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

Issue #282, 4/11/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. HEA Reform: Day of Action on Campuses Nationwide, Press Conference in Washington, ABA and Join Together Join the Fight
  2. Save the Children, Screw the Rest of Us: RAVE Act, Measure to Limit Judicial Sentencing Discretion Pass House and Senate
  3. Coca Battles Heat Up in Peru: Strikes, Street Battles, March to Lima Underway
  4. US Prisoner Number Hits Two Million
  5. Columbia, Missouri, Marijuana Reform Initiative Prompts Progress in Defeat
  6. Action Alerts: Hemp Food, Global Legalization, Maryland Medical Marijuana
  7. The Week Online Still Needs Your Help!
  8. Newsbrief: Brazilian Cabinet Member Calls for Drug Decriminalization
  9. Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana "Truth in Trials Act" Introduced
  10. Newsbrief: New Jersey Doubles "Club Drug" Penalties
  11. Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Michigan Welfare Drug-Test Requirement
  12. Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Rules Mom's Marijuana Use Not Adequate Reason for State to Seize Kids
  13. Newsbrief: Wayne State Passes HEA Reform Resolution in Advance of SSDP National Day of Action
  14. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  15. Web Scan: IAL report, Southern Prison Expansion, Huffington on Tulia, Journal of Neuroscience on MedMj, Reason on Stepnoski
  16. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. HEA Reform: Day of Action on Campuses Nationwide, Press Conference in Washington, ABA and Join Together Join the Fight

Thursday was a big day in the struggle to repeal the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision. Authored by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) in 1998, the provision delays or denies financial aid for students convicted of a state or federal drug offense -- even misdemeanor marijuana possession. In actions coordinated by Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( and the Unites States Student Association (, students at more than 100 universities across the country held actions to mobilize support for a bill that would do just that: Rep. Barney Frank's HR 685. And in a felicitous coincidence, a prestigious panel sponsored by Boston University School of Public Health's Join Together program, which "seeks to reduce the harms associated with substance abuse," assisted by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Substance Abuse, issued a report on discrimination against people with drug and alcohol problems that included a call for repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision (,1854,562623,00.html).

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, seven US representatives joined with student activists and civil rights groups to urge support for the Frank bill, which know has 58 cosponsors. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a Democratic presidential contender, Bobby Scott (D-VA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Tom Allen (D-ME) joined Frank before the microphone, and Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and George Miller (D-CA) provided written statements, for a press conference organized by the Coalition for HEA Reform. Emceeing the press conference was SSDP national director Shawn Heller, and speakers included NAACP DC bureau chief Hilary Shelton; United States Student Association (USSA) president Jo'ie Taylor; attorney Lisa Mojer-Torres, a member of the ABA/Join Together panel; Youngstown University, Ohio, student and HEA drug provision victim Justin Marino; and NORML's Kris Krane.

"The law is unfair and discriminatory, because it only causes difficulties for lower income families," said Rep. Frank, adding "[s]tudents with drug convictions whose families can afford to send them to college without federal help aren't affected by the law. While I don't condone illegal drug use, I disagree with the idea of using the federal financial aid system to punish people who have been convicted of relatively minor drug offenses."

"African Americans compose about 13% of the population and 13% of drug users, but account for 55% of those convicted of a drug offense," said Rep. Kucinich. "The disproportionate racial impact of drug law enforcement should not be compounded by spreading its effects in the realm of higher education due to this law," Kucinich added. "Higher education should be a gateway for a better future for our citizens, for communities and all Americans. The HEA Drug Provision is destructive to our children and our future."

Rep. Hinchey said "[w]e need to repeal this discriminatory provision at once. It singles out students for excessive and inappropriate punishment. It also clearly discriminates against students who aren't wealthy. We should be encouraging those who have had drug problems to pursue educational opportunities, not indefinitely denying them the chance to improve their lives."

Rep. Miller, senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, wrote, "[n]ot only has this law kept thousands of students out of college classrooms, but it sends the wrong message to students seeking to improve their lives just at the time they need the help the most. We should not turn our backs on these students, but instead encourage them to stay in school and to succeed."

Rep. Scott told the assemblage that "we know this law won't reduce drug use, and it may even increase it." Responding to a reporters' question, Scott predicted the law's chances for repeal depend on how much members of Congress are lobbied on the issue.

Shelton recounted the NAACP's opposition to the law from its inception, expressing the organization's concern that "while the goal of this law, to ensure that drug dealers do not set up shop on our nation's college campuses with federal backing, was laudable, the result is in fact racially and economically discriminatory and adversely impacts tens of thousands of lower-income young adults that the Higher Education Act is intended to help elevate out of poverty and despair and into a full participation in our society."

It was Marino who put on a human face on the drug provision's impact. "I was majoring in Environmental Studies when I got busted for a misdemeanor marijuana offense. I wasn't even aware I had lost my funding until I applied and was denied," he said. "I worked a series of dead-end jobs," he added, drawing chuckles from Democratic Representatives after revealing that one of them was working as a telemarketer for the Republican National Committee. "I then found how out how ironic it was that it was the Republicans who pushed this law," Marino added. "I tell you this is an unfair law. I've paid my fines, done my probation, but I'm still being punished. I want to thank the members of Congress and the press who are taking an interest in this."

"Rep. Souder's 1998 drug provision of the Higher Education Act is unfair," said SSDP's Heller. "It disproportionately affects low income and middle class families because it impacts only families that can't afford the rising cost of college without assistance."

Frank told the audience he considered the movement in Congress to repeal the drug provision as representing the legislative process at its best. Frank recounted being approached by financial administrators from Massachusetts when the law was first enacted, and also praised the rapid growth of student activism on the issue.

Heller and SSDP legislative coordinator Ben Gaines told DRCNet they were optimistic the anti-drug provision could be defeated. "It is up for authorization this year," said Gaines, "and my sense is that nobody on the Hill wants to continue this."

But just in case, SSDP, USSA and other campus groups organized a national day of action to coincide with the press conference. "Our object was to bring attention to the issue both locally and nationally by coordinating the press conference with the national day of action," said Heller.

Actions took place at universities and colleges from coast to coast, using a diverse array of tactics. At the University of Rhode Island, it was a press conference featuring university president Robert Carothers, student senate president Kevin Lopes and SSDP chapter head Tom Angell.

"We are here to support that legislation [HR 685] and to ask for the support of Rhode Island's congressional delegation," Carothers said. "My record in opposition to the abuse of alcohol and drugs is well known to many of you. I do not take lightly or casually my position on Congressman Frank's legislation. Yet drugs and alcohol are, to paraphrase an old adage, the curse of the poor. As much as I oppose the use and abuse of these substances, I do not want to penalize those who choose to come to college to change their lives. That is what we are about, changing the lives of people who are then empowered to change the communities from which they come."

"Last night, we passed a second resolution asking our congressional delegation to cosponsor the Frank bill, and we used the press conference today to hammer that home," Angell told DRCNet. "We didn't get any cameras, but we did get the Providence Journal, the Narragansett Times and the campus paper. Neither Rep. Jim Langevin (D) nor Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) have been with us on this, and we're hoping the media coverage will help pressure them. We've also been collecting signatures from more than a thousand students and faculty calling on our congressmen to support the bill."

At the University of New Mexico, SSDP teamed up with the campus Hemp Coalition to staff an educational booth. "We talked to over 200 people," campus SSDP public relations director Cezanne Fink told DRCNet. "There were lots of people who were totally clueless about it; it was amazing to see their reactions. Faculty members were especially good. They want to see people learning, not be punished again for something in their pasts. They don't want a drug offense to get in the way of someone's education."

While UNM SSDP didn't explicitly use the day of action as a recruiting tool, it may have turned out that way anyway. "There were a lot of people who asked us to keep them informed so they could help out," said Fink. "We took down their contact information."

At the University of Iowa, SSDPers also set out to educate their fellow students. "We probably talked to 150 people over the lunch hour," campus SSDP head Kyle Fitzgerald told DRCNet. "I know we recruited some new members. Many had no idea what the HEA anti-drug provision was all about. When I told them, it was like, 'Whoa, that's bogus' -- and that's a literal quote from more than one of them." But it wasn't all support in Iowa City, said Fitzgerald. "There were a few students who called us drug dealing hippies, and even one who told us to stop doing drugs and go to school. That's what we're trying to do, I told him."

But Fitzgerald also used an innovative tactic he wishes would be more widely adopted. "I had done a panel on HEA with the woman who runs the financial aid office and she was supportive, so I went to financial aid and handed out fliers and spoke with the aid officers. The reaction there was excellent. These people can call their congressmen and say, 'This makes my job harder, and I want you to repeal the anti-drug provision.' That could have more impact than 10 calls from complaining students."

And Fitzgerald is keeping the pressure on. "I'll be attending the student senate meeting Tuesday night to make a point of reminding them that they need to keep HEA reform in mind," he said. "We are looking at passing a second resolution; this one would mandate all student senators to call their representatives on the next day of action to support the Frank bill."

And to add to an already impressive day, the ABA/Join Together report, "Ending Discrimination Against People with Alcohol and Drug Problems," joined the chorus calling for an end to the HEA anti-drug provision. Compiled by a high-powered panel headed by former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, the report included the following recommendation: "People with drug convictions but no current drug use should face no obstacles gaining student loans, other grants, scholarships, or access to government training programs." SSDP national director Shawn Heller and HEA drug provision victim turned SSDP activist Marisa Garcia provided testimony for the panel last year.

The campaign to repeal the HEA anti-drug provision appears to be alive and kicking.

(Visit for complete video footage of the press conference. Visit for extensive information on the HEA drug provision and the campaign to repeal it. Visit to see the ABA/Join Together report.)

2. Save the Children, Screw the Rest of Us: RAVE Act, Measure to Limit Judicial Sentencing Discretion Pass House and Senate

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) took advantage of Congress' engrained inability to vote against anything that might "save the children" to win passage of two measures destined to cause pain and misery for untold numbers of adult partygoers, club owners, event organizers and criminal defendants. Biden, an inveterate drug warrior who authored the notorious "crack house" legislation of 1984, hitched his widely criticized RAVE Act (S226, now known officially as the "Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act," Biden having dropped the inflammatory moniker after running into unexpected opposition last year) to the popular Amber Alert bill (S151/HR1104), which sets up a national system of alerts for kidnapped kids and increases child pornography penalties, while Feeney used the bill to pass a measure to limit the ability of federal judges to grant downward departures in sentences -- a measure not limited to sex crimes against children and much more likely to be used to prevent federal judges from lightening sentences for drug offenders.

The Amber Alert bill passed both chambers this week, with the House approving 400-25 and the Senate approving with a unanimous 98-0 vote Thursday evening.

Under Biden's RAVE Act, anyone who organizes an event or owns a venue where someone uses an illegal drug can be held liable for that drug use. Although expressly crafted and advanced as an attack on the rave culture, the bill's implications are frighteningly broad. It could be used against promoters of hemp fests, rock concert promoters or even -- in theory -- against professional sports franchises if fans are smoking joints in the stands.

Biden first advanced the bill last year, but pressure from a coalition of drug reform, civil liberties, electronic music and business groups led by the Drug Policy Alliance ( and its subsidiary, the Electronic Museum Defense and Education Fund (, peeled off initial supporters and stopped the legislation in its tracks. But in a move demonstrating his mastery of legislative legerdemain, Biden attached his pet project to the Amber Alert bill last week.

In a bit of understatement, DPA national affairs director William McColl told DRCNet "it is unusual for a bill to appear with zero votes in committee and zero floor votes." But pushed on the Senate floor today by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA), Biden's RAVE Act did just that. "This was real back door legislative sausage making," said McColl.

"This is not a good situation," said McColl. "This opens up clubs and one-day events to increased scrutiny, civil fines, and even arrest for club owners or event organizers. How this plays out will rely to a great extent on prosecutorial discretion. The language of the bill applies to owners who 'knowingly' open a business for the 'purpose' of drug use, but a pair of federal circuit courts have ruled that the 'knowingly' applies to owners even when it is not the owner's but the customer's 'purpose' to use drugs."

Still, said McColl, the bill is a slight improvement over last year's version, and the coalition against the RAVE Act is prepared to continue to fight to undo it. "While this is obviously disappointing, the coalition's efforts did change the bill for the better. The overt discrimination against electronic music by using the word 'rave' has been removed, as have findings that suggested that harm reduction measures, such as the presence of glow-sticks or the sales of water, were evidence of an owner's ill-intent." Still, said McColl, that wasn't enough. "This is just the beginning. We will be back and people will come out of the woodwork to help us now."

But the RAVE Act wasn't the only stinker hidden in the Amber Alert bill. Rep. Feeney's amendment further restricts federal judges' ability to grant downward departures from mandatory minimum sentences or the federal sentencing guidelines and includes provisions that require the Justice Department to report to Congress almost every time a judge does so. The New York Times in a Monday editorial branded the amendment "a brazen attempt to intimidate judges" and called on Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, "who certainly knows better than to unduly limit judicial sentencing authority," to kill the language. Hatch and the Congress disagreed, fending off efforts to defeat the amendment and passing it as part of the effort "to stop those who prey on children before they can harm children," as House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) put it.

Still, the news could have been much worse. A bulletin distributed online by Families Against Mandatory Minimums this morning (4/11) reported that the amendment was weakened somewhat from its original form, in that the specific limitations on departure authority are more limited, though it will still have a chilling effect on judicial discretion. (Visit for further information on the Feeney amendment and to subscribe to FAMM action alerts.)

In the Alice in Wonderland world of the US Congress, a bill to protect children has become a bill that threatens the rights of all and the freedom of those unfortunate enough to get in the path of its extraneous drug war provisions.

3. Coca Battles Heat Up in Peru: Strikes, Street Battles, March to Lima Underway

Things are starting to look mighty Bolivian in Peru's coca growing regions these days. In mobilizations over the last year and a half, Bolivian coca growers fought with police, won substantial political power, and blocked a government coca eradication program. Now, the coca growers' movement in Peru appears to be headed down the same path of confrontation with the authorities. The Peruvian government of President Alejandro Toledo has so far responded with a mix of repression and promises of dialogue.

On Tuesday, coca growers outside the Andean city of Ayacucho blocked roads, stoned buses, and fought police as they demanded the release of imprisoned leader Nelson Palomino and deep reforms in the government's US-sponsored coca eradication and alternative development programs. The Lima newspaper Expreso reported that 15 people were wounded as stone-throwing, stick-wielding protesters battled police lobbing tear gas. The two main highways out of Ayacucho -- to Cuzco and Huancayo -- were reported blocked, and some 20 buses were reportedly attacked by stone-throwers. And although Expreso reported that local businesses closed down because of the violence, many of them closed in support of a strike called by the cocaleros.

The following day, coca growers from various regions of the country began a "march of sacrifice" to the capital, Lima. Marchers are expected to reach the capital around April 25. They are demanding an end to forced eradication of the coca crop -- grown in Peru for thousands of years -- the release of Palomino, and the paving of the main highway to Lima so that their farm goods can get to market.

"We want to deal directly with the government in an authentic negotiation that has the power of decision and is not a piece of paper with promises that are then forgotten. We want real achievements," said cocalero leader Nancy Obregon. In hiding immediately following the arrest of Palomino, head of the National Coca Growers Confederation, Obregon, subsecretary general of the group, since reemerged to become a leading spokesperson. Obregon told the Lima newspaper El Comercio that while the government has spoken with local political and law enforcement officials about problems in the coca zones, it has not talked to those "who are on strike or those who grow the coca leaves."

Coca growers want to speak directly with President Toledo, said Obregon, adding they want to discuss reforms of alternative development programs that have so far been a "resounding failure." (Obregon was one of several Peruvian delegates to the February "Out from the Shadows" conference in Mérida, Mexico, all of whom harshly criticized alternative development programs as corrupt and only benefiting foreigners. Palomino also agreed to attend, but cancelled as the conflict that resulted in his arrest developed ( Still, Obregon said, alternative development could have good results, but only if the government changed its policies and its methods to create a market for alternative goods as just prices.

While local authorities in Ayacucho are calling for police reinforcements to quell the disturbances, the national government is tiptoeing between threats of repression and promises of reconciliation. Agriculture Minister Alvaro Quijandria told Expreso that the protests must cease for talks to continue. "When violence appears, it interrupts the path of dialogue," he said. "Then everybody loses. One cannot think that the solution lies in violence."

Quijandria showed no sign of movement to free Palomino, a key demand of the cocaleros. Palomino was arrested in March and charged with "apology for terrorism," as part of a sinister campaign to link him and his organization with the still-extant guerrillas of the Shining Path. That is a judicial matter "in which we cannot intervene," Quijandria claimed. The connection was disputed, however, in an open letter to President Toledo in late February from Hugo Cabieses, Peruvian economist and DEVIDA consultant, who wrote that Palomino was "a fighter against the Shining Path in the Apurimac-Ene region."

Nils Ericsson, director of the national anti-drug agency DEVIDA, warned that the protests could transform "what is a labor problem into a political problem." What is worse, he hinted darkly, is that combative resistance to the eradication program "is more complex than just talking to the government because there are all sorts of interests who will take advantage of an authentic and justified unhappiness that worries us all and against which we are working." Ericsson went on to warn that the only group to benefit from such protests was the drug traffickers, adding "we have to be careful that we are not all subtly manipulated by this mafia."

Despite the none-too-subtle attempts of Peruvian authorities to tie the cocaleros to leftist guerrillas or drug mafias, the coca growers are undeterred. They declared a temporary truce with the government after a similar outbreak of strife in February, but have pronounced themselves frustrated with the lack of a meaningful response. Now, they march on Lima by the thousands.

Visit for video and audio footage of Obregon's speech, in Spanish and English translation.

4. US Prisoner Number Hits Two Million

No bells and whistles went off and no balloons dropped from the ceiling, but sometime last year, somewhere in the land of the free, the jailhouse door slammed shut behind the nation's two millionth prisoner. That's according to the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reported on Monday that as of June 30, 2002, the number of people in state or federal prison was 1,355,748 and the number in local jails was 665,475, leaving a total of 2,021,223 people behind bars in the United States. Nearly four million more people are on parole or probation.

The two million-plus count marked a 5.4% increase in the prison population, the largest gain since 1997, as jails and prisons held nearly 35,000 more persons than a year earlier. An aggressive federal government accounted for more than 40% of that increase, growing at an annual rate of 5.7% compared to a 1% annual growth rate for state prison populations. The federal Bureau of Prisons is now the nation's largest prison jurisdiction with 162,000 prisoners, surpassing the gulag states of Texas (158,000) and California (160,000).

Interestingly, Texas and California, along with New York, the fourth largest prison state, saw decreases in the number of prisoners, driven in all three states by financial concerns and in California by the implementation of Proposition 36, the "treatment not jail" initiative passed by California voters in 2000. The federal prison system, which like the rest of the federal government apparently operates without having to worry about budgets and finances, continues to swell, driven largely by federal prosecutions of drug law violators. Drug violators now make up more than 60% of the federal prison population and more than 20% in the states.

The growth in the prison population is also fueled by the disproportionate imprisonment of black men in their twenties and early thirties, a whopping 12% of whom are doing prison or jail time. The 12% figure is an all-time high, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. Among white men in the same age group, the figure is 1.6%.

"This reflects a real culture of punishment in some parts of the country," said Nora Callahan, director of the prisoner advocacy group The November Coalition ( "We have been traveling the country and we see real disparities between rich and poor areas and between white and black areas," she told DRCNet. "If you are poor or black or, god forbid, poor and black, you are more heavily policed -- and it isn't Officer Friendly. The parents of white middle-class kids have to understand that if police were watching their children the way they watch black kids, those middle-class kids would be in jail, too."

"The relentless increase in prison and jail populations can best be explained as the legacy of an entrenched infrastructure of imprisonment that has been embedded within the criminal justice system over the last 30 years," said Sentencing Project ( director Malcolm Young in a press release greeting the latest figures. Noting that violent crime is at its lowest level since 1974, Young added that it is "policy, not crime rates, that are driving up incarceration rates." Young pointed to tough mandatory sentencing policies for drug offenders as one of the primary culprits.

But it wasn't only the usual suspects who were attacking sentencing policies in the wake of the Bureau of Justice Statistics report. Newspapers around the country have begun to respond. In North Carolina, the Asheville Citizen-Times called the numbers "sobering, if not downright alarming." In Kentucky, where a budget crisis led the governor to release hundreds of people early, the Louisville Courier-Journal called the imprisonment of 12% of young black men "tragic" and called for alternative programs. "Such programs aren't free, but they're far less costly than prison, which often accomplishes little but to turn out better criminals."

And the New York Times weighed in as well. In a Wednesday editorial, the nation's "newspaper of record" blamed "harsh sentencing policies" and "the excesses of the war on drugs" for a prison population unparalleled in the world. "When a prisoner is a first offender guilty of a nonviolent crime, a jail term is often just a very expensive method of turning a young person who could be set on the right path into a hardened criminal. It seems far more sensible to reconsider tough mandatory sentencing laws and build in more discretion for judges to deviate from guidelines. The money saved could be redirected to alternatives to prison, including drug treatment and violence prevention programs for youths," the Times wrote. "When violent crime rates were higher, many politicians were afraid to be seen as soft on crime. But now that crime has receded and the public is more worried about taxes and budget deficits, it would not require extraordinary courage for elected officials to do the right thing and scale back our overuse of jails and prison cells."

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is not an elected official, but he, too, is speaking out. Appearing before Congress Wednesday to testify about the Supreme Court's budget, Kennedy harshly criticized mandatory minimum sentences. "In many cases, our sentences are too long," he said. "Two million people in prison is just unacceptable." Justice Clarence Thomas, who accompanied Kennedy to the hearing, did not comment, but reportedly nodded his head in agreement at Justice Kennedy's remark.

Meanwhile, C-Span viewers Thursday were able to watch the spectacle of Congress debating whether to add yet more mandatory minimum sentences and further restrict judicial discretion in sentencing as it considered the "what about the children?" Amber Alert bill.

Advocates had predicted, based on prior trends, that the two million prisoner landmark would be reached in February 2000 ( A slowdown in the rate of increase of the incarcerated population, however, delayed that occurrence for over three years.

5. Columbia, Missouri, Marijuana Reform Initiative Prompts Progress in Defeat

Voters in the University of Missouri college town of Columbia rejected a measure that would have softened penalties for marijuana possession Tuesday. Proposition 1, which would have mandated that persons charged with possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana be tried in municipal instead of state court, failed by a margin of 58% to 42% in a municipal election that saw almost three times the usual voter turnout. The measure would also have legalized medical marijuana use for the seriously ill.

Trying petty possession cases in municipal rather than state court would allow students to avoid losing federal financial aid under the anti-drug provision of the Higher Education Act, a point organizers hoped would help mobilize student voters. The initiative would also have eliminated jail time as a punishment for misdemeanor possession. While final figures are unavailable, initiative organizers told DRCNet student turnout was high.

Organized by University of Missouri students and local activists, the measure also gained the support of the Marijuana Policy Project (, which spent $10,000 in Columbia, and the Drug Policy Alliance (, as well as the editorial support of the local newspaper, the Columbia Daily Tribune. But opponents led by Columbia Police Chief Jerry Boehm and grassroots anti-drug activists ACT Missouri ( were able to carry the day by appealing to fears about the dangers of marijuana. The opposition effort was also aided and abetted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (, which sent deputy drug czar Scott Burns and agency flack Kevin Sabet to Columbia last week to reiterate the Bush administration's opposition to any relaxation of the marijuana laws.

The White House intervention rankled both the Columbia Tribune, which in a weekend editorial, told "Prosecutor Boy" Burns to go home, and university law student Anthony Johnson, who helped lead the Prop. 1 campaign. "Using taxpayer funds to affect a local election is not appropriate, and the Bush administration managed to create confusion about the proposal," a glum Johnson told the Associated Press Tuesday night.

But the Columbia Alliance for Patients and Education (CAPE) can claim at least a partial victory even in defeat, said Amy Fritz, CAPE's development director. "Even though we lost the vote," she told DRCNet, "we forced Chief Boehm to look at charging policies and acknowledge there were inconsistencies. As a result, he changed the department's policy so that, in most cases, people caught with 35 grams or less will go to municipal court."

That had been policy in Columbia prior to Boehm's arrival in 1999, but under Boehm the department had been sending people to state court who possessed as little as five grams.

"We are happy to see the policy changed," said Fritz, "but we want to see it made law and not just have a new policy that can be changed back later. We will be sitting down with the city council to try to pass an ordinance to give this the force of law."

While Fritz said it was too early for a definitive answer as to why the initiative lost, she pointed to local opposition organized by ACT Missouri. "We got quite a bit of opposition from them," she said. "They were really getting the word out about how this wasn't a good idea." The fact that school board elections were held on the same ballot probably didn't help either, Fritz said. "I think many concerned parents voted because of the school board election. There was great concern about the children," she said.

The ONDCP visit probably had mixed results, according to Fritz. "ONDCP probably had an effect on some people, but Columbia voters are generally a well-educated lot, and I think a lot of them were sort of insulted that people would come in from outside and tell them how to vote."

Despite the loss on Tuesday, said Fritz, reform efforts will continue in Columbia. "It is too soon to comment on whether we will try an initiative, but we will be working with the city council and we will continue to force the community to look at this issue. We opened a dialogue, and we're happy about that. We started to get people educated, and we're happy about that, too. We're not going away."

6. Action Alerts: Hemp Food, Global Legalization, Maryland Medical Marijuana

DEA HEMP TASTE TEST, ROUND TWO: On March 21, 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] announced its final rule on hemp food products, purporting to ban the sale of all hemp food products on April 21, 2003. The DEA's rule is currently being challenged by the hemp industry in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and hopefully will be Stayed.

In the meantime, please join Vote Hemp, Hemp Industries Association, Organic Consumers Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other organizations around the country for nationwide hemp food picnics outside DEA branches on noon, 4/21. At lunchtime, concerned citizens will set up tables with hemp products and information on the absurdity of prohibiting hemp foods. Hemp food products will be provided free of charge to interested organizers. Contact Nadine Bloch at (301) 891-3680 or [email protected] to get involved, and visit to send a letter to Congress.

GLOBAL ANTI-PROHIBITION RESOLUTION: Thousands of people including more than 200 legislators worldwide have signed an appeal initiated by the International Antiprohibitionist League, and launched from the European Parliament last fall, calling for a global end to prohibition and revision of the UN anti-drug treaties to permit signatory nations to enact legalization systems. The UN's anti-drug summit is taking place right now in Vienna, so please visit to add your signature today!

MARYLAND: Both chambers of the state legislature have passed a medical marijuana bill -- it doesn't do everything reformers want, but is a good step -- and the bill is now on Gov. Ehrlich's desk awaiting his signature or veto. Ehrlich supported medical marijuana as a member of Congress, but is being pressured by the drug czar, not to sign the bill. Please call Gov. Ehrlich at (410) 974-3591 and urge him to sign the medical marijuana bill into law and not to back down to the White House on this issue.

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8. Newsbrief: Brazilian Cabinet Member Calls for Drug Decriminalization

In the latest sign that pressure is mounting on new Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva to reform that country's drug laws, Lula's Public Security Secretary, the equivalent to the US Attorney General, called this week for the decriminalization of drug use and possession. In remarks made at the Forum of Liberty, a conference sponsored by the Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, and reported by the Brazilian newspaper El Estado de Sao Paulo, Public Security Secretary Eduardo Soares said that "drug use should not be a crime."

Soares told an audience of businessmen concerned about security and public order that the government has two tasks in fighting crime. The first is repression, he said, but the second is to reduce the causes of violence through social programs and political participation. While he would continue to fight against the drug trade, said Soares, it was also necessary to "offer young people a means of learning values and social integration."

But Soares also told his audience that while he favored decriminalizing drug use and possession, the government of Lula had not yet adopted that posture. "This is not the position of the government, and I have to submit to the general policies of the government," he said.

Still, said Soares, the illegality of drugs has led to various social harms, including police corruption. Brazilian law enforcement agencies have at various times gone through "purification" campaigns to purge corrupt officers, said Soares, but the problem remains. He added that corrupt practices could be curbed through independent outside investigators with statutory authority to review police misconduct.

Soares wasn't the only reform advocate at the conference. Mexican attorney Luis Pazos told attendees that drugs should be distributed at reasonable prices to addicts in order to defeat the drug traffickers.

And fancy conferences and government ministers aren't the only ones putting pressure on Lula. As Narco News ( has been reporting in an extended series, Lula and his government also face demands from an increasingly organized and vocal harm reduction movement to move fast to address the social ills brought about by Brazil's adoption of US-style prohibitionist drug policies.

9. Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana "Truth in Trials Act" Introduced

Members of Congress joined with marijuana reformers and victims of the federal government's anti-medical marijuana jihad in a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday to mark the introduction of the "Truth in Trials Act," which would allow persons convicted of violating federal marijuana laws to introduce evidence in federal court that they followed state laws for the purpose of alleviating suffering. Juries could find defendants not guilty if they believed they had followed state medical marijuana laws.

Sponsors Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) were joined by cosponsor Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Ed Rosenthal juror Marney Craig, Ashley Epis, the eight-year-old daughter of imprisoned medical marijuana provider Bryan Epis, Valerie Corral, whose Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana was raided in September, Marijuana Policy Project ( executive director Rob Kampia, and Steph Sherer, director of Americans for Safe Access (, an umbrella group dedicated to a proactive defense of medical marijuana users and providers.

"This is an issue of states' rights, plain and simple," said Rep. Farr, lead sponsor of the bill. "The voters of California have passed a medical marijuana initiative, but the federal government has exhibited little respect for our state's laws. Attorney General John Ashcroft has insisted that his opinion is of greater consequence than the citizens of California -- five million of whom voted for Proposition 215 in 1996 to allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana to patients in pain."

"This is a matter of basic fairness," said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, DC. "Jurors who could imprison someone for decades for trying to help the sick have a right to hear the whole truth, not a censored version that is stripped of any facts the government doesn't like."

The bill currently has 23 cosponsors and awaits action in committee.

10. Newsbrief: New Jersey Doubles "Club Drug" Penalties

New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey Tuesday signed into law a bill that will increase penalties for people who use, possess, or sell so-called club drugs, including MDMA (ecstasy), GHB, and ketamine, as well as methamphetamine. Under the new law, penalties for possession of those drugs will increase from three years in prison to five years and a fine of up to $15,000. Sellers of ecstasy or other listed drugs will face up to 20 years in prison.

The action marks the second time in three years that New Jersey lawmakers have stiffened penalties for ecstasy. In 2000, then Gov. Christy Whitman signed a bill increasing penalties to their current range (

Unlike most drug war law enforcement, this measure is aimed squarely at white middle-class youth, the most frequent users of ecstasy and other club drugs. New Jersey law enforcement authorities have traditionally focused ecstasy actions on the summertime party scene on the Jersey Shore.

According to prohibitionist legislator George Geist (R-Gloucester), who also authored a law funneling money from drug fines to the DARE program, the bill is designed to protect young people. "We need to work overtime to protect our younger generation," Geist said. "This law is aimed at preventing rave parties and certain dance clubs from becoming the centers for distribution of these drugs."

Another prohibitionist legislator, Michael Doherty (R-Hunterdon/Warren) also played the "what about the children?" tune. "Illegal drugs are a tremendously negative force in our society. I would support any law that punishes people who sell drugs," Doherty said. "We really can't tolerate that type of behavior --particularly around our schoolchildren."

But the legislation applies to adult sales and possession.

11. Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Michigan Welfare Drug-Test Requirement

Upholding an earlier lower court decision, the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati Monday struck down a Michigan law that required the drug testing of welfare recipients. The Michigan law, authorized but not required by the 1996 federal welfare reform law, was the most draconian of any state effort to make submission to drug testing a requirement for welfare payments. Although the Michigan law was passed in 1998, it has never been implemented. Instead, it has been blocked by an injunction issued by a US District Court judge in 1999.

The Michigan law, which applied only to poor families seeking assistance, required mandatory drug tests of applicants, with 20% of welfare recipients to be randomly tested every six months. Recipients who tested positive but refused drug treatment would be denied any benefits. Federal Judge Victoria Roberts, however, ruled the law unconstitutional, writing that it did not fit into "the closely guarded category of constitutionally permissible suspicionless testing," which generally requires a threat to public safety.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit reversed Roberts last fall, writing that welfare recipients have a "diminished expectation of privacy" and were free not to accept benefits if they did not wish to be tested. But the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case, with six judges siding with the state of Michigan and six voting to void the law. Under the court's rules, a tie vote means Judge Roberts' original decision was affirmed.

Michigan officials have not yet decided whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. Gov. Jennifer Granholm had criticized the law during her campaign last year, but then said she would implement the law if elected. A Granholm spokesperson told the Detroit News Wednesday that Granholm now supports drug testing of welfare recipients only when there is reasonable cause.

The American Civil Liberties Union Drug Policy Litigation Project, which led the legal attack on the law, hailed the ruling. In a Wednesday interview with the Free Press, project director Graham Boyd said the ruling should "send a message to the rest of the nation that drug testing programs like these are neither an appropriate or effective use of a state's limited resources."

The ACLU noted that when the state started a pilot drug testing project under the law, only 21 of 268 people tested positive -- and 18 of those were for marijuana.

12. Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Rules Mom's Marijuana Use Not Adequate Reason for State to Seize Kids

The 9th Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled on April 1 that daily marijuana smoking by a working single mother does not make her an unfit parent. The ruling came in the case of Teresa Scott, whose children were taken by the state after she admitted smoking the demon weed. The case now goes back to Summit County Juvenile Court, which will make a final decision on the custody of Scott's four children.

According to court documents, Scott's descent into bureaucratic hell began when she took one of her children to an Akron hospital for a minor injury. A social worker at the hospital reported her to Children Services as a possible child abuser. In the course of an investigation, Scott admitted that she smoked marijuana regularly, but never in front of her children. She agreed to a drug test, but missed it by 15 minutes. The next day the county took her kids, aged 8, 11, 12 and 15.

That was in August 2001. Children Services' decision to seize the Scott kids was upheld by the Summit County Juvenile Court, but the Court of Appeals ruling made it clear that the court had erred. According to the court, Scott's kids "were clean, healthy, attended school and were apparently good students." The court also cited testimony by case workers that there was no evidence Scott's marijuana use affected her parenting. Scott also had a record as a regularly employed person who paid her bills on time, the court noted.

"While this court certainly does not condone a parent's use of an illegal substance or abuse of a legal substance, parents have a fundamental right to raise their children," wrote Judges Donna Carr and William Batchelder in their 2-1 majority opinion. "Without some evidence that Teresa's supervision of her children or the environment of her children has been affected in some negative way by her use of marijuana, there is not clear and convincing evidence" the state had any right to take the kids.

Scott's lawyer, Richard Kutuchief, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer Scott had suffered at the hands of the state and wants to put her family back together. Her children have been living with relatives for the last 18 months.

"Her whole family was disbanded and torn apart and she absolutely wants them back," said Kutuchief. "Children Services was being overzealous as a watchdog, and the sole issue was whether her smoking marijuana was justifiable to remove and estrange the children from their parent. If a person uses marijuana to relax or in the same fashion as alcohol, is it bad?" he asked. "Would it be better for the court if she was on Prozac or another prescription drug that could be more intense than marijuana?"

The Plain Dealer, for one, agreed. In a Saturday editorial, the Cleveland newspaper wrote that "a grievous injustice would have been done if Scott lost her children based on the known evidence." The decision to seize Scott's children was "rash and unwarranted because it was not in the children's best interest," the Plain Dealer opined.

13. Newsbrief: Wayne State Passes HEA Reform Resolution in Advance of SSDP National Day of Action

The Wayne State University (Detroit) Student Council passed a resolution April 3 calling for repeal of the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision. With the Wayne State action, the number of colleges and associations of colleges that have passed similar resolutions now stands at 105.

The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with only two members of the council voting against it. The action came after organizing by the Wayne State chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (, a key player in the nationwide Coalition for HEA Reform. While the coalition includes diverse groups, including the American Council on Education and the Student Financial Aid Administrators Association, it is on-campus activism by SSDP members that has proven crucial in prodding various campuses to add their voice to the clamor for change.

"I am very glad that they joined the other hundred schools across the nation in requesting that the drug provision be repealed," local SSDP president Amanda Brazel told the student newspaper the South End.

Passed at the behest of Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) in 1998, the HEA's anti-drug provision has blocked more than 100,000 students from receiving financial aid because they have drug convictions. Some 25,000 students lost aid this academic year alone, according to the US Department of Education. Total disqualifications since the law's initial implementation in fall 2000 total around 95,000.

The Wayne State resolution came as the coalition geared up for a day of action on campuses nationwide on Friday, April 11 (today). See "HEA Reform: Day of Action on Campuses Nationwide, Press Conference in Washington, ABA and Join Together Join the Fight" in this issue ( and visit for further details.

14. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

It was a toss-up this week. The story of the two former Oakland police narcotics officers on trial for hanging out in a whorehouse while on duty, with a car full of unaccounted for cash, drugs and stolen guns sitting outside is certainly worthy, but since the Oakland Police Department has already garnered considerable DRCNet notice for its shady exploits, the Oakland narcs must yield to two of their East Coast brethren.

In the City of Brotherly Love, two former Philadelphia Police officers went on trial Wednesday for framing drug suspects, but the spotlight will also shine on the Police Department, as evidence developed for this trial shows that not only the officers involved but their supervisors routinely ignored anti-corruption measures enacted after the city's most recent corruption scandal.

Marcellus Robinson and John Thompson are charged with perjury in the framing of one arrestee, although others arrested by the dynamic duo have already successfully sued the city in federal court. Philadelphia paid out $100,000 to settle one such suit last month. An additional 60 drug arrests by Robinson and Thompson have been dismissed.

The pair of uniformed police officers, who were not assigned to drug duties and who, by department policy, were barred from participating in drug stakeouts or doing unsupervised surveillance operations, made a large number of drug arrests. Robinson would typically claim that he had seen drug sales from a "confidential location," then the pair would swoop in for an arrest.

But their house of cards came tumbling down when a defense attorney for one of the men they arrested, Angel Rodriguez, acquired police tapes that showed that while Robinson was allegedly watching Rodriguez sell drugs, he was actually pursuing a gunman in another case. And although both officers testified that Rodriguez had drugs on him, he was not carrying any. Instead, they used drugs found in a nearby backyard as evidence.

It's nothing new in Philadelphia. In the 39th District scandal a few short years ago, uniformed police regularly rounded up and searched young minority men, according to one of the officers involved. Steven Brown, now serving time in federal prison, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that if they found drugs, they would arrest the men and lie to say they'd witnessed them selling them.

"This is part of the war on drugs that unfortunately is not often recognized," University of Pennsylvania law professor David Rudovsky told the Inquirer. "These officers were involved in so many cases in which they were violating internal police regulation, and nobody paid any attention."

15. Web Scan: IAL report, Southern Prison Expansion, Huffington on Tulia, Journal of Neuroscience on MedMj, Reason on Stepnoski

Counter Drug Report from the International Antiprohibitionist League, in advance of the 46th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs:

Deep Impact: Quantifying the Effect of Prison Expansion in the South, report by the Justice Policy Institute:

Will The Legacy Of Tulia Be The Death Of Bucks For Busts Policing? April 9 column by Arianna Huffington:

Journal of Neuroscience article on cannabinoids and multiple sclerosis:

Reason magazine covers former Cowboys center Mark Stepnoski's marijuana legalization advocacy:

16. The Reformer's Calendar

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

April 10-13, Vienna, Austria, "Alternative Summit on Drugs," coinciding with the UN drug summit, visit for further information.

April 12, 6:00pm, Barcelona, Spain, "March Against the Prohibition of Drugs," sponsored by Associació Lliure Antiprohibicionista. At the Plaza De Sant Jaume, visit for further information.

April 12-13, Chicago, IL, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Midwestern Conference. At Loyola University, contact Matt Atwood at [email protected] or visit for info.

April 13, 12:30pm, Dallas, TX, Drug War Forum, First Unitarian Church of Dallas, 4015 Normandy, visit for info.

April 15, 9:00am-6:00pm, New York, NY, "Current Trends in Drug Policy Reform," symposium by NYU School of Law Student Drug Policy Forum. Panels on collateral consequences of the drug war, alternatives to incarceration and enforcement, and impact of federal law, featuring law professors, prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys and other criminal justice experts. At Greenberg Lounge, Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, contact Adam Bier at adam.bier at for further information.

April 15, 5:00pm, Syracuse, NY, "The Drug War's Effect on Youth Violence," presentation by Efficacy's Cliff Thornton as part of Students United for Child Advocacy's 5th Annual Child Advocacy Week. At Syracuse University, Lyman Hall, Room 132, contact [email protected] or [email protected] for information.

April 17-19, San Francisco, CA, "Back to Basics: Stop Arresting Marijuana Smokers," 2003 NORML Conference. At the Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, registration $150 or $100 for students. Call 888-67-NORML, e-mail [email protected] or visit for information.

April 20, noon, Atlanta, GA, "10th Annual Great Atlanta Pot Festival." Speakers and entertainment, sponsored by Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition, at Piedmont Park, $10 donation requested. Call (404) 522-2267 or visit for further information.

April 21, 5:30-7:30pm, Honolulu, HI, "Ending the Failed Drug War: A Ten Year Progress Report," Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii event featuring Ethan Nadelmann. At Alan Wong's Pineapple Room, Macy's 3rd Floor, Ala Moana Center, fee and registration required. RSVP by April 18 to Darlene at (808) 384-7794 or [email protected], or visit for further information.

April 22, 6:30-8:30pm, Berkeley, CA, "What D.A.R.E. Didn't Teach You: from Absolut to Zima," evening of education on alcohol. At the Drug Resource Center, UC Berkeley, cosponsored by University Health Services and the US Department of Education, contact Scarlett Swerdlow at [email protected] for information.

April 26, 11:00am-11:00pm, Kingston, RI, "5th Annual Day for HOPE Hempfest," festival at the University of Rhode Island Quadrangle. Featuring music and speeches, admission free, visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

May 1, 7:30am, Randolph, MA, "The Beginning of the End," presentation by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, at Lombardo's Function Hall, Route 28, contact Mike Smithson at (315) 488-3630 or [email protected] for further information.

May 3-5, many cities worldwide, "Million Marijuana March." Visit for local contact info.

May 8, 10:00am-evening, New York, NY, "Educate Don't Incarcerate," youth demonstration on the 30th anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. March from Rockefeller Center to Gov. Pataki's office, noon rally in front of Gov. Pataki's office, 4:00pm youth speak out, party to follow. Call (718) 838-7881, e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

May 15, 7:00pm, Rochester, NY, "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed," dinner discussion with Judge James P. Gray, Superior Court of Orange County, California. Sponsored by the Monroe County Libertarian Party, restaurant to be determined, contact Steve Healy at [email protected] or Mike Smithson at [email protected] for further information.

May 17, 1:00pm, DeWitt, NY, ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy Annual Meeting. Featured speaker Judge James P. Gray, Superior Court of Orange County, California. At May Memorial Church, 3800 Genesee Street, contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] for further information.

May 17-20, Indian Wells, CA, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers 2003 Annual Conference. At the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, see for further information.

May 26-28, Wellington, New Zealand, 4th International Conference on Drugs and Young People. At the Wellington Convention Centre, call +61 (03) 9278 8101 or +61 (03) 9278 8137, e-mail [email protected] or visit for information.

June 1-13, Witness For Peace Drug Policy Delegation to Colombia. Contact Alex Volberding at [email protected] or visit for info.

June 6-7, Milwaukee, WI, "Breaking the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs," Midwest Regional Conference. Sponsored by Drug Policy Alliance and WISDOM, a Wisconsin-based coalition of community and religious leaders for public policy reform. Admission $25 adult or $10 youth, visit for further information.

June 7-11, Denver, CO, 23rd National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry. Visit or contact Sr. Carleen Reck at [email protected] for information.

August 16-17, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, "12th Annual Seattle Hempfest." At Myrtle Edwards Park, call (206) 781-5734 or visit for further information.

November 5-8, East Rutherford, NJ, biennial conference of Drug Policy Alliance. At the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel and Conference Center, 2 Meadowlands Plaza, visit for further information.

November 7-9, Paris, "Fourth Hemp and Eco-Technologies Exhibition." At the Cité de Sciences et de L'Industrie, call +33(0) 1 48 58 31 37, e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

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