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

Issue #268, 12/20/02

"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.

Join the HEA campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act -- visit for info and an activist packet.


  1. Special Offer Continues -- DRCNet Needs Your Help!
  2. Editorial: Expanding the Chorus
  3. 108 Euro-Parliamentarians Call for Legal, Regulated Drug Trade, Reform of UN Conventions
  4. Congressional Drug Warrior Having Doubts: Dan Burton's Near Epiphany
  5. Michigan Legislature Repeals Mandatory Minimum Drug Laws
  6. Canadian Marijuana Activists Skeptical on Decrim
  7. Canadian Supreme Court Postpones Marijuana Cases, Cites Parliament Report, Justice Minister Statement on Decrim
  8. DRCNet Book Review: "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington's War on Drugs"
  9. And the Winners Are...
  10. Federal Judge Shows Keen Interest in Raich/Monson Medical Marijuana Case
  11. Bolivia Coca Growers Announce Blockades for January 6 -- Will Continue Dialogue
  12. DC Measure 62 Clears Hurdle, Goes to Congress
  13. Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Co-op Director Founded Guilty on Federal Jury Tampering Charges, Handed Out Flyer at Epis Trial
  14. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  15. Newsbrief: Stop the Presses! Poor, Blacks Face Brunt of Houston Drug War
  16. Newsbrief: Texas ACLU Report Slams Task Forces, Calls for End to $200 Million Annual Boondoogle
  17. Newsbrief: MPP Continues "War on Drug Czar" -- More Complaints to be Filed, O'Reilly Appearance Tonight
  18. Newsbrief: Budget Cuts Free Kentucky Drug Prisoners -- Oklahoma Next?
  19. Newsbrief: Nickelodeon Censors Beverly Hillbillies Marijuana References
  20. Newsbrief: Asset Forfeiture Unconstitutional in New Jersey
  21. Media Scan: Joycelyn Elders in Globe and Mail, George McMahon in Fort Worth Weekly, Jeff and Tracy, Santa Fe New Mexican, Medscape
  22. DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet
  23. Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum
  24. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. Special Offer Continues -- DRCNet Needs Your Help!

Thanks to all of you who participated in our special three-day offer this week. We have decided to continue with one that's almost as good, for five more days -- donate $25 or more for a regular DRCNet membership, and receive a free copy "Drug War Addiction: Notes from the Front Lines of America's #1 Policy Disaster," an incisive volume by one of Colorado's top law enforcement officials, Sheriff Bill Masters. Just visit to donate $25 or more by noon EST on Tuesday, December 24 -- send your check or money postmarked by Tuesday to DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- and we'll ship your copy out early next year! (See "And the Winners Are..." below for the lucky ten who won personally autographed copies in our recent contest/survey.)

Besides getting you this important work by a respected law enforcement leader, your donation will provide needed support for DRCNet's work changing US and international drug policy -- so visit to sign up today! Some of the work your donation will help make possible:

  • We will bring anti-prohibition advocates from throughout Latin America together for our February 12-15 conference in Mexico, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," and we will continue to organize the Out from the Shadows campaign and conferences around the world -- Europe, Canada and the US all coming up!
  • We will continue to mobilize students, educators and other concerned citizens in opposition to the Higher Education Act Drug Provision, which strips college financial aid eligibility from students with drug convictions. Our campaign has sparked a groundswell of opposition to the law, including the endorsements of 100 student governments nationwide and the sponsorship of 68 members of Congress for a bill to repeal it -- 10 of whom spoke at our press conference at the US Capitol last May. The HEA Campaign is drug reform's first hope for repealing a federal drug law outright since 1970.
  • We will continue to publish The Week Online, our widely- read, in-depth report on drug policy published each Friday -- with well over 24,000 subscribers the most widely read drug policy newsletter in the world.
  • We will continue to issue action alerts on the full range of drug policy reform issues. Over 20,000 people have used our write-to-Congress web sites in the last two years.
  • We will continue our Higher Education Act Educational Campaign, raising awareness of the consequence of the new law stripping students with drug convictions of their federal financial aid. This campaign, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, has garnered coverage in major media outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, CNN and more.
  • We will complete our work on the 91,000-page New Jersey Racial Profiling Archive, compiling a comprehensive index to the archive's contents and re-releasing the files in a new, content-based format, on our web site and on CD.
  • We will complete our comprehensive "Guided Tour of the War on Drugs," providing introductory essays to 25-30 drug policy issues, with personal stories, news links, archives, lists of organizations and ways to get involved, and more.
  • We will continue the John W. Perry scholarship fund, matching students who have lost financial aid for college because of drug convictions with sympathetic scholarship providers.
  • If funding is secured, we will launch an effort in an important but under-explored area of drug policy, the widespread under-availability of narcotics to patients who need them for relief of severe, chronic pain.
Like many organizations, DRCNet depends on small- and mid-size contributions from its members for a large part of our budget. With charitable contributions diminished by the state of the economy and the market, we need your help more than ever. So please visit today! You can also just send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- but please fill out the form too, or at least e-mail us at [email protected], so we know to hold a copy for you. (Also, please contact us if you wish to make a contribution of stock.)

Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to support our educational work, make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.

Thank you for being a part of the struggle to change US and international drug policy. Together we will make reason and compassion a reality.

Read our January 2002 interview with Sheriff Masters at in the Week Online archives.

2. Editorial: Expanding the Chorus

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/20/02

One of the early inspirations for DRCNet's work was Joycelyn Elders, the former US Surgeon General who in late 1993, just as DRCNet was starting up, suggested studying drug legalization. Dr. Elders, responding with characteristic candor to a question posed at a press event, said she believed legalization would reduce crime, but wasn't sure what the overall ramifications would be ( I'm not sure how many subscribers we had at the time -- maybe twenty?

Dr. Elders has been busy on the drug reform scene as of late -- speaking at the Marijuana Policy Project/Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference in Anaheim last month; speaking at the Harm Reduction Coalition conference in Seattle this month; penning an introduction to "Health Emergency 2003," a report on drug injection-related AIDS and HIV by the Dogwood Center; authoring an editorial in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper praising Canada's move toward liberalizing marijuana laws and rebuking our misguided US drug czar, John Walters, for opposing it.

I first heard Dr. Elders speak in person at the 1995 conference of the Drug Policy Foundation. Elders recounted "the day it rained" on her -- the predictable chorus of boos and rhetorical tomatoes thrown by politicians and private sector drug warriors in a defensive, knee-jerk reaction to her rational call for dialogue. But Elders also recounted something very interesting -- the reactions politicians gave her in private. Senators and other political luminati would come up to her in airports and around Washington to tell her that she was right, but they couldn't say so publicly because of politics.

Maybe one of them was Indiana Congressman and inveterate drug warrior Dan Burton. Feelings toward Burton in the drug reform community have for the most part been, well, not warm and fuzzy. But last week Burton surprised us at his last committee hearing with an eloquent analysis that could have come from the mouth of a drug reformer. Though stopping just short of calling for legalization, he pointedly left the possibility open: Responding to a drug warrior whose broke in asking if he was calling for complete legalization, Burton answered "No, I am not arguing anything. I am asking the question," adding "I don't think that Al Capone would have been the menace to society that he was if he couldn't sell alcohol on the black market."

It's hard to know for certain in the drug issue what our opponents or our partial partners are really thinking. This week, one sixth of the European Parliament came out publicly for ending drug prohibition. Does that mean the other five-sixths are opposed? Probably not.

Our task as anti-prohibitionists at this juncture is to alter the perception of the issue to the point where those opinion leaders within and without the political power structure who silently agree with us feel ready to voice those views publicly. Every time a Joycelyn Elders or a Gary Johnson or a Dan Burton speaks out, it becomes slightly easier, slightly more compelling for the next one. And it is voices like these that hold the power to gradually transform public opinion over time.

Eventually the chorus of legalization voices will reach a decibel where dramatic shifts in views and politics in the drug issue will become inevitable. Our time is arriving fast.

3. 108 Euro-Parliamentarians Call for Legal, Regulated Drug Trade, Reform of UN Conventions

Nearly one out of six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are now calling for an end to drug prohibition and the revision of United Nations (UN) treaties that block the way. Some 108 MEPs (out of 624) from seven political parties or groups and 13 European Union countries have agreed on a draft resolution urging the UN and its member states to establish a "system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."

This initiative -- headed in the European Parliament by MEPs Marco Cappato (Radicals, Italy), Chris Davies (Liberals, UK), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens, France/Germany), José Mendiluce Pereiro (Socialists, Spain) and Pernille Frahm (Communists, Denmark) -- was born out of October's "Out from the Shadows" anti-prohibition conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. That conference, which also marked the revival of the Radical-affiliated International Antiprohibitionist League (IAL), focused not only on calls to end drug prohibition, but also on proposals for efforts to reform the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 that provide the legal framework for global prohibition. The UN drug bureaucracy is set to review the organization's 10-year plan to eradicate all drugs by 2008 in April in Vienna.

But the effort in the European Parliament is not aimed directly at the UN, Cappato told DRCNet. "This is a resolution we will bring before the European Parliament. We will use it to bring pressure on European governments to make them raise their voices on reforming the UN conventions, since the EU doesn't have a mandate on drug policy," he explained. "What we want to happen in Vienna is to have governments speaking out against the 10-year plan launched by the UN. They need to speak out for reform, for change, and especially for change in the international conventions," he said.

Neither should anyone expect changes at the meeting next spring. "This is only a step, but it is an important step, these are representatives of the EU speaking," said Cappato. "This will put pressure on European governments so that one or more of them will start raising doubts in Vienna, start breaking the prohibitionist consensus. We tried to do something like this four years ago and we had 60 MEPs. Now we have 108 MEPS. Our numbers are growing."

Still, the resolution approved by the 108 MEPs for presentation to the European Parliament is a sweeping condemnation of the last century's prohibitionist impulse as embodied in the UN conventions. Given "the massive amount of police power and other resources devoted to the application of such UN Conventions, the production, consumption and trafficking of prohibited substances have increased exponentially over the last 30 years, which constitutes a genuine failure," wrote the signatories. "The long history of prohibition has conclusively demonstrated that reliance primarily on governmental action, through the criminal law and the police, has only marginal effect on the control of drug abuse." Fingering prohibition itself as the culprit behind huge black market profits, the resolution adds that "the profitability of the trade in illegal substances can only lead to an increase in the number of countries involved in drug production and generate massive investment in research into, and the production of, new chemical drugs."

Prohibition is also harmful for drug consumers, agreed the MEPs. "The clandestine nature of the consumption of illegal substances is an often insurmountable obstacle to prevention work as well as to the provision of assistance by public authorities and private organizations; current policies therefore condemn consumers to live at the edge of society, in permanent contact with the criminal underworld," they wrote. And a threat to all citizens of democratic societies: "The implementation of current drugs policies leads to the introduction into national law of rules that restrict individual freedom and civil liberties," reads the resolution.

Thus wrote the MEPs, "the drug prohibition policy stemming from the UN Conventions of 1961, 1971 and 1988 is the actual cause of the increasing damage which the production, trafficking, sale and consumption of illegal substances inflict on entire sections of society, the economy as well as public institutions, thus undermining health, freedom and individuals' lives."

"We cannot forget that drug policies are national," said Cappato. "We are not attempting global drug legalization through the UN. That is not the UN's mandate. But at the international level, there are institutional structures and bureaucracies of cooperation on prohibition -- funding, repressive structures and institutions that have grown over decades. Reforming the UN conventions is not the end of the process, but a means of allowing countries to try new models," he argued. "The nations of the world need to raise their voices and say 'we no longer accept that we have to follow a failed model.'"

European NGOs, working through the International Coalition of NGOs for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ICN), are also taking aim at the drug conventions. Working through the European NGO Council on Drugs, ICN is organizing a lobby campaign directed at national governments and have issued a public call asking drug reformers to come to Vienna in April to help influence the UN.

The global prohibition consensus is cracking, and the reverberations will be heard around the globe.

For further information, visit

Visit to learn more about the ICN campaign.

Read "Breaking the Impasse: Polarisation & Paralysis in UN Drug Control," Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper No. 5, from the Transnational Institute, July 2002, at

Visit for the drug war bureaucracy's information on the drug conventions.

4. Congressional Drug Warrior Having Doubts: Dan Burton's Near Epiphany

Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN), outgoing head of the House's Government Reform and Oversight Committee, has a well-deserved reputation as a virulent drug warrior and vicious partisan, but his remarks at a committee hearing on Colombian heroin trafficking last week suggest that the veteran drug-fighter is starting to wonder if he's been wrong all these years -- even if he couldn't bear to allow the word "legalization" to pass his lips.

What should have been just another dog and pony show for the drug warriors went south in a big way when Burton, after having heard more than an hour's worth of testimony from DEA agents about Colombian heroin making inroads in the suburban Baltimore area, interrupted the proceedings to make the following comments (quoted here verbatim in their entirety, thanks to reporting by Jeremy Bigwood and Sanho Tree, who attended the hearing):

"I want to tell you something. I have been in probably a hundred or a hundred and fifty hearings like this at various times in my political career, and the story is always the same. This goes back to the sixties. You know, 30 or 35 years ago. And every time I have a hearing, I hear that people who get hooked on heroin and cocaine become addicted and they very rarely get off of it. And the scourge expands and expands and expands. And we have very fine law enforcement officers like you go out and fight the fight. And you see it growing and growing, and you see these horrible tragedies occur. But there is no end to it.

"And I see young guys driving around in tough areas of Indianapolis in cars that I know they can't afford and I know where they are getting their money. I mean that there is no question. A kid can't be driving a brand-new Corvette when he lives in the inner city of Indianapolis in a ghetto. You know that he has gotta be making that money in some way that is probably not legal and probably involves drugs.

"Over seventy percent of all crime is drug-related. And you alluded to that today. We saw on television recently Pablo Escobar gunned down and everybody applauded and said 'that's the end of the Medellín cartel.' But it wasn't the end. There is still a cartel down there. They are still all over the place. When you kill one, there's ten or twenty or fifty waiting to take his place. You know why? It's because of what you just said a minute ago, Mr. Carr, Mr. Marcocci. And that is that there is so much money to be made in it there is always going to be another person in line to make that money.

"And we go into drug eradication and we go into rehabilitation and we go into education, and we do all of these things... And the drug problem continues to increase. And it continues to cost us not billions, but trillions of dollars. Trillions! And we continue to build more and more prisons, and we put more and more people in jail, and we know that the crimes most of the time are related to drugs.

"So I have one question I would like to ask all of you, and I think this is a question that needs to be asked. I hate drugs. I hate people who succumb to drug addiction, and I hate what it does to our society. It has hit every one of us in our families or friends of ours. But I have one question that nobody ever asks, and that is this question: What would happen if there was no profit in drugs? If there was no profit in drugs, what would happen. If they couldn't make any money out of selling drugs, what would happen?"

At that point, witness David Carr, administrator of the Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) attempted to break in. "I would like to comment. If we made illegal... what you are arguing then is complete legalization?"

"No," Burton replied. "I am not arguing anything. I am asking the question. Because we have been fighting this fight for thirty to forty years and the problem never goes way... I don't think that the people in Colombia would be planting coca if they couldn't make any money, and I don't think they would be refining coca and heroin in Colombia if they couldn't make any money. And I don't think that Al Capone would have been the menace to society that he was if he couldn't sell alcohol on the black market, and he did, and we had a horrible, horrible crime problem. Now the people who are producing drugs in Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia and Colombia and everyplace else, they don't do it because they like to do it. They don't fill those rooms full of money because they like to fill them full of money. They do it because they are making money.

"At some point we to have to look at the overall picture -- and I am not saying that there are not going to be people who are addicted. There is going to have to be education and rehabilitation and all of those things that you are talking about -- but one of the parts of the equation that has never been talked about because politicians are afraid to talk about it. This is my last committee hearing as Chairman. Last time! And I thought about this and thought about this, and thought about this. And one of the things that ought to be asked is "What part of the equation are we leaving out?" And "Is it an important part of the equation?" And that is the profit in drugs. Don't just talk about education. Don't just talk about eradication. Don't just talk about killing people like Escobar, who is going to be replaced by somebody else. Let's talk about what would happen if we started addressing how to get the profit out of drugs."

Burton's office did not return calls this week seeking clarification of his position. But his remarks represent a stunning near-epiphany for a man best known in drug policy circles as an ardent advocate of ever-increasing military and especially police assistance to Colombia. He cosponsored the 1998 Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act, designed to funnel more assistance to his favored Colombian drug fighters, and was a harsh and vitriolic critic of Clinton administration drug policy in the hemisphere. (Burton was also one of the House leaders in the failed effort to impeach Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair.) He was one of a handful of House Republicans to advocate for former Colombian National Police head Rosso José Serrano to lead the United Nations' drug control bureaucracy -- an effort that failed -- and he was one of a handful of congressional Republicans who wrote President Bush early in his term to demand that Bush not downgrade the US drug czar from a cabinet level position.

But for all his partisanship and hostility toward drugs, drug dealers and drug users, Burton has also occasionally displayed flashes of irritation at narcocrats who are unresponsive to public concerns. "When Americans are killed, why does it take so long to get an explanation?" he fumed in the wake of the plane shootdown over the Amazon that killed US missionary Ronnie Bowers and her infant child. Burton was also notable for intervening in a misbegotten DEA investigation in Houston that unfairly targeted a local rap record company. And the highly partisan Burton has even criticized the Bush administration for its attempts to stonewall congressional requests for program information.

But with Burton leaving the chairmanship of the government oversight panel, his remarks last week may well be his swan song on drug policy. Although he dared not utter the word "legalization," he posed questions to the stunned drug warriors arrayed before him whose only answer includes that word.

Visit to view Burton's remarks online. Burton's soliliquoy begins at the 1:18:00 mark. Check out Rep. Janice Schackowsky's followup remarks as well.

5. Michigan Legislature Repeals Mandatory Minimum Drug Laws

The Michigan Senate approved historic rollbacks of the state's mandatory minimum drug laws on December 12. The Michigan House approved the bills a week earlier. By all accounts, Gov. John Engler (R) will shortly sign the bills into law. The three bills approved by the legislature -- HB 5394, HB 5395 and HB 6510 -- will eliminate most mandatory sentences and restore a measure of judicial discretion in sentencing.

Michigan went on a drug war imprisonment rampage beginning in 1978, but by the mid-1990s the prohibitionist consensus began to fray under the weight of mass incarceration. In 1998, in response to a campaign spearheaded by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (, the legislature relaxed the state's draconian "650 Lifer Law," which mandated life without parole for anyone convicted of distribution or conspiracy to distribute more than 650 grams of heroin or cocaine.

Former Gov. William Milliken (R), who signed the 1978 mandatory minimum laws, joined the reformers' camp this year. He said signing those bills was "the worst mistake of my life."

Milliken was part of a remarkable coalition engineered by FAMM to win change in the legislature. Support from law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as from social and religious groups and especially the families of prisoners, allowed FAMM to craft a winning political movement, said Monica Pratt, director of communications for the group. The coalition included the Prosecuting Attorneys' Association of Michigan, the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals, the Michigan Judiciary Association, the Michigan Catholic Conference and the Detroit NAACP, along with legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both houses.

"This major step brings fairness back to the judicial system in Michigan," said state Rep. Bill McConico (D-Detroit), chief sponsor of the bills. "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."

Even prosecutors got on board. "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.

Here's what HB 5394 and HB 5395 will do:

  • Eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and lifetime probation for drug offenses;
  • Allow judges to use Michigan's sentencing guidelines to impose sentences based on all the facts of each case (criminal history, use of weapon, other offenses), not just drug weight;
  • Restore judges' discretion to "fit the punishment to the crime," meaning that the longest sentences (and biggest investment in expensive prison beds) will be reserved for the most serious offenders;
  • Replace lifetime probation for the lowest level drug offenses with the standard five-year probationary period used for other serious crimes;
  • Allow judges to impose consecutive (stacked) sentences for delivery offenses but eliminate mandatory consecutive sentencing for possession offenses;
  • Increase guideline penalties for the most serious offenses;
  • Create new sentencing ranges (the minimum and maximum penalties) and drug amounts for each offense level over 50 grams; and
  • Increase penalties for delivery in a home where a minor resides and for multiple (over 50 gram) offenses.
Here's what HB 6510 will do:
  • Replace lifetime probation with a five-year probationary period and allow the court to discharge current offenders from lifetime probation who have successfully completed five years; and
  • Allow earlier parole eligibility for prisoners serving "under-650" mandatory minimum and mandatory consecutive drug offenses. This does not guarantee parole, but simply provides parole eligibility (similar to the parole eligibility provisions for "650 Lifers" enacted in 1998).
For the texts and legislative history of the bills, go to and type in the bill numbers.

6. Canadian Marijuana Activists Skeptical on Decrim

Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon's announcement last week that he supported marijuana decriminalization, coming just days before the House of Commons called for the same thing, ignited a firestorm of commentary, positive and negative, in the Canadian press, and led to much wailing south of the border. But while some outside of Canada hailed the move, the reaction from Canadian marijuana activists has been decidedly lukewarm.

Some are criticizing the proposed decriminalization for not going far enough; others believe the proposal is a subterfuge by a Liberal government that has no intention of actually acting. All the reformers DRCNet spoke with displayed a skepticism toward government officials somewhat shocking to their southern cousins, who are inclined to view Canada's political culture as less dysfunctional and less polarized than that in the US.

"Forgive me for questioning the sincerity of a politician, but we've heard all of this before," said Marc-Boris St.-Maurice, head of the Canada Marijuana Party (, referring to Justice Minister Cauchon's plea to "give me four months" to set decriminalization in progress. "It can't be done in four months, bills must be proposed and drafted, which then have to have readings in the House of Commons," he told DRCNet. "This is not going to happen unless Cauchon has something up his sleeve."

Leading marijuana attorney Alan Young, one of the lawyers arguing the marijuana cases scheduled to be heard by the Canadian Supreme Court last week (see story below), agreed. "I don't believe Cauchon's proposal was sincere," he told DRCNet. "I think much of this is posturing. A clear majority of Canadians want to see some form of decriminalization, so floating such a proposal gains favor with the electorate. But because there will be a new government within 18 months, almost any legislative effort between now and then is doomed to failure for lack of time before the elections. I don't think the government is really ready to move forward, but it would then be able to say 'we tried and will continue to try,' as they postpone the inevitable confrontation with the Americans."

Ah, the Americans. "There are certain practicalities in North America that make decriminalization easier said than done," Young explained. "In Europe, for example, they have been able to move forward without real fear of the US response. But the Americans will be very assertive with us. John Walters has already made his position clear," he said. "There is no reason to think the US will not take retaliatory measures, and this weighs on the government's mind. Still, I think the Americans will learn to live with this. If we stand on principle, this will become a non-issue."

Even if the Canadian government surprises observers and promptly implements a decriminalization scheme, Canadian activists are not exactly thrilled. "While we applaud any changes in the law that lessen the penalties for pot smokers, this decriminalization is not the endgame," said Dana Larsen, editor of Cannabis Culture magazine ( and leader of the British Columbia Marijuana Party ( "This could even make it harder on pot smokers if it passes, with its schedule of escalating fines. When they tried that in South Australia, people who couldn't pay the fines went to jail when they wouldn't have under the old law," he told DRCNet. "This is being proposed to make it easier on the police and the courts, not the marijuana smokers. It is not really what we want, but we're glad they're talking decriminalization and not increased penalties."

St.-Maurice seconded that notion. "Our platform is in line with the Senate report, which called for full legalization," he said. "Under this proposal, I would be paying more fines than I am right now. Right now, there is not much targeting of pot smokers, but this makes it easier to arrest and fine people."

That's right, said Brian McAndrew, longtime cannabis activist and production manager for the fledgling Cannabis Health magazine ( "With decriminalization, you still have the main problem -- prohibition," he told DRCNet. "A fine is still a penalty, law enforcement is still in your face, and it's all for something that isn't really a problem. When you look at what's available to the public for relieving their pains and tensions, pot is one of the most innocuous things there is, and it would remain penalized. What hypocrisy."

7. Canadian Supreme Court Postpones Marijuana Cases, Cites Parliament Report, Justice Minister Statement on Decrim

Canada's highest court backed away from a potentially groundbreaking set of marijuana cases on December 12, the day after the House of Commons committee on drugs issued its report calling for marijuana decriminalization and three days after Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said he would attempt to introduce decriminalization legislation early next year. In three cases set to be heard by the court this week, convicted marijuana smokers were ready to argue that federal marijuana laws are unconstitutional because the drug is relatively harmless. Now that court date is pushed back to the spring session, according to the court, and perhaps for much longer, according to one of the attorneys arguing the case.

While both lawyers for the defendants and the Crown sought to proceed with the hearing, the Supreme Court demurred. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said it would not make sense to proceed given that Canada's marijuana laws appear to be in flux. "A central question is the Minister of Justice has announced his intention to introduce legislation in the parliament that will decriminalize, in some ways, possession of marijuana," she said. "The underlying basis will be taken up in parliament and widely discussed for months to come. In considering all of these circumstances, the court will adjourn."

"They say we will be back in court in the spring, but I don't know what that means," said a frustrated Alan Young, attorney for defendant Christopher Clay. "There could legislation introduced by then, giving the court a reason to delay again. This doesn't make sense. The court should recognize that we are potentially talking about delaying this case for two years while waiting for legislation to pass."

Many Canadian activists are asking whether Justice Minister Cauchon's announcement in favor of decriminalization last week was designed to stop the court from ruling on the constitutional challenge to marijuana prohibition. "This announcement from the government came out just days before the Supreme Court was going to hear a comprehensive challenge to the cannabis law," said British Columbia Marijuana Party leader Dana Larsen. "The fact that the court decided to postpone the cases, doesn't inspire us with great hope for the court," he told DRCNet. "The timing on this is either extremely coincidental or extremely well-planned. It seems suspicious."

"The timing of Cauchon's announcement is really bizarre," agreed Marc-Boris St.-Maurice of the Canada Marijuana Party. "There is supposed to be a wall between the legislature and the judiciary, but Cauchon even wrote a letter to the Supreme Court on the issue, and the court used that as an excuse to postpone the hearings," he told DRCNet. "We think Cauchon should have to resign for improperly influencing the Supreme Court."

"It seems to me there's an utmost disrespect that was shown for the legal process," Young told DRCNet. "The court feels they've been put in a difficult position. The Minister of Justice should not have done that."

Young also said it was "beyond coincidence" that the government scheduled the release of the parliamentary committee report on decriminalization for the same week as the Supreme Court hearing. "The government is using smoke and mirrors here, people are talking out of both sides of their mouths," said Young. "There has been an effort to derail the Supreme Court challenge. The government may want to act on marijuana, but it doesn't want the court forcing its hand. I think the government wants to see what is going to happen and doesn't want to be hurried by the court."

That may be politically naïve, said Young. "Anyone who understands the politics of drugs should know that a constitutional ruling would not excite as much of a retaliatory American response as a legislative act." But it looks as if the Canadian government wants to do it the hard way.

And the marijuana defendants will be waiting. "I think we'll be back here in the spring session," David Malmo-Levine told the Toronto Globe & Mail. "The government won't have raised a finger, won't have done anything, or else they'll have introduced a horrible bill that will result in many people going to jail for unpaid fines. Either way, we'll be back here with the same complaints."

8. DRCNet Book Review: "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington's War on Drugs"

Standing alone, nearly any of the essays in this new anthology on the disparate impacts of drug prohibition open a window to the damage done by a century of drug war. Taken as a whole, the essays in "Busted" reinforce each other, together building a subtle, textured and impressive refutation of prohibition.

Edited by Mike Gray, the author of "Drug Crazy" and the '70s movie "The China Syndrome," "Busted" will probably not cause any epiphanies among committed drug warriors -- try to imagine Orrin Hatch or Mark Souder finishing the volume, looking up, and saying, "Gee, I didn't realize..." -- nor, since the book consists largely of reprints of previously published material, is it likely to hold anything new for the well-read drug reformer. But there are a large number of people who are neither puritanical prohibitionists nor wild-eyed psychonaut legalizers, a growing number of whom are open to new perspectives on the intractable social problem that is the war on drugs.

For this group -- the unformed middle -- "Busted" will be a highly persuasive eye-opener. Beginning with Davis' introduction, in which he notes that his small-town in Indiana is now, after decades of drug war, home to meth labs and coke dealers, readers are treated to essay after well-written essay by critics from across the political spectrum: Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley weigh in from the libertarian right, Steven Jay Gould and Oliver Stone from the left, Chris Hitchens in transition (once a leftist, Hitchens has recently not seen a falling US bomb he cannot justify), as well as leading reformers including former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, NORML founder Keith Stroup, former Week Online writer Adam Smith and, of course, Drug Policy Alliance's Ethan Nadelmann, whose 1998 essay in Foreign Policy, "Commonsense Drug Policy," reprinted in "Busted," is a key document in the history of contemporary drug reform.

It is particularly cheering to see the work of Southwestern writer Charles Bowden included. Bowden, the author of "Blood Orchid"--now thankfully back in print -- and the brand new "Down By the River: A Story of Drugs, Money, Murder, and Family," is one of the most sensitive and nuanced voices on US drug policy, and more broadly, the state of the American soul, and an author who should be more widely known. His contribution to this volume, "Teachings of Don Fernando: A Life and Death in the Narcotics Trade," provides an enticing glimpse into the world of a professional snitch, one who informs not for profit or self-protection, but from a sense of pleasure and righteousness.

Also of special interest is the transcript of a conversation between Clinton era drug czar Barry McCaffrey and New York Times political columnist Abe Rosenthal. Recorded in the wake of the successful California medical marijuana initiative in 1996 and made public as part of the lawsuit filed against McCaffrey for his role in attempting to prosecute doctors who recommended medical marijuana, the conversation opens a disturbing window on the collaboration between public sector drug warriors and their hallelujah choir in key places in the mass media.

Although Rosenthal is well-known as a chest-thumping neanderthal, and his opposition to drug reform is not in the least surprising, what is surprising and disheartening for people who believe in the watchdog role of the press is Rosenthal's positioning himself as on the "same team" as a government bureaucrat. "We got caught off base in California," Rosenthal complains at one point. McCaffrey attempts to console the distraught Rosenthal by suggesting that drug fighters could use the "100,000 dead this year from drug abuse" to challenge the California medical marijuana vote. Rosenthal excitedly concurs: "Yes, that's what we have to do, I mean, not we, but all of us, is convince the people of California of the connection between the initiative, which they still see as a pot initiative, and the 100,000 dead."

Alas for McCaffrey and Rosenthal, their little plot failed (although John Walters seems to still be running down the same path), but their collaboration is a shining example of the necessity for alternative voices on drug policy, whether through organs like the Week Online or through volumes like "Busted." Other than McCaffrey and Rosenthal, the only drug warrior represented is Walters, who contributes a piece demonizing marijuana. As Mike Gray explained in his introduction, this is the case because the prohibitionists haven't come up with any new arguments in recent decades. Walters' screed is a representative and sufficient example of current prohibitionist thought, Gray explains.

It's not too late for Christmas. If there is someone in your life who is beginning to think about drug policy, or even someone already on the side of the angels who wants to dig a little deeper, "Busted" would make a fine last-minute gift. Several of its essays are more convincing refutations of drug prohibition than a hundred academic monographs.

Busted lists at $16.95 and is published by Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books.

A DRCNet special offer to get a complimentary copy of "Busted" will be announced within the next three weeks.

9. And the Winners Are...

Thanks to all of you who participated in our survey/book giveaway contest. Ten lucky winners will receive a free copy of Sheriff Bill Masters' important book, "Drug War Addiction: Notes from the Front Lines of America's #1 Policy Disaster," personally autographed by Sheriff Masters himself!

Our lucky ten were chosen from among the 1265 contestants by random drawing. We conducted the drawing using (, a web site that generates random numbers using atmospheric noise data.

And the winners are...

Michael B., Truth or Consequences, NM
Matthew Belmonte
Megan Clark, Colorado
Miriam Kramer, New York, NY
Richard Lake, Escanaba, MI
Jane Lord-Dunning, Somerville, MA
James McCracken, New Orleans, LA
George Newsome, Freehold, NJ
Frank Smith, Bluff City, KS
Jennifer W., San Francisco, CA
To everybody else: We hope you'll take advantage of DRCNet's special offer by donating to DRCNet for your free copy of Drug War Addiction. Visit to sign up with a membership donation of $25 or more today!

10. Federal Judge Shows Keen Interest in Raich/Monson Medical Marijuana Case

press release from Dale Gieringer of California NORML, 12/17/02

US Judge Martin Jenkins (San Francisco) displayed a keen interest in the civil suit by Angel Raich, Diane Monson, et al. for an injunction to protect their right to use medical marijuana, declaring that the case raised "significant issues" concerning the government's constitutional authority to prohibit medical use of marijuana.

Defense attorneys were impressed by Jenkins' evident grasp of their arguments, his willingness to grapple with the fundamental issues, and his thorough familiarity with all of the legal precedents in the case. "This was the most thorough hearing of medical marijuana given by any court," said defense attorney David Michael, a veteran of numerous medical marijuana cases.

Jenkins began with a twenty minute exposition of what he saw as the key legal issues in the case, to wit:

  • Whether the court was bound by previous Ninth Circuit precedents to regard all marijuana cultivation and possession as interstate commerce, as ruled by Judge Fogel in his WAMM decision, or whether, as defense attorneys argued, these precedents did not cover medical marijuana use, in which case the court would be free to rule on the matter as a case of first impression.
  • The applicability of the Supreme Court's Lopez and Morrison decisions restricting the government's authority under the interstate commerce clause. Defense attorney Prof. Randy Barnett argued that the Morrison decision, which postdated Lopez, had raised the bar for establishing jurisdiction under interstate commerce, so that preceding appellate rulings were suspect.
  • Whether the right to use medical marijuana for relief of pain and suffering was protected as a fundamental liberty interest by the Ninth amendment and substantive due process. Barnett, a leading Ninth Amendment scholar, argued that what was at issue was the right of control of one's own body, and that no right could be more fundamental. Attorney Robert Raich, arguing on behalf of his wife, Angel Raich, poignantly noted that medical cannabis was necessary for her very survival.
  • Whether and how Judge Kozinski's concurring opinion in the Conant case, which suggested that the federal government was operating at the outer fringes of its power, might be relevant. Jenkins noted that Kozinski's opinion was not controlling precedent, and that it had applied to conduct (namely making a physician's recommendation) that was not clearly illegal under federal law.
  • How to weigh the equity issues raised by the "mighty conflict" between state law and the Controlled Substances Act. Jenkins suggested that the key issue was federalism, even more than interstate commerce.

Jenkins spent over two hours discussing the issues, mostly with the three defense attorneys. US Attorney Mark Quinliven appeared alone on the government's side, perfunctorily repeating the government's familiar arguments. Jenkins brushed aside his contention that the right to medicine had been negated by the Supreme Court's Rutherford decision concerning Laetrile, noting that case had been decided in a "different constitutional setting."

Judge Jenkins left little grounds to doubt that he will deliver a thoughtful, well informed, possibly landmark decision on the medical marijuana question. We will be waiting with bated breath, probably for several weeks.

Visit California NORML at online.

11. Bolivia Coca Growers Announce Blockades for January 6 -- Will Continue Dialogue

bulletin from the Andean Information Network, 12/17/02

Following an open meeting of the Six Coca Growing Federations in the Chapare on December 5, coca growers announced that they will begin blockades on the 6th of January, but will continue to dialogue with Bolivian government officials. During the three hour meeting, coca grower leaders decided to reject the government's "new coca policy." They agreed to continue dialogue if the government agrees to discuss the modification of article 10 of Law 1008 to allow each Chapare family to grow half a hectare of coca (La Razón, 12/6/02).

Chapare coca growers have stated that the blockades will include a wide spectrum of other groups, such as the Landless Movement, ex-political prisoners and debtors (La Razón, 12/6/02). However, these sectors, as well as coca growers in the La Paz Yungas region and the campesino Federation led by Felipe Quispe Huanca (Mallku) have declared that they will not participate in the blockades (La Razón 12/12/02). At this time, a portion of the COB (Bolivian Workers' Union) is the only group that has declared it will participate in the blockades.

Perhaps in response to the lack of commitment to participate by other sectors, coca grower leader Evo Morales has created a new agenda for the dialogue that prioritizes the demands of these other sectors as well. While the government is pushing for the dialogue to address solely the demands of coca growers, Morales has created a 10-point agenda that incorporates other themes of national interest, including capitalization, the international sale of natural gas, and laws that affect diverse social sectors (Los Tiempos 12/12/02).

While Chapare coca growers have agreed to continue dialogue, many are doubtful that negotiations will lead to an agreement. Julio Salazar of the Isinuta union stated, "We don't believe in the government. There is no hope for the dialogue because the government is following the United States' orders, defending the interests of that country..." (Opinion 12/6/02). Similarly, Elsa Flores of the Mamoré Federation stated, "I believe that there should not be continued dialogue... the government has been trying to trick us the whole time; they will not give us answers. So now, the women with our children are going to blockade" (Opinion 12/6/02).

The Government has maintained that it remains open to dialogue, but is prepared to deal with blockades. Minister of Defense Freddy Teodovic affirmed that the Ninth Division of the Army, located in the Chapare, has adequate forces to maintain order and control in the region, as well as forces of the Joint Task Force and UMOPAR (the rural antinarcotics police) (Opinion 12/6/02). He stated, "the number of forces that we have in the Chapare is a predetermined... The Ninth Division has between 1,200 and 1,500 men. We don't see the need to increase this number in order to guarantee order in the region" (Opinion 12/6/02). During times of conflict, though, the government sends in military reinforcements from other areas.


A continued source of desperation for coca growers is a lack of other viable economic options. As one producer of palm heart, stated, "I have decided to continue to plant coca, there is no other alternative. We have dedicated so much time and energy to growing palm heart but no one wants to buy it. We are suffering from hunger, we have no future for our children"(El Diario 12/9/02). Costs for starting alternative development crops can be prohibitively high. In the case of palm heart, the producer must initially invest 1000 dollars per hectare out of their own pocket, in spite of alternative development assistance.


Although negotiations have not broken down during the last three months, tensions in the Chapare remain high. Coca growers continued vigils around eradication camps and intermittent violence continued. The Chapare Human Rights Ombudsman's office has documented 53 coca growers and three security officers injured and one coca grower and one navy conscript killed since Sanchez de Lozada's August 6 inauguration. Press accounts sustain that another four soldiers have been injured.


In mid-July, the Joint Task Force (JTF) set up three eradication camps in the Dorado Chico, Dorado Grande and Ibuelo communities. According to eyewitnesses, at approximately 8:30am on August 27 in Dorado Chico, a large group of coca growers surrounded 100 members of the Joint Task Force (JTF), creating an incredibly tense situation. At the same time, members of the Ibuelo community denounced that JTF had fired tear gas into their homes and beat and detained several coca growers. The Human Rights Ombudsman's office verified the beating of 12 people during the incident. The forensic specialist at the Justice and Human Rights Center certified that seven people suffered multiple contusions, one with a possible fractured rib, and one with an open head wound. Four of these men were detained. The Joint Task Force left the region several hours later. JTF Commander Hernan Caprirolo agreed to remove the camp from the region.


On August 30, the JTF transferred three camps from Ibuelo to San Andres, between the Chimore and Carrasco Tropical Federations. Several hundred coca growers immediately surrounded the camps, impeding eradication. On September 3, JTF troops tear-gassed coca growers around the Guadalupe camp. Ecological Police officer Silvestre Chinche Apaza suffered machete cuts to the ear and shoulder. Security forces detained coca grower Fructuoso Apaza Arteaga and his wife, Antonia Rocha Perez, as a result. Rocha was released the same day. Fructuoso Apaza suffered three fractured ribs during his detention and has been transferred to Cochabamba for further legal investigation.


On October 4, navy conscript Robin Huanacoma Huanama (18 years old) was fatally injured when he set off a booby trap bomb while eradicating coca in the San Marcos community near Chimore.


On Sunday October 6, approximately 200 members of the Joint Task Force (JTF) entered the Volcan community, near Entre Ríos. According to eyewitness accounts, when some members of the community attempted to block their access, a member of the force shot a coca grower. After this incident the JTF began to leave the region. When they reached the intersection of the road to Ichoa at approximately 10:15, members of the force began to fire tear gas and live ammunition at a small group of coca growers gathered in a vigil. Union leader Sabino Toledo (40 years old) received a bullet wound in the left pectoral muscle and died. The Ministry of Justice autopsy report documents the death. According to eyewitness accounts and reports from human rights monitors, although there was a great deal of tension, coca growers were unarmed and no confrontation took place.


On the morning of November 16, four soldiers of the la Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta (FTC) were injured by a booby trap explosion in the Alto San Pablo region, according to the Vice-minister of Social Defense, Ernesto Justiniano (El Diario 12/17/02). According to authorities, the explosive consisted of dynamite attached to a bottle containing nails, bolts and rocks, and it was activated electrically. The names of the victims have not been released.


On September 27, 2001 a member of the Joint task force shot and killed Ramón Pérez, who was leading a group of journalists toward the Loma Alta military camp in the Chapare. Almost a year later, the Ivirgarzama civilian judge has granted a suspended sentence to one Ecological Police officer on duty during the incident. On the 26th of September, 2002, the judge found Macario Beltran Condori guilty of negligent homicide and gave him a three year suspended prison sentence. The judge gave Beltran two years of probation in which he is prohibited from changing residences without the permission of the judge and consuming alcoholic beverages, and during which he must check in with the judge every 45 days. As a result Beltran will serve no jail time.

The Pérez case represents the first time in the Chapare that a judge has completed a case against a security officer for a human rights violation. This process appears to represent a new strategy to avoid concrete legal consequences for human rights violators, as criticism for these trials in military courts continues. The abbreviated trial process with multiple irregularities in terms of evidence and legal argumentation was called by one embassy official, "kind of a slap on the wrist." Yet embassy officers remain reticent to evaluate whether the Bolivian government is "taking effective measures to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice," a key requirement for Leahy Amendment implementation.

12. DC Measure 62 Clears Hurdle, Goes to Congress

press release from Drug Policy Alliance

Dozens of supporters rallied on the steps of the District of Colombia City Council building on Tuesday, Dec. 17th in support of Measure 62, the treatment instead of incarceration initiative passed by 78 percent of Washington, DC voters. Measure 62 provides substance abuse treatment instead of conviction or imprisonment to eligible non-violent defendants charged with illegal possession or use of drugs, except those classified as Schedule I drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Supporters urged the Council to support Measure 62, called on Mayor Anthony Williams to drop his lawsuit against the measure, and made a dramatic entrance into the open council meeting where Measure 62 was being discussed. The rally was covered by The Washington Post and the local ABC affiliate.

The City Council voted to fulfill the will of the voters by transmitting Measure 62 to Congress, which is the next step in the process to turn the will of DC voters into law. Although the City Council amended the measure to state that it can’t be implemented until after DC’s 2003 budget cycle, this decision was largely a financial matter. The provision contains a sunset clause and is no major roadblock since the Measure was not supposed to take effect until the end of next year anyway. Measure 62 supporters received what they’ve wanted all along: a commitment from Councilmembers to lobby to provide the city with the $1.6 million a year needed to fund it, money the federal government will more than save by reducing criminal justice costs. Chairperson Linda Cropp, who drafted the provision amending Measure 62, declared her full support for the measure and promised to work with Measure 62 supporters take the fight to Congress.

Visit to learn more about Measure 62.

13. Newsbrief: Oakland Cannabis Co-op Director Founded Guilty on Federal Jury Tampering Charges, Handed Out Flyer at Epis Trial

A federal magistrate exercised judicial prerogatives Monday as he found Oakland Cannabis Co-op director Jeff Jones guilty of attempting to influence the outcome of the trial of Brian Epis. Jones' crime consisted of handing out a flyer to prospective jurors in the Epis case that explained the events leading up to Epis' arrest and trial for marijuana distribution. Epis was the founder of a Chico, CA, medical marijuana dispensary and was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty by a jury that was not allowed to hear his medical marijuana defense. All the jury was allowed to know was that Epis was charged as a drug trafficker.

US Magistrate Peter Nowicki ruled that First Amendment rights to free speech did not hold when it came to jurors. The informational sheet that Jones was handing out to jurors "was clearly an attempt to influence jurors," he said, adding that it was "too much information for an improper purpose."

Testimony in Jones' trial showed that he handed the sheets to prospective jurors as they entered the courthouse. Some witnesses reported that Jones told them to "Vote your conscience," telling them, "I have a friend on trial for growing medical marijuana" and "the feds haven't caught up with the state law" allowing medical marijuana.

A nervous US District Court Judge Frank Damrell dismissed the entire jury panel and convened a second one for fear that Jones had tainted them with the facts in the case. Damrell and US Attorney Samuel Wong, who prosecuted Epis, are vindictively trying to tie him to the dissemination of information and have threatened him with a contempt citation, the Sacramento Bee reported. Wong and his drug agents are still trying, the paper noted.

Jones, who will be sentenced on February 27, faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for the misdemeanor conviction. Damrell could also order him to pay the costs of empanelling the second jury panel.

14. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

The supply is endless. This week's winning story is absolutely banal, but then, that's the point. Former Mobile, AL, police officer Rodney Patrick was found guilty Monday of stealing $4,960 in drug buy money. A Mobile County Circuit Court jury found that Patrick had pocketed $950; $2,000; $1,760; $700; and $500 between June 2001 and February 2001.

Another $20,715 in drug investigation money given to Patrick is still missing, prosecutor Nicki Patterson told the Mobile Register. The money came from the Mobile County Street Enforcement Narcotics Team (MCSENT), the Mobile Police Department and other area law enforcement agencies.

Patrick's attorneys attempted to convince the jury that he had used the money as intended -- to pay snitches and to finance their drug buys. But jurors didn't buy the good cop/bad records defense.

Patrick is free pending sentencing on January 16.

15. Newsbrief: Stop the Presses! Poor, Blacks Face Brunt of Houston Drug War

A report in Sunday's Houston Chronicle fleshed out with hard numbers the widely held view that drug law enforcement in Texas' largest city is uneven and unequal. In analyzing drug convictions in Harris County (Houston) since 1997, the Chronicle found that Jim Crow lives -- and he is wearing a narc's badge.

The newspaper analyzed some 58,000 drug convictions in Harris County courts and found that the vast majority -- 77% -- involved less than a gram of drugs. Harris County judges sent more than 35,000 of these small-time offenders to jail or prison. And although the county is only 14% black, African-Americans made up 62% of those convicted on drug charges involving a gram or less.

Some observers of the racially skewed enforcement called the results "arrests of opportunity" rather than a policy directed at repressing minorities. Police arrested more inner city black drug users because it was easier, they said. People in wealthy neighborhoods use drugs behind closed doors, they said.

But black religious leaders have had enough. They have formed Houston Ministers Against Crime to monitor court hearings and lobby state and local officials for changes in the drugs laws and local practices. "Drugs cross racial barriers from Acre Homes [black inner-city neighborhood] to Kingswood [swanky white suburban neighborhood], the Rev. Carl Davis told the Chronicle. "Why is it that only your ethnic minorities end up incarcerated?"

Texas has nearly 15,000 people in low-security state jails doing time for less than a gram, and half of those were sent by Harris County, the Chronicle found. In fact, more state jail prisoners -- 37% -- come from Harris County than from the state's next three most populous counties -- Dallas, Bexar (San Antonio), and Tarrant (Ft. Worth) -- combined.

Houston, we've got a problem.

16. Newsbrief: Texas ACLU Report Slams Task Forces, Calls for End to $200 Million Annual Boondoogle

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas issued a report Tuesday exposing 15 major scandals in the state's system of regional drug task forces since 1998 and a pattern of racial profiling. The report calls on Texas to end the $200 million a year, federally assisted task force program.

"After 15 years of operation, it is clear that these task forces are a failed experiment that have filled Texas prisons with nonviolent offenders -- many of them African American -- and tainted Texas law enforcement with scandal," said Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas ACLU. "When it comes to narcotics law enforcement in Texas, the cure is worse than the disease."

The report, "Too Far Off Task," details case after case where task force officers were caught stealing, dealing or transporting drugs; or were engaged in lying under oath, falsifying government documents, and even framing innocent people. The report also found evidence of widespread racial profiling and a pattern of arresting low-level offenders with tactics that encourage corruption and false charges.

That is no accident, according to Graham Boyd, director of the national ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project. To receive federal funding, he said, task forces must have good arrest numbers, and targeting minorities is an easy way for the task forces to pad their statistics. Statewide, African Americans make up just 12% of Texas' population but 70% of those sentenced to state prison on drug offenses.

"The $200 million dream of the task force has been a nightmare for the African American residents of Texas," said Boyd in a press release. "People have lost their jobs, families have been broken up and children have been virtually orphaned as a result of the massive racial profiling and corrupt practices of the task forces."

The report also found that despite the widespread perception that the task forces are "free" for Texas taxpayers, matching fund grant applications last year alone cost more than $10 million. Abolishing the task forces could save the state $199 million in the next two years, the ACLU reported, a salient fact given the state's projected $7 to $12 billion budget shortfall.

"Too Far Off Task: Why, after Tulia, Texas should re-think its Big Government approach to the Drug War, abolish narcotics task forces, and save $200 million this biennium" is available at online.

17. Newsbrief: MPP Continues "War on Drug Czar" -- More Complaints to be Filed, O'Reilly Appearance Tonight

Having filed federal and state complaints against drug czar John Walters for violations of the federal Hatch Act and Nevada election law in his campaign against the Nevada marijuana initiative, the Marijuana Policy Project is promising to announce a third action -- seeking criminal charges, and up to three more slated for early next year.

MPP executive director Rob Kampia is scheduled to appear on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" tonight (Friday, 12/20), approximately 8:20pm EST (rescheduled from 12/5).

Visit for further information.

18. Newsbrief: Budget Cuts Free Kentucky Drug Prisoners -- Oklahoma Next?

The first of some 567 Kentucky state prisoners ordered released early by Gov. Paul Patton because of the state's budget crisis started heading home on Wednesday. Although no information is available on the overall number of drug offenders included, one county reported that six out of eight prisoners being released there were doing time for drug crimes.

Patton had assured Kentuckians that only nonviolent offenders would be eligible for the early release, and that appeared to be largely the case. The men granted emergency release got out an average of 80 days before their sentences were finished.

While prosecutors grumbled and county sheriffs bemoaned the loss of revenue they had earned by housing some prisoners in county jails, Gov. Patton bit the bullet. "I am governor," he told the Hardin County News-Enterprise. I have to do what I have to do to live within the revenue that we have," Patton said. "I understand there are people who are not going to be happy about it. It's not going to be pretty, no matter how we do it."

Meanwhile, Oklahoma officials are moving forward with a plan bruited by Gov. Frank Keating to release 1,000 low-level, nonviolent prisoners, many of them drug defendants. Like Kentucky and many other states, Oklahoma is in a severe budget crisis with out-of-control spending in the state prison system.

19. Newsbrief: Nickelodeon Censors Beverly Hillbillies Marijuana References

Thanks to alert watchdogs at the Nickelodeon TV network, Nick at Nite and TV Land viewers are being spared a series of oblique references to marijuana sprinkled across episodes of the 1960's hit sit-com, the Beverly Hillbillies. In doing so, executives for Nickelodeon sounded like a character out of another widely syndicated sit-com: the preacher's wife on the Simpsons, who famously lobbies for more laws under the battle cry, "what about the children?"

"There are drug references and kids would be watching," Nickelodeon spokesman Paul Ward told Insight Magazine on Sunday. "The show was edited because a lot of viewers were kids. We have a responsibility as programmers, and part of that responsibility is telling kids that recreational drug use is not okay."

Not that Jed Clampett -- or even Elly Mae, for that matter -- ever advocated marijuana use. In fact, the bits that were too much for Nickelodeon reflect nothing more than a passing nod to the cultural phenomenon that was marijuana in the 1960s. In one censored episode from 1968, in which the Hillbillies hire an Italian chef, Jethro mistakenly refers to "marinara sauce" as "marijuana sauce." In a 1967 episode, Granny was detained by police among a crowd of Griffith Park hippies when she told the officer she was "looking for a little pot" -- to cook in, that is. And in 1969, a deputy said that Elly Mae's bear, which was dressed like a hippie, "probably smoked pot."

That daring comedy somehow made it past the CBS censors when the show first aired, as well as numerous syndications in the decades since then. But it couldn't make it past the sharp eyes at Nickelodeon, and they aren't changing their minds. Ward told Insight that to restore the jokes now might somehow send the message that Nickelodeon advocates drug use. "A lot of money, time and effort would have to be spent," he said. "It would seem a long way to go just to advocate drug references."

Given Nickelodeon's hatchet-job on the Hillbillies, which must be viewed either as craven corporate cowardice or pandering to PC pressures, committed viewers of classic comedy may start to rethink their support of a network that markets itself as appealing to TV purists but feels free to wield the censor's pen.

20. Newsbrief: Asset Forfeiture Unconstitutional in New Jersey

A New Jersey judge threw out the state's asset forfeiture law on December 11, ruling that it created an unconstitutional bias in law enforcement. Under the law, New Jersey police and prosecutors were entitled to keep cash and assets seized from alleged criminals -- a practice widely criticized as bounty hunting.

The ruling came in the case of State of New Jersey vs. One 1990 Ford Thunderbird, a car belonging to a deputy sheriff but seized by police after the deputy's 17-year-old son was arrested on a marijuana charge.

Police moved to seize the vehicle even though no drugs were found in it and it wasn't actually used in drug deals. The deputy, Carol Thomas, successfully sued for the car's return, then sued again to challenge the constitutionality of the state's asset forfeiture laws.

"The decision will ensure that police and prosecutors make decisions on the basis of justice, not on the potential for profit," attorney Scott Bullock of the DC-based Institute for Justice, who represented Thomas, told the Associated Press.

The judge found that the New Jersey statute gave law enforcement agencies a financial interest in pursuing certain investigations, a practice not free of "the taint of impermissible bias in law enforcement." New Jersey law enforcement agencies were the beneficiaries of nearly $32 million in asset forfeiture revenues from 1998 to 2000. Attorneys for the state said they plan to appeal.

21. Media Scan: Joycelyn Elders in Globe and Mail, George McMahon in Fort Worth Weekly, Jeff and Tracy, Santa Fe New Mexican, Medscape

Joycelyn Elders in Canada's Globe and Mail on Canada Has It Right on Marijuana.

Article on George McMahon, one of the seven living patients receiving medical marijuana legally from the federal government:

Portland, OR, activists "Jeff and Tracy" have released the first of a bimonthly audio CD, "Jeff and Tracy's Indicator," featuring interviews with two-time Dallas Cowboy Super Bowl champion and Texas NORML head Mark Stepnoski, and Seattle criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Steinborn. Visit for info or to subscribe.

Santa Fe New Mexican editorializes on Drug War Detracts from Security Mission.

Journalistic report of a study of relevance to drug war claims regarding Ecstasy, archived in Medscape.

22. DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet

DRCNet is accepting resumes from applicants for two jobs:

1) Campus Coordinator, full-time position working on the campaign to repeal the HEA drug provision ( The ideal candidate will be a recently graduated college drug reform activist, but others will be considered. This position will involve non-stop high energy work contacting student organizations and student government leaders around the country, as well as basic maintenance of the campaign web site and database, speaking with campus media, tracking drug provision impact data and other tasks.

2) Membership Coordinator, an hourly position whose hours will vary but which will often tend toward full-time. This position involves data entry, credit card and check processing, generation of thank you letters, ordering and shipping of membership premium items (e.g. books, t-shirts), and related tasks. The membership coordinator must have an exacting level of attention to accuracy and detail, and be reliable, organized, consistent and available on a daily or near-daily basis. This position will commence with training during the first week of 2003.

Please send resumes via e-mail to [email protected] or fax to (202) 293-8344, attn: David Guard.

23. 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.

24. 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 15, 2003, 5:30-7:30pm, San Francisco, CA, "The Politics of Pain." Forum sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance and the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter St. (at Franklin). RSVP to (415) 921-4987 or [email protected], contact Steve Heilig at (415) 561-0870 for further information.

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

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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