two congressmen, 15 state legislators, four mayors, six bank directors and hundreds of police officers and judges.

In a just published article in the NACLA Report on the Americas special issue on the drug economies of Latin America ( -- full disclosure: This issue also contains work by your writer and DRCNet executive director Dave Borden), researcher Rob Neuwirth interviewed a veteran Rio police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Our country is dominated by the drug traffic. Our federal government, our state governments, everything is dominated by the traffic. It may sound like theater to you, but it's true," said the policeman. "When we go to favelas and we find an arms stockpile, we see boxes from the Air Force, Army, Navy. They are very new weapons. The military is very serious about making sure all weapons are accounted for. How can three or four boxes of grenades, pistols and rifles simply disappear from the military and reappear at the favela? I am almost certain that the guys that really run the drug commands are big military guys from the army, air force and even politicians."

Although the Brazilian government opposes US policy in Colombia, the Brazilian military has been cooperating with the US in the region and the US military is assiduously polishing its ties with its Brazilian counterparts. No one has produced any evidence of a nefarious plot a la Ollie North and the Contras, but the Brazilians are suspicious. "Nobody here believes that the strike was only because of [raids on them by da Silva], and some analysts suggest that the traffickers have entered into politics, supporting groups of the ultra-right," wrote Calloni. "Few believe that the narcos can act as they did on Monday without the complicity of politicians and police, and their actions appear destined to support the arguments of those in Washington who are already attempting to Colombianize Brazil with the intention of pushing for a larger US military intervention here."

Brazil is in economic crisis, and it is that crisis that will impel Lula to power, it is that crisis that intensified the country's slide into repressive violence, it is that crisis that makes possible the rise of the Parallel Power. And it is the children of the favelas who are its soldiers and its victims. Between gang warfare and police killings, nearly 4,000 young people have been killed in Rio since 1987. By comparison, 467 children and adolescents were killed by weapons fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the same period, said the report, "Child Combatants in Armed Organized Violence in Rio de Janeiro." The study's author, British anthropologist Luke Dowdney, reported that some 6,000 youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18 are working as "soldiers" for the various commands that constitute the Parallel Power.

But the Parallel Power delivers what the state can't or won't. In the favelas controlled by the various commands, the traffickers provide basic services -- transportation, utilities, food baskets, entertainment, and most of all for crime-plagued Brazilians, security. When the only presence of the state is that of trigger-happy policemen, gun-toting gangsters who actually provide services and security don't seem so bad. Welcome to the 21st Century in the Third World.

6. Montana Drug Policy Task Force Calls for More Treatment and Prevention, War on Meth

In January, Montana Governor Judy Martz (R) announced the formation of a state Drug Policy Task Force to ponder the state's drug problems and its responses and to look for more effective solutions ( Top-heavy with representatives from law enforcement, victims' rights and drunk driving groups, as well as treatment professionals, the group met throughout the summer to devise a new plan. Last week, the group issued its final report, a strong call for increased attention to prevention and treatment, one that buys into the addiction as "brain disease" theory, but one that also includes significant old-style drug war components.

"The Task Force concluded that instead of 'getting tough on crime' related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug issues in Montana, we need to be 'effective on crime,' which means Montana needs to be effective in treatment and effective in prevention," said the report's executive summary.

Among the Task Force's recommendations:

  • Create a state drug czar "with the responsibility, authority, and resources to integrate the currently divergent alcohol, tobacco, and other drug control programs."
  • Go after underage drinking with stiffer penalties and other measures, such as requiring beer keg registration.
  • Budget adequate funding for and support for prevention programs.
  • Evaluate treatment programs for effectiveness.
  • Allow first- and second-time drug offenders "alternative programming" (drug treatment) in lieu of jail time.
  • Tighten drunk driving laws.
  • Reduce the number of parole or probation revocations for drug use by allowing for alternative, intermediate sanctions.
  • Meth War: Make being under the influence of meth a crime.
  • Meth War: Make the presence of a meth lab prima facie evidence of child endangerment or abuse.
  • Meth War: Give the state Highway Patrol new "interdiction abilities," increase its size and place a patrol member on each regional drug enforcement task force.
For drug reformers, the report is clearly a mixed bag. "I would like to have seen things approached from different perspective, but I was happy to see a lesser emphasis on law enforcement overall, said Vicki Peterson, a Missoula-based harm reductionist who consults with the state Health Department on injection drug use issues. "But when you deal with the Montana mindset, this is progress. The law enforcement lock 'em up isn't in there -- except with the meth," she told DRCNet.

Common Sense for Drug Policy's Kevin Zeese, who visited Missoula last month as part of the reformer-led Montana Drug Policy Summit, had a similar take. "Overall, there is a lot of sensible stuff there," he told DRCNet. "Prevention, treatment instead of prison, reducing parole revocations, those are all steps that need to be taken." But Zeese, too, criticized the proposed new anti-meth measures. "From visiting rural areas where meth is an issue, it seems to me that meth is the new crack. I mean that it engenders the same panic, the fear, the overreaction that resulted in those terrible crack laws," he said. "When we look back on this with meth, we'll see those same terrible mistakes repeated over and over again."

"There is a lot of hysteria over meth," Peterson agreed. "But we have to look at underlying causes, the poverty in this state. Hell, people want to feel good and meth makes you feel good," she said. "We need a real conversation about drug use in America." Peterson pointed out that Montana got only $125,000 in asset forfeiture revenues last year. "Speed freaks don't have any money," she snorted.

Neither Peterson nor Zeese thought much of the drug czar idea, with Peterson dismissing it as "brain dead," and Zeese arguing that "it has not been an effective tool anywhere in the country."

While Task Force member Jerry Archer, Deputy Chief of Police in Billings warned of the meth menace, he wanted mainly to talk treatment with DRCNet. "I think we all realized that if we don't do prevention and treatment, we can throw law enforcement resources at the problem all day and it won't do any good," said Archer. "We have to get more attention paid to prevention and treatment and that's that," he said. "That's why we suggested getting these guys under supervision some treatment instead of throwing them back in jail. They shouldn't get away with it 19 times, but we're looking at a financial crisis here and we need to look at mandated treatment instead of prison."

According to the Task Force report, Montana spent $256 million in 1998 on anti-drug programs, but less than 1% of that was invested in treatment and prevention. And therein lies a great big problem. With the state facing a $250 million budget deficit this year, any new funding is going to be hard to come by. And despite his talk about treatment, Deputy Chief Archer suggested that no one should look to cuts in law enforcement to make up the difference. Archer sidestepped a question about whether he would give up funds for treatment, noting that that police department is funded locally, not by the state. "But if you asked the Highway Patrol, I think the answer would be no," he conceded.

For Peterson, the state fiscal crisis is a clarion call for financial independence. "We need to work with our communities to develop goals, and we need to look for outside funding sources. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the state, which is broke and can cut your funding with the stroke of a pen," she said.

"Funding is the key" for implementing the recommendations, Archer agreed, but warned that the state government and legislature would have to prioritize and that some recommendations would not make the cut.

One topic notably absent from the Task Force recommendations was marijuana. When asked if the Task Force had paid any attention to reform noises coming from north of the border and even within the state or whether it had considered decrim or legalization of marijuana, Archer told DRCNet that "we didn't recognize that as a viable way for us to reduce our drug problem." Most members believe marijuana is a gateway drug, he said. "It probably is a gateway drug," he added. "We did not feel that legalizing a particular substance was a good way to combat drug abuse."

While reformers at the Montana Drug Policy Summit were making the case for precisely that, the Montana Drug Task Force was, for the most part, embracing the now enlightened conventional wisdom that treatment is the answer. Next time, Montana drug reformers need to get a place at the table where the decisions are made.

The Task Force report and related docs may be viewed online at

7. The November Coalition Hits the Road: Journey For Justice Aims to Mobilize Support for Freeing Drug War Prisoners

Frustrated by the lack of progress in Congress on undoing drug war sentencing policies that have left nearly half a million Americans behind bars, a hundred thousand of them in the federal prison system alone, the prison activist group the November Coalition is hitting the road this weekend to energize the group's membership, seek new support, and add thousands of signatures to its ongoing petition campaign asking Congress to "redress drug war injustice."

November Coalition leader Nora Callahan and her husband and fellow activist Chuck Armsbury are departing from their home headquarters in Colville, WA, on a low budget, high energy journey that will take them across the Rockies and the Northern Plains, into Michigan, and on to the East Coast, where they will join in an as yet unspecified action with other drug reform leaders in Washington, DC, on November 1 before turning around and heading West again.

"This is the first of a series of journeys for justice," said Armsbury. "In the Gandhian tradition, we are going from town to town, prison to prison, camp meeting to camp meeting to fortify our membership and strengthen our movement."

"Our members live all over the country," said Callahan. "Not only the prisoners scattered across the land, but their families trying to raise children for them, the elderly couples whose sons and daughters are locked up, they are all devastated by the burdens this mad rush to incarceration has imposed on them. These people are forced to use precious money and vacation time to visit their loved ones," she explained. "So we are traveling to those communities and to those prisons to meet the people. We should be planning for freedom together, not standing alone in motels wondering if that other person is also there to visit a prisoner."

If Callahan and Armsbury are hoping to energize the grassroots, early indications are that they are succeeding. Iowa resident Larry Schulenberg, whose son Martin is serving a 9-year sentence on drug charges at a federal prison camp in Yankton, SD, told DRCNet he couldn't wait for the journey to come to his area. "This is a great opportunity to educate the public and the media about what's going on," said Schulenberg. "There will be a vigil at the prison, then a meeting at a local motel with families and friends of prisoners," he said. For Schulenberg, the journey is about ending an injustice that has hit home. "My son deserves to be punished," he said, "but not for 110 months in jail. There's a two-time loser in the same bust; he should have been serving more time than Martin, but he had names to give the feds."

Another November Coalition member, Debra Wright of Ann Arbor, MI, shares the enthusiasm and the desire for justice. "We're very excited here," she told DRCNet. "The journey is officially starting here in the Detroit area, and we are honored. We've got all kinds of events lined up, including a meeting with Congressman John Conyers, and we will hopefully get people talking about these issues," she said.

Common Sense for Drug Policy's Kevin Zeese is going to Detroit for the Journey, he told DRCNet. "The Journey for Justice is a big step," he said, "and we'll give it a good kickoff in Detroit. This is building the grassroots, and the Journey will be doing that at events across the Midwest, the Northeast, and the Mid-Atlantic area. This tour will build, educate, and activate people, and it has a great mix of public events, private meetings with family members, media appearances, demonstrations and more."

Debra Wright is an example of what the Journey hopes to stir up. Acting on her own, she contacted Zeese last year to help form the Drug Policy Forum of Michigan. "I'm a former prisoner and a former heroin addict clean now for 10 years," she said. "My interest lies in reforming the prison system and helping addicts." Now she is a regional coordinator for the November Coalition.

"We seek to inspire popular resistance to drug war injustice to help us empower people in the grassroots," said Callahan. "We hope to find a hundred Debras."

How to measure the success of such an effort is a question with which the November Coalition has been grappling. "When we get back, we'll sit down and try to evaluate qualitatively and quantitatively where we succeeded and where we need to rethink," said Armsbury. "We'll be looking at the number of signatures we get on our petitions, the number of new regional leaders, the number of new chapters formed to prepare for future journeys," he said. "We'll also look at the feedback we get. With this journey, what we would ordinarily hear secondhand at a conference, we will hear directly from the people and the communities involved," he said.

"We have to recognize that in any grassroots movement, there are grass bottoms and grass tops," said Callahan. "We have to learn from each other."

Although the November Coalition is seeking relief -- any relief -- for the hundreds of thousands of drug war prisoners, Callahan and Armsbury said their ultimate goal is much broader. "We want to end the war on drugs," said Armsbury. "We take a hard stand against this war waged on our people -- everyone knows this isn't about drugs. Of course we would accept some relief for our people behind bars, but we need to start talking about dismantling the whole drug war superstructure. This is a discussion that needs to begin taking place among reform leaders, too, and soon," Armsbury continued. "As our organizers in Michigan wrote on their flyers, 'it's time for a change.'"

For information about Journey events in your area, visit the November Coalition Journey for Justice web site at online. And don't forget to sign the petition to redress drug war injustice at online.

8. Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca on Rise as Country Revamps Coca Eradication Effort

Despite increasing acreage devoted to the crop in the last two years, Peru's coca eradication program came to a screeching halt earlier this summer in the face of peasant protests ( But this week Peruvian drug czar Nils Ericsson announced that a revised eradication program was now underway. Ericsson told reporters in Lima on Tuesday that Peru and the US had signed a September 12 agreement to streamline alternative development programs and that the US had agreed to provide $300 million for the program over the next five years.

Under the new voluntary eradication program, launched last week, farmers would be paid $15 per day to uproot their coca crops. It would take about 10 days for a farmer to clear a 2.5 acre field, Ericsson said. The peasant farmers would then be guaranteed an income for the next six months. "They're going to have an income deriving from their job in works that favor the community -- road construction, sanitation works, school building," Ericsson added.

But eradication cannot keep up with cultivation as peasants rocked by low prices for commodities like coffee and fruit turn back to coca, their most reliable cash crop. The area under cultivation last year was somewhere between 84,000 acres (US figure), 115,000 acres (UN figure), and 150,000 acres, according to some Peruvian drug experts. Ericsson told reporters a "conservative estimate" would be about 125,000 acres under cultivation this year. Ericsson said he expects Peru to eradicate about 17,000 acres this year, or less than one-seventh of the crop.

9. Uribe Wants to Recriminalize Drug Possession in Colombia

Since 1994, the possession and use of illicit drugs has not been a crime in Colombia, but new hard-line President Alvaro Uribe wants to go back to the bad old days. Fresh from last week's visit to Washington, DC, where he met with President Bush and congressional drug warriors, Uribe announced Saturday that his government would move to recriminalize drug possession and would make it a priority in the constitutional reform package it will be presenting before the Colombian congress. Making drug use a criminal offense once again is necessary to prevent "the youth [from falling] to the horror of drugs," Uribe told a Bogota press conference.

"I am in favor of clarifying within constitutional norms that the congress can criminalize personal doses by statute," Uribe said. "I suggest that we apply that law and that the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Londono, introduce an article for the punishment of personal doses in the constitutional reforms that we are attempting to create with the legislators."

The Colombian Supreme Court ruled eight years ago that criminalizing personal possession or consumption of illicit drugs was an unconstitutional contravention of "human dignity, personal autonomy, and the free development of the personality." At that time, the court held that "the obligation of the state is to educate the population and move beyond repression as a method of controlling and reducing the use of drugs." In that ruling, the court defined a personal quantity as "a quantity of marijuana that does not exceed 20 grams; of hashish that does not exceed 5 grams; of cocaine or cocaine base that does not exceed one gram."

In announcing the effort to recriminalize drug possession, Uribe allied himself not only with Colombian conservative groupings such as the Colombian Institute of Family Wellness and drug war bureaucracies such as Colombia's equivalent of the drug czar's office, the National Drug Directorate, but also with the drug warriors of Washington. The move has provoked a strong reaction from some other sectors of the Colombian polity, including former Supreme Court justice Carlos Gaviria. Gaviria told Deutsche Presse Agentur that Uribe's plan only ratifies the fact that Colombia is now ruled by the "most conservative government in 50 years." And Gaviria pointed the finger of blame at Washington. "It is clear that this is one of the agreements that President Uribe reached in his recent visit to the White House," he said.

10. Newsbrief: California Governor Vetoes Bill Allowing Syringe Sales, Vetoed Industrial Hemp Study Earlier

Hugging the middle of the road as tightly as he can, California Gov. Gray Davis has now vetoed two progressive drug policy measures in as many weeks, even as he finally provided tepid support to the state's embattled medical marijuana patients. On Monday, Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed pharmacies to sell syringes to adults without a doctors' prescription. The bill was pushed by harm reductionists who argued that the measure would reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Opponents argued that the bill would encourage drug use. In vetoing the bill, Davis cited its lack of a provision mandating one-for-one needle exchanges. "This bill," he said, "could potentially increase the amount of contaminated needles and syringes in parks, beaches and other public areas." Needle exchangers widely regard one-for-one requirements as a danger to public health.

Two weeks earlier, Davis applied his veto power to kill a bill that would have authorized a University of California study of the economics of hemp in the state. Davis cited concerns that the DEA would block any hemp production. "There are a number of significant concerns regarding the legality of producing industrial hemp in the United States," Davis wrote. "For these reasons, I am returning this bill without my signature."

11. Newsbrief: California Town to Pay $3 Million, Apologize for Drug Raid Death

The city of El Monte has agreed to pay $3 million and apologize to the family of Mario Paz in order to settle a wrongful death suit filed after the 64-year-old grandfather was shot in the back and killed during a 1999 drug raid in nearby Compton. The city also agreed to begin training officers in Spanish and to begin audio-taping the execution of all "high risk" search warrants.

Paz was killed during a drug raid in which no drugs were found. An El Monte SWAT team of 13 officers, all masked, burst into the home in the early morning hours, detonating flash bang grenades. Many of the officers spoke no Spanish, according to plaintiffs' attorney Johnny Cochran. According to police, Paz was reaching for a weapon when an El Monte police officer, Sgt. George Hopkins, shot him in the back.

Neither the US Department of Justice nor the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office found sufficient grounds to prosecute the police shooter. El Monte city officials continued to deny any wrongdoing even as they settled. "We will make a formal apologyto the Paz family," said city attorney Eugene P. Ramirez, "but nowhere do we admit any wrongdoing. The economic realities were uncertain. We could win big or lose big. It would have been a crap shoot. This is not an admission of liability."

12. Newsbrief: And the Killing Continues

Even as El Monte settles with the family of its latest drug raid shooting victim, at least three more questionable drug war police shootings occurred in the last week. In Perkins, OK, on Saturday, a reserve police officer shot and killed 22-year-old Kenneth W. Bailey. Bailey was one of four men police encountered as they staked out an oilfield where meth cooks had been stealing anhydrous ammonia. He was shot after the pickup truck he was driving ran over police "stop sticks," but continued to move. There is no indication that Bailey posed a threat to police officers.

A day earlier, Clayton J. Helriggle, 23, of West Alexandria, OH, was shot and killed by a Lewisburg, OH, police officer during a drug raid on a farmhouse. Police SWAT team members had entered the house and encountered Helriggle coming down the stairs when he was shot. Preble County Sheriff's Captain Mike Simpson told the Dayton Daily News that Helriggle was armed with a pistol, but Helriggle's father, Michael Helriggle, said his son was carrying a glass of water, not a weapon. He also accused police of "high-fiving" each other after the raid.

"They were so busy celebrating and everything," he said. "It was like a carnival to them. They all got to use their new guns and stuff." And Helriggle faulted the police for their SWAT assault tactics. "There was no reason for them to come in there that way," he said. "I lost my son over this. It's turned my family upside down. He absolutely wasn't a drug dealer."

Captain Simpson said police were executing a marijuana warrant involving another resident of the house. Police seized a small amount of pot, some unknown pills and drug paraphernalia.

By this Monday, local newspapers reported dozens of people protesting the killing at the Montgomery Courthouse. Helriggle's roommates carried blue plastic cups similar to the one he was said to be carrying when shot. Roommate Ian Albert described to the Dayton Daily News how Helriggle was killed: "They threw me down onto the stairs with my head on the second step up. I wanted to yell at Clay, but I looked up and saw him, rounding the stairway, and he had this look on his face, like, 'What's going on?' and the cops yelled, 'Get down' and then 'boom,'" said Albert. "The cops are smoking and joking, high-fiving each other. Wow, I think, they took down a farm of unarmed hippies. "If they would have come to the door and said, 'Give us your dope, hippies,' we'd have gotten about a $100 ticket."

And three days before Helriggle's killing, a Pinellas County, FL, sheriff's deputy shot and killed "suspected drug dealer" Dustin Dean, 21, of New Port Richey. Dean and a companion, Jonathan Whitlatch, had agreed to sell cocaine to an undercover deputy, but when police converged to make the arrest, both men fled. Dean ran into a wooded area, where he was spotted by Deputy Kenneth Kubler. According to Kubler, Dean "didn't cooperate" and Kubler could not see one of his hands. Then, also according to Kubler, Dean lunged forward, forcing Kubler to shoot him. Dean was unarmed.

13. Newsbrief: Nevada -- The Survey Says... Legalize It!

The topsy-turvy, down and dirty fight over the Nevada marijuana initiative, which would eliminate criminal penalties for up to three ounces of marijuana, is swinging back in favor of the measure, according to the most recent survey of Nevada voters. Polls earlier this year had shown an even split, but after the brouhaha over a police organization's "here today, gone tomorrow" endorsement of the initiative and the subsequent mobilization of anti-initiative forces, another poll found opponents with a substantial lead.

But in the most recent statewide poll, done by Survey USA for KVBC-TV in Las Vegas on September 26, 56% of registered voters surveyed said they planned to vote yes on Question 9 (the marijuana initiative), with 43% opposed and only 2% undecided. Surveyors contacted 800 registered Nevada voters for the poll. There is no word on the margin of error for the poll, but it shows a solid majority in favor of the initiative and very few undecided voters with one month left to Election Day.

14. Newsbrief: University of Missouri SSDP, NORML in Marijuana Decriminalization Petition Drive

Columbia, Missouri, home of the University of Missouri, could decriminalize the possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana and legalize the use of medical marijuana if student activists have their way. Members of the campus chapters of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) have drafted and are a circulating a petition that would make simple possession punishable only by a ticket and a fine -- $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second, $100 for a third and $500 for a fourth and consecutive offenses.

Campus SSDP head Amy Fritz told DRCNet that petitioners have until mid-December to gather 1,191 signatures and that they currently have about 500. If the organizers gather enough valid signatures, the measure will go before the city council. If the city council votes against the petition or refuses to act, the matter will go before voters in an April election. The effort is generating both media attention and voter registrations, said Fritz.

15. Newsbrief: US Explores Drugging Rioters

As part of its research into non-lethal weapons, the Pentagon has been exploring the use of drugs such as Valium to incapacitate unruly crowds. Officials in the Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate have been discussing the use of chemical "calmatives" for at least two years, and British military officials have also joined in the discussions. Pennsylvania State University researchers have also prepared a 50-page report saying calmative weapons are "achievable and desirable" and suggesting drugs like Valium for further research.

The chemical warfare plan came to light thanks to the Sunshine Project (, a chemical and biological weapons watchdog group that acquired the Penn State study and hundreds of pages of other non-lethal weapons documents under the Freedom of Information Act. According to the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond, the research violates international treaties and federal laws against chemical weapons.

"It is a rotten idea to drug rioters," Hammond told the Associated Press. "Beyond being a horrible idea, it's illegal. If the US is going to denounce countries around the world for violating chemical and biological arms control treaties, it better make sure its own house is in order first," he said.

The chemical weapons treaty allows security forces to use temporary irritants, such as pepper spray and tear gas, as riot control weapons, but bans the use of chemicals that incapacitate people.

16. Newsbrief: Drug Warrior Maginnis Leaves Family Research Council

Robert Maginnis, a leading proponent of war against Iraq, traditional military values and the war on drugs, announced last week that he has resigned from the arch-conservative advocacy group the Family Research Council. Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has been a ubiquitous presence on television talk shows and source for harried newspaper reporters seeking a Neanderthal perspective on military and drug issues.

In recent months, Maginnis has pronounced against medical marijuana, against industrial hemp, against Canada providing sancturary to persons fleeing US drug policy, against the Unitarians for their progressive stand on drug policy. But he is not just a naysayer. Maginnis is a strong supporter of US war in Colombia. He also supports widespread drug testing in the nation's schools.

Maginnis, who was vice president of policy for the Family Research Council, told the Washington Times last week that he was leaving because the council was dropping military and anti-drug issues from its agenda. But a spokesman for the council told DRCNet that report was "inaccurate." Council media coordinator Bill Murray said that drug policy was "no longer in our top tier of issues, but is something we will continue to monitor and speak out on." Murray said the council had other spokespersons available to address drug policy, but was unable to name one.

But Maginnis isn't going away. "I'm clearly hoping to stay very much involved, and I'm making rounds in the city looking for folks who are interested in these issues from a conservative perspective," he told the Times. Maybe he should hook up with that other unemployed drug warrior, former Clinton deputy drug czar Bob Weiner, whose lack of a sinecure has not prevented him from sending out press releases whenever the mood strikes.

17. Newsbrief: DPA Campaign Provides Tools to Fight School Drug Testing

Reacting to the June Supreme Court decision allowing school drug testing of any students involved in athletics or other extracurricular activities (even including driving one's own vehicle to school), the Drug Policy Alliance announced this week a new campaign to provide tools for students, parents, teachers and administrators to find better, less intrusive, alternatives to making children and young people urinate in a cup.

The campaign, "Drug Testing Fails Our Youth: An Action Program for Concerned Parents" (, pulls together information on the Supreme Court decision in Potawatomie v. Earls, provides an overview of the drug testing issue, discusses alternatives to drug testing, and most importantly, presents a virtual how-to on organizing a successful "Drug Testing Fails Our Youth" campaign.

Kudos to DPA for providing resources and a template for political action that can be applied in school districts around the country.

18. Calling on Students to Raise Your Voices for Repeal of the HEA Drug Provision

With the new school year already upon us, and Congressional elections just over a month away, we at the Drug Reform Coordination Network are writing to ask you to help turn up the heat on the student-led campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act's drug provision.

During the 2001-2002 school year, more than 47,700 students were denied access to federal college aid because of drug convictions, loans, grants, even work-study programs. This number doesn't account for people who didn't bother applying because they assumed they would be ineligible. The current academic year, the third in which the drug provision is in force and the second in which it is being fully enforced, is expected to see just as many young people forced out of school or they or their families plunged into financial hardship because of the HEA drug provision.

In 2002-2003, there is more hope than ever. A bill in the US House of Representatives to repeal the drug provision, H.R. 786, has 67 cosponsors, and ten members of Congress spoke at our press conference last May to call for the provision's full repeal, a stunning success. And Students for Sensible Drug Policy now stretches across more than 200 campuses, with hundreds more in the works. Your voice is again needed, to continue to move this issue forward and repeal the provision in 2003 or 2004 when the Higher Education Act is reauthorized by Congress.

We have just finished updating our HEA activist packet, so please visit to learn about the issue, download the packet, and to sign our petition telling you want them to remove the drug war from education and repeal the anti-drug financial aid ban. When you're done, please call your US Representative on the phone to make an even stronger impact -- you can call them via the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121, or visit to look up their direct numbers.

Students, visit to find out how to get involved with the campaign on your campus -- more than 90 student governments so far have endorsed our resolution calling for repeal of the drug provision. If you're already at work on this, please write us at [email protected] and let us know what's happening. Also, visit for an online copy of the activist packet. Leave your e-mail address if you want to receive occasional updates on the HEA campaign.

Please forward this alert to your friends or use the tell-a-friend form on, and please consider making a donation -- large or small -- to keep this and other DRCNet efforts moving forward at full speed. Visit to help, or mail your check or money order to DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Contact us for instruction if you wish to make a donation of stock.)

Again, visit to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign! In the meantime, here are some more reasons why the HEA drug provision is wrong:

  • The vast majority of Americans convicted of drug offenses are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.
  • The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed to them for want to financial aid.
  • Judges already have the power to rescind financial aid eligibility as individual cases warrant. The HEA drug provision removes that discretion.
  • The HEA drug provision has a disparate impact on different races. African Americans, for example, comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users, but account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug possession charges.
  • No other class of offenses, not even rape or murder, carries automatic loss of financial aid eligibility.
  • Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy and a crime-free life.

19. Do You Read The Week Online?

Do you read the Week Online? If so, we'd like to hear from you. DRCNet needs two things:

1) The Week Online needs to raise another $18,000 between now and year's end to secure its future as we await word from major donors. Please visit to make a tax-deductible donation by credit card or read below for info on how to donate by check or in stock.

2) Please send quotes and reports on how you put our flow of information to work, for use in upcoming grant proposals and letters to funders or potential funders. Do you use DRCNet as a source for public speaking? For letters to the editor? Helping you talk to friends or associates about the issue? Research? For your own edification? Have you changed your mind about any aspects of drug policy since subscribing? Do you reprint or repost portions of our bulletins on other lists or in other newsletters?

Please send your response -- one or two sentences would be fine, more is great, too -- to [email protected]. Please let us know if we may reprint your comments, and if so, if we may include your name or if you wish to remain anonymous.

At 23,000 subscribers, The Week Online is the world's most widely read drug policy newsletter. With the pulse of reform quickening around the globe, an election season filled with drug policy initiatives, and a rapidly growing confrontation between the federal government and the medical marijuana movement, the Week Online and the news it reports are more critical than ever.

So please help us keep it alive! Again, please visit to support the Week Online at this important time -- or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation to make a tax-deductible donation for The Week Online -- or make a non-deductible donation for our lobbying work, check payable to Drug Reform Coordination Network, by credit card. We can also accept contributions of stock -- our brokerage is Ameritrade, account #772973012, company name Drug Reform Coordination Network, Inc, contact [email protected] for info.

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

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.

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

Demand Freedom for the Tulia Victims

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

21. The Reformer's Calendar

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

October 5, Michigan, "ScareCrow Burning," festival benefiting Flint Marijuana March, Green Party of Michigan, Red Shed, Happyhouse Church and Michigan Marijuana Movement, featuring speakers, bands and more. For further information, visit or contact (989) 222-6969 or e-mail [email protected].

October 5-6, noon, Madison, WI, "Weedstock," rally and festival for legalization. At Memorial Library Square, University of Wisconsin campus, concludes Sunday with march on capitol.

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 8, 6:00-8:00pm, Hartford, CT, Community Discussion on Drugs and Violence, sponsored by Efficacy and the Upper Albany Collaborative. At Liberty Christian Center, International, 23 Vine St., contact Efficacy at (860) 285-8831 or [email protected] or Pat or Mikhail at (860) 724-6703 for further information.

October 9, 1:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop The Rock" demonstration outside Gov. Pataki's office on the theme "Healing Ourselves: Successes in Treatment and Recovery." E-mail [email protected] for further information.

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 10, 5:00-7:30pm, San Francisco, CA, "The Politics of Medical Marijuana," forum with the Drug Policy Alliance and the San Francisco Medical Society. At the First Universalist Church, 1187 Franklin St., refreshments served, admission free, call (415) 921-4987 or e-mail [email protected] to reserve a space, or visit for info.

October 12, 6:30pm, San Francisco, CA, NORML Benefit Party. At the SomArts Gallery, 934 Brannan St., minimum requested contribution $100, featuring the Extra Action Marching Band and a silent art auction. Advance registration recommended, visit or call (202) 483-5500 for further information.

October 16, 1:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop The Rock" demonstration outside Gov. Pataki's office on the theme "Invest in Our Youth: Build Schools not Prisons." E-mail [email protected] for info.

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

October 23, 1:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop The Rock" demonstration outside Gov. Pataki's office on the theme "Stop Racial Profiling: Are You a Target?" E-mail [email protected] for further info.

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

October 27, 10:00am-4:00pm, London, England, "A Modern Inquisition -- the General Medical Council," conference on the targeting of addiction practitioners by British regulatory authorities, featuring Dr. John Marks, Prof. Arnold Trebach, an unidentified senior British politician and others. Sponsored by the Health and Law Foundation, at the University of London Union, Malet Street, call (0)20 7274 5008 or e-mail [email protected] for information or to register.

October 30, 1:00pm, New York, NY, "Drop The Rock" demonstration outside Gov. Pataki's office on the theme "Reunite Families: Families of the Incarcerated Speak Out." E-mail [email protected] for further information.

November 2, 9:00am-5:00pm, Kansas City, MO, NORML/SSDP Drug Law Conference. At UMKC, education building, featuring Keith Stroup, Debbie Moore, Alex Holsinger and others. Visit http:/ or e-mail [email protected] for 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 9-10, 10:00am-6:00pm, London, England, European Conference of The Libertarian International and Libertarian Alliance. At the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, admission £75.00 ($111 or 115 EURO), for information contact Dr. Chris Tame at +020 7821 5502 or e-mail [email protected].

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.

November 22-24, Toronto, ON, Canada, Canadian Harm Reduction Conference, conference for current and former drug users, peer educators and front line workers to respond to critical and emerging issues through skills building and education, policy development and networking. Sponsored by the Canadian Harm Reduction Network, 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.

February 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," sponsored by the DRCNet Foundation in partnership with organizations around the world. Visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

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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