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

Issue #265, 11/29/02

"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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DRCNet's office has moved - see this week's editorial for our new contact information.


  1. DRCNet Needs Your Help!
  2. Editorial: Going Out of Business
  3. Pressure on Prisons: State Budget Crises Begin to Hit Home, Moves Afoot in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia to Set Some Free
  4. Weitzel Acquitted in Utah Pain Treatment Manslaughter Case Retrial
  5. The Horrors of War: Forgetting the Occupation Through Obliteration
  6. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  7. Newsbrief: Plan Colombia Foe Wins Ecuador Presidency -- Legalization Talk Among Gutierrez Supporters
  8. Newsbrief: Brazil Set to Become World's Biggest Cocaine Consumer
  9. Newsbrief: Colombian Leader Wants Drug Tests for Americans, Europeans, and Revival of Drug Plane Shootdown Program
  10. Newsbrief: A Sweet Decision -- Federal Judge Tells New York Cops to Quit Hassling Needle Exchange Participants
  11. Newsbrief: DEA to Double Ecstasy Investigations
  12. Newsbrief: ACLU to Hire Bob Barr as Privacy Issues Consultant
  13. Correction/Retraction: NORML Did Help the Marijuana Reform Party
  14. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum
  15. 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: Going Out of Business

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 11/29/02

DRCNet has moved! Our new office address -- to be used only for packages, urgent items or visits -- is 1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20009. Please use our post office box for donations and all routine correspondence -- P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Our phone and fax numbers are unchanged, (202) 293-8340 and (202) 283-8344 respectively.

There are two things that you are probably wondering right now: First, why is this information contained in the editorial? And second, why is it in an editorial titled "Going Out of Business," when moving to a new office and signing a new lease tends to be associated with staying in business?

Many drug policy reformers remember Washington, DC, attorney Rufus King, an "elder statesman" of our movement who worked to end drug prohibition for about 40 years. Rufus debated prohibition's first "drug czar," Harry Anslinger, seemingly costing Anslinger his job eventually, when the tape of the radio broadcast made it to the desk of newly-inaugurated president John F. Kennedy.

Despite his decades of work on the issue -- or perhaps because of it -- Rufus was impatient. He sat on the board of the Drug Policy Foundation, and was upset when they moved into their (now former) Connecticut Avenue offices. The reason? Unlike DPF's former quarters, the new office had carpeting. That was just too comfortable for drug reformers, Rufus felt. The movement should not become institutionalized; we need to solve the problem now and put our organizations out of business. It's about freeing hundreds of thousands of people from prison, stopping crime, saving the Constitution, all the urgent needs that we talk about in our work every day -- and which ruin thousands of lives every day. It's not about having a nice office, nor any office, nor for that matter any job.

Unfortunately, drug prohibition is still raging strong. Hence, DRCNet (which at one time shared DPF's office, making us equally innocent or guilty) still needs space in which to work. And conventional wisdom is that ending prohibition will take still more decades, that it's not going to go away in five or ten years. And perhaps it won't.

But that doesn't give us the right to assume so. Perhaps there is a hidden Berlin Wall, ready to crumble, if only we apply pressure to the right points at the right times. Perhaps educational efforts to raise awareness of the consequences of prohibition in the minds of the public will reach a critical mass, flowing from which that understanding will spread like fire all on its own. Perhaps a true leader will win the reins of power in Washington and launch an open, democratic debate on the drug war, prohibition, legalization, all that we've expounded in our movement for so long. If that happens, we had better be ready, because that leader won't be able to make it happen all alone.

So the best outcome would be one in which DRCNet's new five-year lease is the last one that we have to sign. Let us strive, like Rufus King, to end prohibition sooner rather than later. That would be a going out of business day to celebrate.

3. Pressure on Prisons: State Budget Crises Begin to Hit Home, Moves Afoot in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia to Set Some Free

The budget crisis gripping the states, widely described as the worst since World War II, is beginning to force some of the more punitive states to think about massive early releases of nonviolent prisoners, including drug offenders, as a way of trying to make fiscal ends meet. Other states, including Louisiana and Washington, have already moved to cut drug sentences, while California and Arizona embraced similar reforms by popular initiative before the budget crisis began to hit home. In the last 10 days, elected officials in three lock-'em-up states -- Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Virginia -- announced plans for or warned of the need for early releases of nonviolent prisoners. In Oklahoma, law-and-order Gov. Frank Keating (R), a former FBI agent, sent a letter to the state Pardon and Parole board on Monday asking it to quickly consider more than 1,000 inmates for special commutations in order to relieve the state's burgeoning budget deficit.

While all other state agencies have had to take across the board funding cuts, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) has twice asked for -- and received -- emergency spending allocations this fiscal year. Prison spending in Oklahoma has nearly doubled in the last ten years to more than $400 million annually, largely driven by the increase in drug offenders, who now make up a full third of all prisoners in the state (

In his letter to the parole board, Keating warned that revenue shortfalls could force furloughs of prison personnel by the spring unless some prisoners are set free. But, carefully covering his right flank, Keating also vowed to carefully vet the commutations. "It is essential that we not fall into the trap of some past administrations, which sought to reduce prison populations without adequate safeguards to assure that any released inmates pose minimal threats to public safety," Keating wrote.

Keating told the parole board he had asked the DOC to screen commutation candidates according to "specific and narrow criteria." Eligible prisoners must have no convictions for violent crimes, no more than one prior felony conviction, sentences no longer than five years, and not be serving delayed sentences. Also, drug sellers are not included. Combined with the fact that persons convicted of offenses involving methamphetamine, the demon drug du jour, serve sentences averaging over nine years (compared to about two years for other drug offenders) thanks to tougher sentences enacted in 1999, that means a significant number of Oklahoma drug offenders will continue to languish behind bars.

Although releasing the thousand prisoners would save the DOC about $1.5 million, the department is facing a $25 million cut in its budget next fiscal year, so much pressure remains on the department. Keating wrote in his letter that diversion programs for nonviolent offenders will come into effect soon, reducing some of that pressure.

Those prisoners who receive a commutation would be free and clear, without having to serve time on probation or parole. "A sentence commutation means they have served their time," DOC spokesman Jerry Massie told the Daily Oklahoman.

In Kentucky, meanwhile, Gov. Paul Patton (D) announced on November 21 that he would entertain the early release of some prisoners in the Bluegrass State if the state cannot afford to keep them behind bars. Some Republican legislators responded by saying they would rather release nonviolent prisoners than increase taxes, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

Patton told the newspaper he is caught between a booming prison population and $509 million in projected budget cuts over the next two years. Without more money, early release is a real possibility, he said. "We have our prisons just as full as they can be," Patton said. "And I think they're already stressed. They're already stretched in terms of staffing."

Kentucky houses more than 11,000 prisoners in state and private prisons, with an additional 4,000 serving time in local jails, halfway houses or other locations. Kentucky's prison population has increased by 41% in the past decade, driven mainly by drug prosecutions, the Herald Leader reported. Average sentences have also increased by more than three years in the past decade. The state plans to open an $88 million, 900-bed prison in 2004, but doesn't have the money to hire the staff to run it, Patton said.

Patton said the first class of prisoners to be released would be 3,200 Class D felons held in local jails, and would emphasize nonviolent offenders. The state pays $27.51 per day to local jails to hold state prisoners, the governor's office reported on November 20.

In response, legislators seemed more worried about raising taxes than releasing felons. "I am sure that there are people incarcerated that could be managed in a community setting more efficiently," Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly (R-Springfield) told the Herald Leader. "It's probably something we ought to look at. It's very expensive to warehouse someone who's not a threat to the community."

But there is also grumbling from those whose oxen may be gored. Local jails take in an average of more than $10,000 per prisoner per year from the state. "We built these big local jails at the specific request of the state, to help them house state inmates. They told us, 'You build 'em big, we'll fill 'em,'" said Davies County jailer Harold Taylor, president of the Kentucky Jailers Association.

And in Virginia, home of the modern day cotton-field slave dressed in prison whites, the prisons are full, with no money for more. It's time for Virginia to consider alternatives to prison, state budget officials told lawmakers at a retreat last weekend. While the state is wrestling with the largest revenue decline on record, said Senate Finance Committee staff budget analyst Dan Hickman, the state's parole authorities are sending nonviolent offenders back to prison at record levels for technical violations of their parole, including many for dirty drug tests or failing to keep an appointment. The state's 1994 law banning parole for violent or repeat offenders is also adding to the crisis, Hickman told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

As a result, even though the state spent $2 billion building new prisons in the 1980s and 1990s, there is no room at the inn. And there is no money for more prisons; instead, the state faces a $2 billion budget deficit this year.

Legislators need to take a long hard look at early releases for nonviolent offenders, and parole authorities need to find diversion programs for petty parole violators, Hickman said. Parolees who are able to work contribute a million dollars a year to the prison budget by paying a portion of their own incarceration costs, he said. If parolees continue to be re-incarcerated at a high rate, that means more prisons will be needed. "And right now, there are no additional funds to expand anything," Hickman said.

But even trying to save money costs money, Hickman said. More diversion programs will have to be funded, he said. "You will need additional funding for that and you will need to encourage judges to make greater use of these alternatives," Hickman said.

4. Weitzel Acquitted in Utah Pain Treatment Manslaughter Case Retrial

Salt Lake City psychiatrist Robert Weitzel's legal ordeal is over. Last Friday, an eight-person jury took only 90 minutes to deliver acquittals on all counts of killing five geriatric patients with morphine overdoses. Weitzel had been convicted in an earlier trial and served six months in prison before he was released after a Utah judge ruled that prosecutors had engaged in misconduct by not informing Weitzel's attorneys of expert testimony that vindicated his medical conduct. "I'm very grateful the jury saw it sensibly, that the judge was fair, that my attorneys were exemplary and that the medical community supported me," Weitzel told the Deseret News after the verdict was announced.

The case drew national attention as it pitted modern principles of pain management against prohibitionist prosecutors, who attempted to portray Weitzel as a drug-addled murderer. At issue were the treatment and subsequent deaths of five mentally and terminally ill geriatric patients under Weitzel's care in 1995 and 1996. But Weitzel has passed hundreds of drug tests, and medical expert after medical expert testified in his defense during the trial.

The most powerful testimony came from Dr. Perry Fine, a nationally recognized expert on pain management and end-of-life care. It was Fine's opinions that prosecutors hid from the defense during Weitzel's first trial. Fine explained to the jury how pain management worked and why it was appropriate for the patients in question. "To condemn these actions taken by Dr. Weitzel would have condemned these patients to horrible deaths," he told the jury. Fine testified that the five patients had died from the progression of their pre-existing medical conditions, not from drugs prescribed by Weitzel.

But Fine was only one of a string of expert witnesses who demolished the prosecution's case. For nearly a week, doctor after doctor described Weitzel's treatment as well within medical standards. Their performance made defense attorney Walter Bugden's job all the easier.

While prosecutors attempted to portray Weitzel as reckless and negligent, Bugden insisted in closing arguments that his care was proper and that the prosecution did not understand patients' pain. "It was end-of-life care, it was comfort care," he said. "Dr. Weitzel was honoring the end-of-life directives" of patients and their families. "We all have a right to choose comfort," he said. "Physicians are obligated -- obligated -- to honor those wishes." The patients were not victims of Weitzel, said Bugden. "They were just victims of their diseases."

Although the medical community was slow to support Weitzel at first, by the time of his second trial the Utah Medical Association had passed a resolution clearly inspired by his case urging prosecutors not to interfere in the lawful practice of medicine. "The one good thing that has come out of all this is that people are more concerned with care at the end of life and prescribing properly for pain control," UMA spokesman Kevin Fotheringham told the Deseret News after the verdict.

But while Weitzel's legal problems are behind him, he still has a date with a federal penitentiary in less than two weeks. On the advice of an attorney he told DRCNet he now regrets having listened to, Weitzel earlier this year pled guilty to a federal count of prescription drug fraud. That charge arose after DEA agents raided his offices after his arrest by Utah authorities. They found that Weitzel's record-keeping was shoddy and that he could not account for a small number of vials of morphine. Under the terms of the plea bargain, Weitzel must report to prison within 15 days from the end of his just finished trial. While the typical penalty for such a charge does not involve jail time, Weitzel was sentenced to a shocking, perhaps politically motivated one year term.

Weitzel told the Deseret News that after he serves his time he will seek to get his medical license reinstated, and he intends to focus on prison psychiatry and prison hospice care. "There is a huge need for it in that population," said Weitzel, who has already had a six-month taste of life behind bars at Point-of-the-Mountain, the Utah state prison.

Weitzel is also getting the hell out of Utah.

Visit for further information on the Weitzel case.

5. The Horrors of War: Forgetting the Occupation Through Obliteration

As US troops continue to patrol Afghanistan, and as they prepare to hit the ground in Colombia in January to intervene in that country's ongoing civil war, and as the US government edges ever closer to invading Iraq, a story out of Israel should (but probably won't) provide some sobering reading for those pounding the war drums along the Potomac. The Vietnam War saw widespread drug use among US troops and a legion of junkies coming back to America. The Gulf War, too, produced abreactions among the troops, manifested most infamously by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, but more quietly and more commonly by the fall into alcohol or drug abuse.

But for many Americans, the Vietnam War is lost in the mists of time, and the Gulf War is but a vague memory. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the ongoing Palestinian intifada ("uprising") against it, however, are not ancient history. The images of violence flash across the TV screen daily. The toll of the dead and injured on both sides is well known. Less known is the psychic toll paid by soldiers occupying a hostile land. But a recent report in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv (November 5) shone a bright light on the horrors of war for the fighters. It isn't pretty, but it is instructive.

The Ma'ariv story, "What Have I Done! -- A Hundred Soldiers Treated for 'Intifada Syndrome,'" focused on the Izun "rehabilitation village" near the town of Ceasarea. There, Ma'ariv reported, former soldiers are treated for deep mental crises, including severe drug abuse, caused by their duties as soldiers of the occupation. On the day Ma'ariv visited the village, four ex-members of the Duvdevan (special forces units carrying out arrests and assassinations while disguised as Arabs) checked in.

"They joined the most elite of units, full of motivation," wrote Ma'ariv. "They served terms of three years and more, fought in the hardest battles of the Intifada, but also had to face the civilian Palestinian population. Now that they have been discharged the difficulties are exposed, the personal problems and crises, the self-flagellation. The magnitude of the phenomenon is frightening. Dozens of them went on backpacking trips to the Far East where they became addicted to drugs, including hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Some tried to commit suicide."

"When we started a year and eight months ago, we had the intention of treating those backpacker soldiers returning from India, Thailand and other places in a condition of total collapse, apathetic and with no grasp of reality," said Israeli army reserve lieutenant-colonel Omri Frish, a social worker by training who organized the village. "We were staggered by the number of calls we got. We got more then 900 calls from parents with very painful stories of sons becoming drug addicts, trying to commit suicide and generally emotionally distressed," he told Ma'ariv. "Many of these were veterans of the most prestigious elite units such as Sayeret Matkal, the Naval Commandos, Duvdevan and Duchifat."

Many of the soldiers hold themselves accountable for actions taken to defend the occupation. "The soldiers burst out crying and blame themselves for maltreatment, abuse, humiliation and derision of the Palestinians," said one of the village doctors. "Now, after being discharged, the vision of what they had done is playing itself in their minds like a non-stop film. Suddenly the soldier, the tough fighter who had been nicknamed 'Rambo,' goes to India. There he experiences another reality, a quiet and tranquil situation. When he comes back he realizes what he had done. He tries to escape from reality, to escape into drugs, and his life becomes a ruin."

One former paratrooper being treated at Izun explained: "We went into houses. We saw children and old people crying. We shot at their TV sets. At first you feel no pity, you just have a job to do and you do it. But later when you sit at home, you start realizing what you have done, and it hurts you deeply."

"Their problems are severe," said Frish. "Soldiers who killed Palestinians, soldiers who by mistake killed a fellow soldier, soldiers who failed under pressure. They try to face life and travel to India, to the East. On their return we interview them. When we ask 'why did you do it', they say 'I don't know why, it was as if there was another person inside me.'"

Frish told of one Sayeret Matkal [Israeli equivalent of the Green Berets] officer who spent two years fighting the Palestinians. "After his discharge he traveled to Thailand. He tried to escape his experiences in the [occupied] Territories. He failed and became a drug addict. In Israel he went on to become a very heavy cocaine user. His parents called and asked us to help him. We agreed, and he was treated with his parents accompanying him. A few days later he was found dead in his room," Frish related.

Another patient at the village was an elite fighter who traveled to India after finishing his service. "He took some LSD and entered a cave in order to meditate," said Frish. "Suddenly he saw scenes from the Intifada in front of his eyes: terrorists belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad. He suffered shock and anxiety attack and subsequently collapsed. With his parents' help, he was evacuated to be treated in the village."

Another group of patients at the village are soldiers tasked with assassinating Palestinian militant Iyad Batat early in 2001. "At first we were happy and elated with our success. We posed for photographs over the remnants of his mangled body, some of us smiling and laughing while holding his torn-off organs," a member of that group told Ma'ariv. "Suddenly, a few weeks later, the Operations Officer came over, reprimanded us and demanded that we hand over those photographs. He burnt them in front of us and warned us never to take such photos again. When we finally realized what we had done, we felt very upset. A short time later, two of us went to a party, where they took a lot of Ecstasy pills. They came back to camp totally doped. We had to take away their guns and lock them up in a room until the psychiatrists came to take them. One of them didn't recognize anybody, and was all the time shouting 'Muhammad, Muhammad, Muhammad.' He became totally crazy. The Intifada has finished him."

The Israeli Defense Forces -- like the Pentagon -- seems uninterested in the plight of its former soldiers. "We don't follow it up," an unnamed military official told Ma'ariv. "We cannot deal with every fighter that fell into drug abuse or is suffering emotional distress in some monastery in India. We are aware of the difficult situation of fighters and soldiers who are distressed. There are support groups and we look favorably upon the formation of the village and its worthy work."

Those former soldiers who are dragged in or otherwise present themselves for treatment are the tip of the iceberg, one officer at Izun told Ma'ariv. "There are hundreds of others who hang around with a feeling that their life has no purpose. It's only a few easy steps to drugs and suicide," he said. "We dread the possibility of former soldiers will get involved in criminal activity as a result of their distress."

If the Ma'ariv report is any indication, it looks as if American drug treatment centers can expect a new stream of clients as US troops begin what appears to be an extensive, open-ended battle against hostile populations from Kabul to Kuwait and from Bogota to Baghdad.

6. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

This week's honors go to a set of sheriff's deputies in Davidson County, NC, in a scandal that should have ended in July, but just keeps on giving. Last December, a federal grand jury indicted three of them and an Archdale patrolman for participating in a ring that sold and used steroids, cocaine and ecstasy. A later indictment charged the men with various civil rights violations for using illegal searches and seizures against local drug dealers.

By July, all had been found guilty and sentenced to federal prison terms ranging from two years and seven months for the "cooperating witness" to 27 years for undercover sheriff's narc David Scott Woodall. In the months since then, more than 30 drug defendants have had their charges dismissed or convictions overturned.

But a motion filed this week by convicted crack dealer Terrence Maurice Barriet broke new ground in the scandal. The motion to vacate his sentence included an affidavit from Woodall, now serving time in the same prison, in which Woodall confesses to having framed Barriet by planting drugs on him. "Terrence Maurice Barriet did not have drugs on his person or property on May 22, 1999," Woodall said in the affidavit. "The crack cocaine was provided... in order to facilitate an arrest... that would result in a prison sentence for Terrence Maurice Barriet." Woodall added that he threatened Barriet "to not give trouble to the case, or his wife would be victimized also."

The US Attorney's office handling the case against Barriet has requested a 30-day extension to respond to the affidavit, but local newspaper the High Point Enterprise didn't need a month to figure out something fishy was going on. In a Tuesday editorial, the paper wrote that Woodall's affidavit "should prompt more investigation," and wondered aloud about others who had been framed. "That's vicious behavior by officers who were supposed to be enforcing the law," the paper opined. "Authorities must find out whether it happened to other people who have not yet received justice."

At Woodall's sentencing in July, his attorney attempted to explain that Woodall didn't do it out of greed, but that the conspiracy "revolved around friendship, and around the climate that evolved in that vice-narcotics department."

That's the problem.

7. Newsbrief: Plan Colombia Foe Wins Ecuador Presidency -- Legalization Talk Among Gutierrez Supporters

Lucio Gutierrez was cashiered from the military and imprisoned after he led a short-lived coup at the head of radicalized Ecuadorian Indians two years ago. On Sunday, he was elected president of Ecuador, joining newly elected Brazilian president "Lula" da Silva and embattled Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in an emerging left-populist bloc spread across central and northern South America, a bloc critical of both US economic policy and the US drug war in the region.

Congressional conservatives in the US are nervous. Even before da Silva's October victory in Brazil, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), head of the House International Relations Committee, sent a letter to President Bush warning of a new "axis of evil" in Latin America. That would be Brazil under da Silva, Venezuela under Chavez, and, of course, Cuba under long-time nemesis, Castro. And now they've got Gutierrez to worry about, too.

Like da Silva and Chavez, Gutierrez was popularly elected, this time at least. Gutierrez claimed victory on Sunday with 54.3% of the vote, defeating banana billionaire Alvaro Noboa in a stunning repudiation of politics as usual in Ecuador. Campaigning on a platform of social justice and ending corruption -- $2 billion is stolen from the government each year, BBC News reported -- Gutierrez ignited both indigenous and ladino protest votes that swept away the established parties and swept him to power.

Gutierrez has been a critic of Plan Colombia (see for the interview DRCNet conducted with Gutierrez in July 2001 in El Salvador), and a leading official of the Pachakutik Party, a key pillar of support for Gutierrez, is now talking about drug legalization. In an interview with NarcoNews, Fernando Buendia, secretary of international relations for Pachakutik, said: "As a social movement we are going to push a public debate, at the widest level, about legalization." (See for the interview and visit this week for additional NarcoNews reports from Ecuador.)

The comment came in the context of a broader discussion of drug trafficking, the Colombian civil war, and the US military base at Manta, Ecuador, which is used to help prosecute US war aims next door in Colombia. Amidst broad criticisms of US drug policies, Buendia added that legalization is an issue that knows no ideological bounds. "This issue has been extensively discussed inside Colombia," he told NarcoNews. "A columnist for the Colombian daily El Tiempo, which is not at all a newspaper of the left, already said that it is necessary to raise the issue of legalization of the sale of drugs. Milton Friedman has said this, and he's not of the left either, in a letter to the US drug czar published in a newspaper: 'From the bowels of Christ, I beseech thee, decriminalize drugs.' This is the root of the issue..."

8. Newsbrief: Brazil Set to Become World's Biggest Cocaine Consumer

Brazil's infatuation with cocaine has that country poised to displace the United States as the world's largest cocaine consuming county, according to a leading Brazilian drug researcher. "We are moving at such velocity that we are not yet, but will shortly be the leading global consumer of cocaine," University of Belem sociologist Argemiro Procopio told the Jornal do Brasil on Saturday.

Brazil is consuming 40 to 50 tons of cocaine annually, according to the US State Department, second only to the US.

Procopio, who has penned four books on Brazil's drug trade, pointed to various factors contributing to the growth in cocaine consumption in the country, including the strength of the drug traffickers, who effectively control many of the favelas (squatter communities with millions of inhabitants) of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo and are sometimes referred to as the "parallel power" ( "It is the impunity [enjoyed by the traffickers] and the low price," said Procopio, "because today a rock of crack costs the same as a bottle of pop. It's within the reach of anyone."

The various drug trafficking organizations, known locally as "commands," market crack aggressively. In late 2001, one group marketed its rocks under the "Osama bin Laden" brand name. But, said Procopio, groups such as the urban commands and one of their most notorious leaders, the imprisoned Fernandinho Beira-Mar (Seaside Freddy), represent only the "stereotypical" face of Brazilian drug trafficking. "Beira-Mar is not the responsible one, nor is the drug traffic controlled from inside any prison," he said. "It is directed from comfortable, air-conditioned offices by people far from any suspicion. If we took the image of a military hierarchy, Beira-Mar would barely be a captain. The structure here is like that of the Russian mafias. There is not one, not two or three mafias, but a grand number, something like two or three thousand groups," said Procopio. "Organized crime in Brazil is decentralized."

9. Newsbrief: Colombian Leader Wants Drug Tests for Americans, Europeans, and Revival of Drug Plane Shootdown Program

Putting the blame for Colombian drug trafficking squarely at the feet of consuming nations, hard-line Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on November 22 urged that Americans and Europeans be forced to submit to drug testing -- and that we should begin with top-level executives. Uribe also called for the reinstatement of the US policy of cooperating with Andean countries to shoot down suspected drug trafficking planes. That policy was halted last year after the Peruvian Air Force and CIA spotters blew a small plane out of the sky over the Amazon, killing an American missionary and her infant child.

"We need more serious commitments from the consumer countries," Uribe told a meeting of the Iberoamerican Association of Public Ministers in Bogota, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. Uribe said a good first step would be to require drug testing for Americans and Europeans, starting with high-level executives. "Perhaps they would do that to demonstrate to the world their solidarity with our country," he said.

Uribe also urged that those who test positive be punished. "Just as here we are going to approve the criminalization of personal doses, in the United States and Europe the citizenry should submit to a drug test to aid us to defeat it, to compensate for our great sacrifice, to support their counterparts," he said. "If they lower consumption in the United States, if they lower the consumption in Europe, and if we also defeat consumption, then we can defeat the production," said Uribe. He didn't mention Brazil.

About 90% of the world's cocaine is produced in Colombia, where in recent years competing armed groups have used the profits to finance that country's never-ending civil war. Possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized on constitutional grounds by Colombia's Supreme Court in 1994, but early last month Uribe announced an effort to reverse that policy (

Uribe also took advantage of the forum provided by the meeting of Latin American equivalents to the US Attorney General to ask the US government to reinstate its aerial shootdown program. He noted that Colombia makes drug seizures "daily," but "to be effective, we need interdiction." He asked US Assistant Attorney General Mary Lee Warren, who was at the meeting, to expedite the reintroduction of the program, which resulted in at least 25 planes being blown out of the sky in the 1990s in Peru and Colombia.

Gen. James Hill, chief of the US Southern Command, told El Tiempo that the US government has every intention of reinstating the program, but that "bureaucratic" problems over contracts for the program have prevented it from happening yet. El Tiempo also cited "official sources" in Washington as saying that Colombian and Peruvian pilots for the shootdown program had already been trained in the US months ago, but that bureaucratic wrangling could require the personal intervention of President Bush to break the impasse.

10. Newsbrief: A Sweet Decision -- Federal Judge Tells New York Cops to Quit Hassling Needle Exchange Participants

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled on November 20 that New York police cannot arrest drug users carrying syringes with drug residues if those drug users are clients of a needle exchange program (NEP). Attempting to do so would be "bizarre," wrote Federal District Judge Robert W. Sweet. The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by the Urban Justice Center on behalf of NEP participants who complained of being arrested and having their NEP cards turn up by New York City police.

In New York, drug users registered with NEPs are sheltered from prosecution under the state's paraphernalia laws. "It would be bizarre," Sweet wrote, "to conclude that the legislative intent was to permit the creation of needle exchange programs in order to remove dirty needles, while at the same time frustrating that goal by making the essential steps of participation criminal."

Corrinne Carey, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times the ruling tells "the police department that even though people are drug users, they still have a right to protect their own health and the health of their community."

See for our earlier reporting on the case.

11. Newsbrief: DEA to Double Ecstasy Investigations

Saying that ecstasy (MDMA) is "the Y generation's cocaine," DEA head Asa Hutchinson was as hip as he was accurate as he used a San Diego press conference on November 20 to unveil a new campaign targeting ecstasy and other so-called club drugs. "Operation X-Out," as the new effort is cutely named, will double the number of DEA club drug investigations. According to Hutchinson, club drugs now make up about 5% of all major DEA investigations.

"The explosive use of Ecstasy and predatory drugs [a new term of propaganda for club drugs] among our youth is fast reaching epidemic levels," said Hutchinson, waving an evidence bag he said contained confiscated ecstasy. According to the DEA, the number of Americans using ecstasy increased by 1.6 million last year to more than 8 million. Hutchinson said some new investigations will focus on the Netherlands, where most of the world's ecstasy supply originates, while others will focus on Internet sales. The agency will also step up enforcement in south Florida, a major point of entry for the drug, and at airports across the country.

12. Newsbrief: ACLU to Hire Bob Barr as Privacy Issues Consultant

In a move that has raised more than one set of eyebrows, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Monday that it plans to hire former Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA) "to work on informational and privacy issues."

Barr, a strident prohibitionist, is best known to drug policy reformers for blocking Washington, DC, from counting votes for a 1998 medical marijuana initiative. As a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the District government, Barr attached a rider (the "Barr Amendment") to the annual appropriations bill barring the District from counting the votes. When the federal courts overturned the ban on counting the ballots -- the measure won with 69% of the vote -- Barr again acted to prevent the District from implementing the will of the voters.

His Barr Amendment, now an annual addition to the District's appropriations bill, also blocked an effort this year to put medical marijuana back on the ballot in DC. A federal circuit court ruled this year that: "There can be no doubt that the Barr Amendment restricts plaintiffs' First Amendment right to engage in political speech." The ruling, however, was overturned without explanation by a federal appeals court. Barr applauded the appeals court reversal, saying it "recognized the right and responsibility of Congress to protect citizens from dangerous, mind-altering narcotics."

When it comes to issues other than drug policy, however, Barr has stood up for citizens confronting an aggressive, prying federal government. In recent years, he has been one of the few congressional voices raising the alarm over increasing government snooping. He opposed the creation of a national ID system, raised a hue and cry about the FBI's Carnivore internet snooping system, opposed proposed "Know Your Customer" banking regulations, and derided the aborted Operation TIPS citizen-snitch program. Barr was also instrumental in persuading the House to pass a bill requiring the federal government to consider privacy implications of new regulations.

"Rep. Barr and the ACLU disagree on many other issues, but we have no doubt that a strange bedfellows collaboration between us will yield great things for informational and data privacy rights," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office in a Monday press release.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said that Barr's agreement to work with the ACLU "demonstrates how deeply concerns about personal privacy cut across partisan lines." He noted that the ACLU has "no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, just permanent values." The press release noted that the ACLU is also in conversations with former House majority leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX). With Republicans in charge of both Congress and the White House, said Murphy, the ACLU must be realistic if it wants to influence policy in Washington. "If we're going to affect federal policy, we have to have access," she said.

If the marriage goes through, Barr would consult for the ACLU in its fight against post-September 11 legislation that attack traditional privacy rights. Barr would concentrate on "sneak and peek" warrants, which allow black-bag searches conducted without the knowledge of the target, and other informational issues, said the press release. Neither the ACLU nor leading drug policy reformers were available for comment in the run-up to the Thanksgiving holidays.

13. Correction/Retraction: NORML Did Help the Marijuana Reform Party

In our story on New York state marijuana reform efforts last week (, DRCNet quoted Marijuana Reform Party head Tom Leighton saying that MRP "couldn't get a dime" out of drug reform movement funders and organizations, including NORML.

Leighton informed DRCNet this week he had inadvertently misspoken, and asked us to print his retraction. The Marijuana Reform Party did indeed receive $500 in funding and other assistance from national NORML, Leighton said. He did not mean to unfairly impugn NORML and deeply regrets the error, Leighton added.

14. 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.

15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 5, 7:00pm, Liverpool, NY, ReconsiDer December Meeting, with attorney Allen Rosenthal and Peter Christ discussing Incarceration & Violence. At Le Moyne Manor, 629 Old Liverpool Road, Italian buffet served before meeting. Contact Nick Eyle at (315) 422-6231 or [email protected] for further information.

December 6, Paris, International Conference on Ibogaine, sponsored by Ligne Blanche and Project Ibogaine. At l'Espace ABC, 3 rue de la Chapelle, contact Aivia Monitto at 06 12 936 958, Farid Ghehioueche at 06 148 156 79, or e-mail [email protected], or Dana Beal at (212) 677-7180 for further information.

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 11, 2003, Bradford, PA, Eric Sterling speaks on "Origination of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Laws and What We Can Do Instead." At the University of Pitt at Bradford, organized by Reconsider: Forum on Drug Policy. Visit for information or contact Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630 or [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.

March 12, 2003, Charleston, SC, Dr. Gene Tinelli speaks on "Alternatives to Punishment in the War on Drugs." Part four of a four part series, at the College of Charleston, organized by Reconsider: Forum on Drug Policy. Visit for information or contact Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630 or [email protected].

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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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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