(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #285, 5/2/03
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/2/03
Earlier this week, a prominent Canadian leader, Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, came to Washington to discuss his committee's recent recommendation that marijuana be legalized, not merely decriminalized or depenalized as his nation is preparing to do. The visit came against a backdrop of a war of words by US anti-drug officials who are unhappy about this and other reforms of drug policy that Canada's government has in the works.
The words have not been credible. In a comment that doesn't pass the straight face test, drug czar John Walters predicted a series of toxic waste dumps would crop up around Canada, if some Canadians cease putting other Canadians in prison for possessing small quantities of marijuana. Walters flack David Murray visited Vancouver this week to repeat the warnings, the Vancouver Sun reported, but his reasoning was no more impressive. "I didn't learn anything," said Vancouver city council member Jim Green. "I just really was unimpressed with the lack of depth and the lack of analysis." Mayor Larry Campbell, referring to another Canadian drug policy development in the offing that Murray doesn't like, safe injection sites, predicted that "in the coming years, the US will probably want to emulate us."
Recent events in Nevada further undermine the federal drug office's credibility. Drug Czar John Walters has been charged with the crime of violating Nevada's election laws by failing to file a campaign finance report. Walters campaigned against the Question 9 initiative using taxpayer funds, that a violation of federal law. Nevada's attorney general issued an opinion -- arguably incorrect -- that Walters was immune from state prosecution due to a clause of federal law -- but harshly criticized Walters for interfering with Nevada's electoral process. In other words, he believes Walters did break the law, but that there's nothing Nevada can do about it. Not exactly a shining example for the children.
Senator Nolin and his fellow committee members are a much classier act. With nothing politically to gain, and knowing the risk of angering America's rude anti-drug mouthpieces, they chose nevertheless to push the envelope and speak the truth as they saw it. Watching Nolin and others speak in Washington last Tuesday, one might have wondered if it were a different universe from that inhabited by John Walters. It is the same universe, of course; just some of the inhabitants are honest and others aren't.
Fortunately, the honest people don't all inhabit other countries; some of them live here in the US too. Eventually the growing chorus of anti-prohibitionist voices around the world will become too strong for US media and leaders to ignore. When that time comes, the US will probably want to emulate much more than safe injection sites and marijuana decriminalization.
Coming within the context of a movement for drug legalization that has in recent months begun to step out from the shadows -- with a pair of eponymously-named conferences in Brussels and Mérida so far and more to come -- the opposition to more drug war politics as usual evidenced last month at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna, and Canadian moves to decriminalize or depenalize marijuana, the Wednesday press conference provided an opportunity for anti-prohibitionist voices to take their case to the US press and public.
But harm reduction, while necessary, was not sufficient, Trebach said. "Harm reduction was not enough. Not enough, in many ways. Not enough because it left in place one of the worst inventions of the human mind -- those provisions of the criminal law in every known national code of laws that make criminals of people who possess substances for ingestion into their own bodies. Not enough because by providing humane aspects to a destructive system, it tends to help preserve and perpetuate that system. For these and many other reasons I am now working for full legalization of drugs. Only in this way can the system of prohibition be replaced by a new and more rational legal drug-control system. As I have said many times, this amounts to replacing the law of the jungle with the rule of law," Trebach continued.
And despite heartbreakingly slow progress so far, Trebach predicted that the drug war's days are numbered. "Drug prohibition will not be forever. You can take that statement to the bank. In time, drug prohibition will only be a bad memory."
But that day has not yet arrived, and US political leaders are determined to see it never does, Trebach said, slamming drug czar John Walters for threats aimed at Canada over its pending marginal drug reforms. "Recently Canada has strayed from rigid prohibition theology and is considering decriminalizing or even legalizing marijuana," Trebach said, and as a result has faced "harsh and irrational" attacks from Walters. "I submit, however, that if the United States can declare that it believes in the freedom of the Iraqi people to choose a whole new government, then it should damn well declare that it believes in the freedom of the people of Canada to choose their own form of drug control."
That was an attitude shared by Canada's Sen. Nolin, who told the audience that, "Canadians and presumably Americans deserve national drugs policies that are global, effective and respectful of human rights." It is increasingly clear that neither has that now, he said. "Today, politicians, researchers, lawyers, police officers and medical physicians around the world are no longer afraid to say that the prohibition of so called illegal drugs which led to the war against drugs has been a manifest failure. I firmly believe that for the preservation of life, public health, personal safety, freedom and democracy, this insidious policy, which has not had any beneficial long-term effects, needs to be dismantled."
The UN's manifest faith in prohibition is unwarranted, said Nolin. "The many international conventions and national statutes advocating prohibition over the past century -- as well as the attendant introduction of criminal sanctions and the erosion of individual rights as miracle solutions to the problem of illegal drugs) -- have clearly been ineffective in eliminating the supply of and demand for cannabis, cocaine and heroin," Nolin asserted, citing the reams of research his committee had reviewed in examining Canada's drug laws.
But perhaps prohibition isn't really -- or merely -- about reducing drug use, the senator suggested. Prohibition protects conservative moral values, said Nolin, "and beyond the declared official rationale for these laws, other factors such as racism, prejudice and myths, the development of the pharmaceuticals industry, and the machinery of an enormous nationwide government bureaucracy to enforce restrictive criminal laws for illegal substances, are what underpin prohibition."
There is a better way, Nolin said. "In a free and democratic society like Canada's, citizens ought to have the right to make informed decisions about their behavior, on condition that they do not cause undue harm to others, and the state must favor such autonomous responsibility." His committee's review found that marijuana use does not cause undue harm to others and should be regulated -- not prohibited, he said.
But reflecting Canadian sensibilities, Nolin called for marijuana legalization within "an integrated national strategy on the use of all psychoactive substances, based on objective guiding principles on ethics, governance, criminal law and science." That means regulation, Nolin continued. "For the committee, legalization of cannabis does not mean establishing a free market environment for drugs, like some are arguing."
But if a free market in marijuana is not appropriate, said Nolin, decriminalization is not enough. "Our proposals are more serious and show more respect for human rights than those that would involve the depenalization or decriminalization of cannabis. They would allow states to more effectively combat and tackle the growing influence of organized crime or terrorism over the long term, and to provide better public health protection."
Still, said Nolin, Canadian marijuana legalization is unlikely to happen until the US is also ready to move in that direction. "Even though Canada is a sovereign country that is free to pass any legislation it deems appropriate for the welfare of its citizens, the legalization of cannabis could only be considered while the United States is also doing so." But he professed confidence that that day will come. "Why? Because Canadians and Americans want rigorous and objective information not only about cannabis and other legal and illegal psychoactive substances, but also about the harmful effects of the war on drugs. They know that not all use is abuse. They are becoming increasingly aware that the actual policy is a costly failure, and are therefore desperately searching for answers to their legitimate questions. They want transparency in an informed, comprehensive and democratic public debate on these substances," he concluded.
Nolin was followed by Cappato, a member of the Transnational Radical Party and the youngest Italian Member of the European Parliament, but also coordinator of Parliamentarians for Anti-Prohibitionist Action, a group aimed at reforming or repealing the UN drug conventions. Over one-fifth of European Parliament members have signed onto a resolution calling for such changes, in large part thanks to Cappato's efforts.
After reiterating the arguments against prohibition made by Trebach and Nolin, Cappato agreed that prohibition must and will end, but added, "We cannot wait for prohibition to implode by itself. We can't, because in the meantime terrorists and organized crime profits are on the rise, official corruption, violence and public health problems grow with them."
Cappato then detailed the efforts undertaken through the IAL, the Out from the Shadows conference series, and the TRP to push the cause forward. A resolution calling on the European Parliament to support "the antiprohibitionist reform of UN drug conventions," came within one vote of passage in Brussels last month, he noted. The measure drew special interest from Central and South America, where the US-imposed drug war has wreaked havoc, said Cappato. "We found the support of Colombian and Peruvian legislators from those areas devastated by forced crop eradication and narco-destabilization," he said. "I firmly believe that the antiprohibitionist alternative is the only one that could convert campesino upheavals into nonviolent political proposals, while the current situation is playing into the hands of terrorists and organized criminals."
Instead of seeing reformers attacked as "soft on drugs" or "pro-drug," said Cappato, it is time to turn the tables. "After almost a century of prohibition, the burden of proof is on the prohibitionists. Because of their destructive and repeated failure, we see the need to take illicit drugs from the hands of criminals and place them in the hands of the law, a whole new set of laws. We want to eliminate criminal profits and treat drugs users and abusers as citizens, not as criminals."
And that will take creative political action, Cappato said. "The more the people are directly involved, the more the reform camp gets strong. The anti-war-on-drugs movement is for sure stronger among the people than it is among elected representatives; and it is stronger among elected representatives than it is among government officials in international fora. Faced with continuing irrational prohibition, we are also aware that institutional tools cannot be enough. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that you have the duty to disobey unjust laws. To put at stake our freedom is just another tool to place out in the open and in the sunlight the consequences of prohibition where those consequences are covered under ideological clouds."But change must come in the United States, Cappato said. "We all must face the fact that until the leaders of the United States have an epiphany regarding the horrible costs of prohibition, the UN treaties and the war on drugs will persist on their destructive course. That is why this press conference in such close proximity to the White House carries so much symbolic significance, and it is also why we in the International Antiprohibitionist League intend to intensify our efforts in North America."
For further information:
Video footage of the press conference:
The process of reforming Canada's marijuana laws has moved at the pace of the Kokanee Glacier, but it now appears that cannabis decriminalization will be a reality this year. Prime Minister Jean Chretien has said so, the Liberal Party contenders to be his successor are climbing on board, and the public is right behind, according to a recent national poll.
"We will soon introduce legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana so that young people do not have unnecessary criminal records for the rest of their lives," Chretien announced at a party fundraising dinner in Ottawa Tuesday night. "At the same time we will have a drug strategy to discourage young people from using drugs, and which will target drug traffickers."
It has become apparent that such a position is increasingly uncontroversial, even beneficial, for Canadian politicians. A poll released this week provided the latest evidence. A national poll for Sun Media conducted by Leger Marketing found that an overwhelming 83% of Canadians favor some sort of liberalization of the nation's marijuana laws. The poll found 20% supporting legalization, 43% supporting legalization for medical purposes and 20% supporting decriminalization. Only 14% favor the status quo.
"It seems that with just 14% now saying it should be illegal, that's really saying people think changes needed to be made soon in some way, shape or form," said Leger Marketing pollster Leslie Martin.
Other polls have shown support for marijuana decriminalization at near 50% and support for medical marijuana at above 60% of the voters.
Politicians are beginning to take notice. Two of the three leading contenders for the governing Liberal Party's leadership after Chretien takes his planned retirement have endorsed decrim, while a third has waffled.
Sheila Copps, one of the candidates, added her name to the list of backers, saying she "absolutely" supported decrim. "I support it, but I haven't been on record, so I am now," the Liberal leadership candidate told Canada Press Sunday.
She joins frontrunner Paul Martin, who told Sun Media the same day he supported decrim but not legalization. "I think the idea of giving a young person a criminal record because they happened to get caught with a very, very small quantity (5-30 grams) once in their life -- I don't think that's what we should be doing," Martin said. "But I would not, under any circumstances, make it legal."
So when is decrim coming? Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, who was also at the Tuesday fundraiser in Ottawa, told Reuters "as soon as possible" and definitely before parliament takes its summer recess in June.
Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of the Senate committee that authored the report calling for the outright legalization of cannabis for those over 16, told a Washington, DC, press conference this week he expected a measure to pass by Christmas. Nolin took pains, however, to point out that "decriminalization" is not a correct term for Canada's pending cannabis law reform, which is more accurate described as "depenalization" -- the lowering of penalties with use continuing to be illegal.
Looks like Canada may celebrate the New Year in a new way.
The Western Hemisphere's first safe injection site has opened in Vancouver, BC, but not under official auspices. While in recent months, officials at all levels have reached a general agreement to open a safe injection site for the drug-injecting population centered in the Downtown Eastside as part of the city's comprehensive, two-year-old Four Pillars plan (prevention, treatment, enforcement, harm reduction), delays in winning approval for a safe injection site at the federal level have stalled its opening. That was bad enough for community activists and users' groups who had worked for years to create such services, but when Vancouver police swooped down with a massive and continuing enforcement effort early last month, activists decided they could wait no longer for the government to act.
"We got tired of seeing deadline after deadline pass," said Robert Weppler, president of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (http://www.vandu.org), "and still no safe injection site. We had an agreement with the city that they would bring in additional police after a safe injection site opened, but the police didn't wait," he told DRCNet. "Instead, they put 44 officers into the neighborhood -- they're still there -- so a coalition of community groups pushed forward to force open a site."
The coalition includes VANDU, the Pivot Legal Aid Society, the Harm Reduction Society, the Housing Action Committee and the Anti-Poverty Committee, all neighborhood groups, said Weppler, "as well as others that wish to remain anonymous for the time being."
The site has been operating for nearly a month, said Weppler. "We're seeing about 15 to 30 users a night. The facility is staffed by a nurse, who doesn't want to be named right now. We have a front room that operates as a drop-in center where people can come in and warm up, and a smaller room in the back where we do needle exchanges and safe injections."
While unprecedented in the Americas, safe injection sites, where users can inject under medical supervision in a clean, safe environment, as well as receive access to or information about other services, have been in operation in various European cities for much of the last decade, where they have been found to be effective in reducing drug overdoses and the transmission rates of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. Vancouver officials, in fact, recently visited safe injection sites in Zurich as part of their effort to win approval for a Vancouver site from the Canadian Health Ministry.
The Downtown Eastside safe injection is illegal, but Vancouver police have so far left the place alone. "That an illegal safe injection site would open is obviously a concern," said Vancouver police spokesperson Constable Anne Drennan, "but it's not a high priority. Our focus is dealers, not addicts. We are very disappointed that those groups did this now, because we are supporters of the officially-supervised safe injection site application that has been forwarded to Health Canada," she told DRCNet.
"We are monitoring the site, but we will not be taking any immediate action," Drennan added. "The mayor and the chief of police will meet next week to discuss various options to respond to the site."
Ironically, Mayor Larry Campbell was in Ottawa this week on a trip seeking funding for the official safe injection site. Like his predecessor, Philip Owen, Campbell has been a supporter of such sites, although he has been strongly criticized by some community groups involved in the current site for not moving fast enough or providing resources for the treatment, prevention, and harm reduction pillars of the Four Pillars program.
"It's more like one giant pillar and three twigs," quipped VANDU's Weppler.
The giant pillar, of course, would be law enforcement. And the massive police presence since April 7 has certainly had an impact. On the corner of Main and Hastings, previously the pulsing epicenter of the hemisphere's largest open air drug market, at times there were as many police as people. The crowds of buyers and sellers sometimes reaching the hundreds were gone. The prostitutes had vanished. Only small knots of people huddled together on the street.
"We think we've been very successful," said Constable Drennan. "We've arrested 135 on warrants developed out of undercover buys that took place in March, and we've reclaimed that block. There has been some displacement," Drennan conceded, "but much less than we expected."
Still, the balloon effect was obvious to even the casual observer. The addicts had not left; they only melted into the shadows. The dealers had merely migrated a few blocks west on Hastings, closer to touristy Gastown, as well as onto Granville Avenue. And the hookers had moved a block or two north of Hastings, to ply their trade on darker and less-trafficked side streets.
"That's creating a more dangerous situation for them," said Wanda Villanueva, a counselor at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, "but on the Downtown Eastside these women are targeted by police, thrown up against walls and harassed," she said. "We are worried that at the end of this we'll only have more missing women."
And while Constable Drennan said police targeted dealers, not addicts, Annabel Webb of Justice for Girls told the Vancouver Sun a "police state" had been imposed on the neighborhood. "How else would one describe the extreme police presence, the mass searches, interrogations and arbitrary detentions, or the suspension of liberty and mobility rights of the residents?"
That seemed to be the case last Friday as teams of uniformed police trolled for suspicious characters, occasionally searching one and emptying his bags onto the ground. "Yeah, it sucks, man," one local told DRCNet. "They rousted me a couple of days ago -- didn't find anything, though. But now there's more rip-off artists down here, you don't know if you're getting the good stuff," he complained.
And if the Vancouver police officially stand behind Mayor Campbell and the Four Pillars policy, that attitude hasn't necessarily percolated down to all of the officers on the beat. Asked about safe injection sites as he patrolled an alleyway off Hastings, one Vancouver officer likened them to "giving alcoholics their booze everyday." He could support treatment and prevention, he said, "but helping them shoot up? You've got to be kidding."
Meanwhile, Mayor Campbell and the city of Vancouver await approval from Health Canada for an official safe injection site. That's great, said VANDU's Weppler. "We'll shut ours down as soon as the legal one is up and running. There is no difference between theirs and ours, except one -- we're open."
Peruvian cocaleros (coca growers) and their sympathizers, who only last week hailed a meeting with President Alejandro Toledo and a resulting set of proposed agreements as a "partial victory," have seen their elation turn to ashes this week. Leaders of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers (Confederacion Nacional de Productores Agropecuarios de las Cuencas Cocaleras del Perú, or CONCPACCP) had led thousands of cocaleros on a two-week march to Lima to protest forced eradication policies, corruption and debility in alternative development programs, and the arrest of imprisoned leader Nelson Palomino, thought they had won a victory after Toledo took an offering of coca leaf from them and pronounced it "sacred," but the accords they thought they had negotiated with the government did not appear in the Supreme Decree published by the government the following day. The discovery came only as the thousands of cocaleros were already on their way back to the coca fields of the Apurimac, the Ene and the Upper Huallaga river valleys.
Now the cocaleros are rejecting the agreement, and the government is calling them "deal breakers." But while the deal was supposed to address the demands of the cocaleros, the decree published Friday instead called for forced eradication of new coca crops.
"The cocaleros are furious and feel tricked and lied to once again by DEVIDA [Peruvian anti-drug agency] and Prime Minister Solari," said former DEVIDA adviser turned critic Hugo Cabieses. "The Supreme Decree published last week is not the product of an agreement, as Solari and [DEVIDA director Nils] Ericsson portrayed it, but a manipulative and authoritarian imposition," he told DRCNet. "We all thought the Supreme Decree would have the agreements reached with the cocalero leaders, but that is not the case."
But in an attitude akin to that of feudal peasants petitioning the king to overrule his cruel ministers, the cocaleros still retain faith in their "Cholo [Indian] Toledo," Cabieses said. "They believe that President Toledo will address their Platform of Struggle because 'he has been poor and he is in the presidency thanks to us.'" Still, that faith is tempered with a bit of political hardball, said Cabieses. "They are asking for a direct dialogue with Toledo, and they are giving him 30 days before they renew their protests."
Some aren't waiting that long. On Tuesday, confederation leader Marisella Guillen held a Lima press conference to criticize the Supreme Decree as "benefiting only the non-governmental organizations [who administer alternative development programs]" and to announce that supporters will introduce two bills in the Peruvian parliament to address cocalero demands. And according to Cabieses, coca growers in other regions are already rejecting the decree and preparing to mobilize again. In Monzon, Cabieses reported, cocaleros are preparing a new "march of sacrifice" to Lima, while in Quillabamba, angry cocaleros Wednesday rejected the confederation's leadership for having been taken in by the government.
For its part, DEVIDA rejected any questioning of the decree and issued a statement calling Guillen's press conference "an attempt to break the agreement that both parties had arrived at." The DEVIDA statement did not address the discrepancy between the agreements reached through negotiations and the text of the published decree.
"Solari and DEVIDA are regrettably trying to divide the masses by trying to negotiate separate regional agreements -- for 'technical reasons,' they say -- and are trying to de-legitimize their proposals by saying they are being manipulated by politicians, terrorists and narcos," said Cabieses.
Morales has led Bolivian coca growers to substantial political power, and the conflict between the peasants of the Chapare and President Sanchez de Lozada over US-backed eradication policies, along with other simmering social issues, has shaken the government. Indeed, Andean governments are caught between two irreconcilable forces: substantial numbers of their own citizens who depend on coca, and an administration in Washington that demands its eradication. Perhaps President Toledo was listening this week as US drug czar John Walters issued dire warnings to Andean leaders thinking of heeding the demands of their own people.
"Naturally, we are concerned amount political events in the Andes," said Walters Wednesday at a press conference presenting a Spanish version of the US anti-drug strategy. "If the drug traffickers and growers take power some place, that country will be converted into an international pariah where there will be neither national nor foreign investment, nor the creation of legal jobs," Walters warned.
See http://www.narconews.com/Issue29/article747.html for a recent interview with Hugo Cabieses by Karine Muller.
Even as the US prison population edged over the two-million mark last year, driven by two decades of harsh anti-crime legislation and drug war hysteria, bleak economic realities at statehouses across the country have begun exerting a significant counter-pressure. With state budgets in the worst shape since the Great Depression, more and more states are finding they simply cannot afford to imprison ever-increasing numbers of their citizens. Last week, Washington State became the latest to begin to reverse harsh sentencing policies because the treasury is empty.
Legislators there passed Senate Bill 5990, an act that will increase the speed with which certain categories of offenders can win early release. Under the bill, backed by Gov. Gary Locke (D) and passed by overwhelming margins in both chambers, almost a thousand Washington state prisoners, including many drug offenders, will walk out of prison early, and more inmates will get out more quickly in the future.
The state had already passed sentencing reform legislation last year, set to go into effect in 2004, but SB 5990 moves that change up a year.
"It's the budget," said Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project and a key player in an innovative reform effort that has drawn state and local health and legal professional groups into an increasingly successful effort to reform the state's drug laws. "We were in on various meetings, but getting this bill passed didn't require a lot of coalition-building or frantic testimony," he told DRCNet. "We have one of the worst budget deficits in the country. With anti-tax sentiment running high here, all the governor could do was propose cuts, and the Republican-controlled Senate cheerfully endorsed his prison proposal."
The state will save about $34 million next year alone by enacting SB 5990, according to state legislative analysts, and more than 900 current prisoners will walk free early.
The bill's features include:
Goodman acknowledged that leaving drug treatment within the criminal justice system, as the drug court system does, is not the most desirable outcome, but counseled pragmatic patience. "Reform is always two steps forward, one step back," he said, "but now this whole idea of treatment over incarceration has been mainstreamed. It's no longer radical. The next step is government regulation of drugs instead of government regulation of human behavior. That's much more radical."
While legislators may not be ready to embrace radical notions of personal autonomy, evidence from across the country suggests they are now desperately searching for some means to reduce their grossly swollen prison budgets. And while moves such as reducing inmate programs or facilities can marginally reduce costs, the one proven way to do so is to reduce the number of people in prison.
And the states are acting. In the last two years, Indiana and Louisiana have repealed some of their stiffer sentencing laws for drug crimes and other nonviolent offenses, while Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts have shut down prisons. Kentucky released several hundred prisoners early, and when scandal forced an end to that program, state officials there changed parole standards to release prisoners earlier. Texas officials have ordered parole officers to reduce the number of returned parole violators. And sentencing commissions from Kansas and Oklahoma to Alabama and South Carolina have recommended or will recommend sentencing changes to reduce prison populations. In all of these cases, nonviolent drug offenders are or will be prime benefactors.
As shown last week in Washington State, the fiscal crisis of the states presents opportunities for reformers who couldn't get legislators' attention when appealing for social justice. Severe fiscal distress appears to be a remedy for drug war incarceration mania. Rock-ribbed conservatives who could listen to a hundred drug war POW horror stories without batting an eye can become reform allies when their wallets are at stake.
For SB 5990's final bill report and complete text, visit:
The state of Nevada will not attempt to prosecute Office of National Drug Control Policy (http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov) head John Walters -- the drug czar -- for violating the state's campaign finance reporting requirements, the Secretary of State's office announced on April 23. The ruling came on a complaint filed earlier this year by the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org/WarOnDrugCzar/) after the drug czar made three trips to the state to campaign against an MPP-sponsored initiative that would have legalized the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana for adults. That initiative failed last November, MPP argued, in part because of Walters' efforts. MPP argued that Walters was actively campaigning in an election, and under Nevada law he should have filed campaign finance reports.
But Walters claimed immunity
from state prosecution because he was doing his job as a federal official,
and an opinion from the Nevada Attorney General's office backed that
position. That opinion cited a 103-year-old Supreme Court ruling that
federal officials carrying out official functions are immune from
prosecution under state law. "There is nothing we can do," Chief Deputy
Secretary of State Renee Parker said as she announced the decision. "Our
own attorneys are telling us we will lose."
The Attorney General's office may have decided that Walters would likely win any case against him, but that does not mean Nevada officials appreciated his efforts. In the opinion he delivered two days earlier to Secretary of State Dean Heller, Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval bluntly criticized Walters' heavy-handed effort to influence voters: "It is unfortunate that a representative of the federal government substantially intervened in a matter that was clearly a State of Nevada issue. The excessive federal intervention that was exhibited in this instance is particularly disturbing because it sought to influence the outcome of a Nevada election."
If Nevada officialdom was not too pleased with the drug czar, MPP was pleased with neither. "The Attorney General's opinion was not based on controlling precedent," said MPP director of government relations Steve Fox. "While the Attorney General cited an 1890 US Supreme Court decision about a crime committed by a federal employee, a Supreme Court case 81 years later laid out the law with respect to state regulation of federal employees. The court held these regulations to be valid if they did not 'frustrate the full effectiveness of federal law.' Requiring the drug czar to file campaign finance forms does not frustrate his purpose; he is free to campaign to his heart's content. Asking the drug czar to file campaign finance reports after campaigning in the state is no different than requiring US Postal Service employees to obey state and local traffic laws while delivering mail."
Walters should still be prosecuted, Fox said. "While Secretary of State Heller asked for this opinion from the attorney general, he is not bound to follow its erroneous legal conclusion. We trust he will act to enforce Nevada law."
The Scottish Police Federation, representing rank-and-file officers, has called for an urgent review of drug laws in Great Britain. Meeting in Peebles for its annual conference, members of the federation voted unanimously to petition the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to establish a royal commission to review the effectiveness of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, the basis for current British drug policy. The law is "ineffective and outdated," the federation said.
Under the act, Britain has some of Europe's toughest drug penalties, but that has not stopped the isles from having some of the highest drug use levels in Europe. Scottish police expressed particular concern about the spread of drug use out of urban centers such as Edinburgh and Glasgow into rural areas in recent years. According to federation chairman Morrie Flowers, the call for an urgent review of the law reflects not only growing concern about the spread of drug use, but also a growing change in officers' views toward how best to deal with the drug problem.
"Many officers believe the 33-year-old act is not only outdated, but dangerous and harmful, both to addicts and to recreational drug users, as it focuses on locking up small-time offenders whilst inadvertently granting the monopoly of drug supply to high-ranking criminals," said Flowers in remarks reported by the newspaper the Scotsman. "Anti-drug groups regularly point to the fact that under the act, the use of illegal substances has widened and more people are currently in prison because of drugs, or suffering and dying than ever before. To many officers, it is clear that outright prohibition under the act has been staggeringly unsuccessful, although most officers fall short of outright legalization. What we are calling for here is a review to update the act and make it more relevant to the drug problems we are seeing on the streets everyday."
According to official figures, drug dealing arrests in Scotland increased 17% between 2000 and last year, with that increase jumping to 35% in certain rural areas. Scottish concern about drug use and dealing is also tied to public fear of youth crime, and the Scottish Police Federation has criticized Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell for offering "knee-jerk reactions" to the problem instead of addressing root causes. Drug prohibition is one of those root causes, Scottish police suggested.
A bill that would tighten Oregon's medical marijuana law by limiting caregivers to growing for only one patient and at one location passed the Oregon House on a 35-19 vote Wednesday. The bill would also prohibit felons from being certified caregivers.
Since some caregivers provide marijuana for more than one patient, the result of the bill if passed will be that some cardholding patients will be without a legal supply of their medicine. According to one estimate, over 1,500 Oregon patients could lose access to legal medical marijuana.
The bill now heads to the Oregon Senate, which is currently evenly split among Republicans and Democrats. Because it is late in the session, the bill's prospects are cloudy, but Oregon medical marijuana advocates urge Oregon voters to contact their representatives to ensure the bill dies.
Visit http://www.leg.state.or.us/comm/sms/sms03/hb2939ahhs04-14-2003.pdf to read the bill online.
Former radio talk show host and first woman director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP JoAnn Watson scored an upset victory over Detroit political perennial Gil Hill Tuesday to win a seat on the city council. Watson is also a member of the steering committee for the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care (DCCC), the grassroots groups pushing the city for the last two years to embrace policies that would recognize medical marijuana.
Watson defeated Hill, a former Detroit police official who gained fame as Eddie Murphy's superior in the "Beverly Hills Cop" movie series, by a margin of 52% to 48%. She attributed her electoral success to a strong door-to-door grassroots effort.
That effort included help from the DCCC, said coalition leader Tim Beck. "We were looking to beef up our steering committee, and we hit the jackpot with JoAnn," Beck told DRCNet. "She agreed early on to support medical marijuana and join the steering committee, in return for some assistance with her campaign."
While medical marijuana is not Watson's primary focus, said Beck, she is a "left of center candidate in the style of Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA] and is strongly aware of how people of color are victimized by the drug war." And she can read the polls showing strong support for medical marijuana in Detroit, Beck added.
As for the DCCC, Beck told DRCNet the group is organizing for the November 2004 elections and pushing the Detroit City Council to pass an ordinance to either make medical marijuana "the lowest law enforcement priority" or cut all funding to prosecute such cases. In the event such efforts are blocked, the coalition will pursue a municipal initiative and Watson could apply an important "seal of approval," Beck said.
California medical marijuana pioneer Dennis Peron and two companions can breathe a bit easier after a Utah judge drove a dagger into the heart of the state's felony marijuana prosecution of the trio on April 21. Peron and his traveling companions were arrested at a Cedar City hotel in November 2001 after police claimed they smelled marijuana coming from their room, then forced their way inside, where they found enough pot to charge the trio with felony possession with intent to distribute, an offense carrying a five-year sentence.
But Fifth District Judge J. Philip Eves ruled that because police failed to obtain a search warrant when they forced their way into the hotel room, all evidence seized would be inadmissible at trial. So would evidence subsequently seized from the men's vehicle, since that seizure was based on the inadmissible evidence found in the hotel room, the judge ruled.
"All the officers needed to do was get a warrant when they first smelled the marijuana," Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett explained to the Deseret News. "Once something is obtained without a search warrant, everything obtained past that can't be used either. It doesn't matter if they went and got a warrant to search the car or not." Garrett said he would forward the ruling to the Utah Attorney General to review it for possible appeal, but barring an appeal he would move for dismissal of the charges.
Peron, who opened one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in California, coauthored California's groundbreaking Proposition 215, and angered more conservative movement comrades by arguing that "all marijuana use is medicinal," was on a sightseeing journey headed for Zion National Park when the arrests took place. "Our trip kind of got interrupted," he told the Deseret News. "When I first got busted in Utah I thought that it was the worst thing that could happen to me. But it's been the best thing. I've met a lot of nice people there. We are very happy this is over. It's been an interesting 35,000-mile journey," he said. "This case was about the Fourth and Sixth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment is put there to protect us from police coming into our homes or private rooms and conducting illegal searches. They had plenty of time to get a warrant, and they didn't do it."
Peron and his two companions all carried medical marijuana recommendations from California doctors. While Judge Eves had earlier ruled that the California recommendations carried no weight under Utah law, Peron had a solution for that. "You can work within the system and get this on the ballot. I grow my own marijuana. Why can't I go to Utah with my medicine?"
A Missouri judge has ruled that merely buying cold tablets and lithium batteries -- items that could be used to manufacture methamphetamine -- does not provide police with an excuse to stop and search the buyer. In a case where members of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force tailed a man buying two boxes of Sudafed tablets at one store and watch batteries at another, then stopped and searched him, Judge William Syler ruled on April 21 that task force members had engaged in an unwarranted and unreasonable detention and search and that the evidence seized as a result must be suppressed.
Cape Girardeau Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle told the Southeast Missourian last week that he has already appealed the ruling to the Missouri Eastern District Court of Appeals in St. Louis. A higher court needs to decide what constitutes reasonable suspicion in meth-related traffic stops, Swingle said. "This is going to be pretty important," he said. "Because if the judgment is upheld, then police all over the state won't be able to consider that reasonable suspicion."
On January 24, Michigan resident William Childress made the suspicious purchases and was then stopped by task force members. After Childress consented to a search of his vehicle, officers found one four-pack of batteries and three boxes of Sudafed, and receipts for earlier purchases. Childress was then arrested for possession of methamphetamine precusors with the intent to manufacture a controlled substance. Under Missouri law, possession of more than 24 grams of a meth precursor is evidence of intent to manufacture, but all of Childress' Sudafed amounted to only 11.5 grams. Missouri law also makes it a crime to purchase more than three boxes of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine at one time, but Childress was observed buying only two.
Childress' public defender, Jennifer Booth, filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the search was done without probable cause or warrant and that there was no evidence the Sudafed and watch batteries were going to be used in a crime. Judge Syler agreed. "I worked with both of these [arresting] officers for years and respect both of them," Syler said. "But I think in all candor -- and as I said, not that I don't understand what's going on here -- but I just don't think this is enough in this particular instance."
Back to Texas. As Texas bluesman Johnny Winter once wrote, "When you're going to Dallas, better take your razor and your gun, 'cause there's so much shit in Dallas you're bound to step in some." The Dallas Police Department certainly stepped in when it made national headlines with its sheetrock scandal, wherein paid confidential informers working for gung-ho Dallas cops managing to set-up dozens of innocent people, most of them Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, and the Texas legal system complacently sent them to prison. The drugs in those cases, which police claimed field tested positive as cocaine or methamphetamine, turned out to be sheetrock, or gypsum.
Prosecutors have already dismissed charges against more than 80 people arrested by officers Mark Delapaz and Eddie Herrera. Other victims have been deported or sentenced to prison after pleading guilty on the advice of public defenders. Three informants working for the pair have pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of those arrested.
Now, a Dallas grand jury has indicted Delapaz on five counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of making false statements to federal officials. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. He remains free on bail and is on paid leave from the Dallas Police Department.
"Drug War Distortions,"
companion web site to Drug War Facts, by Common Sense for Drug
"Prevention Programs and
Scientific Nonsense," critique in the Hoover Institution's journal Policy
Review of ideology and politicization at a drug prevention
The High Point Enterprise in
Guilford County, North Carolina, reports on a Wright Focus Group forum on
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking an Operations and Research Manager. This is an ideal position for an extremely bright recent college graduate looking for responsibility for writing and management, and participation in Washington's policy advocacy community. CJPF is small but is one of the nation's leading voices for drug policy and criminal justice policy reform. CJPF tries to respond quickly to new events. Visit http://www.cjpf.org for information on CJPF's activities.
The Operations and Research Manager will have the following responsibilities:
ADMINISTRATIVE: Serve as Foundation Operations Manager; manage computer systems, software and technical support; develop and maintain necessary relationships with vendors for office supplies, printing, couriers, telephone, office equipment supply and repair, computers, office furniture, etc.; pay bills; manage research associates and interns, including advertising, screening and preliminary interviewing; open and sort mail; respond to requests from public for information, including mailing appropriate materials; manage fax and e-mail broadcasts; make recommendations for administrative improvements; provide administrative support to foundation president; maintain files.
RESEARCH AND WRITING: Write pages for web site; update web site; assist in writing op-eds, articles, book chapters and press releases; write miscellaneous correspondence; provide research assistance to foundation president; carry out writing responsibilities as assigned; provide editorial assistance to the foundation president; make recommendations concerning research and program activities.
Job performance criteria include that work is performed intelligently, self-confidently and completely; writing demonstrates a high degree of English literacy; projects are not undertaken until the employee understands the project's objectives; projects are carried out with self-confidence and the ability to solve problems; work, work environment and use of time are very well organized and respond to priorities as they change; employee develops and maintains familiarity with issues addressed by the foundation, with the clientele with whom the foundation works, and with the political environment in Washington and other relevant jurisdictions.
The ideal employee will require little supervision, is self-directed, and demonstrates keen problem solving skills when necessary. He or she has a high degree of curiosity, a passion for the mission of the organization, and an eagerness to serve and to learn.
Apply by fax to (301)
589-5056, or by e-mail with MS Word attachments to [email protected]. Please send a
cover letter, a resume, and your best writing sample. Your writing sample
should reveal your ability to analyze and your ability to express your own
ideas. Do not send anything that is pompous, written in a style that is
not genuinely yours, or that has not been carefully
The ACLU has announced a fellowship program intended to further develop, strengthen and increase the organization's programmatic work on racial justice issues. ACLU will be awarding at least six fellowships to begin in the fall of 2003. According to ACLU executives, the program provides for two sets of fellows to serve terms of up to two years: At-Large Fellows, who will be based at the ACLU's national offices in either New York or Washington, and who will serve as a resource to the organization's affiliate offices and focus primarily on developing new paradigms and remedies for the persistence of skin color injustice; and Affiliate Sponsored Fellows, who will be based at selected affiliate offices around the nation, and who will assist in expanding the general effort to achieve racial justice in local jurisdictions.
The fellowship is made possible through $1.2 million in funding and is named after former ACLU executive Ira Glasser, in recognition of his longstanding commitment to issues of racial justice and equity. Glasser served for 23 years at the organization's helm and retired in 2001.
The program seeks applicants with a demonstrated commitment to racial justice from a wide variety of disciplines, including lawyers, journalists, social scientists and community organizers. Visit http://www.aclu.org/Jobs/Jobs.cfm?ID=12237c=215 for further information.
(Please submit listings of
events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].)
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 http://members.cox.net/urissdp/
or e-mail [email protected] for further
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 http://www.cures-not-wars.org/cities.htm
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 http://www.droptherock.org for
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
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
May 17-20, Indian Wells, CA, National
Association of Addiction Treatment Providers 2003 Annual Conference. At
the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort, see http://www.naatp.org/PDF/Conference2003.pdf
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 http://www.adf.org.au for
May 28, 7:30-9:30pm, Guttenberg, NJ,
discussion on substance abuse and drug policy, with Mary Barr, Cliff
Thornton and Mary Barr. At the Galaxy Towers, Tower Two Library, 7002
Boulevard East, call (201) 295-8500, e-mail [email protected] or visit
June 1-13, Witness For Peace Drug Policy
Delegation to Colombia. Contact Alex Volberding at [email protected] or visit
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 http://www.breakingthechains.info
for further information.
June 22, Binghamton to Ithaca, NY, "Skate
for Justice," 50-mile trek against the drug war, sponsored by Students for
Sensible Drug Policy. Full skate beginning in Binghamton, secondary
starting point in Richford for skaters who only want to do the last 17
miles, speakers and entertainment at Ithaca Commons in the evening. E-mail
or visit http://www.skateforjustice.org
for further information.
August 16-17, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA,
"12th Annual Seattle Hempfest." At Myrtle Edwards Park, call (206)
781-5734 or visit http://www.hempfest.org for further
November 5-8, 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
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 http://www.festival-du-chanvre.com for further 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 http://members.cox.net/urissdp/ 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 http://www.cures-not-wars.org/cities.htm 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 http://www.droptherock.org 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 http://www.naatp.org/PDF/Conference2003.pdf 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 http://www.adf.org.au for information.
May 28, 7:30-9:30pm, Guttenberg, NJ, discussion on substance abuse and drug policy, with Mary Barr, Cliff Thornton and Mary Barr. At the Galaxy Towers, Tower Two Library, 7002 Boulevard East, call (201) 295-8500, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.conextions.org for further information.
June 1-13, Witness For Peace Drug Policy Delegation to Colombia. Contact Alex Volberding at [email protected] or visit http://www.witnessforpeace.org/pdf/drugdelflyer.pdf 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 http://www.breakingthechains.info for further information.
June 22, Binghamton to Ithaca, NY, "Skate for Justice," 50-mile trek against the drug war, sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Full skate beginning in Binghamton, secondary starting point in Richford for skaters who only want to do the last 17 miles, speakers and entertainment at Ithaca Commons in the evening. E-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.skateforjustice.org for further information.
August 16-17, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, "12th Annual Seattle Hempfest." At Myrtle Edwards Park, call (206) 781-5734 or visit http://www.hempfest.org 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 http://www.drugpolicy.org 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 http://www.festival-du-chanvre.com for further information.
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