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

Issue #263, 11/15/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Come to "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, February 12-15, 2003 -- visit for info or to register.

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  1. The Week Online Needs Your Help!
  2. Massachusetts: Marijuana on the Move?
  3. Anaheim Conference Reinvigorates Battered Reformers -- Hundreds Gather to Examine Defeats, Plot New Strategies
  4. Narco News Interview with Gustavo de Greiff
  5. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  6. Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship
  7. Newsbrief: San Diego Medical Marijuana Rally to Go Transnational
  8. Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign
  9. Newsbrief: Free Speech Battle in Tampa after Leafleting Arrest
  10. Newsbrief: Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Safe Injection Sites, First to Open Early Next Year
  11. Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Hurwitz Raided in Virginia
  12. Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Weitzel Retrial Underway in Utah
  13. Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered
  14. Newsbrief: Border Patrol Begins Random Stops in Michigan
  15. Web Scan: Washington Office on Latin America, Andean Information Network, Latin America Working Group, Miami Herald, Harry Levine
  16. Harm Reduction Coalition Seeking Articles and Artwork for "The Anonymous Issue"
  17. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum
  18. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. The Week Online Needs Your Help!

Two months ago, we wrote to our readers that the Week Online needed to raise $20,000 by the end of the year, in order to continue publishing at the current level while we await new major grants and gifts. Thanks to contributions from many of our members and a few major- and mid-level donors, that number is now down to $9,000.

Please help us bring that number down to zero by making a tax-deductible donation today -- small or large will make a difference! Visit to donate by credit card, PayPal, or print out a donation form to send in by mail -- or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Donations of $30 or more qualify for your choice of free gift(s) -- visit for details.

At 23,000 subscribers, The Week Online is the world's most widely read drug policy newsletter, educating the media and empowering activists and concerned parties around the world to be more effective at advocating drug policy reform. With the pulse of reform quickening around the globe, a challenging election season for drug reformers, 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.

2. Massachusetts: Marijuana on the Move?

Massachusetts was one of the few bright spots for drug reform in the November 5 elections. For the second time in a row, voters in selected cities and towns across the state voted overwhelmingly in non-binding local referenda to tell their legislators to support medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization. With drug reformers casting around looking for a state where residents will actually vote for marijuana law reform, Massachusetts is starting to look very interesting.

"What happened in Massachusetts is a very good omen," said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, a deep-pocketed group eager to win a victory after the tough loss in Nevada. "We are thinking about getting involved in Proposition S in San Francisco, but we'll also look at Massachusetts," he told DRCNet.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is also interested, although it also mentioned other locales first. "We're looking at Wisconsin, Vermont, and maybe Massachusetts," said NORML's Allen St. Pierre. "We're looking for places with demonstrated public support," he told DRCNet.

That would presumably include the Bay State, where voters in 19 state representative districts encompassing 46 municipalities voted to tell their representatives to decriminalize by margins of 60% or more, with a high of 71% in Brookline and a low of 55% in Methuen. They join residents of another 18 districts who voted the same way in 2000.

The electoral clean sweep was the result of hard work by a pair of homegrown groups, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Alliance ( and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. While both groups expressed interest in outside help, neither is waiting for the big boys to show up.

"Now we go to the statehouse," said Scott Mortimer, an activist with the Forum. "We're very excited. People in the political establishment and the mass media are very surprised at the support we have. We will re-file the decrim and medical marijuana bills we had in the 2000-2001 session," he told DRCNet. "Massachusetts is a progressive state, and we already had support at the statehouse -- we had a dozen or so sponsors last time -- and in the wake of the call from voters, we should have even more this time."

"Now constituents and activists will have to pressure legislators to do what the voters told them to," said MassCann's Bill Downing. "We've already heard some legislators say they won't support decriminalization despite what their voters said. That means we have to turn up the heat," he told DRCNet. "We will use education and public relations, but voters need to keep the pressure on, too."

The campaign is definitely moving to a new phase, said Downing. "As we seek cosponsors for decrim and medical marijuana bills, our mission now is to focus on the legislature, especially those districts where the voters have already commanded their representatives to vote for these," he said.

"Last session, the bills were bottled up in committee," said Mortimer. "We'll be doing a lobbying campaign as we try to increase the number of sponsors this year -- and that starts now," he said. "We're looking at an early December deadline to get bills in, so we'll be down at the statehouse getting the word out in the next two weeks, then preparing for hearings in the spring."

Although Massachusetts law allows for ballot initiatives, local activists are not ready to go that route just yet. "Initiatives are an option," said Mortimer, "but we're trying to work with legislators now."

MassCann's Downing sounded a similar note. "MassCann still believes we live in a representative democracy and constituents will be able to successfully petition their legislators to do the right thing," he said. "If that doesn't work, an initiative may be next."

"We would look forward to exploring that alternative with some of the national advocacy groups," said Mortimer. "We worked with the Marijuana Policy Project in a legislative campaign two years ago, and we would look forward to working with them again, or with the Drug Policy Alliance or one or more of the other groups," he said. "Initiatives cost money, though. It comes down to funding."

But there is still a legislative battle to be fought first, and the Massachusetts activists see a real chance of success. "We're optimistic the legislature will work with us this year, given the election results," said Mortimer. "But the desperate nature of our state budget crisis also works for us. Gov. Romney has said he will not increase taxes, and we have studies showing that decriminalization will be a big savings of state resources." Still, said Mortimer, some legislators are recalcitrant. "Many of them have no real interest and limited knowledge about the issue," he said. "All they know is the drug war mythology. We have to fill them in on the wave of drug reform sweeping the Western world."

3. Anaheim Conference Reinvigorates Battered Reformers -- Hundreds Gather to Examine Defeats, Plot New Strategies

What could have been an extended wake for a drug reform movement badly chastened by the November 5 election results instead became an occasion for reinvigoration as students and older drug reform activists gathered by the hundreds for the joint Marijuana Policy Project/Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference in Anaheim last weekend. The three-day event featured dozens of panels and workshops on topics ranging from activist basics to medical marijuana to conservatives in the reform movement to the methods of government propaganda and much more.

In the sometimes surreal surroundings of the Anaheim Hilton, a huge tourist complex next door to Disneyland that resembles Castle Wolfenstein in its labyrinthine layout and was filled at different points with mouse ear-wearing kiddie tourists and their bedraggled parents, soldiers in full dress uniform attending a Marine Ball, and a horde of Hindu health care workers, more than 300 students from 52 SSDP chapters and a like number of other reformers came together to examine and then bury the past before moving on to future battles.

"I think the smartest thing we ever did was to schedule this conference right after election day, said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. "I was afraid people would be moping and I would be crying and drooling in the corner after we just lost the biggest election of our lives at MPP, but instead the conference really served to pump people up," he told DRCNet. "The reform movement had just suffered its worst defeat in a decade, but people were talking about how they want to move forward in their states. After this conference, I feel better about the prospects for reform than I have in a very long time."

Panel after panel echoed Kampia's point. In the session on the campaign to repeal the Higher Education Act drug provision, DRCNet's David Borden joined Drug Policy Alliance attorney Judith Appel, North Carolina student activist Ian Mance and HEA victim Marisa Garcia, among others, to explain the progress made so far and the path to eventual victory. In the session on California's medical marijuana fight, compassion club operators Jeff Jones and Scott Imler joined patient/grower Judy Osburn and Americans for Safe Access's Steph Sherer to outline the battle and the offensive/defensive strategies to protect the state's patients and caregivers. In the session on running local initiatives, Boston attorney Michael Cutler and Seattle initiative organizer Dominic Holden, among others, discussed the nuts and bolts of that grassroots organizing tool. And that was just part of Friday afternoon.

Marijuana wasn't the only medical topic on the agenda, and medical marijuana researchers Donald Abrams and Ethan Russo weren't the only doctors in the house. At a Friday evening panel on "Physician Involvement in Drug Policy Reform," attendees heard from former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, international cannabis control expert Dr. David Hadorn, and were also introduced to Dr. Frank Fisher, the pain clinic practioner now suffering an extended case of drug war persecution in Northern California (

"The conference was amazing!" enthused Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights (, whose transformation into Officer Friendly in his presentation on dealing with police encounters scared, amused and informed attendees. "There was so much going on, I felt like a mosquito at a nudist colony. We really owe a debt of gratitude to MPP and SSDP for giving us an opportunity to introduce the students to Officer Friendly," he told DRCNet. "We really got the word out to students and others about how to exercise your rights during a police stop. By the way," Silverman added, "there are rumors that Officer Friendly will be making an appearance at Brown University on November 19. As long as everyone cooperates with the officer, everything should go smoothly and no one should get hurt."

For Darrell Rogers, SSDP's national outreach coordinator -- the harried young man in a suit with a cell phone permanently attached to his ear -- the conference was even better than hoped for. "It exceeded all our expectations," he told DRCNet. "Seeing the students all in sync and organized so well made my day. Sometimes all you have to do is put them together in the same room and the results will be explosive," he said. "And this conference really bridged the gap between student activism and the larger movement. Students had a chance to meet leading drug reformers face to face, and they could see that there are drug reform careers after college and a lot of support for people who want to do this work."

But it wasn't only the youth and those with vested interests in the conference's success that saw it as an important event. Movement luminaries including the Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation's Eric Sterling, and Common Sense for Drug Policy's Kevin Zeese all voted with their feet, and their presence allowed for healthy intermingling of the old and the new in drug reform.

"It was a brilliant idea to combine these conferences," said Sterling. "The students were equal partners across the board, and their participation was valued and validated in a way I've never seen at any other drug policy conference I've attended. The students contributed positive energy to every aspect of the conference," he told DRCNet. "We all felt a little down when we arrived because of the elections, but the conference was a tremendously energizing event. We had hoped beforehand that it would have a celebratory quality after the elections -- the results, however, precluded that -- but it ended up having an extremely powerful motivating quality for everyone who attended."

Common Sense for Drug Policy's Doug McVay seconded that notion. "Two thumbs up for the organizers," he told DRCNet. "The panels were great, the networking was awesome, people were very diligent, and there was a lot of good nuts and bolts stuff for everybody."

It wasn't all talking, listening and taking notes. Each evening, the Hilton's vast corridors saw constant traffic by itinerant bands of conference-goers traveling from room to room seeking the next party. And Saturday's luncheon featured a rousing address by movie producer Aaron Russo ("Trading Places" and "The Rose"). Russo had the audience whooping, laughing, and applauding in a speech that was one part stand-up comedy and two parts angry political discourse.

"Well, as you know, I'm here to talk about that terrible, terrible drug known as marijuana," he said, adding that many Hollywood celebrities toked up but avoided coming out for fear of losing work. "Our laws were meant to protect us," Russo said, turning grim. "But I have friends who have been abused, jailed and exploited by our government and marginalized in our society by these laws."

And he attacked California Gov. Gray Davis, who has been less than enthusiastic about supporting the state's legal medical marijuana patients, providers and caregivers in the face of the ongoing federal assault. Perhaps Davis should be subject to a recall campaign, Russo suggested, drawing loud cheers.

Later that night, students of the psychedelic experience whose appetites had been whetted by a session on "Cognitive Liberties" featuring inner freedom fighter Richard Glen Boire of the Center for Cognitive Liberties and ecstasy researcher Dr. Charles Grob, participated in a self-selecting take home assignment. The youthful psychonauts and their mentors -- one wearing tie-dyed socks -- took over a room inside one of the hotel bars for a midnight session of candlelight, meditative music, and softly-spoken incantations and recollections of psychedelic and other mind experiences. As the youth trooped by clutching pillows, headed for what appeared do be some sort of millennial-style be-in, bewildered bar patrons were no more bemused than some of the older conference attendees.

Check out pictures from the conference online at

4. Narco News Interview with Gustavo de Greiff

This week Narco News ( publishes an interview by Maria Botey Pascaual with Dr. Gustavo de Greiff, former prosecutor general of Colombia and former ambassador to Mexico. The interview, which was originally published in Mexico's third largest daily newspaper, Por Esto!, can now be read at (English) or (Spanish).

Pascaual and de Greiff are both faculty members of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, being held in mid-February in association with "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," the DRCNet-sponsored Latin American conference on drug legalization, Mérida, Yucatán, February 12-15, 2003. Come to Mérida, meet Dr. de Greiff and hear him talk about legalization in person! Visit for details about the conference.

(Donate a new or old laptop to one of the 20 or more J-School students and fuel drug war reporting in Latin America for years to come! E-mail Al Giordano at [email protected] to help. Today is the last day to apply for one of the J-School scholarships -- visit for info.)

5. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

The Week Online's corrupt cop feature took a brief hiatus last week while your correspondent traveled to Las Vegas and Anaheim, but corrupt cops didn't. On November 5, a Putnam County, GA, sheriff's investigator went down for doctor-shopping to feed his prescription pill habit (this maybe addiction rather than corruption). The next day, four guards at the Washington, DC, Correctional Treatment Facility (run by Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private jailer), were indicted for smuggling drugs, pagers and cash to prisoners. Also last week, three former members of the Cameron County, TX, constable's office were indicted for allegedly trafficking at least a ton of marijuana since 2000.

But this week's winner is the nearby Donna, TX, Police Department, where old habits apparently die hard. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Donna Police Chief Abel Partida and former officer Gerardo Vigil were indicted and arrested on federal drug trafficking and bribery charges. The indictment accuses the two men of taking payoffs to allow vehicles transporting marijuana to proceed unimpeded. Four counts of the indictment accuse Partida and Vigil of taking bribes ranging from $500 to $2200 to provide protection to drug trafficking vehicles, while a fifth count accused them of conspiring to transport 300 pounds of pot in November 2001. If convicted, Partida and Vigil could face 40 years in federal prison and a $2 million fine.

Partida and Vigil were following in some familiar footsteps. Five years ago, the feds arrested and convicted five former Donna police officers, including two police chiefs, of both stealing from and providing assistance to drug dealers. All of those men went to prison. Donna, located 15 miles from the Mexican border, bills itself as "the heart of the Rio Grande Valley," but a better slogan might be: "Where the drug war makes corruption a way of life."

6. Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship

The drug czar's office must identify itself as the sponsor of public service announcements broadcast under the auspices of the White House anti-drug advertising campaign, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled on November 8. As a result of the ruling, broadcasters will be required to insert taglines reading "sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy" on the spots now airing on TV and radio across the country.

Under federal law, public service announcements must identify the sponsor, but the Ad Council, which created many of the ads, had petitioned the agency to allow them to run without an identifying tagline. In its petition to the FCC, the Ad Council argued that such a required identification would interfere with the anti-drug message and may prompt some media companies to back away from the campaign. (It remains unclear just how requiring the identification would harm the message or frighten media companies.)

Ad Council President-CEO Peggy Conlon told Advertising Age Wednesday that the ruling was "outrageous" and charged it would "take away one of the most important tools that we have in keeping children off drugs." She also suggested the ruling conflicted with the congressional legislation creating the youth anti-drug ad campaign.

The FCC disagreed. "It is not the nature of the message conveyed in the broadcast material that determines whether an identification is required, but rather whether or not a station receives valuable consideration for broadcasting it," the FCC ruled.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Media Awareness Project had challenged the Ad Council's request for an exemption. "This decision affirms that the Drug Czar's office must abide by the same federal laws as everyone else," said NORML Director Keith Stroup in a press release. "When an entity, particularly the federal government, purchases on-air time to persuade the public audience, the public has a legal right under the law to know that they are hearing or viewing content which has been paid for, and they also have a legal right to know who has paid for it. Just because that content is sponsored by the ONDCP under the guise of fighting the 'war on drugs' does not waive this federal requirement."

7. Newsbrief: San Diego Medical Marijuana Rally to Go Transnational

The Transnational Radical Party's ( Marco Cappato is joining with California medical marijuana activists in San Diego today (Friday, November 15) to protest the DEA arrest and imminent prosecution of registered medical marijuana patient Steve McWilliams on federal marijuana cultivation charges. Cappato, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), is the coordinator of Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action and a leading international fighter against drug prohibition. He has been nominated by European Voice as one of the most influential members of the European Parliament. Cappato was recently fined in Manchester, England, for civil disobedience in support of Manchester coffeeshop owner Colin Davies, who is now serving a jail sentence for operating the shop.

McWilliams, a vocal proponent of medical marijuana, was arrested October 11 for growing a modest marijuana garden -- one of a series of DEA arrests and prosecutions of medical marijuana caregivers and providers in recent months. He and his partner, Barbara McKenzie, have been ordered to abstain from marijuana as a condition of their bail, and they say they are suffering as a result, according to a press release from California NORML (

Also attending will be the San Diego medical marijuana task force's patient advocate, Michael Barbee. According to the press release, medical marijuana supporters have found that the drug czar's office has provided some $400,000 to local groups opposing medical marijuana. Those groups are working to thwart the city's efforts to establish guidelines for medical marijuana under the state's Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215).

8. Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign

Already defeated at the ballot box and in the federal courts, Utah law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are turning to the state legislature to attempt to undo the asset forfeiture reforms passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2000. And they're telling whoppers as they do so.

Prosecutors and law enforcement are working with state legislators to craft bills that would nibble at the edges of the Utah's asset forfeiture reforms in advance of the upcoming legislative session. A subcommittee of the state's Commission on Crime and Criminal Justice has already drafted some "fixes" of the law, the Deseret News reported Sunday.

Cops and prosecutors complain that the reforms have cost them more than $2.5 million from what would have been their share of federal asset forfeitures from drug offenders, and the Deseret News led with that assertion. Too bad it's wrong. "That is an outright lie," said Dave Fratello of the Campaign for New Drug Policies (, the group that spearheaded the successful reform campaign. "There is no way Utah law enforcement lost $2.5 million from this reform. They averaged about $200,000 per year in federal forfeiture sharing in recent years."

The feds did seize $2.6 million in the last two fiscal years, but most of those cases were initiated by the feds, and under the previous law, state law enforcement agencies were only entitled to a share of proceeds from cases they initiated, thus the much smaller (and more accurate) figure supplied by Fratello.

Prosecutors also complain that the strict liability requirement on law enforcement have brought asset forfeitures in the state to a standstill. "State forfeitures came almost to a halt because there were so many problems the initiative created," Kirk Torgerson of the Attorney General's office told the Deseret News. He cited the provision requiring law enforcement agencies to pay all attorneys' costs in cases where seized goods end up being returned to their owners.

"Are we surprised that the cops are lying to set a pretext for overturning the reforms? No," said Fratello. "Are we watching carefully to ensure the reforms remain intact? Yes."

9. Newsbrief: Free Speech Battle in Tampa after Leafleting Arrest

The Florida Cannabis Action Network ( took to the streets of Tampa's Ybor City last weekend to protest what it called an unconstitutional ban on the distribution of political literature in the entertainment district. About 15 network members were joined by Joe Redner, local political gadfly and owner of the Mons Venus Club ("300 beautiful girls live and nude on the stage from 12:00 noon to 5:00am"), as they passed out leaflets citing US Supreme Court decisions upholding free-speech rights.

The street demonstration came after Tampa police arrested Florida Cannabis Action Network volunteer coordinator Anthony Lorenzo during the city's Guavaween celebration October 26 for passing out leaflets advocate the reform of marijuana laws. In an effort to cut down on advertising handbills and litter, Tampa officials passed an ordinance in 2000 barring the distribution of leaflets in Ybor City.

"We were in the Guaveween parade; we had a float in solidarity with the California medical marijuana people," Lorenzo told DRCNet. "We had a jail cell with a person in a wheel chair inside, and on the side we had a picture of Uncle Sam urinating on the Constitution. Oh, and we had a six-foot joint." But the parade wasn't the problem, Lorenzo said. "After the parade was over, the strip was packed with people and we were trying to reach as many as we could. We had 6,000 flyers and managed to distribute about 3,000 before the police came over and tried to snatch the fliers out of my hand. My natural reaction was to pull away, and then they cuffed me and arrested me for distribution of handbills and resisting arrest without violence."

Lorenzo spent 18 hours in the Tampa jail before being released. The criminal charges are still pending, he said, adding that he expects them to be thrown out as unconstitutional infringement of political speech. And then we'll talk about civil suits, he said.

"The city of Tampa and the Tampa police need to understand that the First Amendment applies throughout America, even in Ybor City," said Lorenzo. "If they're worried about the litter, they should pay someone to pick it up."

Tampa police already seem to have gotten the message. "We really got a lot of media attention with this," said Lorenzo. "When we tried to give them flyers on Saturday, they didn't want to arrest us -- they didn't even want to touch the flyers."

10. Newsbrief: Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Safe Injection Sites, First to Open Early Next Year

Health Canada will be ready to accept proposals from cities interested in establishing safe injection sites by the end of the year, a spokesperson told Canada Press on Saturday. The ministry is reviewing criteria for approval and has already determined that such facilities, where intravenous drug users can inject with medical care and social services on-site, will not contravene the country's Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The ministry is now in the midst of crafting guidelines, said Health Canada spokesperson Farah Mohamed. "We're in the process," she said. "The minister, by the end of this year, will be able to accept proposals from individual cities." It will take up to 60 days for Health Canada to review and approve each proposal, she said.

The move comes in response to mounting pressure to allow localities to act to deal with public health problems surrounding criminalized drug use. The Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article last year supporting safe injection sites, and the annual Big City Mayors Meeting in February unanimously passed a motion recommending scientific trials of safe injection sites in at least three or four cities. Two months later, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network issued a report calling for the creation of trial sites. And Vancouver activists have been threatening to start their own if the government fails to act.

In addition to Vancouver, officials in Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax have expressed interest in the sites.

One question that remains is whether the federal government will play a role in funding the sites. Le Devoir (Montreal) reported November 8 that Health Canada would not fund them, but Mohamed said no decision has been made. "There's been some people saying they think Health Canada should fund it, but we're not at that stage yet to even determine the amounts of money it would cost," she said.

11. Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Hurwitz Raided in Virginia

DEA agents raided the office and home of Virginia pain management specialist Dr. William Hurwitz this week, Hurwitz reported in an e-mail to supporters. Hurwitz announced in August that he was closing his practice at year's end, after he was named as a target in a federal investigation of doctors suspected of overprescribing opiates (

"I am okay," wrote Hurwitz. "Agents of the DEA executed search warrants on my office and on my home. They took patient files, financial and other records, my cell phone, and miscellaneous items. The also copied the hard drives on many of my computers and took my server, as they did not have the equipment to copy this in the office. Fortunately, I had back-up files and was able to reestablish my computer network and resume patient care."

But not for long. With his practice shutting down, Hurwitz will soon be gone from the field. And while he had hoped that providing early notice to his patients would allow them to find other physicians to carry on their pain treatment, many have been unable to do so, he reported. "I would appreciate any offers to consider my patients for transfer," he wrote. "There are patients in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and Florida for whom possible referrals are needed."

12. Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Weitzel Retrial Underway in Utah

Salt Lake City psychiatrist Robert Weitzel is in court this week defending himself for a second time against state charges that he killed patients under his care in 1995 and 1996. Prosecutors accuse Weitzel of causing the deaths of five mentally and terminally ill elderly patients by treating them with psychotropic drugs and morphine while working for the geropsychiatric unit at Davis Hospital and Medical Center (

Weitzel was originally charged with murder, but a jury found him guilty of manslaughter in 2000. He served six months of a 15-year sentence before being released after an appeals judge found the prosecution had not disclosed evidence that would have vindicated his medical judgment.

He maintains his innocence and has assembled a strong defense team that has, according to his daily e-mails to supporters, effectively cross-examined prosecution witnesses. The defense will present its case next week, with Weitzel scheduled to take the stand November 22.

Although Weitzel at first received little support from his colleagues in the Utah Medical Association, concerns over unwarranted prosecution in his case seem to have inspired the association to pass a resolution condemning such practices last month: "The Utah Medical Association opposes the criminalization of medical care and sees unfounded accusations of physicians in criminal court and the criminal trial of physicians' professional judgment and quality of practice as a serious threat to patient care in the State of Utah and an unreasonable burden on the medical profession," read the resolution.

Then, in an implicit reference to the Weitzel case, the resolution added: "We believe that when a medical expert admonishes a prosecutor against filing a criminal complaint, it behooves the prosecutor to reconsider his position and at least seek the opinion of the Utah Medical Association, the Physicians Licensing Board, or some other regularly established and constituted panel of medical peers. Neither Utah's physicians nor their patients can afford this type of judicial embarrassment. It is a serious threat to good patient care for all Utah's citizens."

13. Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered

In a fit of meth-induced hysteria, Arkanasas legislators two years ago voted to require methamphetamine offenders to serve 70% of their sentences. As a result, meth offenders now make up 500 of the state's 13,000 prisoners and are serving an average of nine years, according to the state Department of Corrections (DOC). Other drug offenders typically serve two years and one month.

Now, the DOC is planning to ask the lawmakers to reconsider that law, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Monday. The severe sentences for meth offenders contribute to overcrowding and budget shortfalls, DOC officials told the newspaper. The DOC already is asking for an $18 million supplemental appropriation for the 2003 budget and plans to ask that its 2004 budget be increased from $185 million to $225 million.

Legislators need to think about whether they want to pay millions more to punish meth users, said DOC spokeswoman Dina Taylor. "This is a decision lawmakers have to make," she told the Commercial Appeal. "If this is what they want us to do, we'll do what the state wants us to. But we'll need money."

"There was an outcry about the meth problem," state Rep. Bob Adams (D-White Hall) told the newspaper. "That was the legislature's answer, and the problem was it was too effective. It filled the prisons with meth offenders. It took care of one problem, but created another."

State Sen. Mike Everett (D-Marked Tree) introduced legislation to amend the law last year, but it went nowhere in the face of opposition from law enforcement and "tough on crime" legislators. Maybe next year, though: Budget crises have a way of concentrating the mind.

14. Newsbrief: Border Patrol Begins Random Stops in Michigan

It's a brave new world for Michigan this week as the Upper Midwest gets a taste of tactics long familiar to denizens of the southern border. Beginning Tuesday, federal agents began randomly stopping traffic, looking for illegal immigrants, terrorists, drugs and weapons. They can do so under a federal law that allows the government to turn any part of the country within 25 miles of a foreign border into a Fourth Amendment-free zone.

The first internal checkpoints were set up near Port Huron and Trenton on Tuesday, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) officials announced at a same day news conference. Although metropolitan Detroit falls within the 25-mile free zone, it is off limits for now because of concerns about traffic disruptions. There will be no racial profiling, officials said -- everyone will be stopped. "It's all about homeland security. Bottom line, we are here to be vigilant about the safety and security of the American people," said INS spokesman Greg Palmore.

But American people who happen to use the wrong substances should be concerned about their personal safety and security. "Those checkpoints would yield quite a few arrests," veteran Detroit Border Patrol agent Robert Lindemann, who worked similar checkpoints near the Mexican border, told the Detroit Free Press. "We got drugs, we got aliens, we got convicts. The checkpoints on the southwest border are critical."

They may be critical, but in the southwest they are often bypassed. For immigrants and contrabandistas alike, the checkpoints constitute a "second border," a more or less permanent feature on the landscape. Most often, they signify another 25 miles of walking through the desert or driving back roads to get around them.

15. Web Scan: Washington Office on Latin America, Andean Information Network, Latin America Working Group, Miami Herald, Harry Levine

"Peru's Coordinadora Nacional De Derechos Humanos: A Case Study of Coalition Building," report by the Washington Office on Latin America on a highly successful national human rights effort: or go to and click on the title of the report under the Peru heading on the WOLA main page.

"Bolivians Pay Dearly for US War on Drugs," op-ed in the Miami Herald by Tina Hodges of WOLA and Kathryn Ledebur of the Cochabamba, Bolivia-based Andean Information Network:

"Troubling Patterns: The Mexican Military and the War on Drugs," report by the Latin America Working Group:

As cited in last week's interview with Prof. Harry G. Levine: "The Secret of Worldwide Drug Prohibition: The Varieties and Uses of Drug Prohibition": or

16. Harm Reduction Coalition Seeking Articles and Artwork for "The Anonymous Issue"

The Harm Reduction Coalition is seeking article submissions for "The Anonymous Issue" of HRC's newsletter, "Harm Reduction Communication. The Anonymous Issue is a forum for drug users to discuss issues of importance to them in anonymity.

HRC is especially interested in topics related to user involvement in the harm reduction movement, be it as paid employees, volunteers or participants, including the contradictions that face a movement that seeks the participation of active drug users, yet has a hard time engaging in a public dialogue about what this means; the problems active use causes in the workplace; the reluctance of funders to channel money to people who are viewed as criminals by the larger society; the struggles coworkers and administrators have in addressing issues that require a new language and way of thinking. HRC seeks to generate a dialogue, not solely to criticize, but to generate creative solutions and develop a vision where harm reduction can live up to its promise.

Send commentary, personal accounts, "how to" pieces, interviews, research reports, artwork and anything else that comes to mind (except poetry), up to 4000 words, by January 31, 2003, to [email protected], text double-spaced in MS Word or Corel Word Perfect, artwork in Photoshop, Illustrator EPS, Quark XPress or Adobe Pagemaker. Submissions can also be sent by mail to: Paul Cherashore, Publications Coordinator, Harm Reduction Coalition, 22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

Call (202) 213-6376 ext. 16 or e-mail [email protected] for further information. Visit HRC and learn about their December 1-4 conference in Seattle at online.

17. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum

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

Stop H.R. 5607 that would prohibit Salvia Divinorum

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

18. The Reformer's Calendar

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

November 15, 12:30-2:00pm, Washington, DC, "Democratic Transition and Anti-Drug Policy in Peru," seminar by George Washington University and the Washington Office on Latin America. At the Elliott School Commons of Stuart Hall, Room 103, 2013 G St., NW, contact [email protected], [email protected] or call (202) 797-2171 for further information.

November 20-24, Walnut Creek, CA, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," solo theatrical performance by Sheldon Norberg. At Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, not recommended for children under 13, call (415) 666-3939 or visit for further information.

November 21, 12:30-2:00pm, Washington, DC, lunch talk with leading Colombian investigative journalist Ignacio Gómez. Sponsored by The Washington Office on Latin America and The Committee to Protect Journalists, at 1630 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 200, Dupont Circle metro. RSVP to Gabi Kruks-Wisner at (202) 797-2171 or [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.

November 24, 8:15pm, Los Angeles, CA, "High Hopes," medical marijuana benefit comedy show. At Comedy Store's Main Room, 8433 Sunset Blvd., to benefit WAMM, NORML and the Inglewood Wellness Center. Contact Howard Dover Productions at (323) 253-3472 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.

December 3, 6:30pm, Tampa, FL, American Cannabis Society event with music, nonprofit presentations and a hemp fashion show. Visit for information or contact (800) 256-7424, [email protected] or [email protected].

December 5, Seattle, WA, "Race, Class and the War on Drugs: Justice for All?" All day forum by King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project's Task Force on Racial and Class Disparity, cosponsored by the King County Bar Association and the Loren Miller Bar Association. For further information, contact Roger Goodman at [email protected].

December 8-10, Nashville, TN, Conference of Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy. Registration $50, visit or call (615) 327-9775 or for further information.

January 19, 2003, Winston-Salem, NC, conference on the effects of drug prohibition. At the Winston-Salem Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, Robinhood Rd., contact [email protected] for info.

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.

April 17-19, 2003, San Francisco, CA, 2003 NORML Conference. Details to follow, visit for information.

June 7-11, 2003, Denver, CO, 23rd National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry. Visit or contact Sr. Carleen Reck at [email protected] for information.

November 5-8, 2003, East Rutherford, NJ, biennial conference of Drug Policy Alliance. At the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center, 2 Meadowlands Plaza, visit for further information.

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