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

Issue #267, 12/13/02

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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

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  1. DRCNet Needs Your Help!
  2. Editorial: O, Canada! (Oh, the Embarrassment!)
  3. Canadian House Drugs Committee Calls for Cannabis Decrim, Safe Injection Sites, Heroin Maintenance
  4. Canadian Justice Minister Calls for Cannabis Decrim "Early Next Year" -- US Opposition Could Pose Obstacle
  5. Britain Drops Old Drug Strategy Targets, Goals Were "Not Credible" -- New Strategy a Mixed Bag
  6. Michigan Legislature Repeals Draconian Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences
  7. New Jersey Court Declares State's Civil Forfeiture Funding Scheme Unconstitutional
  8. Newsbrief: Santa Cruz Deputizes Medical Marijuana Providers
  9. Newsbrief: Massachusetts High Court Blocks Arrest of Needle Exchange Participants
  10. Newsbrief: Colombia -- It's Drug War -- No, Oil War -- No, Terror War
  11. Newsbrief: British Ex-Minister Calls Ecstasy Law "An Ass"
  12. Newsbrief: Israeli Green Leaf Party Eyes Knesset Seats
  13. Newsbrief: Illinois Supreme Court Limits Use of Drug Dogs in Traffic Stops
  14. Newsbrief: Paramilitary Drug Raid Tactics Anger Eugene Residents
  15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  16. Newsbrief: SAMHSA Says Treat Drug Abusers' Mental Illness
  17. Media and Resources: Medical Cannabis Conference Tapes, WOLA Report, Jacob Sullum in Reason, Deborah Saunders in SF Chronicle
  18. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum
  19. 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: O, Canada! (Oh, the Embarrassment!)

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/13/02

Though a critic of US drug policies, the US is still my home, its government is mine, its leaders were elected by my fellow US citizens. So I can't help but get a little embarrassed -- though mostly entertained -- when United States drug warriors say ridiculous things in other countries that make them look stupid.

One such drug warrior was Rep. Mark Souder. Souder told members of a Canadian Senate Committee last July that "BC Bud," British Columbia's famous high-grade marijuana, is as dangerous as cocaine, threatening Canada with a tighter border crackdown if they proceeded with decriminalization as officials have called for. Souder's wacky claim drew proper astonishment from Member of Parliament from Vancouver Libby Davies, who wondered out loud to Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, "My God, what is this man talking about?" The Senators weren't impressed either -- their final report went further than decriminalization and instead called for marijuana legalization outright.

Two of Souder's partners in comedy, US drug czar John Walters and former Family Research Council VP and Bush drug policy advisor Robert Maginnis, were loud in Canada's news this week, and they sounded desperate. Walters warned that liberalizing drug laws would hurt Canadians, begging them, "[d]on't repeat our pain." Maginnis warned, "We're going to have to clamp down even stronger on our border if you liberalize and contribute to what we consider a drug tourism problem," continuing, "I don't want to get to the point where we're calling for a boycott of Canadian products."

I wonder which products Maginnis was talking about, and if he actually thinks it would work. This country hasn't even boycotted Saudi oil. And decades of exhortation by government officials, private anti-drug groups, teachers, DARE cops, military, media and numerous others haven't persuaded American enthusiasts from indulging in cannabis both domestic and foreign. It's pretty unlikely that very many people would get worked up enough to keep track of and avoid the numerous nondescript consumer goods that cross our northern border legally -- even in the unlikely event that marijuana policy changes in Canada drew the ire of significant numbers of Americans.

Walters and Maginnis should be worried. Support for decrim rises to the highest levels of government. It has popular support. Indeed, many Canadians, like the Senate Committee, don't feel it goes far enough. The aforementioned Libby Davies told the Winnipeg Free Press this week that the House of Commons Special Committee's recommendations "leav[e] in place all the harms from prohibition." Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy said "it is not clear if the police will still be able to kick your door down, throw you up against the wall, arrest you, and then write you a traffic ticket." Canada's media isn't only covering the American side, but is speaking with experts from that famous bastion of tolerant drug policy, The Netherlands. And Canada is looking at a range of reforms relating to other drugs, including safe injection rooms and heroin maintenance trial programs. How long will it be before there is a serious dialogue on legalization of all drugs?

Though the decrim recommendations aren't everything reformers would like, they are a significant start, and a sign that US drug warriors' stranglehold on international drug policymaking is slowly but surely falling apart. It's understandable that they would be in a panic over it. But I wish they would save the rest of us the embarrassment and show a little more grace and class in their diplomacy.

In the meantime, go Canada!

3. Canadian House Drugs Committee Calls for Cannabis Decrim, Safe Injection Sites, Heroin Maintenance

The Canadian House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs recommended this week that Canada decriminalize the possession and cultivation of up to 30 grams of cannabis, that safe injection sites for intravenous drug users be allowed to open, and that heroin be made available by prescription. Combined with a September report from a Canadian Senate special committee that called for legalization of cannabis and recent pronouncements from Justice Minister Martin Cauchon (see following story), the House committee report provides the latest and clearest indication yet that Canada is on the verge of decriminalizing cannabis possession and cultivation -- at least on a small scale.

Although the committee found that "smoking any amount of marijuana is unhealthy, because of its high concentration of tar and benzopyrene," it also noted that "the consequences of conviction for possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use are disproportionate to the potential harm associated with that behavior." Thus the committee recommended that "the possession of cannabis continue to be illegal and that trafficking in any amount of cannabis remain a crime," but also that "the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health establish a comprehensive strategy for decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of not more than 30 grams of cannabis for personal use." The committee added that such a scheme should also include prevention and education programs emphasizing the risks of cannabis use, especially for young people, and development of a means of enforcing laws against driving while impaired by a drug.

Under current Canadian law, small-time cannabis possessors face up to six months in prison. Under a proposal studied by the committee, that would be replaced by a ticket and escalating fines, with no criminal record.

The committee report on cannabis was not without dissent. The rightist Canadian Alliance, whose British Columbia Member of Parliament Randy White sat on the committee, denounced the 30 gram limit as too high, arguing that it would facilitate drug trafficking. A five gram limit would be more appropriate, White told reporters. At the same time, New Democrat MP Libby Davies said the recommendations did not go far enough. "It's still basically leaving the possession of cannabis as illegal," Davies told the Winnipeg Free Press. "Any trafficking would still be illegal, so it's still leaving in place all the harms from prohibition."

Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy ( also felt the committee didn't go far enough. "With the proposed decriminalization, it is not clear if the police will still be able to kick your door down, throw you up against the wall, arrest you, and then write you a traffic ticket," he told DRCNet. "Also, the 30 gram limit for cultivation seems unworkable, especially when the police weigh the entire plant. It's pretty hard to find a mature marijuana plant weighing less than 30 grams," he said.

"The recommendations on cannabis are better than nothing," Oscapella conceded. "It would absolve people from getting criminal records, but it may also widen the net. And it still doesn't address the fundamental issues of the role of prohibition in creating a black market, with all of its associated problems."

The House of Commons committee issued its report in two stages this week, citing fears that the recommendations on cannabis would detract attention from its recommendations on other drug issues. (The eruption of stories about decrim in the Canadian press this week certainly proved the committee right.) The committee delayed the cannabis recommendations until Thursday, while on Monday it released the sections of its report dealing with harder drugs. The committee was equally controversial on that subject. It called for the establishment of safe injection sites where intravenous drug users could shoot-up in a healthy, supervised environment. "People are using drugs," explained committee chair Paddy Torsney, MP of the ruling Liberal Party. "Let's deal with the health problem. They're somebody's brother or sister, and they're deserving of our care," she told Reuters.

Based on the principles of harm reduction, the proposal would allow drug users to bring their own drugs to a room where they can inject without fear of police persecution under the supervision of medical personnel. The committee found that such sites reduce the rates of hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS and overdose deaths. The Ministry of Health has already moved to create guidelines for pilot safe injection site programs, and indications are that Vancouver will have a government-approved site in place within a few months.

If the Canadian Alliance's Randy White didn't like decrim, he was even more appalled at safe injection sites. White told Reuters (and anyone else who would listen) that the sites constituted not harm reduction, but "harm extension." The Canadian Police Association also weighed in against the sites. "Our concern is we're sliding down a slippery slope to the point where it won't be long that we'll be hearing calls for dispensing drugs in those sites as well," association spokesman David Griffin complained to Reuters.

Maybe sooner than he fears. The committee also recommended that proposed clinical trials "in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to test the effectiveness of heroin-assisted treatment for drug-dependent individuals resistant to other forms of treatment be implemented and that these trials incorporate protocols for rigorous scientific assessment and evaluation."

With the House of Commons committee report, Canada appears that much closer to enacting substantive harm reduction programs for hard drugs and decriminalization of marijuana. Now both houses of parliament have spoken clearly and eloquently for reform of the drug laws, and the governing Liberal Party appears ready to act.

This article touched on only a handful of the committee's 41 recommendations. To view the report online, visit -- Appendix A has the complete list of committee recommendations.

Mainstream media reports:

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

CBC interviews with US officials John Walters and Robert Maginnis

4. Canadian Justice Minister Calls for Cannabis Decrim "Early Next Year" -- US Opposition Could Pose Obstacle

Canadian Minister of Justice Martin Cauchon didn't need to read the House of Commons report to know where he wants to take cannabis policy. In remarks to reporters outside the House of Commons on Monday, Cauchon strongly suggested that the federal government would introduce legislation early next year to decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana.

"If we're talking about the question of decriminalizing marijuana, we may move ahead quickly as a government," he said. "I don't want to give you a date or a time frame, but let's say the beginning of next year. Give me the first four months of next year."

While Cauchon added that he was waiting for the House of Commons report to be issued, his comments Monday suggest that he has already decided in favor of decriminalization. Cauchon made similar remarks after the September issuance of the Canadian Senate report, which called for the legalization of cannabis for those over the age of 16. "I don't think I've ever really hidden my position," he said. "I think most Canadians know where I stand, but I'm part of a parliamentary process that I must respect."

So, is marijuana decriminalization a done deal? Not quite, said Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy ( "The Minister of Justice says he wants to do it, and I take him at his word. He is a key player in this," Oscapella told DRCNet. "If the governing Liberal Party is being honest, we will have decrim next year. My biggest fear is that the government will cook up some excuse not to do anything. Will another major terrorist attack throw everything out of whack? How will a war affect things? Will it turn people's attention away from decriminalization?"

Oscapella also pointed to another potential stumbling block. "The real fly in the ointment is the pressure the US administration will bring to bear on this," he said. "Your drug czar was already on Canadian TV this afternoon [Thursday] saying it was a mistake, there would be consequences." US drug czar John Walters has previously threatened dire consequences for US-Canadian trade in the event of Canadian marijuana law reform, and while he was more tactful Thursday in an interview with the Associated Press, he still warned that liberalizing Canada's marijuana laws will "boost drug use and bring more pot into the United States."

Walters added that while he didn't think decrim would "destroy" US-Canadian relations, the US would be forced to take measures to combat what he predicted would be an increased flow of drugs from Canada. "My theory is it's going to cause unnecessary harm to our citizens and our children on both sides of our borders," he said. "For people who try to tell Americans marijuana is not something we have to pay attention to -- it's a lie," he said.

Be prepared for Walters to increase his focus on Canada in coming months as Canadian stake-holders in the cannabis debate jockey for position. Still, said Oscapella, "I'm optimistic. We're making progress. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope this can be a beacon of hope."

5. Britain Drops Old Drug Strategy Targets, Goals Were "Not Credible" -- New Strategy a Mixed Bag

In 1998, Prime Minister Tony Blair's newly appointed drug czar, Keith Hellawell, rented the glittery Trocadero Center theater for the unveiling of Labor's new drug strategy. In a major media event, Hellawell announced a 10-year plan to "stifle the availability" of illicit drugs and enable young people and former drug users to lead "healthy and crime-free lives." Hellawell's plan, known as "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain," vowed to cut the number of young people using heroin and cocaine in half and to reduce the number of repeat drug offenders by a like amount.

More broadly, the Hellawell plan had four goals: to reduce drug-related crime, to reduce the overall availability of drugs, to educate youth on the dangers of drugs, and to increase the number of people receiving drug treatment. But almost five years in, the only Hellawell goal to achieve anything like what he promised is increasing drug treatment, with the number of people in drug treatment expanding by 8% annually since 1998. During the last four years, ecstasy use has soared to an estimated million users each weekend, and the British Home Office now reports that some 85,000 people are using crack cocaine, a drug that was barely visible in Britain in 1998.

Taking note of those depressing numbers, the Blair government moved last week to align drug policy more closely with British reality. On December 3, Home Secretary David Blunkett announced the government's Updated Drug Strategy 2002, which formally abandons three of the four Hellawell-era targets. The Hellawell targets were "not credible," said Blunkett, criticizing the former drug czar for picking numbers "out of the air."

The new strategy has much more down-to-earth goals. On the prevention front, the strategy calls for improving the quality of primary and secondary school drug education programs and expanding them to all of the nation's schools, launching "a major new communications campaign" to warn young people about the dangers of Class A (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy) drugs, and "clamping down on dealers who prey on the young" by increasing the penalties for the sale of Class C drugs.

That last point, however, has engendered controversy. Blunkett approved the rescheduling of marijuana as a Class C drug earlier this year, and numerous critics now accuse him of backtracking on the easing of marijuana penalties. Under Blunkett's proposal, marijuana sellers could face up to 14 years in prison.

The new strategy also calls for a hefty 50% increase in anti-drug spending by 2005, from approximately 1 billion English pounds now to 1.5 billion three years from now. Some of that money will go to expanding drug testing and treatment referrals for people arrested on drug charges, paying for drug courts, and increased treatment costs. But funds will also be increased for law enforcement efforts to reduce supply, the strategy says.

Rather than set unreachable goals, the new strategy more modestly aims to go after "middle level" dealers, keep drug use among young people at or below current levels, and assist the Afghan government in its efforts to suppress the opium and heroin traffic. The government will also unveil a National Crack Strategy later this month. "Policing to disrupt crack markets will be intensified in the areas most affected," the strategy promises, pointing to recent high-intensity enforcement efforts in Lambeth, where police have made over 100 crack house raids since June. The strategy reports "33% fewer robberies reported, 90-plus people arrested, 564 searches made, 148 abandoned vehicles removed, and 118 prostitutes arrested and referred to treatment." But the heavy-handed police presence in heavily-minority Lambeth has also lead to rising tensions between the community and the police, according to British press reports.

But despite all the emphasis on enforcement, prevention, and treatment, the government is also taking some harm reduction steps. The strategy says that "heroin should be available on prescription to all those who have a clinical need for it" and should be provided in "safe, medically supervised areas with clean needles."

That measure, at least, won support from British drug reformers. A spokesman for DrugScope, an independent drug policy foundation, told the Independent (London) that the British government had erred in ending the "British system" of physician-prescribed heroin in 1968 and that the announced new policy of prescribed heroin and safe-injection rooms would rectify that mistake. The Transform Drug Policy Institute's Danny Kushlick pointed out to the Independent that the 1,000 registered drug users in the program in 1971 had now mushroomed to 250,000 registered drug users.

Overall, the Home Office estimated that some four million Britons use illicit drugs, with some 250,000 of them described as "problem drug users," whom the government blames for "99%" of all drug related social costs.

For British drug policy, it once again appears to be a case of one step forward, one step back, and one step sideways.

Read the new drug strategy online at

6. Michigan Legislature Repeals Draconian Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences

press release from Families Against Mandatory Minimums

A bipartisan majority of the Michigan Senate yesterday (12/12/02) passed an historic package of three sentencing reform bills -- HB 5394 (H-3), HB 5395 (H-2) and HB 6510 (H-1) -- that eliminate most of the state's Draconian mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. The reform allows judges to impose sentences based on a range of factors in each case, rather than solely drug weight, and replaces lifetime probation for the lowest-level offenders with a five-year probationary period. It also permits earlier parole for some prisoners, at the discretion of the parole board. Governor John Engler is expected to sign the bills.

Rep. Bill McConico (D-Detroit), sponsor of the bills said, "This major step brings fairness back to the judicial system in Michigan. The overwhelming bipartisan support for this legislation shows it is not a partisan issue. We were able to unite Republicans, Democrats, prosecutors, judges and families in the common cause of sentencing justice. Now we can reunite families, reallocate resources and allow judges to do their job."

William Van Regenmorter, Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, endorsed the legislation, saying, "We want to make sure the sentence fits the crime while still maximizing public safety."

"We applaud Michigan's lawmakers for taking a principled stand on this important issue," said Laura Sager, executive director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the drive for reform. "This vote restores confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system. Harsh mandatory minimums, originally intended to target drug "kingpins" have instead warehoused many nonviolent, low-level drug offenders at a very high cost to taxpayers."

"Today is the culmination of years of grassroots lobbying efforts by thousands of our members affected by mandatory minimums that were among the harshest in the nation. These families brought the human face of sentencing injustices to lawmakers and convinced member of both parties that change was urgently needed," said Sager. "The reforms could not have been done without FAMM," said Rep. McConico.

The bills garnered widespread support from organizations as diverse as the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Michigan Judicial Association, the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals, the Michigan Catholic Conference, Michigan's Children, and the NAACP (Detroit Branch), among many others.

"Michigan's prosecutors recognize that an effective drug policy is a combination of criminal justice strategies, readily available drug treatment programs, incarceration where appropriate, and prevention activities in schools, businesses, and homes," said David Morse, president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. "That is why we support a responsible approach to replacing the mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes with sentences that are appropriate for the crime."

Members of the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals (MADCP) worked hard for the bills. Judge Harvey Hoffman, president of the Association, led the effort because "the bills preserve reasonable judicial discretion while providing certainty of punishment for high-level offenders."

Lawrence Reed, president of the free-market Mackinac Center on Public Policy, notes that the bills are "consistent with principles supported by the organization, including judicial discretion and cost-effective and flexible sentencing structures. They are also part of the solution to Michigan's skyrocketing corrections cost."

The reforms also had the strong support of former Michigan Republican Governor William G. Milliken, who called signing mandatory minimum drug sentences into law in 1978 "the worst mistake of my career" and campaigned for their repeal.

In 1998, Families Against Mandatory Minimums led a successful drive to relax the "650 Lifer Law," the toughest drug law in the nation. That law mandated life without parole for anyone convicted of delivery or conspiracy to deliver 650 grams or more of heroin or cocaine.

Visit for info on FAMM and mandatory minimum sentencing. See and and and for past DRCNet reporting on the 650 Lifer Law and reform efforts.

7. New Jersey Court Declares State's Civil Forfeiture Funding Scheme Unconstitutional

press release from the Institute for Justice

New Jersey's method of financing police and prosecutors through civil forfeiture is unconstitutional, Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Bowen of Salem County ruled in a December 11 opinion.

Under New Jersey's civil forfeiture law (N.J.S.A 2C:64-6a), prosecutors and police had been entitled to keep the money and property confiscated from individuals through the state's civil forfeiture law, thus giving them a direct financial stake in the outcome of forfeiture efforts. The court ruled that this provision violates the Due Process clauses of the US and New Jersey constitutions.

"We are thrilled with the court's ruling," said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, a Washington, DC-based public interest law firm that litigated the New Jersey case. "The decision will ensure that police and prosecutors make decisions on the basis of justice, not on the potential for profit."

From 1998 to 2000, New Jersey police and prosecutors collected an astonishing nearly $32 million in property and currency through the application of the civil forfeiture law. During that same period, on average, close to 30% of the discretionary budgets of county prosecutor offices came from civil forfeiture proceeds. As the judge recognized in his opinion, forfeiture money has been used for "rent for a motor pool crime scene facility, office furniture, telecommunications and computer equipment, automobile purchase, fitness and training equipment purchase, a golf outing, food, including food for seminars and meetings, and expenses of law enforcement conferences, at various locations."

As the court further declared: "In theory and in practice, there is no limitation upon the motivation for enlargement to which a county prosecutor is subject in deciding upon seizure of property.. This court concludes, that the augmentation of the county prosecutors' budgets... provides to those in prosecutorial functions financial interests which are not remote as to escape the taint of impermissible bias in enforcement of the laws, prohibited by the Due Process clauses of the New Jersey and US Constitution."

By ruling the statute unconstitutional, the decision affects every county in New Jersey. And the decision could prove a harbinger of future challenges to laws in other states. David Smith, an Alexandria, VA, attorney who has written a treatise on forfeiture laws and is a former deputy chief of the Department of Justice's asset forfeiture office declared last month, "This is the single most important civil forfeiture case being litigated anywhere." Several other states and the federal forfeiture law also permit police and prosecutors to keep forfeited property and proceeds.

"We will challenge laws in other states to guarantee that the due process rights of property owners are protected when confronted with civil forfeiture," Bullock added.

The case, State of New Jersey v. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird, was led by perhaps an unlikely crusader, Carol Thomas of Millville in southern New Jersey. Her case arose in 1999 when Thomas' then 17-year-old son used her Thunderbird without her knowledge and consent to sell marijuana to an undercover officer. Her son was arrested and punished, but that did not end the matter. The State still went after the car by filing a civil forfeiture action because the car was involved in illegal activity. Ironically, at the time of her son's arrest, Thomas was a seven-year veteran officer with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. Thomas has subsequently left the sheriff's department and decided to fight abusive forfeiture laws.

In 2001, the Institute for Justice scored a first-round victory in this case when it secured the release of Thomas' car. The judge allowed Thomas' challenge to New Jersey's unconstitutional profit motive to continue, and now the judge has declared the New Jersey statute to be unconstitutional.

Visit for further information on the Institute for Justice. Visit for further information on asset forfeiture.

8. Newsbrief: Santa Cruz Deputizes Medical Marijuana Providers

Valerie and Mike Corral, operators of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (, raided by the DEA in September, have been deputized by the city of Santa Cruz. The city council, which had previously rallied to WAMM's cause by making City Hall available for a medical marijuana protest giveaway, voted unanimously on Tuesday to give the couple the "authority to cultivate, distribute and possess medical marijuana."

Attorney Ben Rice, who represents the couple, told the San Jose Mercury News that the "deputy" status allows the Corrals to carry a controlled substance because they are enforcing local drug laws -- in this case, the city of Santa Cruz's ordinance regulating the way medicinal marijuana can be distributed.

The DEA is not amused. "No one in the United States is allowed to distribute illegal drugs -- period," Richard Meyer, a DEA spokesman, said after the council's vote. Santa Cruz joins San Francisco and Oakland among California cities that have deputized medical marijuana providers, Valerie Corral told the Mercury-News. And although the move is largely symbolic, it is yet another pot shot across the bow of the DEA.

9. Newsbrief: Massachusetts High Court Blocks Arrest of Needle Exchange Participants

The Massachusetts Superior Judicial Court ruled on December 6 that people enrolled in state-sanctioned needle exchange programs (NEPs) cannot be arrested for carrying clean needles obtained through those programs. The case involved Cambridge NEP client Maria Landry, who was arrested on drug paraphernalia charges in nearby Lynn, which has no such program. Attorneys for Lynn had argued that the city, which they described as fighting a "heroin epidemic," should not be bound to honor NEPs in other jurisdictions. They also argued that even if the court ruled in favor of Landry, police should still be able to arrest people carrying clean syringes since those arrested could argue in court that their membership was a defense to the charge.

But the court was having none of it. Justice Judith Cowan wrote in her ruling that the needles are still part of a state-sanctioned program, even if participants carry them across municipal lines. She also ruled that police officers cannot arrest card-carrying NEP members on paraphernalia charges, unless they suspect that the card is fraudulent.

Under a 1993 law, cities and towns in Massachusetts may host pilot NEPs operated by the Department of Public Health. Four cities -- Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown -- currently have such programs, serving 3,000 people, according to the department. Some 60% of Massachusetts hepatitis C cases and 42% of HIV/AIDS cases are related to intravenous drug use, the department reported.

American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts attorney Sarah Wunsch, who defended Landry, called the ruling a victory. "The court understood the public health issues that were at stake here," she told the Boston Globe.

10. Newsbrief: Colombia -- It's Drug War -- No, Oil War -- No, Terror War

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and drug czar John Walters went south of the border last week to continue the process of morphing the US war on the Colombian drug trade into an element of the global "war on terror." Powell was in Bogota on December 4 to meet with hardline Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and promise even more military assistance to his embattled rightist regime, while Walters made a day-trip to Mexico City to convince the Mexicans that fighting drugs was part of the fight against terror.

In Colombia, Powell told reporters the Bush administration would push for more than $500 million in mainly military assistance to Colombia as part of the US "war on terror." Aid at that level puts Colombia on a par with Afghanistan and Pakistan as a major recipient of US military and anti-drug aid. "We are firmly committed to President Uribe and his new national security strategy," said Powell. "We are going to work with our Congress to provide additional funding for Colombia."

The US has spent $1.8 billion on military, police, and anti-drug aid to Colombia since 2000, and the $537 million requested this year marks a significant increase from the $411 million allocated last year. $100 million of this year's request is for Colombian troops to guard an oil pipeline belonging to Occidental Petroleum. The first 60 US military trainers for the newly created pipeline protection brigade are slated to arrive next month.

Powell promised to seek even more money next year, telling reporters the issue of terrorism within Colombia could no longer be separated from the drug war. Powell added that he rejected any parallels to Vietnam.

Walters, meanwhile, was sounding similar themes in Mexico City. The "war on terror" will revitalize the drug war, he told foreign correspondents on December 4. The two endless wars go together because "drugs fund violence and anti-democratic forces," Walters explained. "We need to stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars to brutal, violent groups in Mexico and Colombia and our own country," he said. [Editors Note: DRCNet assumes he was not discussing military assistance to violent or out of control elements within Colombia's armed forces, Mexico's armed forces and US SWAT teams.]

11. Newsbrief: British Ex-Minister Calls Ecstasy Law "An Ass"

Labor Member of Parliament Chris Mullin, a former Home Office minister and current chair of the House of Commons home affairs committee, said on December 5 that ecstasy (MDMA) should be down-scheduled from a Class A to a Class B drug. When it comes to ecstasy, said Mullin, "the law is an ass."

Mullin added that the scientific evidence showed that ecstasy is not as harmful as heroin and crack cocaine -- other Class A drugs. Mullin also said that young people often "dabbled" in the popular drug. British drug observers estimate that a million young people take ecstasy every weekend there. According to the British government, 40 people died last year of ecstasy-related causes, compared to 275,000 who died from smoking-related causes.

"Half of all young people at some stage dabble in drugs," he told the House committee. "I am of no doubt that drugs need to be categorized according to the degree of harmfulness, and as far as ecstasy is concerned... the science is clear. At present, the law is an ass."

Mullins' call for rescheduling ecstasy was seconded by former Tory cabinet minister Peter Lilley and Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes. But the Labor government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected ecstasy rescheduling, arguing that the long-term consequences of using the drug remain unclear.

In doing so, the Blair government is ignoring the recent advice of one of its top drug experts. Professor David Nutt, a member of Blunkett's official drug advisory panel, went public last month with his belief that ecstasy should be down-scheduled. "One of the sad things is giving them the message that ecstasy is as dangerous as heroin," Nutt told the Independent.

"Millions of kids every week take ecstasy and it's actually a very safe drug. I'm fully signed up to it being class B." Nutt, head of clinical medicine at Bristol University, added: "It's clearly safer than heroin or crack but more dangerous than cannabis. Politics is never far away with ecstasy. I think the Home Secretary's decision to reclassify cannabis and not ecstasy was based on fear of public opinion [after the widely publicized death of teenager Leah Betts]."

12. Newsbrief: Israeli Green Leaf Party Eyes Knesset Seats

Leading members of Israel's pro-legalization Green Leaf Party ( told the Jerusalem Post on Monday that they expect to win at least one seat in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in elections set for January 28. Under Israel's system of proportional representation, any party gaining 1.5% of the vote is entitled to a presence in the Knesset.

In the last Knesset elections, Green Leaf shocked political observers by polling just over 1% of the vote -- coming within 15,000 votes of winning a seat. This year, a poll conducted by Gal Hadash (formerly Gallop) for Green Leaf shows the party running at 2.5%, while straw polls conducted by local newspapers register even higher numbers. In those polls, the party consistently runs at 3% or better, with a poll in a Kfar Saba newspaper last week putting Green Leaf at 8%.

The Green Leaf leadership met Sunday night to select its list of Knesset candidates, with party founder Boaz Wachtel winning the first slot. "I think we're going to be the surprise of the elections," he told the Post. Attorney Dan Goldenblatt and activist Renen Mosenson were in line for the second and third slots, the Post reported.

Although Green Leaf advocates the legalization of marijuana -- and all drugs, for that matter -- party leaders told the Post they intend to emphasize a broader agenda. "Whoever reads our manifesto -- to our sorrow, few voters ever do -- is always impressed," said party treasurer Shai Hakim. "It expresses a desire to change fundamental aspects of this country. Ecology is strongly emphasized; there is still time to undo historical mistakes. We call for separation of religion and state -- 75% of the population believes in that -- and propose a referendum to finalize borders of the country. It's time to let the people choose," he said.

13. Newsbrief: Illinois Supreme Court Limits Use of Drug Dogs in Traffic Stops

A closely divided Illinois Supreme Court ruled December 5 that police who pull over motorists for traffic violations must have solid reasons to suspect a crime before they can call in drug sniffing dogs. The 4-3 ruling included a strong dissenting opinion that "sniffs" by drug dogs are not searches -- a position endorsed by the US Supreme Court -- and that privacy rights are not violated if drug dogs detect a drug odor escaping from a vehicle.

Anne F. Cox was pulled over by Fairfield, IL, police officer Matt McCormick in 1998. Although Cox was not impaired and McCormick saw no evidence of drug use, he detained Cox until a canine unit arrived. The drug dog found a small amount of marijuana, leading to drug charges against Cox.

"If we held that Officer McCormick was justified in calling the canine unit, we would clearly support the view that police officers can resort to the use of canine units at every traffic stop," wrote Justice Charles Freeman for the majority.

That's the view that court dissenters wanted upheld. "Because a canine sniff is not a search, we should reject the conclusion that the police need a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity before they may conduct a canine sniff of a lawfully detained vehicle," wrote Justice Robert Thomas.

The cops aren't happy. Dave Weigand, head of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, complained to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the ruling will lead to repeated challenges of arrests based on drug dog sniffs and will "hamstring" police drug enforcement efforts.

14. Newsbrief: Paramilitary Drug Raid Tactics Anger Eugene Residents

Eugene, Oregon's, Whiteaker neighborhood sounded like a war zone around dawn on October 17, and residents are fighting mad. It wasn't a terrorist attack, though, just another example of a drug war run amok. Police serving a search warrant for an alleged marijuana grow enlisted an armored personnel carrier and 45 SWAT team officers armed with shotguns and automatic rifles to raid a cluster of houses in Whiteaker.

But after throwing flash-bang grenades, kicking in doors, and handcuffing four people -- including one nude woman and one woman dressed only in underpants and a t-shirt -- for hours in a room in one of the houses, police came up empty-handed. Police also admitted to placing a black bag over one of the women's head until she agreed to cooperate with them, the Eugene Register-Guard reported on December 5.

Neighbors are not impressed. Since the raid six weeks ago, resentment has only mounted. "It was completely inappropriate to have that kind of militaristic action there," said Whiteaker Community Council president Majeska Seese-Green. "We don't want it to happen in Whiteaker again, or any other neighborhood," she told the Register-Guard. The community council will issue a formal statement condemning the raid, she added. Seese-Green and three other residents also took the complaints to the Eugene Police Commission, where they questioned the wisdom and safety of such raids.

Not that the police are listening. Instead, officers involved trotted out their tired old excuses for treating the people they are supposes to serve and protect as if they were enemy combatants. "We rely on the element of surprise and speed," said Captain Steve Swenson, head of special operations for the Eugene Police Department. "The third element is the overwhelming display of force when you come through the door," he added, sounding more like Colin Powell preparing to invade Iraq than a police officer making a marijuana bust.

Except it was a marijuana bust that wasn't. No drugs were found, nor any weapons, nor have any formal charges been filed against the victims of the raid. Police have returned all items seized, and the county DA told the Register-Guard the case won't go to the grand jury unless more evidence is developed. Oops.

15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

The competition was heavy again this week, with runners-up including a drug court urine tester who provided negative test results in return for cash or sexual favors and positive test results for people he didn't like (Lafourche Parish, LA) and the San Francisco office of the FBI, which allowed a confidential informant to rise through the ranks of the Nuestra Familia gang, committing drug crimes and murders for some seven months while the FBI sat back and watched.

But this week's winners are Charleston, WV, police officers William Hart and George Henderson, whose misdeeds may well lead to the removal of federal prosecutors in a pending drug case. Defense attorneys for accused drug criminals Calvin Dyess and Eric Dewayne Spencer are asking a federal judge to remove prosecutors in their case because the prosecutors had worked closely with Hart and Henderson, who are currently suspended and under federal investigation for irregularities in the handling of drug cash and for threatening witnesses.

Hart was the lead investigator in a late 1990s drug case involving Dyess and his then-wife, Rachel Ursala Rader. Rader divorced Dyess shortly after the first arrests were made in the case, then turned in cash she said was drug money belonging to her ex-husband. In violation of police rules, Hart and Henderson let Rader keep $27,000, although they initially denied doing so.

But it gets better. In February 1999, at the same time Rader was delivering cash and getting kickbacks, she began a romantic relationship with Hart. They married in the summer of 2001 and divorced later that same year. Now Rader is alleging that Hart "threatened, intimidated, or assaulted" her and urged her to lie in court about the drug money. Hart and Henderson remain on suspension, a federal investigation continues, and a federal judge is considering the defense motion for a new prosecutorial team because the US Attorney's office worked so closely with Hart and Henderson.

16. Newsbrief: SAMHSA Says Treat Drug Abusers' Mental Illness

In a report sent to Congress this week, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) found that mental illness is common among alcoholics and drug abusers, but that such "dual diagnosis" persons rarely receive treatment for both at the same time. For the government to get the most value from its treatment programs, SAMSHA found, it must break down the "firewall" between treatment for addiction and treatment for mental disorders.

According to the report, about one-third of drug and/or alcohol abusers also suffer from mental illness. Persons with mental illness are three times more likely to be substance abusers, SAMHSA found, with an estimated 7 to 10 million persons fitting the "dual diagnosis" criteria.

In the report, SAMSHA announced that it would take several steps to integrate mental health and drug treatment for those who need it. Those include federal financial incentives for states to enact integrated programs, incentives to combine therapy with medication in long-term treatment programs, a "tool kit" to help local agencies replicate successful programs, and a "national summit" sponsored by SAMHSA next year for treatment and criminal justice professionals and consumer advocates.

Visit to read SAMHSA's "Report to Congress on the Treatment and Prevention of Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders."

17. Media and Resources: Medical Cannabis Conference Tapes, WOLA Report, Jacob Sullum in Reason, Deborah Saunders in SF Chronicle

Tapes from the sessions of the Second National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, held last May in Portland, OR, are now available for purchase, $8 each plus $2 shipping. For information or to order, contact Patients Out of Time, 1472 Fish Pond Rd., Howardsville, VA 24562, (434) 263-4484 or [email protected].

The latest issue of the Drug War Monitor, a publication of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), focuses on "Collateral Damage: US Drug Control in the Andes," an overview of the impact of drug trafficking and US international counternarcotics policy on human rights and democratization trends throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It is adapted from "Drug Trafficking and the Role of the United States in the Andes," a chapter of a forthcoming book, "Politics in the Andes: Identity, Conflict, Reform," University of Pittsburgh Press. Visit to read the report online, or order a hardcopy for $2 from: Washington Office on Latin America, 1630 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20009.

Jacob Sullum comments on the government's anti-drug ads in Reason:

Deborah Saunders calls for freedom for mandatory minimum prisoner Clarence Aaron, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

19. 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.

20. The Reformer's Calendar

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

December 28, 2:00-4:00pm, Laguna Beach, CA, drug war protest. At Main Beach and Coast Highway, visit or contact Rachel Morton at (949) 494-5327 or [email protected] for further information.

December 31, 1:30pm, Camden, NJ, Ed Forchion (NJ Weedman)'s Habeas Corpus hearing. At the US District Court, 1 John F. Gerry Plaza, contact [email protected] or [email protected] 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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