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

Issue #286, 5/9/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Time for Bill Bennett to Sit Down
  2. DRCNet Interview: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chairman, Canadian Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs
  3. Canada Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Cases that Could End Marijuana Laws
  4. Colombia: Pro-Legalization Governor among FARC Hostages Killed in Failed Monday Rescue Attempt
  5. Bolivia Coca Conflict Heating Up Again
  6. Oregon SWAT Raid Victims to File Suit
  7. Tens of Thousands March Worldwide in Annual Million Marijuana March
  8. Newsbrief: Bill "Mr. Virtue" Bennett Outed as Heavy Gambler
  9. Newsbrief: Bush Twins Outed as Tokers by "That '70s Show" Star
  10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  11. Newsbrief: Baltimore Grand Jury Calls for Regulated Drug Distribution to Addicts
  12. Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform Measures Moving in Colorado
  13. Newsbrief: Rhode Island Bill Allowing Eviction for Drug Possession on the Move
  14. Newsbrief: Minnesota High Court Bars Suspicionless Consent Searches, Questioning of Motorists
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


 

David Borden

1. Editorial: Time for Bill Bennett to Sit Down

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/9/03

This week's news of self-appointed virtue czar William Bennett's multi-million dollar dalliance with high-stakes gambling appalled and amused. Bennett's conservative Christian allies were unhappy because they consider gambling a sin; doubtless many others who don't take a moral view on the issue but are concerned about the misfortunes attending compulsive gambling were also negatively impressed by the sheer scale of it.

Critics of Bennett's moralizing were entertained by the hypocrisy -- and not for the first time. The former education secretary and drug czar -- whose malevolent drug and education protege John Walters is the current drug czar -- seems to frequently indulge in vices lying outside the focus of his rhetoric of the day, ceasing only after they are exposed. While pontificating as drug czar on the evils of drugs, including marijuana, and the need to severely punish drug users, he continued to smoke cigarettes until it was noted in the media. While Bennett's alcohol consumption has not yet drawn significant scrutiny, stories abound in private circles of his taste for mixed drinks, not only for dinner or parties, but in the morning and at other eyebrow-raising hours.

Now that his excessive gambling habits have been aired in the media, Bennett promises never to gamble again. "I have done too much gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set," he wrote in a statement released for the benefit of conservative organizations upset by the news. Still, he couldn't help but defend the success of his gambling financially -- Bennett claims to have won more than he's lost over time, telling magazines "you don't see what I walk away with."

That seems unlikely -- casinos are designed to make a profit, which means the more you gamble, the more certain you are to ultimately lose money. That's why the casinos were happy to provide Bennett with free hotel rooms and limousine rides worth tens of thousands of dollars, according to reports. Even if he did make money, as he said, he was statistically likely to fall that much further if he kept going.

But using Bennett's own logic, making that comment may be an even bigger sin than the gambling itself. Among Bennett's ideological notions as drug czar was the idea that casual drug users are a bigger problem than addicts -- he's said they should go to prison for long periods of time -- because their existence sends the message that drugs can be used safely, thereby encouraging others to use drugs.

Now I don't happen to believe casual drug users have that effect or that the kind of harm that Bennett is suggesting results from it if they do; I could be wrong, but I know of no evidence to indicate it. I do, however, consider it entirely possible that tales of success in gambling could encourage others to gamble, some of whom would develop serious problems. That could also be untrue; only a sociological study would tell us one way or the other. But certainly it's not less likely on the surface than Bennett's claim about the effect of casual drug users. Yet Bennett was willing to tell a national media outlet he had won enough to offset a loss of millions of dollars, revealing that information to millions of potential gamblers.

Not a great move for a professional punishment advocate. Maybe it's time for Bill Bennett to walk off the stage and sit down.


2. DRCNet Interview: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chairman, Canadian Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs

 

Senator Nolin

Last September, the Canadian Parliament's Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs issued an exhaustive, comprehensive report calling for the legalization and regulation of cannabis (marijuana) in Canada. Led by Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin (Progressive Conservative-Quebec), the committee paved the way for the cannabis reform measures currently being considered by the Canadian government. Since the publication of the committee report, Nolin has become a notable presence on the international drug reform horizon. He addressed the mid-April conference of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in San Francisco, and last week he appeared along with anti-prohibitionists Arnold Trebach and Marco Cappato at a Washington, DC, press conference to press the cause of drug legalization. DRCNet spoke with Nolin from his Ottawa offices on Monday.

Week Online: Your committee arrived at policy conclusions strikingly different from those articulated by politicians in the United States. Can you describe the political philosophy that undergirds your approach to drug policy? What is the proper role of the state in regulating personal autonomy?

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin: When we started out in 2000, we saw that since the LeDain Report in 1972 that most researchers and lawmakers agreed on the effects of cannabis, but disagreed on the appropriate public policy. Our commission decided we needed to examine guiding principles for setting such policy. What is the role of penal law in public policy? What is the role of ethical considerations? What is the role of the state? What is the role of science?

Autonomy is an ethical principle of our society. It is the role of the state to promote responsible autonomy. The penal law should not be involved unless a behavior causes significant damage to others. And science, while it should inform decision-making, cannot replace it. In a free and democratic society which recognizes fundamentally but not exclusively the role of law as a source of normative rules and in which government must promote autonomy and make sparing use of constraints, public policy must be structured around guiding principles that respect the rights and responsibilities of individuals who seek their own happiness while respecting the rights of others. This is the pillar of our thinking, and from this it became quite easy to conclude that, for cannabis, legalization under a properly regulated system was the only sound public policy.

WOL: Your committee last fall issued a report calling for the legalization of cannabis. Another parliamentary committee called for decriminalization. Now Prime Minister Chretien is saying the government will submit a decriminalization proposal. Are we going to see cannabis decrim this year in Canada?

Sen. Nolin: We first have to decide what is decriminalization. What the prime minister is proposing is not decriminalization, it is what I call depenalization. We are removing the criminal penalties, but the behavior itself remains criminal, it just triggers a lesser penalty. This is the shadow of the first step. It will be good news for that fraction of Canadian cannabis users unfortunate enough to get caught. But we haven't seen the government's bill. I don't think there will be any amnesty for the half-million Canadians who have records for cannabis possession. I am hearing rumors that there will be no jail time for those who don't pay their fines. But I am also hearing rumors that there will be increased penalties for trafficking and cultivation. If true, that would be in the bill to calm down the Americans.

This is not what we in the Senate had in mind, but is what our more frightened colleagues in the House of Commons had in mind. They also studied the issue, they also had good research, but they did not follow it to the same conclusions. That's too bad, because they had a good, sound, well-informed report that could lead the population to the future. And I don't think the population needs much leading. Only 14% of Canadians want actual marijuana prohibition; the rest of the population favors legalization, decriminalization, or legalization for medical use. This reflects the fact that the population is increasingly well-informed, but still not enough.

As for decriminalization, I told them in Washington it would happen by Christmas, but I think before that.

WOL: The Canadian courts are also moving on this issue. In fact, the Supreme Court this week is hearing a case that could throw out the country's pot laws. Is it possible or likely that a court ruling this year will wipe away the need for parliament to act?

Nolin: Our Supreme Court is quite independent and impartial, and that's what we want and cherish. The court has accepted three cases, one for simple possession, one for trafficking, and one for selling seeds and pipes, and it will have to decide whether those activities trigger the threshold for parliamentary jurisdiction. Both the British Columbia and the Ontario appeals courts have interpreted our Charter of Rights, especially its Section 7, which deals with the liberties and rights of citizens, as having a "harm principle." If there is no harm, there is no criminal behavior. The Supreme Court must now determine the threshold that triggers the harm principle, whether it is minimal harm or significant harm. Our committee proposed that the law should meet the threshold of significant harm, and we concluded that cannabis use causes no significant harm to others. If the Supreme Court reaches this same conclusion, I think the government would be happy. It can tell its American colleagues, "It's not us, it's the court."

The potential international implications are exciting. All of the UN conventions have sections saying that if a court in a country decides that a section of a law meant to support the UN conventions is unconstitutional, the decision of that national court supersedes the treaty. If the court struck down the cannabis law, that would force an entire different set of events. Canada would have to officially inform the various international agencies of such a decision and inform them that it is their responsibility not to sanction Canada for striking such a prohibition from its national law. We would also request a meeting with the other member nations to those treaties to seek other avenues for the future.

The government, I think, would be happy to let the court take this hot potato out of its hands, although it could bend to pressure from the likes of the Police Association and ask to use the "notwithstanding" clause. That would allow the law to be enforced notwithstanding the fact it is contrary to the Charter. But I think the government would prefer to go back to its international counterparts and tell them what the Canadian Supreme Court said. There would be rejoicing in various countries if this were to occur. When you read the reports from the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna last month, you get the idea that someone is living in fantasyland. Sweden was leading the debate on the importance of maintaining prohibition, but you get the feeling that there was not a great deal of conviction for that among other countries. I've been talking to a number of international experts, and they are waiting for the spark that could lead to radical change in the international system. The Supreme Court of Canada could provide that spark.

WOL: US drug czar John Walters is talking about Canadian marijuana as if it were toxic waste, and Ambassador Cellucci has hinted that decriminalization could lead to problems at the border. What about the threats and bluster from Washington? Are they genuine? And how will they affect the deliberations in Ottawa?

Nolin: Prime Minister Chretien should go to his American counterparts and explain what he is doing -- it is only depenalization -- and calm them down. In the meantime, I hope this stirs up a debate in the US similar to what has gone on in Canada. It is needed. But if the Canadian Supreme Court takes major steps, it will be difficult for the American administration to start a campaign against the court. I cannot imagine the White House having a public reaction against a Supreme Court decision here.

But these threats do influence my colleagues, and that means we need to provide more information. When we look at what Walters is claiming, we can provide information that shows he and the Americans are just wrong. For instance, Walters says the cannabis now is so much stronger and the proof is that there are all these people in treatment in the US. Someone who doesn't know what is going on in the US will buy that, but if it is explained to them that this is happening because of drug courts where treatment is part of the sanction, that more than 80% of cannabis treatment is court-ordered, then a couple of things happen. The Americans begin to lose credibility, and the Canadians begin to lose their fear of the Americans.

Walters says there is a health danger from cannabis because it is smoked, and he is right. There are some effects we cannot deny. But the question is whether the harms reach the threshold to require criminal prohibition. Walters says we have no clear battle plan against drugs and no clear public health message, but we are proposing a strategy for all substances. We have to differentiate among substances, but we also have to realize that not all use is abuse. Yes, some people use excessively and harm themselves, but most users are not abusing. We have to be much more effective in saying that and in saying that the government must promote autonomy as far as possible. To promote autonomy is to foster responsible autonomy.

WOL: The RCMP believes that in British Columbia alone there are a 100,000 people, perhaps more, who are making a living from the illegal cannabis trade. What happens to them under decriminalization?

Nolin: That is an important question, and the short answer is I don't know. Those people will continue living in the black market. Decriminalization does not provide an answer for that. Are we going to maintain a system of prohibition we don't believe in because it supports a lucrative black market? I don't think so.

WOL: Your committee report also called for cannabis law reform to take place within an integrated national drug strategy. Did the committee make recommendations for law reform for other drugs? And do you personally take a position on the legalizing or decriminalizing of other drugs?

Nolin: The committee did not have the mandate for the other drugs, but to look at cannabis within the context of other drugs. For us, a reasonable proposal on cannabis had to be part of a global strategy. The general principles I spoke of are the same, but we will have to understand things like patterns of use, dangers of adulteration, for other controlled substances in order to adopt effective strategies.

I personally support global legalization with strict regulation. Legalization would be the outcome of a comprehensive strategy, one that takes into account the serious health questions related to drug use. The particular regime for each substance could vary depending on the research findings, but legal, controlled access to those various substances could be generally similar.

WOL: You were at a press conference in Washington, DC, last week (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/285.html#senatornolin) along with Arnold Trebach of the International Antiprohibitionist League and Marco Cappato of Parliamentarians for Antiprohibitionist Action. You also addressed the NORML conference in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. Are you a member of any of these organizations, and do your recent appearances outside Canada indicate that you intend to take the anti-prohibitionist appeal to the international stage?

Nolin: I am not a member of any of those groups, but I am quite ready to be part of any debate in any venue. Are these appearances an indication I intend to participate in the international debate? Yes.

David Borden and Senator Nolin

 
View the committee web site and read the report.

Watch speeches and read transcripts (new) from last week's DC press conference.


3. Canada Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Cases that Could End Marijuana Laws

Even as the government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien moves toward decriminalizing the possession of cannabis, government lawyers were in court in Ottawa Tuesday defending the current laws. The hearing before the Canadian Supreme Court came in a trio of cases that have the potential of scrapping the country's decades-old marijuana laws.

The hearing was originally set for last December, but the court postponed it given indications the government was about to move on the marijuana laws. Now, however, the court has decided to wait no longer. After Tuesday's hearings, the justices will review the case and issue a ruling sometime in coming months.

Supreme Court of Canada Building

 
It is deciding the cases of three men, two activists and one unlucky marijuana smoker, who are challenging the constitutionality of Canada's marijuana possession laws under provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights. David Malmo-Levine, who was convicted of running the East Vancouver Harm Reduction Club, a nonprofit that provided medical marijuana to patients; Christopher Clay, who was convicted of selling marijuana seeds and seedlings at his London, Ontario-based Hemp Nation in a deliberate challenge to the law; and Victor Caine, who got caught smoking a joint in his van, all argue that jail sentences and criminal records for what is essentially a victimless crime violate the Charter's guarantees to life, liberty and security.

But although the federal government is moving toward decriminalization, government lawyers aggressively defended the current laws. "Simply put, there is no free-standing right to get stoned," said government lawyer David Frankel in a written brief filed with the court. He continued in the same vein during oral arguments Tuesday. "Whether you like them or not, the marijuana laws are an example of the democratic process," Frankel told the court. "By their very nature, some people do not like the laws. But it is not a popularity contest. Polling results may be a matter that politicians want to take into consideration, but they are not a matter for the courts."

That prompted Justice Ian Binnie to challenge Frankel's defense of the law. "You seem to be saying that short of being cruel and unusual punishment, all of this lies within Parliament's domain," the judge remarked.

"At the end of the day, it is for Parliament to weigh and assess the competing interests," Frankel replied. "There is a base line here. If the legislature takes what is regarded by this court as a rational decision, that is the end of it, [and] this is clearly rational legislation."

Not so fast, responded attorneys for the three men. "We must ask whether the state has any place in the living rooms of the nation," said Andrew Lokan, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

A key question for the court is whether the government need demonstrate serious health risks to pot smokers or the general public in order to uphold the law. Debate over the relative risks of marijuana consumed some of the court's time, as lawyers for the two sides argued the dangers of cannabis.

Another key issue is whether the courts or parliament will ultimately decide the cannabis laws. Attorneys for the appellants told the justices they should follow the law, not political trends. "You can't simply say Parliament has the right to be wrong," said Paul Burstein, attorney for one of the trio. The court should draw a "constitutional line in the sand" beyond which parliament cannot intervene, he added.

Observers are taking no bets on how the court will rule, although many Canadian politicians would breathe a sigh of relief if a court ruling took the whole issue of marijuana law out of their hands.

Visit the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation web site at http://media.cbc.ca:8080/ramgen/clips/rm-newsworld/politics/politicspm_thu.rm for footage of US Rep. Mark Souder articulating US opposition to marijuana decriminalization, followed by Canadian politicians.


4. Colombia: Pro-Legalization Governor among FARC Hostages Killed in Failed Monday Rescue Attempt

Guillermo Gaviria, the pro-legalization governor of Antioquia state held captive by leftist rebels of the Columbian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) for just over a year, was one of 10 hostages killed when Colombian military special forces stormed a rebel camp where they were being held since early last year. Also killed were former Defense Minister Gilberto Echeverri, captured along with Gaviria, and eight Colombian soldiers. The Colombian government and survivors said the 10 were executed on orders of a FARC commander as soldiers neared, but the FARC has claimed they died in the crossfire of a firefight. Three other hostages -- all soldiers -- were wounded.

The botched raid and deaths of hostages have led to condemnation of the FARC from human rights groups, the US government, and various voices within Colombia, but have also resulted in criticism of the military from hostage families and calls for the government of President Alvaro Uribe to implement a prisoner exchange program with the FARC. The FARC is holding some 80 hostages at various locations, including soldiers, congressmen, former minor party presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three US civilian mercenaries, which it seeks to exchange for jailed guerrillas. The raid came as the FARC was maneuvering to begin serious negotiations about a prisoner exchange.

Gaviria and Echeverri were captured by the FARC last April as they led a peace march of a thousand activists through Antioquia, once home to Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel and currently wracked by violence between the FARC, the Colombian military and rightist paramilitaries (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/234.html#guillermogaviria). At the time, then President Andres Pastrana told Reuters he warned Gaviria the FARC would grab him if he led the march, while BBC reported that Gaviria had refused a police escort.

Gaviria was not marching against the FARC, he said before he was captured, he was marching for peace. For the governor, peace also meant working to end the prohibitionist drug policies that had brought such blood and ruin to his country. Just months before his capture, Gaviria -- whom DRCNet had hoped to invite to the "Out from the Shadows" conference last February if he had been free -- joined other Colombian governors in approving a resolution calling on his government to organize an international debate on legalization. "We cannot keep our heads between our legs and continue with the same strategies of 30 years ago," said Gaviria at the time. "Colombia must lead the discussion of the issue on the international stage to commit all the countries of the world without hypocrisy or double standards," he told El Espectador (Bogota). "There are no magic solutions, and legalization is not necessarily the solution, but I believe in controlled legalization," said Gaviria (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/201.html#groundswell).

Now, Gaviria is dead, only the latest among tens of thousands to be killed in Colombia's decades-long civil war -- a war at root not about the drug trade or drug use or drug prohibition, but one where drug prohibition and the resulting lucrative black market has fueled the killing. Whether the finger is pointed at the FARC for its cold-bloodedness, the Colombian military for its rescue fiasco, or President Uribe for his tough stand against negotiations with the rebels, or "terrorists" as he calls them, Gaviria is a victim of the war on drugs.

 

Governor Gaviria

"We've been fighting this drug war for almost 40 years now, and all the formulas for attacking the producers and traffickers have not produced the results we sought," he told the Dallas Morning news at the time of the governors' resolution. "We have not reduced the flow of drugs. We have not reduced the amount of land under illicit cultivation. And we certainly have not reduced the amount of suffering our country is experiencing."


5. Bolivia Coca Conflict Heating Up Again

When DRCNet last week wrote about coca strife in Peru, we parenthetically noted that Peruvian coca growers (cocaleros) were looking to the example of Bolivia, where, we wrote, organized cocaleros had managed to secure "an end to forced eradication in the Chapare." That description mischaracterized events in the Chapare, where, despite negotiations between cocaleros, led by Evo Morales, and the Bolivian government in March to bring an end to the practice, forced eradication of unsanctioned coca crops continues.

This week, with negotiations at an apparent standstill and forced eradication ongoing, cocaleros in the Chapare are again mobilizing, and the government has sent reinforcements to the area to seek to prevent a recurrence of the civil strife over the coca issues that has claimed lives of anti-drug police but many more peasants, and which left the government shaken. And even as it prepares for renewed turmoil in the Chapare, the Bolivian government is making noises about expanding its eradication campaign to the Yungas region, where all of the country's legally allowed coca leaf is grown.

Morales and the cocaleros had sat down with the government in mid-March in an effort to win a limited reprieve from the burning of coca crops in the Chapare. (Morales, an invitee to the Mérida "Out from the Shadows" conference, stayed behind for those negotiations.) The government was considering a deal wherein peasants in the Chapare would be allowed to cultivate an agreed-upon amount of coca for six months. In the meantime, the government would conduct a study to determine what was the legitimate domestic demand for coca leaf, considered sacred and consumed by Bolivians for thousands of years. That could have led to renewed legal cultivation of coca in the Chapare.

But those negotiations have been stalled for more than a month, and eradication is continuing in the region. In an account published in the Baltimore Sun -- the only US mass media outlet to report on Bolivia's continuing crisis in recent months -- peasants Victor and Gomercinda Franco told how Bolivian soldiers set up camp on their property, pitching tents in their yucca field and cutting down the Francos' pineapple plants and a mandarin tree to make a helipad. At first, the soldiers begged small amounts of coca leaf to chew themselves, but then, as the Francos' small coca crop neared harvest, the soldiers cut it down -- for the fourth time, Victor Franco said.

"How can they cut down all our plants?" cried his wife, Gomercinda. "I have eight children. What are we going to live on? All our coca is gone."

The Bolivian government eradicates coca as part of a US-inspired "zero coca" program in the Chapare. US officials have pointed to Bolivia as an "Andean success story" because it has reduced coca cultivation by 70% in the past decade, but the cocaleros are stubborn, and cultivation in the region has increased ten-fold in the past two years, from 1,400 acres in 2000 to more than 13,000 in 2002, according to US government figures.

The "success" has also come at considerable political cost to the US-backed government of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, which was rocked by the cocalero protests in January and February. Like other Andean governments, Bolivia's is caught between the demands of substantial sectors of its citizenry for legal coca and the unyielding insistence of the US on continuing eradication of the crops. There is also the nearly $200 million in US aid and US votes on international lending decisions for the Bolivian government to consider.

And now, even as the Bolivian government braces for renewed conflict with angry growers in the Chapare, it announced last week that it was preparing to extend eradication into the Yungas region, where some 26,000 acres of coca are legally grown for the domestic and international markets. Yungas cocaleros and their representatives have not reacted well. Initial talks with the government over eradication in the Yungas broke down late last week after government officials announced the proposed eradication as a fact.

"This cannot be," said congressman Dionicio Núñez Tancara, a member of Morales' Movement to Socialism (MAS) party. "The coca grower federations will not allow the Joint Task Forces to eradicate any plants in the region for any reason. The government has no valid reason to try to eliminate coca en the Yungas," the congressman told El Diario.

Cocaleros will not allow the eradication "of even a millimeter" of coca in the Yungas, Núñez vowed. "We are on permanent watch in the Yungas, especially in the region of Asunta, where they have said the most excess coca is." But there is no excess coca, he said. "For us, excess coca is coca that doesn't have a legal market, but we have legal markets, including in other countries. It is the government itself that makes our leaf show up in cocaine factories," because the government coca agency, DIGECO, allows it to be diverted," he said. The eradication campaign is only an excuse for the government to increase the military presence in the region, he added.

Yungas cocaleros met earlier this week to plot strategy, but no reports on that meeting were available at press time.

For now, the government of President Sanchez de Lozada appears to be siding with its benefactor, the US, against the roughly 35,000 coca-growing families in the Chapare alone. This week, more police and Joint Task Force anti-drug troops swarmed into the Chapare to block another uprising, and Interior Minister Yerco Kukoc called the unrest "labor delinquency," a signal that the government intends to treat the demands of the cocaleros as a law-and-order problem, not a political problem.

But the government and its allies in Washington are mistaken if they think they can make coca go away in Bolivia, said Morales in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. "The war on drugs is failing," the cocalero leader who nearly won last year's presidential election said. "The United States thinks it can spend billions of dollars to reach zero coca, but this isn't a solution. All this social and political revolt is thanks to the coca leaf. The coca leaf is what is giving people consciousness."


6. Oregon SWAT Raid Victims to File Suit

A testosterone-driven, pre-dawn paramilitary raid by Oregon law enforcement officers looking for a marijuana grow operation in a Eugene neighborhood last October will result in a federal lawsuit against participating agencies, according to the raid's victims and their attorneys.

The raid involved some 59 heavily-armed police officers from the Oregon State Police, the Lane County Sheriff's Department, the Eugene Police Department, the Springfield Police Department, the Portland Police Bureau, and the Oregon National Guard, who swarmed into Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood accompanied by a tank-like National Guard Light Armored Vehicle. Throwing flash-bang grenades that shook the windows in neighboring houses and kicking down doors, the marauders broke into three homes, detaining two couples. Marcella Monroe and Tam Davage and Elizabeth Redetzke and Jor Havens were dragged naked from their beds by masked and armored police, then held for hours as police ransacked their homes. Police placed a black hood over Monroe's head until she agreed to cooperate. No evidence of a marijuana grow operation was found, but that didn't stop police from arresting all four and threatening to seize their homes. State prosecutors eventually dropped all charges.

According to one neighbor, a public school teacher, who was walking to her car to go to work that morning, "We opened the front door to find a swath of police officers, a huge armored personnel carrier, and several men in camouflage lurking around the shrubbery with assault rifles." Gesturing toward one of the machine-gun-toting lawmen standing between her and her car, the teacher said, "I just want to make sure I'm not going to be shot leaving the house."

"I haven't shot anyone in two weeks," was the officer's response, according to the teacher.

"They came in here and scared everyone to death," Monroe told the Eugene Register-Guard a few weeks after the ordeal. "They trashed our houses and accused us of a crime that they have no evidence for. They found no seeds, no pot, not one single plant -- nothing."

Monroe and Davage, a well-liked couple who owned all three houses, quickly drew support from neighbors. The Whiteaker Community Council denounced the raid and demanded that the Eugene Police Commission investigate the incident. "It was completely inappropriate to have that kind of militaristic action there," said council president Majeska Seese-Green. "We don't want it to happen in Whiteaker again, or any other neighborhood," she told the Register-Guard.

Now the four raid victims and their attorneys are acting to ensure that it doesn't. Attorneys Ben Rosenfeld and Lauren Regan officially notified Eugene's insurance agency on April 11 that they will file suit in federal court to rein in over-agressive police practices. "The police clearly violated the 4th Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and false arrest," said Rosenfeld in an April 30 statement. "We intend to hold these police officers accountable, lest we allow them to further erode fundamental Constitutional rights, and put this community in jeopardy of serious physical injury at the hands of law enforcement."

"Either the police just really screwed up, or they should have done far more investigation before entering a residential neighborhood in this manner," Regan said. "Before you drive a tank up to someone's house with 50 SWAT officers brandishing automatic assault weapons, you should be darn certain that you've got very dangerous pot growers in that house, and should be equally certain there is not a safer way to conduct such a raid. This, and other recent SWAT incidents, illustrate a total disregard for community safety where police are endangering the lives and safety of the neighborhood residents."

Law enforcement spokesmen attempted to defend the raid, claiming the Whiteaker raid was not much different from other drug raids except in magnitude. "Society at large wants us to do this, and the community at large wants us to do this," Lieutenant Lee Thoming of the Interagency Narcotics Task Force told the Register Guard.

"This type of raid is contrary to the way our community wants the police to conduct themselves," countered Regan. "The deployment of SWAT units should be limited to extraordinary circumstances such as a hostage situation, a sniper, or a bomb threat. We hope that Eugene will follow in the paths of several other cities and reign in the abuses perpetuated by rogue police agencies."

The Whiteaker Community Council agreed. "We all need to learn more about the encroachment of paramilitarized policing in the United States, we need to watch law enforcement, we need to watch out for each others' civil rights, and we need to work for a genuinely independent police review board," said council head Seese-Green. "What is at stake is not only the livability of our city, but also -- potentially -- the very life of any one of us or our children."

As for Davage and Monroe, the raid has been a rude awakening. "There is a deep sense of betrayal and loss of trust," said Davage. "We believed that our police were supposed to protect our safety and our Constitutional rights. Instead they attacked us with machine guns without cause. They have destroyed my sense of security."

"How can we ever feel safe again? What is happening to our country?" asked Monroe.

Visit htttp://www.drcnet.org/wol/267.html#outofcontrol for our previous coverage of this story.


7. Tens of Thousands March Worldwide in Annual Million Marijuana March

From Buenos Aires to Budapest and Tokyo to Tel Aviv, from Albany to Albuquerque and Fort Wayne to Fort Worth, tens of thousands of people marched over the weekend in more than 200 cities around the world to call for the legalization of marijuana. The marches, coordinated by veteran Yippie organizer Dana Beale and his organization, Cures Not Wars (http://www.cures-not-wars.org), have gone on for nearly 30 years and will continue until the herb is liberated, Beale told DRCNet.

"This is a huge international event. We're not gonna stop," he said.

While reports are still coming in from cities around the globe, early highlights include Buenos Aires, where an estimated 12,000 people gathered for a day of rock and drug reform politics; London, where an estimated 20-30,000 people marched, and Tel Aviv, where some 5,000 people sat down for the annual Marijuana Day Picnic organized by the Green Leaf Party. The event in Mexico City also reportedly drew thousands, while in Nimbin, Australia, the pot capital of the island continent, the annual MardiGrass and Cannabis Reform Rally drew thousands more in a carnival-like atmosphere featuring competitive events like the Growers' Iron Person Competition, the Bong Toss and the Joint Rolling Contest.

Police generally responded with a hands-off approach. In Dunedin, New Zealand, police ignored protestors smoking inside the police station, while in London, bobbies manfully vowed to ask pot smokers to put it out. "If a police officer comes across someone who is smoking cannabis, they will be asked to stop," said a police commander on the scene. "If they don't stop, the police officer will take appropriate action that could include confiscating the drug."

But it was not all sunshine and sweetness everywhere. In Budapest, attendees at Hungary's first pot protest were attacked by counter-demonstrators throwing eggs and tomatoes. Police kept the two sides apart, but the melee caused an early end to activities in a country that has some of the harshest drug laws in Europe.

And in New York City, home base for Cures Not Wars, only a meager few hundred people came out to march. With large numbers of arrests at the New York march in recent years -- 148 last year -- some observers thought fear of arrest kept the numbers down. But Beale also pointed to other factors. "We had to do something about the arrests," he said, "so we put out the word there would be no pot smoking at this event. So we got a smaller crowd because all the people who just came to party didn't show up."

The New York effort also suffered from lack of publicity and organizing glitches, Beale said. "Last year, we had eight ads in High Times, but this year there was only one ad and it was three months ago," Beale said. "The arrests in recent years really freaked them out. High Times may be a national magazine, but in many ways it is a New York City magazine, and it is very important for a New York event."

Organizers also sought funding for promoting the event from High Times and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), but failed to get anything, Beale said. And Canadian marijuana seed magnate Marc Emery, who had paid in previous years for the posters that Cures Not Wars distributes worldwide, didn't kick in this year.

Still, said Beale, he'll be back next year and as long as necessary.


8. Newsbrief: Bill "Mr. Virtue" Bennett Outed as Heavy Gambler

 

William Bennett

Former drug czar and professional moralist Bill Bennett's gambling jones has cost him $8 million, according to the Washington Monthly. According to the magazine, "over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a 'preferred customer' at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million."

According to a report in Newsweek that relied on much the same reporting, more than 40 pages of internal casino documents show that Bennett, author of the "Book of Virtue," received treatment befitting a high-roller, including limousine rides, "tens of thousands of dollars in complimentary hotel rooms and other amenities." As well he should: In one two-month period, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to one casino to cover his losses.

Bennett told the magazines he had broken even at gambling, adding "you don't see what I walk away with."

Gambling is a legal activity, and no one is suggesting that Bennett has committed any crime, but the exposure of Mr. Virtue's vice makes his constant -- and well-paid -- harangues against the vices, sins and moral failures of modern culture ring just a bit hollow. It also threatens his stature among social conservatives, many of whom consider gambling a moral issue, or in the words of former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, "a cancer on the American body politic" that was "stealing food from the mouths of children."

Bennett has denied having a gambling problem, and likened it to drinking alcohol (although not smoking marijuana). "I view it as drinking," he said. "If you can't handle it, don't do it."

That was last week. On Monday, Bennett released a statement seeking to appease a growing chorus of critics from conservative groups. "My gambling days are over," he said. "It is true that I have gambled large sums of money," Bennett said in his statement. "I have also complied with all laws on reporting wins and losses. Nevertheless, I have done too much gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set."

Ah, sweet schadenfreude.


9. Newsbrief: Bush Twins Outed as Tokers by "That '70s Show" Star

 

The Bush Twins in People

Ashton Kutcher, star of the Fox TV hit "That '70s Show" and comedy movie "Dude, Where's My Car?" has told a Rolling Stone interviewer that presidential daughters Barbara and Jenna Bush, 21, got high at a party in his home a year-and-a-half ago. The remarks came as part of a profile of Kutcher's celebrity lifestyle and will appear in the May 29 issue of the magazine, set to hit newsstands today (Friday) and featuring the actor on the cover.

"So we're hanging out," Kutcher told interviewer Gavin Edwards. "The Bushes were underage drinking at my house. When I checked outside, one of the Secret Service guys asked me if they'd be spending the night. I said no. And then I go upstairs to see another friend and I can smell the green wafting out under his door. I open the door, and there he is smoking out the Bush twins on his hookah."

Ashton Kutcher

 
Kutcher told Rolling Stone he thinks the Secret Service has been tapping his phone ever since.

No comment so far from the White House.


10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

Cape Girardeau, Missouri, made the Week Online only last week, after a local judge ruled that simply buying Sudafed and watch batteries was not a sufficient reason for narcs to stop and search someone (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/285.html#coldpills). But Cape Girardeau narcs have been busy on other fronts as well, and now one of them, former narcotics detective Paul Tipler, 35, has earned himself a nomination for this feature. On May 1, Tipler was indicted for stealing cash and crack cocaine and using it to buy the services of prostitutes.

Tipler was charged with one felony count of stealing drug buy money from the department, two felony counts of distribution of a controlled substance, two felony counts of evidence tampering, two felony counts of forgery, three misdemeanor counts of patronizing prostitution, and one misdemeanor count of possession of a defaced firearm. The charges carry punishments ranging from six months in jail for the misdemeanors to 15 years in prison for the drug distribution felonies.

According to the indictment against him, over a two-year period Tipler took at least $750 that was supposed to be used for undercover drug buys and instead spent it on prostitutes. He is also accused of pocketing drugs seized during arrests and using the pilfered crack cocaine as payments to prostitutes. Although Tipler filled out forms indicating department money was used to buy information about drug deals, at least three women told Missouri Highway Patrol investigators that he used the money to buy sex acts from them.

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Robert Strong told the Southeast Missourian that as a narcotics officer, Tipler often worked alone and unsupervised. He has decided to change that policy. "Officers in the future will work with a partner in these investigations," he said. "This is to help eliminate any possibility of wrongdoing and to protect an officer should allegations be made he did anything improper."

Strong also mouthed the de rigeur words of shock and disappointment. "Initially, it was a great deal of disappointment for me," Strong said of the allegations. "I had placed a lot of faith in Tipler when he was working here. And, quite frankly, he let the entire department down."

Tipler remains free on $10,000 bail pending trial.


11. Newsbrief: Baltimore Grand Jury Calls for Regulated Drug Distribution to Addicts

A grand jury in Baltimore Thursday released a report recommending that the government and medical institutions distribute hard drugs in limited doses to addicts as an alternative to unsuccessful current drug policies. The non-binding report calls first for an academic study of the idea to see if it is feasible.

"Conventional modes of attacking the drug problem simply aren't working," wrote 23 grand jurors in a special panel convened in January by Judge Althea Handy. "Regulated distribution begins with the recognition that addiction is a continuing, progressive illness rather than a crime."

The grand jury suggested that the government step in to regulate the price, distribution and purity of drugs. Under the grand jury's scheme, hard drug users would have to register with authorities to purchase drugs, then get prescriptions from a doctor and buy the drugs at a pharmacy. The report also calls for increased drug treatment, job training, education and housing assistance for addicts instead of arrest and incarceration.

Grand jurors pointed to the city's enduring problem with heroin, estimating there are about 60,000 addicts in Baltimore. But Mayor Martin O'Malley disputed that figure and the grand jury's conclusions, saying that the number of addicts had decreased to 40,000 in recent years and that heroin-related deaths had decreased, in part because of increased access to treatment.

"Giving out heroin is diametrically opposed to the approach we are taking," O'Malley told the Baltimore Sun. "If the grand jury is recommending this, they are ignoring the reality of the progress we're making. We've been leading the nation in the rate of decline of drug-related emergency room visits."


12. Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform Measures Moving in Colorado

Last week, DRCNet reported on moves in Washington and other states to cut sentences because of budget pressures (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/285.html#washingtonreform). Colorado has now joined the list of states where fiscal crisis may yield sentencing reforms as well. In the last week of April, three bills -- one that would help people avoid prison, one would that shorten sentences for those sent to prison, and one that would help people avoid being sent back to prison -- passed key hurdles in committee.

Taken together, the three bills, if passed, would save the state nearly $10 million by 2005-2006, according to state legislative analysts. All three bills were approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 328, sponsored by Rep. Tom Plant (D-Netherland), would grant a small increase in "good time" for inmates serving sentences for nonviolent first offenses. Under the bill, good time would increase from 10 to 12 days per month. An inmate serving a one-year sentence would get out 3 ½ weeks early under the proposal. It now awaits action in the House Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 352, sponsored by Rep. Joe Stengel, would allow people who violate their parole for "technical reasons" to be sent to community corrections instead of back to prison. Technical parole violations are those in which no law is broken, only an administrative rule, such as missing an appointment with a parole officer or failing to report a change of address. One out of three parole violations are for technical violations, according to Stengel, who said the bill would save the state $7.7 million in the next two fiscal years.

And Senate Bill 318, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Hefley (R-Colorado Springs) would decrease penalties for possession of one gram or less of any controlled substance, giving judges the option to send a defendant either to probation, county jail or community corrections rather than prison. The bill has been sent to the full House for consideration.


13. Newsbrief: Rhode Island Bill Allowing Eviction for Drug Possession on the Move

While some states are cutting sentences and looking at other ways of calling a truce in the war on drugs, legislators in Rhode Island are busy crafting new ways to punish drug users. A bill that unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last week would allow landlords to evict tenants without notice or appeal if so much as a single marijuana cigarette were found on the property. The provision would apply whether the tenant was aware of the drugs' presence or not, and it could be invoked if a tenant were arrested on or near the property if the landlord can show that the tenant was in possession of drugs at the time.

The measure, Senate Bill 479, was sponsored by Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick) and drafted with the assistance of Providence lawyer Paul Ragosta, who frequently represents landlords in housing disputes. It amends existing landlord-tenant statutes, which allow landlords to evict tenants who use the property for the manufacture, sale or delivery of drugs or who turn the place into a "narcotics nuisance."

SB 479 tightens the language of that law by saying tenants or authorized occupants may not "have, keep, or allow" drugs on the property "of any type or quantity... whether or not with the knowledge of the tenant."

In his testimony before the committee, Ragosta said current law does not provided "a meaningful remedy when there is drug activity in housing, particularly in low-income housing and public housing." He also related a story of how he was blocked from engineering the eviction of a tenant for smoking marijuana by a judge who ruled that more than one instance of drug activity was required, a conclusion Ragosta called "absurd." A single drug offense should be grounds for eviction, he told the committee. While he acknowledged that someone could lose his homestead because a guest smoked a joint at a party, the "balancing of interests" justified such outcomes. "The policy decision is that the drug problem is so severe that this sort of powerful tool is necessary," Ragosta told the committee.

The bill has not gone unopposed. Advocates for tenants and low-income groups have criticized the bill as overly broad and likely to lead to an increase in homelessness. But that didn't stop the Judiciary Committee from approving the measure on a 5-0 vote. It now heads for action in the full Senate.

Read the bill online at:
http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/billtext/billtext03/senatetext03/s0479.pdf


14. Newsbrief: Minnesota High Court Bars Suspicionless Consent Searches, Questioning of Motorists

With the US Supreme Court all too often deferring to the needs of the national security state, aggrieved citizens are increasingly turning to state courts and state constitutions for protection from overzealous authorities. With a ruling last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court becomes the latest to grant protections to citizens that the federal courts have been unwilling to extend.

In its ruling in the case of Minneapolis teenager Mustafa Naji Fort, who was arrested after consenting to a search when the vehicle in which he was riding was pulled over for a traffic violation, the Minnesota high court held that police who stop motorists for traffic violations cannot ask to search the vehicle or question drivers and passengers about unrelated items, such as guns or drugs, without a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

The federal courts have consistently held that under the US Constitution, police can ask motorists and passengers to consent to searches absent any suspicion that a crime has taken place, while acknowledging that motorists can refuse to give that consent. Now, Minnesota residents are entitled to a higher level of protection from police searches than granted by the federal courts.

Defense attorneys who handled the case argued that it was an example of racial profiling; Fort was an African-American and he was stopped and searched in what police described as a "high drug" area. The ruling should put an end to that practice, said attorney Leonardo Castro. "That's going to stop as of today, unless police can articulate the reason why they're asking the question." The ruling was "probably the most significant civil rights decision for the state of Minnesota in the last 10 years," he said, adding that it will make a significant difference in people's everyday lives.

Minnesota joins at least nine other states where courts have extended protections beyond those granted by the federal courts, including New Jersey, which banned so-called "consent searches" as part of a reaction to its racial profiling scandals. The Minnesota high court is "beginning to distinguish itself by applying the Minnesota Constitution in a way that is more protective of individual liberties than the federal Constitution would require," said Peter Erlinder, professor of criminal constitutional law at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. The ruling could also protect police against accusations of racial profiling, he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Read the court's opinion in Minnesota vs. Fort online at:
http://www.courts.state.mn.us/opinions/sc/current/OP011732-0501.html


17. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 11, 1:30-3:00pm, Frederick, MD, "War on Drugs, War on Iraq: What's the Difference," forum with attorney and activist Willie Mahone. At C. Burr Artz Central Library, Community Room, 110 East Patrick Street, light refreshments to follow. Sponsored by Frederick Secular Humanists (FRESH), visit http://fresh.wash.org or e-mail [email protected]

May 16, noon, Cleveland, OH, "The Drug Law Reformation Debate," Friday Forum at The City Club. Featuring Keith Stroup of NORML and Canadian Member of Parliament Randy White, admission $25 for non-members or $15 for members. Call (888) 223-6786 or (216) 621-0082 or visit http://www.cityclub.org/content/speakers/SpeakerDetail.aspx?spkID=4970 for reservations.

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, 7:00pm, Hollywood, CA, "The Great American Bowl," fundraiser for NORML. Featuring Tenacious D, Dubcat, Silvertide, Whitestarr and Fieldy's Dreams, with host Bill Maher. At Hollywood Palace, 1735 North Vine St., visit http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5608 for information or to purchase tickets.

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 7-11, Denver, CO, 23rd National Convocation of Jail and Prison Ministry. Visit http://www.travel.to/theconvocation/ or contact Sr. Carleen Reck at [email protected] for information.

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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