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

Issue #264, 11/22/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. DRCNet Needs Your Help!
  2. Editorial: It's Not About Public Safety
  3. Drug Czar, Prohibition Establishment Seek "Zero Tolerance" for "Drugged Driving" -- Sober Marijuana Users in the Crosshairs
  4. DC Treatment Initiative Clears Legal, Bureaucratic Hurdles, More Funding and Implementation Battles Loom
  5. Medical Marijuana in New York: As the Marijuana Reform Party Licks Its Wounds, MPP Funds New Legislative Effort
  6. Newsbrief: This Week's Cop Corruption Story
  7. Newsbrief: HEA Resolution on the Move on Campuses
  8. Newsbrief: With Milwaukee Drug War Running on Overdrive, Drug Court Judge Begins to Wonder...
  9. Newsbrief: Oklahoma Prisons Gobble Up More Cash
  10. Newsbrief: Ambitious US Attorney in Boston Orders Increased Drug Penalties
  11. Newsbrief: Arkansas Drug Czar Resigns After DWI Bust
  12. Newsbrief: Could It Possibly Be True Department -- New African High?
  13. Newsbrief: California Town Won't Report Medical Marijuana Cases to DEA
  14. Newsbrief: NORML Gives Heads Up on Anti-Marijuana Research Results to Be Published Next Week
  15. Green Aid Establishes Legal Defense Fund for Ed Rosenthal
  16. Media Scan: Doonesbury, Forbes in Slate, OC Register, Ed Forchion in, Youth Today, Nando Times, CCLE Salvia, Heroin Times, Pot TV on John Walters, ONDCP
  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. DRCNet Needs Your Help!

DRCNet urgently needs your help to get through the end of the year! Please help us keep publishing the Week Online, waging the HEA campaign, organizing the Latin American anti-prohibition conference, and more. Small donations or large ones will make a difference -- we really need as many of you as possible to pitch in! 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.

Thank you for your support and for being a part of the movement!

2. Editorial: It's Not About Public Safety

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 11/20/02

National shyster-in-chief (aka "drug czar") John Walters has done it again. Walters' "drugged driving" initiative calls for "zero tolerance" for driving under the influence. "It's about public safety," Walters claims.

Not only is the initiative not about public safety. It's not even about driving while drugged.

Smoke marijuana on a Saturday night, for example. Drive on that Sunday. Guilty. For that matter, smoke a week before. Guilty. Neither situation has anything to do with driving under the influence -- marijuana's components simply remain in the bloodstream for awhile after it is used, days or weeks after the high disappears. But head drug propagandist Walters isn't interested in that. He wants zero tolerance, for its own sake.

Not only will Walters' so-called "drugged driving" campaign not target real cases of impaired driving -- existing laws already do that -- it may actually deflect resources away them. Instead of monitoring the roads for truly dangerous drivers -- dangerous from alcohol, illegal drugs, insufficient sleep, carelessness or poor judgment -- police will be asked to indiscriminately round up all sorts of other people whose driving may be absolutely fine.

It is an insult to the many victims of drunk or careless driving. But it is not surprising, not at all. This is, after all, the drug czar whose TV ads equate drug use with supporting terrorism -- even though it is the government's prohibition that causes drug profits to sometimes be available to terrorists -- an insult to the victims of terrorism and to the American people as a whole. And this is the administration that put time and money that could have gone into investigating terrorist cells or protective measures, into raiding medical marijuana clubs that serve the sick and dying instead -- an insult to California's voters who approved medical marijuana, and a dagger in the face of all that is good and decent.

None of those things were about public safety; they arguably make us less safe. Certainly California's medical marijuana patients are less safe. And as someone who has "held the keys" and served as designated driver on more than my share of occasions, I'm entitled to say that I will feel less safe if drug czar Walters' "drugged driving" proposals becomes reality. So who will protect us from John Walters?

3. Drug Czar, Prohibition Establishment Seek "Zero Tolerance" for "Drugged Driving" -- Sober Marijuana Users in the Crosshairs

In a coordinated series of announcements beginning late last week, federal agencies and private sector prohibitionists opened a new front in the drug war -- this time targeting "drugged driving." But the solution they are proposing, "zero-tolerance" laws that would consider drivers with even the "mere presence" of illicit drugs in their system as guilty of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI, or in the drug czar's lexicon, DUID -- driving under the influence of drugs), seems designed more to further criminalize marijuana smokers than to improve highway safety.

It is one of the cruel ironies of the drug war that relatively innocuous marijuana -- by far the most widely used illicit drug -- remains detectable in peoples' blood for up to 10 days after smoking a single joint. Under the "zero-tolerance" model legislation the drug czar and others are proposing, the person who smoked a joint on Friday night could be busted for DWI a week later and regular pot smokers, in whom cannanaboid metabolites are presumably always present, could be subject to a DWI arrest any time they got behind the wheel.

Eight states (Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Utah) currently have what are referred to as "per se" laws, meaning the mere presence of illicit drug metabolites is considered evidence of intoxication. The rest of the nation should follow their lead, said Dr. Michael Walsh, head of the President's Advisory Committee on Drugs under President Bush the elder, and lead author of a massive study of drugged driving done under the auspices of the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Substance Abuse Research Program and the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Substance Abuse.

"Driving under the influence of drugs, other than alcohol, has become a significant problem, but drugged drivers are not detected as often as drunk drivers," said Walsh at a November 14 press conference flogging the study that was the opening shot in the new offensive. "There is a lack of uniformity in the way state laws approach drugged driving, there are no national standards for testing drugged drivers, and too few police officers are trained to detect drivers who may be under the influence of drugs," he warned, citing figures from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that suggest as many as eight million Americans drive under the influence of illicit drugs each year.

"If DUID laws were consistent and easier to apply, we could identify these individuals and get them into treatment before they become a serious threat to public safety," Walsh added. There are other ways of dealing with drugged drivers. Some states require that the drugs render a driver "incapable of safely operating a vehicle." Other states require that the drug "impair" the driver's ability to operate a vehicle safely or require the driver to be "under the influence or affected by an intoxicating drug."

But that's not good enough, said Walsh and his fellow conferees. They found that most state laws require prosecutors to prove that the use of an illegal drug caused the driving impairment, thus few people are ever prosecuted, complained Special Assistant Maricopa County Attorney Jerry Landau of Phoenix. But Landau and his fellows would get around that rather substantial obstacle -- having to actually prove impairment -- by simply defining the presence of any illicit drug residues as evidence of intoxication. "Zero-tolerance" laws "simply make it a criminal offense to operate a vehicle while having a drug or a drug metabolite in one's body or bodily fluids," explained Landau.

"In the case of driving under the influence of alcohol, there is a scientifically proven and defined relationship between alcohol consumed and impaired driving," Landau continued. But the model legislation proposed by Walsh and Landau would break that link when it comes to illicit drugs. The model legislation assumes that the presence of even drug metabolites indicates impairment. But that has not been proven to be the case, particularly when it comes to marijuana.

"Marijuana does not impair driving," said Dr. Mitchell Earleywine, an expert on addiction and personality at the University of Southern California and author of the just published Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. "Robbe (1998) got people high and had them drive around in the Netherlands. They had a little trouble staying smack in the center of their lanes, but showed no other problems. They tended to slow down, increase the distance between their car and the car in front of them, and refrain from trying to pass other vehicles. In short, they drove safely despite marijuana intoxication," he told DRCNet. [For links to the scientific literature, see the bottom of the article.]

"Also, three studies have shown that people who tested positive for THC were no more likely to be at fault in accidents than people with no drugs detected," Earleywine continued. "With that in mind, if we want safe roads, we should focus on field sobriety tests rather than urine screens. If cops want to stop people who are driving recklessly and have them touch their nose, walk a straight line, and ride a unicycle, that's fine. If they want them to pee in a cup, though, they're wasting their time," he argued. "THC doesn't affect driving, and a lot of the drugs that they would detect in urine maybe left over from previous use. A person could have used a drug weeks before and no longer be impaired but still test positive in a urine screen."

Marijuana researcher Dr. Ethan Russo of Montana Neurobehavioral Specialists in Missoula echoed Earleywine's conclusions. "Based on the science, there is no rational basis for the federal government to impose a zero tolerance test for cannabis or its metabolites with the prospect that its implementation will improve highway safety," he told DRCNet. "Cannabis in isolation rarely causes serious impairment in motor skills or driving safety. Blood levels of THC and urinary measurement of THC metabolites do not correlate with brain levels or mental effects in any meaningful fashion," Russo added. "The only reasonable measure to assess 'drugged driving' is a field sobriety test, much as is commonly done for alcohol ingestion. A person who fails such a test based on evidence of impaired or reckless driving certainly deserves to be arrested and investigated for the sake of public safety."

But if popular culture is any indication, you don't have to be a scientist to know these things. Countless comedians have joked about stoned drivers never getting out of the garage or blazing down the road as 4 MPH. Bill Hicks advocated mandatory marijuana for road raging drivers. The bit ends with the sound of a toke taken, followed by, "Whoa, sorry, man, I guess I was taking life too seriously." Some unknown wit also compared pot and alcohol. "The drunk driver blows right through the stop sign, the stoned driver waits for it to turn green," he joked, pithily condensing volumes of scientific research. Or in the words of political humorist PJ O'Rourke, "How can you say anything bad about a drug that makes teenage boys driver slower?"

But the federal government has notoriously displayed little interest in a rational basis for its drug policy, even if it has displayed a certain skill at manipulating the media and the public. It was no surprise that after RWJF's press conference timed to hit the weekend newspapers, drug czar John Walters and a coterie of other federal officials initiated phase two of the offensive on Tuesday.

At a Washington, DC, press conference Walters inaugurated the federal government's portion of the campaign against drugged driving. "While the consequences of drunk driving have become well known over the past 20 years, drugged driving has received relatively limited attention," he said. "We have solid data regarding the prevalence and seriousness of impaired driving. America already loses too many lives to drivers who are under the influence of alcohol, we cannot allow a lack of public awareness to contribute to the deaths of more innocent motorists," he said.

"Between 10 and 22 percent of drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes are under the influence of illegal drugs," added Walters. "It's not taken seriously enough." [Actually, between 10% and 22% of drivers involved in crashes in one federal survey had illicit drug metabolites in their systems. The data did not show how many were actually impaired by the drugs, nor did it indicate whether those drivers were at fault, but who is the drug czar to bother himself with nuance or accuracy?]

Walters told the press conference his office would work to increase public awareness of the problem with two new television ads that will begin airing in January. Joined by officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association, Walters also announced that the three bodies would seek "increased resources" for drugged driving enforcement, as well as its own "zero-tolerance" model legislation for the states. And he added that drug testing technology similar to a Breathalyzer was under development and would soon be available.

NHTSA, for its part, announced that it will undertake "a major enforcement initiative" in December, which has been declared National Drugged and Drunk Driving Prevention Month. The month of heightened sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, will mark the start of a yearlong effort by NHTSA to increase public awareness of the risks of drugged and drunk driving.

Drug reformers find themselves in a difficult position. While taking great pains to make clear that they do not support driving while impaired, they must find a way to confront an appeal to "public safety" that will disproportionately impact their marijuana smoking constituencies. "The fear of drugs and driving makes this a volatile issue and many people are concerned, said Kevin Zeese, head of Common Sense for Drug Policy ( "It is important to emphasize that using drugs and driving is not a good idea and that we need legitimate standards to measure impairment," he told DRCNet. "But it doesn't look like the people in power now are interested in legitimate standards. This looks like another tool to go after marijuana users."

The first thing Marijuana Policy Project ( communications director Bruce Mirken did when contacted by DRCNet was to cite the group's mission statement. Its goal number one reads: "An individual's marijuana consumption must not harm or threaten the health and safety of others. For example, operating motor vehicles while impaired," Mirken emphasized.

MPP has reason to be careful, said Mirken. "We were beaten up badly with this issue in Nevada," he said, "so we are very concerned about what the drug czar is doing. We worry that if they really intend to use a "mere presence" standard, they will be laying the foundation for something that does more harm than good. We have to have laws that measure impairment, not ones that are just an underhanded way of imposing zero-tolerance on marijuana consumers."

Mirken worried that, if successful, the push for "zero-tolerance" drugged driving laws would criminalize the behavior of millions of Americans. "That will turn people's lives upside down for no reason and waste huge amounts of law enforcement and prosecutorial resources," he said. "Those sanctions should be preserved for real crimes. I want the guy who is really stoned and driving dangerously to go to jail."

The movement has a problem, said Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( "We saw the drug czar use the driving while stoned issue to great effect in Nevada, and we haven't yet provided the public with a satisfactory response," he told DRCNet. "I think the drug czar views this as a wedge issue. This offensive suggests they believe if they can exaggerate the dangers of driving and marijuana, they can use that to defeat any new initiatives or legislative reform efforts." NORML is working on white papers on drugged driving and another of the drug czar's hot-button issues, marijuana potency, said Stroup. "Research to date indicates that marijuana smokers do not present any particular road hazard, but we recommend that people not smoke marijuana and drive," he said. "It's only common sense."

Still, he said, the drugged driving campaign is an attack on marijuana consumers. "They are not going to identify people stoned and driving, they will identify anyone who smoked marijuana in the last several days," he said. "Regular smokers could test positive for up to six weeks. With people who do more dangerous drugs, it won't be effective -- they go through the system in just a few hours. This is just part of the drug czar's anti-marijuana campaign."

Drug czar spokeswoman Jennifer de Vallance disagreed. "It's about public safety," she told DRCNet. "If illegal drugs are in someone's system, they would be classified as driving while impaired." When queried about the scientific literature showing little danger from drivers under the influence of marijuana and the fact that marijuana remains in the system long after its psychomotor effects have diminished, she replied: "It's about public safety."

"If it's really about public safety, we need standards that measure impairment," countered Zeese. "From their perspective, any marijuana use is or even metabolites in your blood is intoxication. We know that's not true."

Y'all drive safe now, y'hear?

Visit to read the documents from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation research presentation. Visit to read the drug czar's press release announcing the new offensive. Visit for recent scientific studies on marijuana and driving. Visit for the most recent overview of the scientific literature, by the Canadian Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs.

4. DC Treatment Initiative Clears Legal, Bureaucratic Hurdles, More Funding and Implementation Battles Loom

One of the drug reform movement's few successes this election year, Washington, DC's Measure 62, which would send some drug offenders to treatment instead of prison, passed with a hefty 78% of the vote. As the measure's backers seek to fund and shape the way the program is carried out, many battles remain, but they won one last week and another this week. On November 15, a DC Superior Court judge refused to grant the city government's request for a temporary restraining order seeking to block certification of the vote.

The lawsuit filed by the administration of DC Mayor Anthony Williams (D) charged that the initiative was improper because it required the District to allocate and expend funds for treatment for nonviolent drug users who qualify under the proposal. Under District law, initiatives cannot do that. But in her ruling, Judge Jeannette Clark doubted that the District could prevail in its case and said in was not in the public interest to keep the DC Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) from certifying the vote.

On Thursday, the BOEE voted to certify the election results, making official the DC Campaign for Treatment's ( overwhelming victory. Now comes the hard part. While the court ruling last week prevented the initiative from being stopped in its tracks, the District government's lawsuit is still pending, with a trial date set for January 10. Then there is getting the money to pay for drug treatment, and creating a treatment regime that works, meanwhile fending off any attempts from Congress to kill the measure as it killed medical marijuana in the District.

But backers of the new law say it is not about allocating funds, and are asking the mayor to drop the lawsuit. "We are respectfully requesting that the mayor drop his suit, support the voters' will, and help us to ensure that Congress does not overturn the will of the people," said Opio Sokoni, implementation coordinator for the DC Campaign.

"It doesn't allocate funds," said Bill McColl, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (, parent body to the DC Campaign. "One of the things we're doing now is trying to find those funds. We will go to Congress, we will go to the city, and we are looking for grants from private foundations that may be willing to fund drug treatment programs here in the nation's capital," McColl told DRCNet.

"The city is running a huge budget deficit, which could have a bearing on why the mayor is so sensitive to the funding issue," McColl explained, "but we think that providing treatment for the 300 people we estimate would avoid prison sentences under this measure in its first year would only cost $2.5 million, and the District should be able to come up with that out of savings in its prison budget. Residents of the District voted for this in record numbers, and now we're ready to work with the Mayor, the District Council, Representative Norton, Congress, the DC court system, District residents and anyone else to implement this initiative."

"We are confident that Congress will support the will of DC voters and allow this important initiative to become law," said Sokoni. Congress took repeated action to block the District's 1998 medical marijuana initiative, and Campaign organizers hence took deliberate steps to make the initiative more palatable to drug war zealots on Capitol Hill. Because of congressional obsession with marijuana, the DC measure does not apply to people caught with any Schedule One drugs, including not only marijuana, but also drugs such as LSD, ecstasy and cocaine, which is widely used in the District.

Provided that the District or Congress provide funding, or at least that Congress does not move to block the initiative, sponsors will still need to craft an implementation regime. The measure is set to go into effect October 1 next year, said McColl, and the Campaign is scrambling to get effective drug treatment in place by then. "We are beginning to hold talks with the District drug addiction agency and with treatment providers," he said. "We need the Williams administration to work together with us on this to improve the health and safety of District residents," he said.

In the meantime, the measure now moves to the DC City Council, which will then send it on to Congress. Once that occurs, Congress has 30 working days to stop the bill from becoming District law. But with Rep. Bob Barr, the self-appointed savior of the District from itself and nemesis of the medical marijuana initiatives, having been retired by his home state voters, it remains to be seen if any other congressional drug warriors care enough to try to block it.

5. Medical Marijuana in New York: As the Marijuana Reform Party Licks Its Wounds, MPP Funds New Legislative Effort

Tom Golisano, the independent candidate for New York governor, didn't succeed in knocking off Republican incumbent Gov. George Pataki, but his last minute TV and radio ad blitz in New York City markets supporting medical marijuana may well have doomed the efforts of the New York Marijuana Reform Party (, as well as the Libertarians and the Greens, to win ballot line status for the next four years. Gubernatorial candidates needed to win 50,000 votes statewide to earn that status. The MRP's Tom Leighton pulled in only 22,500 votes, and he's pointing a big finger at the Golisano campaign.

"He ripped off our position, he ripped off our brochure -- his ads repeated the identical factual error we had in our brochure -- and he ripped off our voters," Leighton told DRCNet. "I never saw such an assault on public consciousness as his medical marijuana media campaign here. You could see his ads 10 or 15 times in one evening. When we were out handing out fliers to voters and urging them to support medical marijuana, they would say, 'yes, I'm voting for Golisano.'"

Although Leighton wanted to wait until final results were certified so the party could see if it had lost votes in New York City since the last election, which he presumes went to Golisano this year, he was convinced the Golisano campaign was a major factor in the MRP's inability to crack the 50,000 vote mark. "The Golisano factor was very important," said Leighton, "but he actually worked against medical marijuana because he took votes away from parties that do support it. His people actually had the gall to call for my help on this, and then in their mailings they claimed Golisano was the only candidate in favor of medical marijuana," he said.

While Golisano may have taken unfair advantage of MRP positions and materials, Leighton's view of what Golisano's pro-medical marijuana stance accomplished is colored by the losses his party suffered at Golisano's hands. Other New York activists have lauded Golisano for raising public awareness of the issue, including Tony Papa, former Rockefeller drug law prisoner turned activist. Papa appeared in a Golisano ad focusing on the Rockefeller drug laws.

"We're the Rodney Dangerfield of the drug reform movement -- we don't get no respect," complained Leighton, and he wasn't just talking about Golisano. "We got no support from the movement. For a tiny fraction of the money spent on those failed initiatives, we could have gotten on the ballot. It seems like NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project (, and the Drug Policy Alliance have sewn up all the big money, and we couldn't get a dime out of them." (NORML did in fact work with MRP and give them $500; issue #265 of the Week Online includes a retraction and apology from Leighton, ran at his request.)

If MPP isn't funding Leighton, it's not for lack of interest in New York state. MPP's Chad Thevenot told DRCNet that the group has provided a grant to veteran New York activist and lobbyist Vince Marrone to construct a coalition to push a medical marijuana bill in the state assembly next year. "Marrone is really running the show up there," said Thevenot, "but unlike most of our grants, part of this involves continuing consultations with us, in part because we have expertise that's relevant."

Marrone confirmed that work is underway. "For the past three or four months, we've been meeting with all the groups even tangentially involved in the issue -- medical groups, labor, church groups, patients, you name it," he told DRCNet. "We have created New Yorkers for Compassionate Care as a coalition group to advance our agenda. We will be doing all of the traditional kinds of advocacy efforts in coming months -- media work, lobbying, press conferences, all of that," he said. "We have a bill that has never moved in the Assembly, but Dick Gottfried (D), chair of the Assembly committee on health, has agreed to put it on the agenda," said Marrone, adding that hearings have been scheduled for December 13 in New York City and sometime in January in Albany.

Medical marijuana has strong support in New York, said Marrone, citing a 1999 poll that showed 80% in favor. "We'll be doing another poll in January, and we expect to see the same sorts of numbers," he added.

The coalition is counting on local activists, said Marrone. "Local activists are the base for what we're doing, and the biggest group we've tapped into so far is the AIDS community. We need local activists -- as long as they're working on medical marijuana. Some have a broader agenda," he said.

That would include the MRP, which favors legalization of the herb. "I've been talking to Marrone," said Leighton, whose enthusiasm for the coalition is dampened, though, by MRP's lack of funding and no offer of a leadership role in the new campaign.

Leighton has also been talking with his membership about the future of the party. "We are not sure what will happen yet," he said. "With the big money choosing not to help us, we could only go so far. We will probably continue in some fashion, but the question is what fashion. Our first thought was to regroup as a political action committee, but we don't have the fundraising network. We might become just an issue advocacy group," he told DRCNet. "We will try to decide by sometime in January."

MRP is also pushing a measure before the New York City council that asks the state legislature to enact a comprehensive medical marijuana program created and overseen by physicians, Leighton said. "If we can get that passed, I would hope that someone will consider our experience and the value we can bring to the movement," he said.

Meanwhile, as MPP funds a medical marijuana effort and the MRP tries to figure out what to do next, New York City continues to account for almost one-tenth of marijuana arrests in the United States.

6. Newsbrief: This Week's Cop Corruption Story

This week's honors go not to an individual, but to a place: the US Customs port of entry at San Luis, AZ. The port made the news this week when Lisa Stubbs, the top Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) official at San Luis was arrested on bribery charges after FBI agents watched her trade immigration documents to a Mexican national in exchange for vials of a powerful prescription drug.

But Stubbs is only the latest in a long string of Customs and INS officers at San Luis to go down on corruption charges. At least six have been sent to prison in the last five years, during which time the port of entry has been the focus of 16 corruption investigations. According to the Arizona Republic, there have been nearly a hundred such investigations into corruption along the border in the state since 1998.

The others from San Luis:

  • Last month, inspector Allen J. Mouzon was sentenced to 30 months in prison for allowing drugs through the port of entry with the help of a San Luis drug trafficker. An informant testified that he paid Mourzon more than $72,000 over a two-year period.
  • In February, former Customs inspector Richard Talamante, 38, got 21 months in prison for smuggling illegal immigrants across the border. FBI agents testified that Talamante and his wife, Christina, charged $1,300 per person to shuttle immigrants on at least 10 occasions.
  • In January, another Customs inspector, Manuel E. Silva, got 34 months in prison in another immigrant smuggling scheme. Investigators testified that he also let drug smugglers through.
  • Gustavo Ramirez, a former immigration inspector, is in federal prison for allowing three cars carrying 583 pounds of marijuana across the border in November 2000. He worked for a drug cartel out of Mexicali, Mexico, according to court records.
It looks like business as usual in the drug war on the border.

7. Newsbrief: HEA Resolution on the Move on Campuses

The new academic year has brought a renewed round of efforts to get more colleges and universities to sign on to the effort to repeal the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision. Under that provision, championed by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), students convicted of any drug offense stand to lose access to student loans and other federally-funded financial aid. So far more than 86,000 students have lost federal aid since the law was passed in 1998.

Student governments adopting resolutions calling for repeal of the provision now number approximately 100. Two recent schools to pass the resolution were the University of Rhode Island on October 30 and the State University of New York-Broome campus at Binghamton on November 19.

Members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (, the rapidly growing student reform group with chapters now on more than 200 campuses, have spearheaded the effort nationwide and played key roles in getting resolutions passed at Rhode Island and SUNY-Broome.

While college campuses are generally favorable toward repeal of the HEA drug provision, some campuses are more favorable than others, as University of Florida SSDP member Heath Wintz found out this week. With conservatives dominating the student government, UF SSDP opted this week to postpone a vote on the resolution while they gather documentation on other schools votes to support their case.

Visit to download an activist packet or learn more about the issue and campaign.

8. Newsbrief: With Milwaukee Drug War Running on Overdrive, Drug Court Judge Begins to Wonder...

Thanks largely to federal funds, Milwaukee County, WI, is prosecuting drug offenders at a record rate. Now a drug court judge there is starting to wonder why.

County prosecutors told the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal that the county's three drug courts will see 2,540 new cases filed this year, up 18% over last year and more than 50% higher than the 1997 figure. Although the Sentinel Journal played the reason for the increase in drug busts as something of a mystery, the paper itself noted the designation of the city as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in 1998. Through HIDTA, some $4.5 million per year in federal funds are funneled into county drug enforcement and prosecutions.

After a guided tour of HIDTA facilities, the hometown paper explained: "In one room, intelligence officers from the National Guard process crime information. In another, enormous computer servers hum. In still another room, officers from departments throughout the southeastern corner of the state learn about interdicting drug shipments on freeways." Hmmm, one must wonder where those drug busts are coming from.

Although HIDTA members and prosecutors interviewed by the newspaper couldn't quite put their finger on the reason for the increase, at least one member of the Milwaukee drug war complex was pondering other questions. Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Franke told the Sentinel Journal he was dismayed by the volume of cases. "It's distressingly similar to what I saw before in terms of the nature of the defendants, the nature of the charges and the nature of the stories that we're hearing," Franke told the Sentinel Journal. "The anecdotal facts raise a question of whether we are accomplishing anything."

The veteran judge added that the "warlike atmosphere" present in some neighborhoods because of the black market drug traffic and police efforts to quash it imposes a variety of social costs. "There are extraordinary costs to the vigorous enforcement of our drug laws, both financial and social," Franke said. "We owe it to ourselves to make sure that we are accomplishing something that is worth the cost."

Among those costs are the huge expenditures for law enforcement and imprisonment, but also less easily measured effects such as the corrosive impact of aggressive drug war policing in poor neighborhoods, where "young people are growing up being frisked," he said. "Our efforts to curtail drug dealing have had a dramatic effect on Fourth Amendment rights and on the relationship between police and the community," Franke said. "The sense of confrontation between law enforcement officers and citizens in drug-trafficking areas is just one of the costs of the war on drugs."

9. Newsbrief: Oklahoma Prisons Gobble Up More Cash

Oklahoma faces a severe budget crunch and a looming crisis in education funding, but when the state legislature met in an emergency special session Monday it wasn't to fund schools or hospitals. Instead, lawmakers approved a $9.8 million emergency funding bill for the state's prison system, with only one dissenting vote.

As DRCNet reported in May, prison spending in Oklahoma has nearly doubled in the last ten years to $400 million annually, driven largely by the jailing of large numbers of drug offenders ( Last year, fully one-third (33.4%) of all new prisoners were drug law violators, compared to 13.7% who were convicted of violent crimes, according to the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Resource Center, a state agency.

The emergency appropriation, the second for the Department of Corrections this year, staves off mandatory furloughs of prison personnel to achieve across-the-board budget reductions in all state agencies. "Oklahoma has many budget challenges, especially in the public schools, but the most pressing problem at this point in time was in public safety," said Sen. Cal Hobson, who will lead the Senate next session. "Had we done nothing and allowed the furloughs to take place, the lives of state prison guards and the general public would have been endangered. That would have been irresponsible at best."

Although a few lawmakers questioned Corrections' efforts at cost-cutting, there was little mention of sentencing reform during the debate. But Hobson told the Daily Oklahoman that could changewhen the legislature goes back into session in the spring. Many senators indicated they wanted to get involved in discussions about prison policy then, he said. Community sentencing, expanding drug courts and reinstating a law repealed last year that forced the release of some nonviolent offenders if the prison population exceeded a certain level were all up for discussion, he added. "I don't think there is a quick fix," he said.

"For our schools and other important programs that are hurting, I know that this may not be the most popular use of emergency funds, but given the circumstances, it was the only responsible option available," said Hobson. "We all wish that we could snap our fingers and make all the budget problems go away, but, unfortunately, we don't have the resources to do that." It's not a matter of snapping fingers, though; it's a matter of political will. There are increasing signs that the state's dire financial situation could create that will where appeals to social justice fall on deaf ears.

10. Newsbrief: Ambitious US Attorney in Boston Orders Increased Drug Penalties

Boston US Attorney Michael Sullivan has ordered prosecutors in his office to increase recommended sentences for drug offenders in every case where they can, the Boston Globe reported Saturday. Under Sullivan's policy, which took effect in March but only openly came to light recently, prosecutors must seek "sentencing enhancements" that can add from two to 30 years to sentences for drug crimes. Previously, federal prosecutors could decide on a case-by-case basis whether to seek the harsher sentences.

Under Sullivan's policy, a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug dealing is doubled if the defendant has a previous state drug conviction. With two prior felony drug convictions, the minimum sentence is life. The Boston US Attorney's office now also automatically seeks enhancements for the use of a weapon in a crime; those are worth an additional five years in prison.

"Indigent defendants are getting hammered by this US attorney's office, and it's appalling," said Charles W. Rankin, chairman of the group of court-appointed defense lawyers who practice in federal court in Boston. "The sentences people are getting are huge, and to what end? Just because the government wants to be tough and macho," he told the Globe.

Sullivan, a former Republican prosecutor for Plymouth County widely believed to have higher political aspirations, said he is simply implementing the "tough on crime" policies he has always espoused. "The public expects we do everything possible to ensure the safety of the communities that we serve," Sullivan told the Globe. "It's critically important in terms of the message we send to the community, whether that's people thinking of committing crimes of violence or using weapons in the commission of crimes." He didn't address what message he is sending the community by imprisoning nonviolent minor drug offenders for decades.

But even Sullivan's staff is criticizing the policy, the Globe reported. Speaking only anonymously, some federal prosecutors questioned the fairness of decades-long sentences for minor drug offenders. "It's politics," one told the Globe. "He acts like he's still running for office," said another.

And the juggernaut rolls on. Last year, 235 people were sent to prison for drug offenses in the federal district of Massachusetts. That's an increase of more than 30% since 1999, more than three times the national rate.

11. Newsbrief: Arkansas Drug Czar Resigns After DWI Bust

Arkansas' anti-drug director has resigned in the wake of his arrest for Driving While Intoxicated in the town of Johnson. Bill Hardin was arrested around midnight on November 15 while speeding down Main Street.

"I asked him to the rear of the vehicle, wanting to be sure it was him I was smelling because the odor was so strong," wrote arresting officer Billy Dunn in the arrest report submitted to the Washington County Jail where Hardin was booked. "He told me he had a few drinks during dinner and then went to a party where he had a few more drinks."

Hardin failed four field sobriety tests, according to the arrest report and blew .134 -- well above the alcohol limit -- in a Breathalyzer test, which are inadmissible in court under Arkansas law. "He was arrested for DWI and taken to my unit where he told me he worked for the governor of the state," Dunn wrote. "He was then transported to the Johnson PD where he refused to take the BAC Datamaster test to determine his blood alcohol content."

By the time Hardin got out of jail Monday, he was also out of a job. "Bill Hardin resigned this weekend as state drug director after being charged with driving while intoxicated," said a statement from Gov. Mike Huckabee's office. "The governor accepted his resignation. The governor said he was sorry about Mr. Hardin's situation and affirmed his support of Mr. Hardin personally, but he felt such a charge wasn't appropriate for someone in a leadership position in state government. The governor said it was especially damaging to the credibility of someone in a position such as the one held by Mr. Hardin. The resignation was effective immediately."

Huckabee appointed Hardin to the drug czar job in May 1998. His duties included devising and implementing Arkansas drug policy and acquiring federal grants for Arkansas drug task forces.

12. Newsbrief: Could It Possibly Be True Department -- New African High?

An Agence France Presse (AFP) report filed from Kano, Nigeria, this week takes the search for a new high to a new low. According to the usually reliable AFP, dopers in the Nigerian north are using lizard excrement to get off. The lizard dung is drunk in a cocktail with laundry detergent or in a tea, or smoked with tobacco or cannabis.

"I no longer have to spend much money on drugs since I discovered the efficacy of lizard excrement," 28-year-old Kano resident Ado Kabir told AFP. "A lot of drug users are moving on to lizard excrement. It's easy to find and efficient in its effect," he said. "The effect is indeed exhilarating."

Kano preferred his lizard dung in a drink mixed with water and a blue laundry detergent, he said. "When mixed with 'blue' in water, it produces a strong effect similar to the effect of drinking strong whisky to excess on a hot day.

People who are too keen on their health boil the mixture and filter it before drinking. It has a potassium taste and is really good," he added. Another lizard dung fan interviewed by AFP, 20-year-old Bala Abu, an unemployed high school graduate, said he preferring smoking lizard turds. "I finished high school with no chance of going to college because my parents can't afford to pay," he complained. "I can't find a job given my low academic qualifications. Since I discovered the use of lizard dung I have found peace because whenever I smoke it with tobacco all my worries are gone."

Nigerian anti-drug bureaucrats confirmed the practice and are not amused. "We have adopted a youth sensitization campaign on the radio and television to curb the menace," Katsina health commissioner Yusuf Suleiman told a meeting to mark World Anti-Drugs Week, AFP noted.

Kabir and his fellow dung-dopers remain unworried, however. "I don't believe it is harmful, because nobody has fallen sick from its consumption," he told AFP. "As far as I'm concerned, it is safe and harmless." No word yet on DEA moves to make iguana crap a controlled substance.

13. Newsbrief: California Town Won't Report Medical Marijuana Cases to DEA

The Sonoma County, CA, city of Sebastopol wants the DEA to stop interfering with medical marijuana. It took action to achieve that goal Tuesday, when the city council passed a resolution making it police department policy not to report such cases to the DEA and affirming the city's support of patients and providers operating under the state's medical marijuana law. Under Sonoma County medical marijuana guidelines, patients or their caregivers can grow up to 99 plants per year in a 100 square foot space.

The Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which worked with local officials to craft the guidelines, presented the resolution to the council in response to DEA raids against patients and providers. "The patients need the kind of protection from local officials we got here tonight," spokesman Ernest "Doc" Knapp told the Ontario Daily Observer after the vote. "It's the first line of defense from an oppressive federal government that is just out of line."

"Simply, what this is doing is affirming our support for California law," said Councilman Larry Robinson during debate on the resolution. It passed 3-1, with the sole dissenting member saying he was concerned the resolution would "send the wrong message" about the non-medicinal use of marijuana. A spokesman for the Sebastopol Police Department told the newspaper the department is obligated to follow the policies the council sets.

The council also passed a resolution supporting H.R. 2592, the "States' Right To Medical Marijuana Act," which would reduce marijuana's federal drug classification from Schedule I to Schedule II, and allow states to administer their own medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government.

Sebastopol joins a growing roster of California municipalities that have acted in opposition to the Bush administration's heavy-handed attempts to quash the medical marijuana movement in the state. San Jose police no longer cooperate with the DEA on marijuana cases, Santa Cruz officials attended a medical marijuana giveaway, and San Francisco voters, poking a collective thumb in Attorney General John Ashcroft's eye, ordered their city fathers to explore city-grown medical marijuana.

14. Newsbrief: NORML Gives Heads Up on Anti-Marijuana Research Results to Be Published Next Week

National NORML announced Thursday that it has received advance, embargoed copies of three medical papers that will be published in the British Medical Journal next week. All three papers -- from Australia, Great Britain and Sweden -- will charge that there is a link between marijuana and schizophrenia, NORML reported.

According to NORML, the studies will claim that "schizophrenia steeply rises in societies as more cannabis is used by its population, that there is a 30% increase in schizophrenia attributable to cannabis use, and that if the cannabis plant were stripped away from humanity, there would be a 13% reduction in schizophrenia worldwide."

Be prepared for drug czar John Walters and other drug warriors to exploit these studies next week, NORML warned. Meanwhile, sources indicate problems in both methodology and interpretation -- stay tuned to the Week Online for details.

15. Green Aid Establishes Legal Defense Fund for Ed Rosenthal

Week Online readers may be aware of the case of Ed Rosenthal, arrested in February in the DEA's raids on medical marijuana cooperatives (

Green Aid: The Medical Marijuana Legal Defense and Education Fund has been formed to raise resources for Rosenthal's defense. Visit to make a donation or find out more.

16. Media Scan: Doonesbury, Forbes in Slate, OC Register, Ed Forchion in, Youth Today, Nando Times, CCLE Salvia, Heroin Times, Pot TV on John Walters, ONDCP

Cornell in Jail: ` Doonesbury, Sunday, November 17

Dan Forbes debunks the drug czar's "marijuana is 30 times more potent" lie in "The Myth of Potent Pot":

Alan Bock comments on the recent MPP/SSDP conference in Anaheim, CA, in the 11/17 issue of the Orange County Register:

Also in Sunday's Register, Joe McNamara on California's drug war:

New Jersey marijuana prison Ed Forchion opines on "The Return of the Star Chamber -- the Troubling Similarities Between Ed Forchion and William Penn," published in

Mike Males, a speaker at the recent MPP/SSDP conference in Anaheim, CA, comments on the drinking age and approaches taken in other countries in "Freedom: For Adults Only," in the November 2002 issue of Youth Today, vol. 11, no. 9:

Peter Schrag discusses "States' Rights on Pot Initiatives," 11/20, Nando Times, Scripps McClatchy Western Service:

Updated report on Salvia Divinorum by the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics:

New issue of Heroin Times, November 2002:

Video clips of John Walters in Vancouver:

Federal propaganda web cast -- "ONDCP's Marijuana Initiative: Facts and Solutions":

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 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 9-18, Brazil, healing retreat with Silvia Polivoy, Rick Doblin and others. Visit for information, or e-mail [email protected].

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.

January 20-30, Brazil, healing retreat with Silvia Polivoy. Visit for information, or e-mail [email protected].

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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