Media Racial Profiling stopthedrugwar.org
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en Español Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em Português Latest News Drug Library Search

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

Issue #270, 1/3/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

subscribe for FREE now! ---- make a donation ---- search

Come to "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century," Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, February 12-15, 2003 -- visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/ (English) or http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/ (Español) for info or to register.

Join the HEA campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act -- visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com for info and an activist packet.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences
  2. Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid
  3. Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures
  4. Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform
  5. Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
  6. Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 12-15 Febrero, Mérida, México
  7. Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill
  8. Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic?
  9. Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests
  10. Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties
  11. Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime
  12. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  13. Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators
  14. Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices
  15. DC Job Opportunities at DRCNet
  16. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


1. Editorial: Constitutional Inconveniences

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 1/3/03

Constitutions can be inconvenient to governments sometimes. A court in Ontario, Canada, has thrown marijuana enforcement in that province into disarray by invalidating the law banning possession. Colombia's president feels inconvenienced by a Supreme Court ruling making drug possession in the country legal, and wants to amend his country's Constitution for that reason.

Sometimes a society finds a Constitution's true implications too inconvenient. Our Bill of Rights in the US has bent and bent and bent to conform to a drug war ideology and the desires of its police and prosecutors to employ every tactic they can dream up to arrest, jail and impoverish proven or accused drug offenders.

Still, the possibility of relief from drug war tyranny through Constitutional means continues to exist, if only at the margins. There is a Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable search and seizure, even if the interpretation of that amendment has been diluted quite unreasonably. There is a First Amendment that guarantees the right to write or speak about drug or drug war issues, even if rogue prosecutors or legislators unscrupulously try sometimes to suppress speech they dislike.

While the Constitution is sometimes derided by police state apologists as "protecting criminals," the Constitution is in truth the ultimate law of the land, governing all other laws. Those who violate or abuse the Constitution violate and abuse law in its very spirit. In their zealotry to punish those who commit what they rightly or wrongly consider crimes, they commit the worst of crimes. They attack our democracy and our system of laws at its very heart. They threaten to undo an experiment in freedom and egalitarianism that has inspired nations around the globe.

This week's news highlights a number of drug war crimes that demonstrate the importance of the Bill of Rights to our nation and the urgent need to restore its glory:

  • Northampton, Massachusetts, police seize bail money from a mother and father before they can bail their daughter, accused of marijuana distribution, out of jail. Their justification was, they claimed, the cash had "a slight odor of marijuana."
  • Louisiana police turn a small town into a war zone while arresting peaceful members of a community whom they accuse of cocaine offenses.
  • A New Jersey court hears the case of Ed Forchion, activist whose parole was revoked because he dared to express his opinion publicly that marijuana should be legal.
In light of these and countless more abuses throughout all our country, all of the time, the full purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be clearer. The Bill of Rights is not only intended to protect the rights of the accused. The Bill of Rights exists to prevent governmental authorities from degenerating into kidnappers, thieves and thugs.

That ideal is not always realized; in the end, only a spirit of justice and freedom can hold in check the zealotry and corruption to which any institution of power is vulnerable. But at least the tool exists with which to hold tyranny at bay and strive for something better. The drug warriors are a principal opponent of that lofty goal. But in the end their overreaching and disregard for the rule of law will unmask the indecency of their agenda: Freedom and justice will one day prevail.


2. Pressure for Change Mounts as Ontario Judge Rules Canadian Marijuana Possession Law Invalid

A provincial judge in Ontario, Canada's most populous province, ruled Thursday that the country's law on possession of small amounts of marijuana is no longer valid. In his ruling, Justice Douglas Phillips dismissed two marijuana possession charges against a 16-year-old boy and held that the Canadian Parliament had failed to address constitutional problems with Canada's marijuana laws.

In July of 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down the federal law prohibiting the possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana. In that case, the court held that the marijuana law violated the rights of people who use the drug for medicinal purposes. The court gave Parliament one year to enact changes in the law that would satisfy constitutional concerns. While the federal government, waiting until the last minute, responded to that ruling by issuing Marijuana Medical Access Regulations on July 31, 2001, those regulations did not address the issue of recreational use.

Thursday's ruling only adds to the Canadian cannabis conundrum. Canadian Justice Minister Martin Cauchon and a House of Commons select committee have both called for decriminalization, while a Senate panel earlier called for regulated legalization, but Prime Minister Jean Chretien has recently undercut Cauchon, suggesting last week that his government has made no decision on decriminalization. And while the ruling is non-binding, if it is appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal and upheld, it would be binding for the province and would set a precedent for other provinces and the federal government.

"This could push the government to move faster," said Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation of Canada (http://www.cfdp.ca). "It will make things very interesting at the political level. Will the government appeal this case, arguing that possession should stay a criminal offense? If they were to lose, they could end up in a situation where there is no regulation of marijuana," he told DRCNet.

As a result, Oscapella said, he expects the government to act. "The government has to do something," he said. "Will it be true to its rhetoric about decriminalization? That is the question. The government is under intense scrutiny from the national media on this issue. The media is saying 'you said you're going to do decrim, the courts say the law is unconstitutional, what are you going to do?'"

Despite the prospect of an unregulated marijuana market if the Canadian Supreme Court eventually hears and upholds Thursday's case, that may be the most politically palatable course for the Canadian government, Oscapella said. "If we get marijuana decriminalization or legalization through the courts instead of the political process, that takes off the political pressure from the US," he said. "It is more difficult for the US to criticize our court decisions than our political decisions, and, of course, the government can then say 'it's not our fault.'"

But as the Canadian government squirms, the pressure to change the marijuana laws is mounting. According to a poll released Thursday, 50% of Canadians want decriminalization of marijuana, while 47% oppose it. The poll, conducted by Strategic Counsel, a Toronto polling firm, found that 53% of those under 40 supported decrim, while 48% over 40 did. The poll also found, unsurprisingly, that support for decrim was strongest in British Columbia, with 56%. Also, the pollsters noted, many respondents failed to differentiate between decriminalization and full legalization. "They may not have got the nuance," one of the pollsters suggested.


3. Budget Crisis Forces California Governor to Consider Early Releases, Other Prison Measures

California Gov. Gray Davis (D) never met a prison-building program or "tough on crime" bill he didn't like, but now, faced with a $35 billion state budget deficit, he is being forced to consider measures that could begin to pare down the state's mammoth prison budget -- and free some prisoners. With California's budget deficit greater than those of the other 49 states combined, Davis is finding that there are no sacred cows when it comes to budgets -- especially when it's a question of prisons or health care, prisons or education, prisons or social services.

As recently as last month, when he proposed mid-year budget cuts, Davis had spared the prisons, instead opting for cutting dental care for adult Medi-Cal clients, cost of living increases for the disabled, and child care subsidies for welfare graduates. Davis proposed $10.2 billion in cuts, but the California Department of Corrections (CDC) accounted for only 0.1% of them.

Davis said he would not imperil public safety to balance the budget. The "tough on crime" mantra has long been successful in California politics -- Republican governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson are past masters of the politics of fear -- and Gray's policies, at least, are in the pocket of the California prison guards' association, whose interests are self-evident and whose free-spending ways have made it the largest special interest campaign contributor in state politics in recent years. But people who aren't prison guards are beginning to grumble.

Advocates for health care, schools, and other threatened social services have started to raise a row over the sanctity of the prison budget. "The idea that you're going to cut 400,000 to 500,000 people from getting health insurance and not even examine corrections... is a little unconscionable," Iris Lav, deputy director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, DC, told the Sacramento Bee last month.

Demands for prison spending reductions are also coming from the legislature. State Senate President Pro Tem John Burton and San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, both Democrats, told the San Francisco Chronicle last week they have ideas designed to reduce spending by freeing nonviolent prisoners. Leno, the incoming chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said he wants to discuss releasing small-time drug offenders or inmates locked up for petty parole violations. Burton also called for reforming the state's severe parole system and added that perhaps inmates over the age of 70 should be released -- there are 503 of them, costing the state $13.4 million a year to house, according to the CDC.

Lightening the heavy hand of the parole board could also result in substantial savings in tax dollars and human freedom. According to the CDC, some 54% of all parolees return to prison, but only 10% are returned for committing new crimes. In other words, the vast majority of parole violators sent back to prison are doing time not for new criminal offenses, but for failing to make a meeting, pass a drug test or report an address change.

"Californians now have trade-offs to consider," Leno told the Chronicle. "Do you want to have fewer subsidized day care slots? Do you want to have more trauma centers? Do you want to see more seniors with their bag lunches, or do you want to see more people in prisons?"

Prison spending is a big target. According to the CDC (http://www.cdc.state.ca.us/factsht.htm), corrections cost $3.9 billion this fiscal year and eats up almost 6% of the total budget. In addition, the state has spent $5.7 billion on building new prisons since the late 1980s, with more needed by April 2004 if current trends continue. The state spends an average of $26,690 per inmate per year to imprison the 161,000 people populating the California gulag -- more than half of whom are nonviolent offenders. Persons imprisoned for drug crimes constitute 23% of all prisoners, according to the CDC. Simply by freeing all drug offenders, California could save nearly a billion dollars in prison spending this fiscal year alone.

But while there are signs Davis is beginning to hear the rumblings, that isn't likely to happen. Davis has already taken a trembling first step toward freeing prisoners to cut costs. He announced last week that he had approved a plan to give some prison camp inmates two days credit for each day served, thus freeing them earlier than anticipated and saving several million dollars. But beholden as he is to the prison guards' union, he has so far balked at other cost cutting measures, including shutting down San Quentin Prison.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill, the legislature's financial adviser, has suggested cutting the prison sentences of some nonviolent or elderly prisoners, saying it could save the state hundreds of millions, but according to the Mercury News, her proposal excludes drug offenders and those with "Three Strikes" sentences.

Still, after two decades of untrammeled growth in California's prisons, the era of corrections as a sacred cow appears to be coming to an end. Gray Davis has taken what for him is a historic step -- actually cutting a few sentences -- and the cries for reform of the state's over-the-top sentencing policies are growing louder. As appears to be the case everywhere, California politicians immune to pleas for social justice are responding to the call of the budget cutter.


4. Prosecutors Enlist in Drug Czar's Anti-Marijuana Campaign -- Will Prioritize Marijuana Cases, Lobby Against Reform

The drug czar's Office of National Drug Control Policy (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov) has teamed up with the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) as part of its escalating war on marijuana. In letters sent to every prosecutor in the country on November 1, NDAA president Dan Alsobrooks and the drug czar's Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs, Scott Burns, hoisted the battle flag against pot, signaling prosecutors that they should make the prosecution of marijuana crimes a high priority and urging them to fight efforts to reform the drug laws.

But for a group representing prosecutors, who have long fended off criticisms of drug prosecutions on the grounds that "we don't make the laws, we merely enforce them," the push against marijuana brushes right up against the line separating law enforcement from lobbying. While Alsobrooks, in his cover letter, attempted to portray the push as a matter of public safety, he also made it clear that the effort was inspired by attempts to reform the marijuana laws. "Attempts to legalize or criminalize controlled substances, and particularly marijuana, are springing up around the country," Alsobrooks warned. "Those who support drug legalization are well funded and highly adept at manipulating the media. And they do not mind deceiving the American public as well... Those who want to legalize drugs advance their position issue-by-issue, winning incremental victories. We can, and have stopped their efforts at the national level, but will lose all if the states yield individually." Writing that the drug czar's office had asked NDAA to aid in its battle against marijuana, Alsobrooks urged prosecutors to read Burns' letter containing "important information about marijuana" and to "consider ways that you can bring this message to your communities."

But if prosecutors have any interest in accurate information about marijuana, they will shy away from Burns' rhetoric. The tenor of Burns' letter is evident early on, when he tells prosecutors that "nationwide, no drug matches the threat posed by marijuana." He then listed a bunch of "truths" for prosecutors to tell the American people about cannabis, but those "truths" are, at best, highly controversial and, at worst, mendacious and tendentious.

"The truth is that marijuana is not harmless," Burns wrote, citing DAWN data showing marijuana mentions in hospital emergency rooms. Marijuana "now surpasses heroin" as a factor in emergency room visits, he claimed. Burns did not explain that an emergency room "mention" of marijuana does not signify a marijuana-related medical emergency, or that marijuana overdoses are a practical impossibility.

"The truth is that marijuana is addictive," Burns wrote, claiming that 62% of all dependent drug users are hooked on pot. But experts disagree. In his new overview of marijuana research, "Understanding Marijuana," Dr. Mitchell Earlywine writes: "Despite its popularity, few people smoke marijuana regularly... diagnoses [of addiction or dependence] may say more about the culture and values of a given clinician than the actual negative consequences that cannabis creates."

"The truth is that marijuana and violence are linked," Burns claimed, citing two studies that fly in the face of both decades of folk wisdom and the rest of the scientific literature. On this topic, Earlywine writes: "Direct links between cannabis intoxication and violence do not appear in the general population. A few studies show correlations between marijuana consumption and violent acts, but these links frequently stem from personality characteristics or the influence of other drugs. People who are violent or who use drugs that lead to violence often also smoke marijuana, but the marijuana does not appear to cause the violence."

"The truth is that we aren't imprisoning individuals for just 'smoking a joint,'" Burns wrote, noting that only half of one percent of prisoners are doing time for marijuana possession. While few responsible critics of drug policy make that argument, that is still roughly 10,000 people doing hard time. Burns also ignores the serious consequences awaiting the 700,000 people arrested each year on marijuana charges, from jail time to lost benefits to lost licenses to financial hardship.

"The truth is that marijuana is a gateway drug," Burns wrote, ignoring study after study that debunks this prohibitionist tenet. Two of the most recent studies to debunk the gateway theory are a February 2001 study by Dr. Andrew Golub published in the American Journal of Public Health that called it a "historical artifact" with no explanatory value for current drug use trends (http://www.apha.org/news/press/2001_journal/feb01.htm), and a study released last month by the RAND Corporation that found that "the gateway theory is not the best explanation of the link between marijuana use and hard drug use" (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/266.html#randreport).

"The truth is that marijuana legalization would be a nightmare for America," Burns warned, using suspect numbers to suggest that Dutch coffee shop policies led to a huge increase in teen marijuana use. But as Dr. Peter Reuter has shown in his book, "Drug War Heresies," the increase in Dutch teen marijuana use occurred only a decade after the Dutch began tolerating marijuana sales, when a wave of commercialization swept the coffeehouse industry. And as Reuters pointed out, Dutch teenage use levels remain lower than in the US.

"The truth is that marijuana is not a medicine and no credible research suggests it is," Burns wrote, closing his eyes to the 1999 Institute of Medicine study commissioned (and then promptly ignored) by his boss's predecessor, then drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey, as well as more recent research (http://www.nap.edu/html/marimed/).

"The role you play as prosecutors is indispensable to our success in fighting the normalization of marijuana," he wrote. "You can target and aggressively prosecute traffickers and dealers. You can help those who need treatment -- a first offense for marijuana possession, for example -- get treatment. You can intensify the detection and removal of marijuana growing operations. You can work with your legislators to update local laws impeding marijuana prosecutions and treatment."

Burns then thoughtfully included a seven page "Changing the Way Americans Think About Marijuana Talking Points" paper, full of the same claims that filled his letter. It's all part and parcel of drug czar John Walters' "Marijuana Initiative," the federal government's multi-million dollar anti-marijuana propaganda effort (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/marijuanainitiative/).

The drug czar and his boss, President George W. Bush, are deadly serious as they fight what they fear is a losing battle against reform. They are seeking allies in powerful positions. And they are willing to resort to lies, misinformation, disinformation and distortion to do so. This isn't your father's drug war.

Read Alsobrooks' and Burns' letters at http://www.ndaa-apri.org/alsobrooks_letter_nov_1_2002.pdf.


5. Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century

an international conference series uniting reform forces in a call for global sanity

Please join activists, academics, politicians, journalists and others in Mérida for the first Latin America-wide summit opposing drug prohibition. Be a part of this historic gathering! Meet, listen, talk, collaborate and show your solidarity with our allies in the growing Latin American drug reform movement.

February 12-15, 2003, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Mexico

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/
http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/ (Español)

Register by credit card online (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/register-credit.html), or print out a registration form to submit by mail (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/register.pdf). Registration is free to Latin Americans (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/inscripcion-gratis.html), and sliding scale is available to others who need it. Scholarships to assist with travel costs may be available. Please make a donation if you can afford to, so we can offer more scholarships to bring more Latin American attendees to the conference! Your registration fee will support scholarships too, so please register today!

Steering Committee:

Gustavo de Greiff, former attorney general, Colombia, Chairman
Jaime Malamud, former attorney general, Argentina
Mario Menendez, publisher, Por Esto!, Mexico
Marco Cappato, Member of European Parliament, Lista Bonino, Italy
John Gilmore, United States
Conference Staff Director: David Borden, DRCNet, United States
Volunteer Media Advisor: Al Giordano, NarcoNews.com
Details on program to be posted shortly. Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/ for hotel and discount travel options. Other dates and locations to be announced for Europe, Canada and the United States. E-mail [email protected] to sign up for an official event notication by mail or e-mail. Visit http://www.stopthedrugwar.org or http://www.drcnet.org to read or subscribe to our weekly online newsletter.

Contact StopTheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) at: P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, voice: (202) 362-0030, fax: (202) 362-0032, [email protected]


6. Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 12-15 Febrero, Mérida, México

Saliendo de las sombras: Terminando con la prohibición de las drogas en el siglo XXI

Una serie de conferencias internacionales que unirá a las fuerzas de reforma en un llamado a la sensatez mundial

Participa en "Saliendo de las sombras", la Primera Cumbre Internacional sobre Legalización, reuniendo Norte, Centro y Sudamérica, y a aliados de todo el mundo.

Del 12 al 15 de febrero de 2003, en la Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, México

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/
http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/ (English)

Por favor, ven a reunirte con activistas, académicos, políticos, periodistas y otros en Mérida, en la primera cumbre latinoamericana contra la prohibición a las drogas. Forma parte de este encuentro histórico. Encuentra, oye, habla, colabora y demuestra tu solidaridad con nuestros aliados en el creciente movimiento para la reforma en América Latina.

Inscríbete en línea usando tu tarjeta de crédito (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/inscripcion-credito.html), o imprime un formulario de inscripción y envíalo por correo (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/register.pdf). La inscripción es para latinoamericanos gratuita, y hay precios reducidos para quienes en verdad lo necesiten (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/sombras/inscripcion-gratis.html). También podríamos tener becas disponibles para costear algunos viajes. Por favor, inscríbete ahora y dinos cuánto costaría tu traslado, trataremos de hallar financiamiento para ti. Por favor, haz una donación si es posible, para que podamos ofrecer más becas y traer a más latinoamericanos a esta conferencia (http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/donate.html). Tu pago de inscripción va a financiar igualmente esas becas -- por favor, inscríbete hoy mismo.

Comité organizador: Gustavo de Greiff, ex fiscal general de la nación, Colombia, Presidente Jaime Malamud, ex fiscal general de la nación, Argentina Mario Menéndez, director del diario Por Esto!, México Marco Cappato, miembro del Parlamento Europeo, Lista Bonino, Italia John Gilmore, Estados Unidos Director del equipo de la conferencia: David Borden, DRCNet, Estados Unidos Asesor voluntario en medios: Al Giordano, NarcoNews.com

En breve anunciaremos aquí detalles sobre el programa, los conferenciantes y las opciones para viajar. Hay información sobre hoteles un poco más abajo. Otras fechas y sedes serán anunciadas para Europa, Canadá y los Estados Unidos. Envía un correo electrónico a [email protected]. Para recibir más noticias sobre las conferencias. Visita nuestra página web y lee/suscríbete a nuestro correo semanal de noticias http://www.drcnet.org o http://www.stopthedrugwar.org.

Contacta StopTheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) en: P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, voz: (202) 362-0030, fax: (202) 362-0032, [email protected]


7. Newsbrief: Connecticut Legislator to Reintroduce Medical Marijuana Bill

Connecticut state representative James Abrams announced Monday that he will reintroduce a medical marijuana bill in the state legislature this spring. The bill would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for a specified list of diseases and conditions, including the treatment of nausea associated with chemotherapy, eye pressure from glaucoma, and HIV/AIDS wasting syndrome, among others.

Connecticut passed one of the nation's first medical marijuana bills in 1981. That law allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes, but because federal law overrides state law, Connecticut doctors have not prescribed medical marijuana for fear of prosecution or losing their ability to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

Under the Abrams bill, drafted by the New Haven-based A Better Way Foundation, doctors would provide certificates to approved patients. It would then be up to the patient -- not the doctor -- to actually acquire his or her medicine. "What we basically want to do is make the law workable," Robert Rooks, executive director of A Better Way, told the Associated Press, referring to the state's existing but dormant medical marijuana law.

Abrams sponsored similar legislation last year without success. And he can expect more opposition this year from the likes of state Rep. Claudia "Dolly" Powers (R-Greenwich). "I'm just not comfortable with opening that door in terms of just general access through a doctor's orders," she told the AP. "We do have medicines that already mimic it without the smoking part and all that kind of stuff," she said.


8. Newsbrief: Prosecutors Seize Bail Money, Claim Pot Smell -- A New Tactic?

In two widely separated cases in December, local police and prosecutors attempted to seize bail money on the grounds that it smelled like marijuana and was thus presumed to be proceeds of illegal drug trafficking. The proceedings, in Massachusetts and South Dakota, may mark the emergence of a new tactic in the never-ending, ever-escalating attack on marijuana and those who use, buy, and sell the weed.

Last Sunday, police in Northampton, MA, confiscated $50,000 in cash from a Vermont couple who had come to bail their daughter out of jail after she was arrested on marijuana distribution charges. A police officer at the jail smelled the money and detected "a slight odor of marijuana," according to affidavit filed in support of the forfeiture. A drug sniffing dog then confirmed the odor, the affidavit said. Police then seized the money as the proceeds of drug dealing. Hampshire County prosecutors are seeking to confiscate the money. A hearing is set for January 16.

A week earlier and 2,000 miles away, police and prosecutors in Huron, SD, pulled the same stunt. According to court documents in State of South Dakota vs. $5,000 made available to DRCNet, police sought to seize $5,000 in cash bail on the grounds that it smelled of marijuana. Beadle County prosecutors revoked the bail of the young man in question and rearrested him. But Circuit Court Judge Jon Erickson, raising a judicial eyebrow at prosecutors' claims, ordered the defendant re-released. The prosecutors' motion to seize the $5,000 remains pending, but the person who put up the cash told DRCNet he is seeking legal counsel to fight the forfeiture.

In 1994, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ruled that police officers could not seize suspected drugs money or raid premises just because a sniffer dog had indicated it was contaminated. They would need better evidence than that. All of which begs the question: How many pot dealers are throwing their hundred dollar bills in with the buds?


9. Newsbrief: Louisiana Drug Raid Draws Protests

Heavy-handed law enforcement tactics in a Farmersville, LA, drug raid last month have led to street protests. About a hundred people marched through downtown Farmersville on December 21 to condemn FBI SWAT team tactics in a raid days earlier in which 10 members of one family were arrested on crack cocaine distribution charges. In the pre-dawn raid, heavily armed and armored FBI agents broke into several homes and frightened the entire community, local residents complained, adding that they did not believe the Nation family was guilty of drug trafficking.

"I see these people every day. They could have arrested them any time and any time. They are not violent, they're just normal people," protest organizer Shiela Lewis told the Associated Press. The family donated money for a school playground, she said. "Does that sound like a menace?"

It was the police that scared the community the night of the raid, said Melissa Nation, who was among the marchers. "Everybody was asleep in their beds, and they came in our neighborhoods to our homes and busted down doors and just destroyed everything in each person's home," she told the AP. "It was like a war zone. People were scared. One woman who lived a couple of houses down hasn't been back. She's too scared."

The FBI was unconcerned. Special Agent Cal Sieg told the AP agents must take precautions because drug dealers can be violent. The lightning raids with overwhelming force are necessary to decrease the chances anyone would get hurt, he said.


10. Newsbrief: France Looking to Heighten Marijuana Penalties

Moving resolutely backwards, the hardline French interior minister, Nicholas Sarkozy, is laying the groundwork to increase penalties for marijuana consumption and possible cultivation. According to a report in the Guardian (UK), Sarkozy has been consulting with cabinet members and other government officials about raising criminal penalties for marijuana users. Under current French law, the maximum penalty is one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The moves come at a time of increasing official concern about cannabis consumption in France, where an estimated three million people light up each day. The country is also awash in a "grow your own" mania stoked by two popular grow books, "Secret Smoke" and "Cupboard Growing," which have sold 100,000 copies between them. Police seized 40,000 plants in grow op raids in 2001, compared to 1,500 a decade ago.

The proposed clampdown will put the French government on a confrontation course with the country's growing cannabis culture. The Collective for Information and Research on Cannabis (http://www.circ-asso.org), the country's leading marijuana legalization group, led by Jean-Pierre Galland, openly defied Sarkozy' sensibilities by sponsoring last month's Paris Hemp Salon. Police made no arrests. Nor have police moved against the 50 or so grow shops now operating in the county. But a confrontation could come next summer, as authorities weigh whether to bar the annual festival at Montjean-sur-Loire, where cannabis, "the symbol of the Loire valley," is celebrated.


11. Newsbrief: NJ Weedman to Get Day in Federal Court After Months in Jail for Thought Crime

A federal judge in Camden, NJ, has ordered the state to show why it is holding Ed Forchion, widely known as the "NJ Weedman," in prison instead of releasing him to complete his parole. Forchion was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to possessing 25 pounds of marijuana. He served more than 16 months behind bars before being paroled earlier this year. New Jersey parole officials jailed him again in August for violating his parole. His crime? Advocating the reform of the marijuana laws. The state was particularly irked that Forchion had the nerve to film several public service announcements propounding his views. Those commercials were never aired.

Forchion appeared before a three-judge Intensive Supervision Program (parole) panel in early December to seek his reinstatement as a parolee, but that panel adjourned without ruling or setting a date for a new hearing.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Joseph Irenas scheduled a January 21 hearing on Forchion's writ of habeas corpus, ordering the state of New Jersey to show cause for imprisoning him. Irenas told the court Forchion probably would not have been returned to prison had he not spoken out about the drug laws.

Forchion, who is a Rastafarian, has led a quixotic crusade to reform the marijuana laws. He has run thrice for Congress, he allegedly smoked marijuana on the floor of the state Assembly in an act of civil disobedience, and he once sought political asylum in Canada from the marijuana charges that led to his current troubles. But now, with New Jersey parole authorities throwing him in prison because of his political beliefs, he is what Amnesty International would call a "prisoner of conscience," incarcerated not for drug activity but for exercising his constitutionally protected freedom of political speech.


12. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

It won't be a happy new year until 2020 for former Abbeville, LA, police officer Calvin Broussard, Jr. On December 19, a federal judge sentenced him to 17 1/2 years in prison for his role in a crack cocaine ring extending from Houston to New Orleans. According to court testimony, Broussard delivered drugs for the ring and supplied information to help it avoid capture.

Calling his behavior "a betrayal" and "extremely heinous" the judge sentenced Broussard to the maximum applicable sentence. She was noticeably gentler with codefendant Brian "Big Louisiana" Landry, whom she freed after he had served almost two years in jail. In an emotional hearing, Landry convinced the judge that his criminal behavior was the result of drug addiction. Maybe the fact that, as Landry's lawyer, Frank Dawkins of Lafayette, told the judge, Landry "gave the government considerable information about other crimes" had something to do with it as well.

In any case, Landry's sister was happy with the decision. The Advocate (Baton Rouge) reported that the sister, Kay Turner of Abbeville, shouted "Hallelujah Jesus! Hallelujah!" and started speaking in tongues in the courtroom.

The Advocate did not report on whether Broussard had been involved in drug enforcement.


13. Newsbrief: Afghan Opium Farmers Drive Out Eradicators

Reuters reported Sunday that the Afghan government's opium eradication effort in Nangahar province has been halted by gunfire. Citing local authorities, Reuters reported that opium growing tribesmen in the province's Shinwar, Khogyanhia, and Achin districts open fired on government anti-drug enforcers, forcing them to retreat.

The tribesmen vowed to resist any future eradication efforts with armed force, according to local leader Noor Rahman. "The tribesmen used loudspeakers to call on people to come out of their houses to resist the plan," he told Reuters. "Government troops have been forced to leave the area."

Nangahar province is responsible for about one-third of Afghan opium production, according to the United Nations. The UN forecasts that Afghanistan is on track to regain the crown of world's leading opium producer this year, with a harvest estimated at 3,400 tons.

The government of Hamid Karzai ordered a ban on opium cultivation in January and promised farmers $350 for each acre of poppies destroyed. But many farmers complained that they have not seen the compensation, and thus are flouting the ban. In fighting over opium eradication in Helmand province in the spring, several dozen opium growers were killed by government troops.


14. Newsbrief: Ethiopian Farmers Turn to Khat in Face of Drought, Low Coffee Prices

Battered by drought and low coffee prices, Ethiopian farmers are pulling up their coffee trees and replacing them with khat, a mild, leafy stimulant used in the region for thousands of years. With coffee prices at a 30-year low, an estimated 75% of coffee farmers in the Hararghe highlands (home to the world famous, highly aromatic Harar coffee beans) have uprooted their trees and planted khat, said Tadessa Maskela, general manager of the Oromiya Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in the capital, Addis Ababa. Some farmers are growing both crops, he told the San Jose Mercury News Sunday.

While traditionally taken like tea in the Horn of Africa, khat has been banned in the US, Britain and Canada. As a result, khat fetches up to $200 a pound in the US -- compared to $12 for Ethiopian coffee. It also has an additional -- if temporary -- benefit for users in the drought-stricken, starvation-threatened Horn. "Khat is much better than coffee," coffee farmer Usmana Ali told the Mercury News. "A person can stay two days without eating. But then you fall down."

Khat is drought and pest resistant and requires less water and less time to grow than coffee. But the turn to khat production instead of coffee harms Ethiopia, according to government officials. Coffee was the country's primary source of foreign currency, and Ethiopia needs large amounts of hard currency to buy food for the estimated 11 million Ethiopians who could face starvation this year.


15. 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 (http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com). 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. (Full-time may be an option now.) 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.


16. The Reformer's Calendar

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

January 9-18, Brazil, healing retreat with Silvia Polivoy, Rick Doblin and others. Visit http://www.ayahuasca-healing.net for information, or e-mail [email protected]

January 11-12, Columbus, OH, free medical marijuana activist training, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Americans for Safe Access, at Ohio State University. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for information.

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 http://www.ayahuasca-healing.net for information, or e-mail [email protected]

January 25-26, Kingston, RI free medical marijuana activist training, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Americans for Safe Access, at Ohio State University. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for information.

February 3-4, Las Vegas, NV, free medical marijuana activist training, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Americans for Safe Access, at Ohio State University. Contact [email protected] or [email protected] for information.

February 10-11, Berkeley, CA, free medical marijuana activist training, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Americans for Safe Access, at Ohio State University. Contact [email protected] or [email protected]">[email protected] for information.

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 http://www.reconsider.org 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 http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/shadows/ 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 http://www.reconsider.org 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 http://www.ihrc2003.net or contact [email protected] or (6653) 223624, 894112 x102.

April 17-19, 2003, San Francisco, CA, 2003 NORML Conference. Details to follow, visit http://www.norml.org for information.

June 7-11, 2003, Denver, CO, 23rd National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry. Visit http://www.travel.to/theconvocation/ 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org for further information.


If you like what you see here and want to get these bulletins by e-mail, please fill out our quick signup form at http://stopthedrugwar.org/WOLSignup.shtml.

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

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

Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en Español Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em Português Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts

StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]