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

Issue #287, 5/16/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Coddling Kidnappers
  2. Illinois Over-the-Counter Syringe Bill Passes House, Awaits Governor's Signature
  3. Moves Continue to Win Freedom for Tulia 13 -- Congress to Take a Look
  4. Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation Delayed -- Fears of United States, Discord in Government Cited
  5. Alert and Clarification: Truth in Trials Act
  6. Vote Now in Two Online Marijuana Decriminalization/Legalization Polls
  7. World Social Thematic Forum to Address Drug Policy, Cartagena, Colombia, Next Month
  8. Countdown to Fairness: Celebrity-Led Rockefeller Drug Law Protest Coming June 4th
  9. Six-Year Anniversary of Esequiel Hernandez Shooting This Week
  10. Newsbrief: Indonesia Quietly Supports Needle Exchanges
  11. Newsbrief: US Functionaries Bluster at Bolivia
  12. Newsbrief: US Invasion Liberates Iraqi Heroin, Cocaine Sales
  13. Newsbrief: You Better Watch Yer Ass in Texas, Boy
  14. Newsbrief: Utah Supreme Court Restricts Random Roadblocks, Again
  15. Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Revisit Roadblock Ruling
  16. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  17. Newsbrief: New Jersey Drug Warrior Prescribes More Aggression
  18. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


David Borden

1. Editorial: Coddling Kidnappers

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/16/03

It only took years for the Texas power structure to admit to the severe miscarriage of justice in Tulia, where over 40 people, mostly African American, were imprisoned as drug dealers on the sole word of an undercover agent. No matter that the small town's economy couldn't possibly have supported 40 drug dealers. And no matter that Officer Coleman had a known history of lying and other lawbreaking. The spotlight had to be shown on the episode over and over before authorities would take any serious action. Truth and glaring evidences of injustice didn't suffice.

It's fair to regard the Tulia imprisonments as the moral equivalent of kidnapping -- human beings for whom there was no credible evidence of guilt were removed from their homes and held against their will for long periods of time, years in many cases. In some ways it was worse than kidnapping; at least with a kidnapper there's a chance of gaining the victim's freedom by paying a ransom. Whereas the Texas criminal justice system had no intention of freeing the Tulia victims unless it was absolutely forced to do so; many it would have kept behind bars for decades, knowing their likely innocence. And kidnapping victims don't lose their reputations, as Tulia's stolen would have suffered had a vigorous national campaign not been mounted on their behalf.

Unfortunately, it's not over. Thirteen of Tulia's kidnapped remain behind bars. Though courts have called for new trials, and prosecutors have asked that charges instead be dropped -- and even though the Senate and the Governor themselves have spoken up on the matter -- still in prison they sit.

The massive admission of state guilt, to the highest levels of the political system, are not quite enough for Gerald Garrett, chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. Garrett wants the prisoners to stay where they are until "every case gets a full and entire review" -- or if he doesn't specifically want them to stay behind bars in the meantime, at least he's clearly willing to live with that.

There's an expression used by law-and-order types, "coddling criminals," referring to treatment of lawbreakers or prisoners they perceive or claim to be lenient. In this way of thinking, though, it is the system that is coddling kidnappers. It is just too clear that the convictions of Tulia's remaining 13 prisoners itself were crimes, and every day therefore they remain behind bars is an abomination.

Garrett might not be the enemy, but he is missing the forest for the trees; the freedom of Tulia's unjustly convicted is far more important than the perception of integrity of a system that has been demonstrated to have precious little of it. The only moral course of action for the state of Texas is to free Tulia's remaining kidnapped today.

2. Illinois Over-the-Counter Syringe Bill Passes House, Awaits Governor's Signature

A bill that would allow adults to purchase syringes without a prescription passed the Illinois House Tuesday. The Illinois Senate approved the measure on March 24, so it now awaits only the signature of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). He is expected to sign the bill, said Karen Reitan of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (, one of leaders in a broad coalition of medical, public health, merchant and harm reduction groups that pushed for the measure. If the governor indeed signs, Illinois will become the 46th state to allow the purchase of syringes without a prescription. Only California, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey currently require prescriptions to purchase syringes. "We are very optimistic the governor will sign the bill," Reitan told DRCNet. "He pledged before the election that he would sign it, and his office indicated this week that he still plans to do so."

"The governor sees [the syringe bill] as an effective way of reducing AIDS and HIV and improving the delivery of prevention services," Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff told the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday. The Illinois bill is part of a strategy aimed at reducing the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other blood-borne infections. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all new HIV infections result from injection drug use or sexual contact with an injection drug user. Needle sharing has been shown to decline in states that have eased the availability of syringes.

"This is the most significant piece of HIV prevention legislation to pass in Illinois in over a decade," said Mark Ishaug, AIDS Foundation of Chicago executive director. "It will literally save the lives of thousands of men, women and children."

Under the bill, adults will be able to purchase up to 20 syringes at a time without a prescription. The bill also requires the state Department of Health to produce educational pamphlets on the dangers of drug use, how AIDS and HIV spread, how to seek out drug treatment, and how to properly dispose of needles. Pharmacists would be required to give the pamphlets to everyone who buys needles.

While the governor and the state medical and public health establishment have come around, it hasn't been an easy fight, said Reitan. "People have been trying to get this bill passed for the last 10 years," she said, "and the Chicago AIDS Foundation has been pushing this for the last four years."

The legislation passed the House in 2000, but was defeated in the Senate that year after members expressed fears it would encourage drug use. That sentiment was still present this year, with, for example, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) calling the measure "hideous" and arguing that addicts would throw needles on the street where they could infect children.

"You are asking people who have a condition of using heroin to do something responsible," Flowers said in urging the bill's defeat. "I'm asking you to please take into consideration what we're doing here in regards to drugs. Drugs are illegal in this state. Heroin is illegal in this country. We're sending the wrong message, ladies and gentlemen, to young people that it's okay to do heroin, but it's not okay to do marijuana."

But public health trumped prohibitionist ideology for the bill's supporters. "If people can have access to sterile syringes, they will, time after time, use clean syringes," argued state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsor. "The data has demonstrated very strongly that this really does help stem the spread of AIDS. I think this is a quantum leap."

With the bill passing by a margin of 70-48 in the House and 30-24 in the Senate, it was evident that members were listening to the impressive coalition put together by the bill's supporters this year. "We had a huge group supporting this bill, including the Illinois Pharmacists Association, the Illinois Medical Society, the Illinois Public Health Association, the state Academy of Family Physicians, the state Academy of Pediatricians, the state nurses' association, many, many county public health departments, and Walgreen's and the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association," said Reitan. Walgreen's and the merchants were involved because they represented pharmacies in the state, Reitan explained. "We also worked with harm reduction groups, such as the Chicago Recovery Alliance," she added.

The effort received outside help from the Drug Policy Alliance (, Reitan said. "We partnered with DPA on this, and they've funded and helped us, they've been very supportive." Reitan and the AIDS Foundation praised legislators for following science and not fear in voting for the bill. "State lawmakers can be proud that they allowed the best available scientific evidence to inform their decisions regarding syringe policy in Illinois," said Reitan.

Visit to read SB 880, the Hypodermic Syringe and Needle Act.

3. Moves Continue to Win Freedom for Tulia 13 -- Congress to Take a Look

Although the arrests and convictions of some 46 people -- 39 of them African-American -- swept up in a July 1999 raid in Tulia, Texas, have now been thoroughly discredited ( and the undercover cop involved charged with perjury (, 13 of those who were convicted or pled guilty remain behind bars. But perhaps not for long, as various moves are underway to win their release. And the Tulia fiasco continues to reverberate far beyond the Texas panhandle, with a US congressional committee now poised to take a look at not only at Tulia but also at the broader issue of federal funding of anti-drug task forces.

In Austin this week, the Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to allow the 13 remaining imprisoned Tulia defendants to be released on bond while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviews a state judge's recommendation that all Tulia defendants get new trials and a special prosecutor's recommendation that all charges be dropped. Although a March hearing that led to the recommendations was a resounding denunciation of undercover lawman Tom Coleman and a repudiation of the verdicts, the Court of Criminal Appeals is known as a pro-prosecutorial court (see newsbrief below), and Texas lawmakers are seeking to cover their bets. The bill would take effect immediately if passed by two-thirds of the House, or on September 1st if passed by a simple majority. But while the bill easily passed the Senate and has support in the House, it remains to be seen whether the lower chamber will have a chance to vote on it. More than 50 Democratic members of the House fled the state to neighboring Oklahoma this week in order to block a vote on redistricting, but because their absence left the legislative body without a quorum, it also prevents any action on any other matters.

Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), the sponsor of the bill, urged his colleagues in the House to pass the bill this session. "Now the challenge is to complete the mission by passing this legislation in the House," Whitmire told the Houston Chronicle. "It is an embarrassment to the state of Texas to let something like this happen," Whitmire said. "If we're going to be tough and smart on crime, we've also got to be fair." The effort to redress the suffering of the imprisoned defendants also has the support of top state officials, including Lt. Gov David Dewhurst (R) and Gov. Rick Perry (R). "This is a real travesty of justice," Dewhurst said. "I think our only recourse is to release the Tulia 13 on bond until the court of appeals has made its final decision."

Gov. Perry, for his part, a day earlier called for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to investigate the cases of the Tulia defendants to determine whether to grant them clemency. In a letter sent to board chairman Gerald Garrett, Perry expressed "grave concerns" about the Tulia verdicts. "After reviewing this information, I have grave concerns about the potential miscarriage of justice in cases based on testimony from a sole witness whose truthfulness is in doubt," the governor wrote.

But Garrett's initial response suggested that unjustly jailed Tulia victims should not hold their breaths waiting for the board to act. "There is a lot of emphasis on a timely decision, but we also have a responsibility to take all the facts into consideration and to move expeditiously and give every case a full and entire review," Garrett told the Chronicle. Each case would be investigated independently, Garrett said, and presented to an 18-member board that could recommend actions ranging from a full pardon to a commutation. There is no timetable for action by the board.

And for Jeff Blackburn, the lead attorney seeking justice for the Tulia 46, the governor's call was a welcome sign but not nearly enough. "Every single person convicted on the word of Tom Coleman deserves complete exoneration and a total clearing of their name," he said. "Any proposal short of that would be an injustice."

While efforts to gain justice for the Tulia victims are underway in Texas, the scandal is also about to be aired in the US House Judiciary Committee. On May 7, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking Democrat on the committee, announced that committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) had agreed to investigate law enforcement misdeeds in the Tulia bust. A Judiciary Committee spokesman, Jeff Lungren, confirmed that Sensenbrenner will hold hearings on the matter. "Sensenbrenner wants to do active and aggressive oversight of the federal task force that was involved," Lungren told the Chronicle. Sensenbrenner was responding to a request from three prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus that the committee review the Tulia bust.

In addition to Conyers, Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) requested the hearings. But the problem of out-of-control drug law enforcement is not limited to a rogue cop in small-town Texas, said participants in a May 7 NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund forum in Washington, DC. "Tulia is not just in Texas. Tulia is all over," said Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.

There are signs that Sensenbrenner and the Judiciary Committee recognize this and are preparing for a broader review of federally-funded anti-drug task forces. (Rogue Tulia cop Tom Coleman was acting on behalf on the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force.) According to a report by Elayne Clift in the May 19 issue of Newsweek, Sensenbrenner has now "agreed to hold hearings on the workings of a Justice Department fund that funnels money to local drug task forces around the country."

It would be good news indeed if Congress were to take a good, hard look at Justice Department task force funding. By all accounts, the task forces are rewarded for arrests and convictions, even of low-level offenders, with more federal funding to make more arrests. As DRCNet has reported with depressing regularity, these federally-funded task forces have been running amok all over the country.

Visit the following past Week Online articles for previous DRCNet reports on task forces abuses:
Visit and for further information on the Tulia prisoners and the campaign to free them.

4. Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Legislation Delayed -- Fears of United States, Discord in Government Cited

This was the week the government of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien was going to introduce legislation that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis. It didn't happen. While the prepared text for a speech Chretien gave Tuesday night included the announcement of the decrim bill, those words vanished when Chretien actually gave the speech, and on Wednesday Justice Minister Martin Cauchon announced that no bill would be introduced for at least two more weeks.

The postponement came amid skirmishes within the ruling Liberal Party over the plan and as Cauchon traveled to Washington, DC, for a meeting with US Attorney General John Ashcroft to inform him of Canada's decrim strategy. US anti-drug officials have loudly and repeatedly expressed concern over the measure, even going so far as to threaten dire consequences for cross-border traffic if it passes.

But while drug czar John Walters, drug-fighting Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) and others have made loud noises about Canadian plans, Ashcroft was more diplomatic. "US Attorney General John Ashcroft today met with Canadian Minister of Justice Martin Cauchon as part of their ongoing dialogue on cross-border crime issues," said Justice's only statement on the meeting. "Our countries enjoy a close working relationship, and the Attorney General and the Minister often take opportunities to discuss these important issues, most recently during the Paris meeting of the G8 Justice Ministers. Attorney General Ashcroft and Minister Cauchon today discussed the full range of US-Canadian issues, including counterterrorism, counternarcotics, extradition and mutual legal assistance."

Still, if the official statement was diplomatic, Ashcroft voiced serious concerns about the decrim move, according to sources close to the meeting cited by the Toronto Star. Ashcroft reportedly told Cauchon that while he "absolutely" agreed that Canada "had the right to make its own laws," he disagreed with lightening penalties for possession and warned of a flood of high-grade Canadian marijuana entering the US. "There's no denying that there is concern on the American side," the Star's source said. "What matters now is what we do on the penalty side against illegal marijuana growing operations to shut them down."

Sensitive to accusations of knuckling under to the Americans, Cauchon insisted he did not go to Washington to "consult" with Ashcroft, but to inform him. "I just want to be clear," Cauchon said, "as Justice Minister I will do what I think is good for the Canadian population." That is brave talk, but if reports that the decrim bill will also increase penalties for cultivation and trafficking of marijuana are any indication, Cauchon's estimation of what "is good for the Canadian population" may well include deference to US concerns about relaxing the marijuana laws.

But it isn't only the Americans that the Liberal government has to worry about. Health Minister Anne McLellan has apparently gone off the reservation on the marijuana issue. McLellan, who torpedoed the medical marijuana distribution system set up by her predecessor Allan Rock, has joined the Americans in worrying aloud about the effect decriminalization would have on pot exports to the US. "I have made it very plain that until we are able to effectively deal with illegal 'grow ops' in this country, we have a major, major problem," McLellan told reporters this week.

She also warned that decriminalization could cause a possible short-term increase in marijuana use and that Canada must be prepared to deal with that spike. "It can lead to addiction, it can lead to all sorts of situations within local communities, and you need to be ready with information, with education and with treatment. And you have to be very clear about the message -- this is not about legalization," she said.

And that's why some Canadian marijuana activists are staying on the sidelines. "We do not support decriminalization," said Marc-Boris St. Maurice, head of the Canadian Marijuana Party ( "It is virtually meaningless. It is not a step forward, but a step sideways," he told DRCNet. "Our biggest concern is that under decrim, more users will be targeted. Now, police turn a blind eye because arresting someone for cannabis is not worth the hassle, but the minute the government realizes there is money to be made, they will start ticketing pot smokers."

Also, said St. Maurice, the decrim half-measure could well leave the hundred thousand-plus Canadians involved in the marijuana business at even greater risk. "The reported plans to increase penalties for growers and traffickers really piss me off," St. Maurice said. "I work full-time for the Montreal Compassion Club, so I guess that makes me a trafficker. Also, if the government increases penalties for growing and trafficking, it will push out the peaceful mom-and-pop operators and make it all the easier for the hard-core criminals to dominate the business. That would be an unintended consequence and would be a result of the government not thinking through what it wants to do," he said.

Instead, said St. Maurice, Canada should adopt last fall's senate committee report calling for legalization and regulation of marijuana use and the pot trade. "The Nolin report is the best blueprint we have," he said.

While Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy ( shares St. Maurice's problems with partial measures, he told DRCNet that the decrim bill, which has yet to be seen, may address the issue of small-scale growing and sales. "They will probably increase penalties for large-scale production and trafficking," he said. "Right now the maximum penalty is seven years. They may increase that, but also perhaps reduce the penalty for the production of small quantities."

As for the delay in the decrim bill, "I am sure it is purely a coincidence that the introduction of the bill was delayed while the Justice Minister went to Washington," Oscapella said. He professed himself somewhat confused as to why the government tarried. "There is such strong support for decriminalization of simple possession," he said. "I don't understand why the government is so tremulous." Still, he said, he expects a bill will be tabled and passed, and he asked American readers to continue to participate in the debate. "We are seeing lots of letters to the editor on this topic from Americans, and that is important," Oscapella said. "We appreciate the support. Please keep it up."

Visit to read DRCNet's interview with Senator Nolin, chairman of the Canadian Senate committee that called for full legalization of marijuana.

5. Alert and Clarification: Truth in Trials Act

This week's DRCNet action alert supporting the "Truth in Trials" Act understated the full ramifications of the law. The Truth in Trials Act would do more than allow defendants to inform juries that their marijuana cases involved medical marijuana; it would also create an affirmative defense that defendants in states with medical marijuana laws could use to avoid being convicted if they were acting in accordance with state law.

Please help prevent future injustices like those perpetrated on Bryan Epis and Ed Rosenthal by helping to make the Truth in Trials Act the law of the land. Take a few moments right now to visit to send a letter to your US Representative, your two US Senators, and the President and Vice-President supporting the Truth in Trials Act.

6. Vote Now in Two Online Marijuana Decriminalization/Legalization Polls

An online, self-described "non-scientific" poll on the web site of Bill O'Reilly, the conservative commentator who hosts the Fox New Channel program "The O'Reilly Factor," is currently accepting votes. (Or at least it was by The Week Online's press time.) Please visit and find the poll in the right hand column of the page to vote "yes" to the question "Should marijuana be decriminalized in the United States?"

Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper has an online poll as of today (Friday 5/16), asking readers if Canada should go a step further than the government's intended decriminalization plan and actually legalize marijuana outright. Visit to weigh in.

As of press time our side was winning both.

7. World Social Thematic Forum to Address Drug Policy, Cartagena, Colombia, Next Month

Next month, the "World Social Thematic Forum" will meet in Colombia, addressing the issues of democracy, human rights, war and drug trafficking. The speaker lineup includes a number of the people who participated in DRCNet's "Out from the Shadows" conference in Mérida, Mexico last February, including Week Online writer/editor Phil Smith.

Visit for information on the drug policy section in English, or e-mail María Mercedes Moreno of the organization "Mama Coca" at [email protected]. Future issues of The Week Online will cover this event in more detail.

Read our "Road to Mérida" interview with Mercedes at online.

8. Countdown to Fairness: Celebrity-Led Rockefeller Drug Law Protest Coming June 4th

Next week's issue will report on the surging activity in the campaign to repeal New York State's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. Of particular interest is an upcoming demonstration in New York City on June 4th, led by rap celebrity Russell Simmons and the "Hip Hop Summit Action Network."

According to the web site of artist and former Rockefeller prisoner Tony Papa, "[p]ressure is on as Pataki's Criminal Justice Director, Chauncy Parker, met with Russell Simmons yesterday trying to prevent him from launching the biggest drug war rally in the history of the movement. Plans are being made for the June 4th protest at Foley Square in NYC."

Visit or for further information, or contact Tony Papa at (212) 596-9445 or [email protected].

9. Six-Year Anniversary of Esequiel Hernandez Shooting This Week

This coming Tuesday, May 20, marks the six-year anniversary of the shooting of 18-year-old Mexican-American shepherd Esequiel Hernandez. Hernandez was killed by US Marines on an anti-drug patrol outside the small town of Redford, Texas, near the US-Mexico border.

Visit for history and photographs from this tragic incident.

10. Newsbrief: Indonesia Quietly Supports Needle Exchanges

Local authorities on the Indonesian island of Bali are quietly allowing needle exchange programs (NEPs) to operate as part of aneffort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C among injection drug users in the island nation, the Christian Science Monitor reported last week. Under Indonesian law, carrying a syringe without a prescription is a crime, but the threat of needle-borne disease is causing at least some government officials to look the other way. Using funds donated from the US and Australia for AIDS prevention, groups such as Yayasan Hati-Hati ( -- Take Care Foundation in English) in Bali's capital city, Denpasar, are handing out hundreds of needles each week to drug users, the Monitor reported.

The Denpasar NEP is one of two currently operating with "government backing, if not explicit legal approval," according to the Monitor. Six more are set to open around the archipelago by year's end. NEP workers reported no problems from police and in one case were provided with identity cards by law enforcement authorities.

Indonesia, which according to all reports faces rising heroin use levels -- one study by non-governmental organizations in 2000 estimated that 25% of Jakarta residents were illegal drug abusers -- now quietly and unofficially join's Asia's most populous nations, China and India, in adopting harm reduction measures including NEPS to fight the transmission of blood-borne diseases.

Nevertheless, repressive prohibitionism remains popular with both governments and broad sectors of the population in Asia, as demonstrated by neighboring Thailand's recently concluded, murderous three-month "war on drugs" and by Indonesia's own harsh drug laws. Under Law 22/1997, the country's current drug law, 16 people have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking, and six face imminent execution after having appeals for pardons refused by President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

11. Newsbrief: US Functionaries Bluster at Bolivia

An Assistant Undersecretary of State for Interamerican Affairs is the latest US official to attempt to frighten Bolivian voters and politicians away from coca growers' (cocaleros) leader and rising political figure Evo Morales. Morales has led efforts by cocaleros in Bolivia's Chapare region to undo the US-imposed forced eradication of coca crops in the region, an effort that threatens the stability of the US-backed government of President Sanchez de Lozada, and as a result has been roundly denounced by US officials, including new Ambassador David Greenlee.

coca seedlings


Last week, Undersecretary Philip Chicola added his voice to the critical US chorus. He warned that negotiating with Morales and the cocaleros would not solve Bolivia's profound economic and social problems. "To yield to Evo Morales and his cocalero mafia is not the way to resolve Bolivia's problems," Chicola said. "It is very difficult to have democracy in a country dominated by drug traffickers."

According to Chicola, all "excess" coca grown in Bolivia is grown by drug traffickers. The cultivation of coca for traditional consumption is one thing," Chicola told a meeting of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America. "The plantations with large quantities, grown by drug traffickers to produce drugs, is another," the functionary pronounced.

Morales, the cocaleros, and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Morales' political party, were having none of it. Morales told La Razon (La Paz) on May 8 that he did not represent a "coca mafia" and demanded that the US Embassy back up its charges with evidence. He also told La Razon he regarded Chicola's words as a threat to his physical security. "If something happens to Evo," he said, "he will be responsible."

Morales joked that the US is nervous about the success of his movement. "When the dog barks, it is because someone is walking by," he said. He also noted that while earlier attacks had come from the Embassy, "now they do it from the White House."

11. Newsbrief: US Invasion Liberates Iraqi Heroin, Cocaine Sales

Hard drugs have appeared for sale in the streets of Baghdad for the first time in years in the wake of invading US forces, according to a weekend report in Britain's The Independent. The report describes growing anger in Baghdad over the US failure to restore order in a city awash in crime and weapons. "Heroin, banned under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship upon pain of hanging, is now being traded in back streets," the newspaper reported.

"In Iraq there were no drugs until March 2003," pharmacist Salah Sha'amikh told The Independent. "You would be hanged for trafficking. But now you can get heroin, cocaine, anything." Waving a Russian-made pistol he carried to protect his wares, he added: "We are an Islamic society and we don't like drugs. You tell Tony Blair to stop these criminals."

Despite occasional salacious reports about drug use in Hussein's inner circle or among his sons, Iraq during the Hussein era was a virtual non-entity in the global drug war. The country was not mentioned in either the State Department's most recent annual report ( or the International Narcotics Control Board's most recent report (

Whether Iraq was actually as drug free as as Sha-amikh claims, of course, is another question.

13. Newsbrief: You Better Watch Yer Ass in Texas, Boy

The Texas of Court of Criminal Appeals, notorious among Lone Star state legal observers for bending over backwards to uphold police practices, has ruled that police officers can peer between the unclothed buttocks of detainees as part of a search incident to arrest. On April 23, the court upheld a Harris County (Houston) trial court decision allowing rocks of crack cocaine found between the buttocks of Houston resident Danny Joe McGee to be used as evidence against him.

According to court records, Houston police received a tip that McGee was selling crack and hiding it between his buttocks. Police went to the scene, claimed they smelled marijuana and found a blunt nearby, detained McGee, took him to a fire station, forced him to pull down his pants and underwear and "bend and spread 'em," revealing several small baggies containing crack rocks, whereupon he was arrested for possession of crack cocaine.

The question for the court to consider was whether Houston police needed to obtain a warrant before strip-searching McGee or whether a visual body-cavity search can be considered part of a search incident to arrest. The judges ruled that such searches can be done incident to arrest, but only if they are "reasonable." The search of McGee was reasonable given the circumstances, the court held.

But given the facts of the case, that ruling was "strained," said University of Texas law professor George Dix. He told Texas Lawyer magazine that even if police had probable cause to arrest McGee, the crime in question was marijuana possession, not selling crack from one's butt. "It's two separate things -- selling cocaine from an inventory in your rear and smoking dope with your buddies," Dix said.

McGee's attorney, Kevin Howard, said there wasn't even probable cause to arrest McGee for anything. Howard said once someone told police McGee had crack in his butt, they found a pretext to determine whether the information was true.

Those arguments were good enough for Houston's 14th Court of Appeals to rule that the crack was unlawfully seized in a warrantless search unjustified by the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed. Or at least a 7-2 majority did. One member, Judge Tom Price, opined in a dissenting opinion that the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. "There was no evidence from which a reasonable officer could conclude that the Evidence located between [McGee's] buttocks would be destroyed during the time necessary to obtain a warrant," Price wrote.

"If officers can do this, no telling where this will stop," Howard told the Texas Lawyer. "It easily could have been a female who was told to spread her legs and got searched." That prospect troubled another Houston criminal lawyer, Brian Wice, who asked the Texas Lawyer whether such a search would be reasonable when the detainee is a woman. "The female body has more space available for lease when it comes to secreting contraband," he noted.

14. Newsbrief: Utah Supreme Court Restricts Random Roadblocks, Again

For the second time in three years, the Utah Supreme Court has ruled that highway checkpoints set up for specific public safety reasons cannot be used as a pretext to subject vehicles and drivers to unwarranted searches. Such roadblocks must be limited to their express purposes, the court ruled in the case of a Colorado man arrested for drug possession after being stopped at a "drivers license and registration" checkpoint on Interstate 70 near Salina in February 2000.

Robert Abell was deemed by police at the checkpoint to be "very nervous," not dressed for the weather, and to smell of marijuana. Police turned drug-sniffing dogs on the vehicle, and they found two grams of cocaine and 10 grams of marijuana. As the Salt Lake Tribune acerbically noted in a Tuesday editorial lauding the ruling, the drug dogs were "apparently on hand to help officers check drivers' licenses and turn signals."

"Here the checkpoint was ostensibly a drivers' license check, but included a half-dozen other checks unrelated to drivers' license violations," wrote Chief Justice Christine Durham in overturning a lower court ruling allowing the evidence seized at the checkpoint to be used against Abell. "We see no justification for allowing the state to use the interest in enforcing the drivers' license requirement as the predicate for permitting officers to conduct investigations for which they would otherwise need a warrant, probable cause or reasonable suspicion."

The court's ruling in the Abell case is in line with its ruling in the 2000 case of Henry Thomas DeBooy, also arrested for drug possession at a "public safety" roadblock. In that ruling, the court held that "multipurpose, general warrant-like intrusions on the privacy of persons using the highway are unacceptable."

The court last week agreed, warning that allowing such checkpoints to become all-purpose stop-and-search fests for law enforcement was a practice akin to the Crown warrants of colonial days that allowed officials to search anyone, anywhere, anytime they felt like it. "A free society cannot tolerate such a practice," the Utah Supreme Court held.

15. Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Revisit Roadblock Ruling

The US Supreme Court announced May 5 it would revisit its 2000 ruling that police checkpoints could not be used for general law enforcement purposes. In that case, the court held that roadblocks set up by Indianapolis police for the express purpose of catching drug law violators were an unconstitutional invasion of drivers' privacy.

The court has already upheld the use of roadblocks for public safety purposes, such as checkpoints to look for drunk drivers, and for immigration control purposes near foreign borders. Now Illinois, joined by 14 other states, has asked the court to clarify how far police may go. It has appealed an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that police could not randomly stop drivers in order to solicit tips about a crime.

The case, Illinois v. Lidster, arose when Chicago police set up a checkpoint designed to seek information about a hit-and-run accident. Police stopped each car for 10 to 15 seconds -- long enough to hand out a flier and ask for information -- but when Robert Lidster drove up, police arrested him for driving while intoxicated. Lidster appealed his conviction, arguing that the stop was unconstitutional, and the Illinois Supreme Court agreed.

Now, the US Supreme Court will offer its opinion. The case will be significant, Northwestern University law professor Ronald Allen told the Associated Press, because the court will "either tighten up or loosen up the power of the government to do a dragnet, stopping everybody."

16. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

Ah, temptation. It was too much for former New York City police officer Homero Zapata, who was last week sentenced to six years in prison for laundering as much as $6 million in cocaine profits for Colombian dealers in Queens. Zapata was busted in 2000 while driving in South Carolina. A suspicious highway patrolman decided Zapata was acting nervous, called for the drug dogs, and subsequently found $200,000 in cocaine-contaminated cash beneath a blanket being used by Zapata's wife, Liliana Lopez-Zapata.

The Zapatas pled guilty to money laundering charges in March 2002 during their trial. His wife awaits sentencing. He apologized profusely for the harm he had caused the police force, his friends and his family before being led away.

17. Newsbrief: New Jersey Drug Warrior Prescribes More Aggression

Egged on by Fox News Channel ranter Bill O'Reilly, Passaic County (NJ) Sheriff Jerry Speziale ( called for the United States to seal its border with Mexico, send more Special Forces to Colombia, and cut off economic assistance to a number of Latin American countries. Speziale's prescriptions for victory in the drug war came during an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor" on May 7th as the sheriff flogged his just-published book on his career as an undercover narc whose exploits included infiltrating the so-called Cali cartel.

During the interview, Speziale recommended Panama invasion-style military operations against countries who are not cooperating in the drug war. "We have to go in strong," he said. "We have to deal with the foreign governments and make sure they are 100% with us in this fight against narcotics."

The war could be won despite "a lot of bureaucratic stuff that holds us back" from invading other countries, said Speziale, presumably referring to congressionally-imposed human rights conditions, international law and the UN Charter of Human Rights.

Prodded by O'Reilly, long a vocal proponent of militarizing the US-Mexican border, Speziale recommended blockading that country. "We're never going to beat these guys, because they just bribe their way in and out of everything," O'Reilly said. "And they have territories, and we can't invade Mexico, you know."

"But you know what we can do?" Speziale replied. "We can cut the economic aid that we supply to these countries." The US government wouldn't do that, "they won't even seal the border," O'Reilly complained. Speziale said, "Yes, but if we're really looking to have this war, that's what we need to do... because this is a form of terrorism that's against our country already."

Speziale retired as a narc in 1997, citing stress and sleep deprivation that made him delirious and paranoid, but his mental state was cause for comment long before that. In his memoir, "The Lost Son," former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik wrote that "Jerry Speziale was a nut," while one former NYPD colleague described him as "manic." Speziale himself used terms like "crazy," "insane" and "deranged" to describe himself.


Jerry Speziale

But that didn't stop him from getting back in the game. First Speziale became a sheriff's deputy and registered Republican in Passaic County, where he was investigated for assaulting Democratic Party campaign workers in 1999. Then Speziale ran for and won the Democratic Party nomination for sheriff, and was elected in 2001. Speziale's ascent has also, unsurprisingly, caused fissures in the local Democratic Party, with Democratic county Freeholder Georgia Scott, an African-American from Paterson, booted from the ballot by party higher-ups after refusing to support the hyperkinetic drug warrior.

18. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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

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

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

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 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 for further information.

May 29, 8:30am-noon, Honolulu, HI, "Making Diversion Programs Work: Implementing the Hawaii and California Laws," forum on treatment instead of incarceration program. At McCoy Pavilion, Ala Moana Beach Park, $10 donation requested, call Darlene at (808) 384-7794 for further information.

May 29, noon, Washington, DC, "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use," book forum with author Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine, with response by Sally Satel. At the Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave., luncheon to follow, visit or contact Krystal Brand at (202) 789-5229 or [email protected] for info or to register.

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

June 4, 2:00pm, New York, NY, protest against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, with Russell Simmons and the Hip Hop Action Network, and Mothers of the New York Disappeared. At City Hall, Foley Square, visit or for information.

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

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

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 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 for further information.

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

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

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