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

Issue #288, 5/23/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Outrage at Outrages
  2. No Marijuana Possession Law in Ontario, Court Rules -- Cops Vow to Keep Arresting Users Anyway
  3. Hip Hop Nation Set to Rock the Rockefeller Laws -- Mass Protest Set for June 4 if Laws Not Repealed
  4. GOP Effort to Let Drug Czar Propagandize Against Reform Stalled in House Committee
  5. Drug Testing Has No Impact on Student Drug Use, Study Finds
  6. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users -- International Day of Action, June 12
  7. CNN Special Report on "Killing Pablo"
  8. Newsbrief: Rosenthal Loses Motion for New Trial, Sentencing Date Looms
  9. Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana -- Yes in Maryland, No in Connecticut
  10. Newsbrief: "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act" Reintroduced
  11. Newsbrief: "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Student Loan" Bill Introduced in Wisconsin
  12. Newsbrief: House Committee Takes Slap at Needle Exchange
  13. Newsbrief: Garcia Marquez Says Legalize Drugs to End Colombian Violence
  14. Newsbrief: Scotland Yard Chief Says Legalize It
  15. Newsbrief: British Government to Issue Guidelines for Heroin Prescriptions, Pilot Programs Coming Soon
  16. Newsbrief: Australian State to Do Medical Marijuana Trials
  17. Newsbrief: "Indian Hemp" Farmers Shoot It Out With Nigerian Narcs
  18. Media Scan: Cockburn on Rosenthal, Forbes on Buying Initiatives, CNN on Bad Drug Raid
  19. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)


David Borden

1. Editorial: Outrage at Outrages

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/23/03

"This time they've gone too far" is a frequently felt sentiment in the anti-drug war movement. How dare Thailand's government slaughter hundreds of suspected drug offenders with no trial? How can the cruelty of mandatory minimum sentences such as the Rockefeller Drug Laws survive in a civilized society? How can some members of Congress be so treasonous as to attempt to legalize government campaigning on the taxpayer's tab against drug reform ballot initiatives? And how can federal jurists imprison compassionate caregiver Ed Rosenthal for years, not even allowing his jury to know the fundamental truth of his case, that he was a medical marijuana provider?

On June 4, a vastly expanded coalition opposing New York State's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws will take to the streets of Manhattan to demand an "end to slavery," as one organizer put it, full repeal and nothing less. The same day, advocates nationwide will demonstrate on behalf of Ed Rosenthal, coinciding with his sentencing. Outraged defenders of the rights of drug users will protest at embassies and consulates of the Thai government in England and elsewhere. And efforts to defeat the assault on democracy contained in the appropriations bill have taken a strong tone of moral outrage, with some success in gaining support within the halls of power.

Though public support in America for medical marijuana is overwhelming, still federal drug warriors refuse to respect the rights of the states, the will of the people or the needs of the patients. As abhorrent as are mandatory minimum sentences, as tragic and destructive their toll and as racist their application, still Congress and legislatures cling doggedly to their cruelty and wastefulness and keep those laws on the books -- sometimes taking small or even large positive steps in some quarters, but just as often escalating and making them worse.

Why? It is as the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass once expressed: "Power concedes nothing without a demand." Simply, the powerful vested political and economic interests benefiting from the drug war will not back down just because there are people who disagree with them, even a great majority of people. Only the power and ability to turn the knobs and levers of power, to enable political careers to succeed or to end them, will turn the tide against the drug war.

And that means that many more reform supporters need to actively show outrage at such outrages. Many more people need to take the time to go to the protests. Many more individuals, businesses and charities need to write more and larger checks to organizations that are pressuring leaders and educating the public on these issues. Many more enlightened citizens need to act on the alerts, write letters to the editor, deluge the offices of Congress and the states' capitols with phone calls, lobby, speak out, cry out for change with moral outrage until the powers have no choice but to listen.

It can happen, but you are the key. What can you do today to help stop the war on drugs?

2. No Marijuana Possession Law in Ontario, Court Rules -- Cops Vow to Keep Arresting Users Anyway

As of May 16, there is no law banning the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Ontario, Canada's most populous province. On that date, Ontario Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin upheld a lower court ruling that a Windsor teenager arrested for smoking marijuana in a park had not broken any law because Canada effectively has no marijuana law. The ruling is binding on courts in Ontario and should provide precedent for courts in other provinces, according to lawyers who successfully argued the case. Lower courts in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had already joined with the courts in Ontario pronouncing Canada's marijuana possession law null and void.

If the ruling stands, any moves by the Canadian government to decriminalize marijuana possession could actually "recriminalize" it. But the federal Justice Department is moving to have the case heard in the Ontario Court of Appeal, and in the meantime is vowing to continue to prosecute marijuana cases. "We are still of the opinion that the law against marijuana is valid," the department's Jim Leising told the Toronto Globe & Mail.

And Ontario law enforcement agencies are taking the same line, albeit with some confusion. In Windsor, across the border from Detroit, police spokesmen told the Detroit Free Press it would be business as usual. "Everything will be done the same way we've been doing it -- people will be arrested if they are caught with marijuana," said Sgt. Kevin Trudell of the Windsor Police drug investigation unit. A Toronto police spokesman who seemed unaware of the ruling told DRCNet: "Yes, we are arresting people for marijuana possession. The legislation is still in effect, and until it changes we will enforce the law." Ottawa Police and the Ontario detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not respond to DRCNet queries about their policies.

Lawyers who argued the case had a different take. The decision "has effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, who represented the Windsor teenager. "Canada's marijuana law has been nonexistent since July 31, 2001 [a year after the Canadian Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional] and Justice Rogin recognized that. His ruling makes it official, at least in Ontario," he told DRCNet. "This ruling is binding on all trial courts in the province. Any trial court here that hears a marijuana case is bound to find there is no offense."

Still, McAllister cautioned, it wouldn't be advisable to go out and flaunt one's pot-smoking. "I wouldn't encourage anyone to do that," he said, "even though I don't understand why the police, who are not trained in the law, would thumb their noses at an appeals court decision. Given this ruling, if police continue to arrest and prosecute people for marijuana possession, they are risking massive civil liabilities. They can't say they didn't know better."

And while federal prosecutors vow to continue to try marijuana possession cases, another attorney in the case told the Globe & Mail that people facing possession charges should demand their cases be heard now, while the law is nullified. "Anybody who's got a charge before the court should definitely take advantage of this," said Paul Burstein. Similarly, Burstein said, anyone charged in Ontario with marijuana possession since Rogin's ruling should consider suing the police for unlawful arrest.

Meanwhile, Canada's Supreme Court is now considering a trio of related cases that could wipe out possession laws nationwide ( Unlike the Ontario case, which McAllister said revolved around parliament's failure to enact a new marijuana law, the case before the Supreme Court addresses the issue of whether parliament has the constitutional right to punish marijuana possession given the lack of proven serious harms from its use. A ruling in that case is pending.

3. Hip Hop Nation Set to Rock the Rockefeller Laws -- Mass Protest Set for June 4 if Laws Not Repealed

After years of rising clamor, the New York Assembly moved last week to take a first tiny step at redressing the injustice of that state's draconian "Rockefeller laws," the tough anti-drug measures first put into effect under then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in the early 1970s. As part of a budget measure, legislators passed language that would result in the early release of some 800 drug offenders. But baby steps are not enough to quiet a growing coalition demanding repeal of those laws. And that coalition took a giant step earlier this month, when Russell Simmons, a major rap performer and entrepreneur, brought his Hip Hop Action Summit Network onboard and vowed to bring 100,000 people or more onto the streets of New York City on June 4 if the laws still stand.

The network joins a growing number of political figures, civil rights groups, drug reform organizations and prisoner-oriented groups such as Mothers of the Disappeared in an increasingly numerous and vocal coalition called Countdown to Fairness to bring an end to the Rockefeller laws. Those laws require long mandatory prison sentences -- up to 15 years to life -- for those convicted of possessing or selling relatively small amounts of drugs.

At a May 9 news conference, Simmons, head of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network announced: "The 'Countdown to Fairness' represents the broadest coalition ever assembled on this important issue. The hip-hop community's active involvement will help Governor Pataki and other state officials to see and feel the will of the people as we demand the repeal of these wack laws."

Among the rap performers and executives who have committed to supporting the campaign are Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z, Nas, Beastie Boys, Kevin Liles, Steve Rifkind, Reverend Run, Doug E. Fresh, Cash Money Crew, Ludacris, Red Man, Method Man, Keith Murray, Cam'ron, The Diplomats and Ghost Face.

But the Countdown to Fairness is bringing more than rappers to the cause. Groups like Mothers of the Disappeared and the Correctional Association of New York, which have been working in the trenches for years to change the Rockefeller laws, have now been joined by the likes of former New York gubernatorial Tom Golisano, former Democratic gubernatorial contender Andrew Cuomo, US Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer, US Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), John Conyers (D-MI), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Major Owens (D-NY) and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), former Senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), NY State Senators David Patterson, Eric T. Schneiderman, Liz Krueger, NY Assemblyman Jose Rivera, NY City Council Members Joel Rivera, Bill DeBlasio, Yvette Clarke, Larry Seabrook and Adam Clayton Powell III, as well as national civil rights leaders Kweisi Mfume, head of the NAACP, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III.

Organizations that have now signed on include the Congressional Black Caucus, the National Urban League, NAACP, Donna Lieberman and the ACLU, Nation of Islam, Rabbi Marc Schneier and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Bob Gangi and Drop the Rock (part of the original anti-Rockefeller law campaign), Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, Tony Miranda and the National Latino Officers Association, Frank Garcia and the Bronx Hispanic Association, the National Action Network, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Doe Fund and Dennis Rivera, and 1199 SEIU, New York's Health and Human Service Union.

"It seems to have more energy," said "Countdown to Fairness" supporter and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon of bringing the hip-hop element into the ongoing battle. "Whenever you can draw on a broad-based coalition, it can help, and I think that it's been infused with a new energy that'll be very constructive."

"Our leaders in Albany have talked about reform for years while thousands of low-level, nonviolent drug offenders remain in jail without good reason," said Cuomo, who is credited with bringing Simmons and the hip hoppers along. "At a time when we need to focus our limited resources on educating our children, caring for those who are sick, and punishing those who present true threats to our safety, we must reject these inhumane and wasteful laws. It is time to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws once and for all."

One of those long-time fighters in the trenches is Anthony Papa (, who served years on a Rockefeller sentence before being granted clemency in 1997 after his artwork drew Gov. Pataki's attention to his case. "Having Simmons on board takes this to a whole other level," Papa told DRCNet. "The governor and the Assembly have been dancing around this issue for years, but they don't want to see tens of thousands of people in the streets protesting in front of their offices. Gov. Pataki already sent his criminal justice man, Chauncey Parker, to meet with Simmons, and so has [Assembly leader] Sheldon Silver. They might be able to spin their vote last week as a reform move, but how are they going to spin a huge protest demonstration?"

All the more reason to be cautious of moves coming from Albany, said Randy Credico of the William F. Kunstler Foundation for Social Justice ( and the Mothers of the Disappeared. "I'm watching for some sort of anti-reform reform to come out of Albany," said Credico, "but this is 1859 and we're looking to abolish slavery, not modify it slightly. A minor reform now would be a surrender. We want repeal. We've been at this for six years now, and we aren't going to accept a shitty deal."

Other reform groups need to be careful not to get sucked into half-measures, said Credico. "They're trying to divide the groups up in Albany by appealing to groups that will settle for some small victory in order to maintain their fundraising," he said. "But we only get one bite of the apple, and we won't settle for what some people think is possible in the Senate. There is no support for compromise, no field troops for compromise, only a couple of think-tanks without ground troops. We don't want reform, we want repeal, we don't want just drug treatment, we want an end to illegal searches and no-knock warrants."

For Credico, the growing coalition is larger than the Rockefeller laws alone. "For the first time, we are seeing a convergence of the civil rights and anti-war movements with the movement for reform of the drug laws," he pointed out. "Now we can start looking at the bigger picture and inspire others who are fighting the country's drift toward fascism. This issue is being popularized and placed in a broader political context, and is moving from the state to the national and even global stage. Whoever wants to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 better pay attention and jump on board, because right now they're in the caboose."

In the meantime, the clock is running down on the governor and the state legislature. "We are declaring war on the governor of New York," Simmons said. "Any politician who supports this law is a criminal." And New Yorkers will be out by the tens of thousands on June 4 to echo that message.

4. GOP Effort to Let Drug Czar Propagandize Against Reform Stalled in House Committee


Mark Souder

An effort by House Republicans, led by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), to explicitly enable the Office of National Drug Control Policy ( to use its billion-dollar anti-drug advertising campaign to engage in partisan campaigns against political candidates or voter initiatives that favor drug legalization has run into a buzzsaw of opposition on Capitol Hill. The measure, part of the authorization bill for ONDCP spending, was supposed to have been voted on in the House Government Reform Committee Thursday, but has now been delayed at least until after the Memorial Day recess after GOP and Democratic members could not reach a compromise on the controversial language.

The authorization bill also contains language that would strip federal anti-drug funds from law enforcement in states with medical marijuana laws and transfer those funds to the DEA. That language may not survive, said reformers who are monitoring the legislation.

Lobbyists from the Marijuana Policy Project ( and the Drug Policy Alliance (, who led the effort to defeat the propaganda measure, declared Thursday's action a victory -- of sorts. "We've headed off the evil empire for the moment," said MPP director of communications Bruce Mirken.

"This was an initial victory," said DPA director of legislative affairs Bill Piper. "That they postponed the vote was significant," he told DRCNet. "They had the bill on a fast track, but with all the noise we made, all the phone calls members got, they couldn't push it through, and now we think we will get a change in the language."

Under the propaganda provision, authored by incorrigible drug warrior Souder, the existing law that bars ONDCP from using its $195 million per year anti-drug media campaign for partisan, political purposes would not apply when ONDCP is acting "to oppose an attempt to legalize the use" of any illegal drug. With open wording like that, the drug czar could legally campaign against sitting office-holders, such as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who has sponsored federal medical marijuana legislation or any candidate who campaigns on reforming the drug laws.

Stealthily tucked into the voluminous ONDCP authorization bill, the language went unnoticed until spotted by reformers. Some Democratic members felt "sandbagged," said DPA's Piper. "This has upset a lot of Democrats, who suddenly realized that if it passed, the Bush White House would have $195 million to use in partisan political campaigns next year," he said. "Any party would have a blank check to run taxpayer-funded ads against their opponents -- all they have to do is claim they're fighting drug legalization."

"While there were other issues at play here," said MPP director of government affairs Steve Fox, "the sticking point was the ad campaign and whether the drug czar could use those ads for political purposes. Thanks to the efforts of MPP and DPA, as well as a nicely-timed front page story yesterday in Roll Call, there is a strong and growing awareness of this issue among the members," he told DRCNet.

Feeling the heat, Souder earlier this week agreed to seek compromise language with committee Democrats, but that effort failed as the committee adjourned without a vote. The compromise language would have barred ONDCP from "expressly" advocating for or against a candidate or ballot measure, a move that would have allowed Walters to say "Candidate Smith supports making drugs available to children," but not "Vote against Candidate Smith because he supports making drugs available to children."

That wasn't enough to calm down the Democrats. "Some members felt there wasn't even anything to compromise on, this bill was so egregious," said DPA's Piper.

The propaganda provision's genesis presumably lies in last fall's initiative campaigns. Drug czar Walters campaigned against a Nevada initiative sponsored by MPP that would have legalized the possession of up to three ounces of marijuana by adults, prompting the group to file state and federal complaints alleging that Walters violated Nevada campaign finance laws and federal anti-electioneering laws. One GOP committee staffer told Roll Call the language merely sought to protect the drug czar. "What we are simply trying to clarify is that the regular operation of the media campaign, when it gets into things that some people want to claim and construe as political, is not political," the aide said.

"Because of this ongoing legal battle between MPP and the drug czar, there is real concern among the Republicans that the drug policy reformers will win in court somewhere -- maybe even in the court of public opinion -- and their campaigns will be crippled," said Piper. "They are also concerned that their regular anti-marijuana ads could be construed as campaign ads even if they're not talking about a specific candidate or initiative."

The battle will be rejoined within a matter of weeks, and reformers are increasingly confident they can block the propaganda provision. "We have a strong chance of removing this," said Piper, "although we may end up with language explicitly saying that the anti-marijuana ads are okay, they're not campaign ads."

"We're going to keep up the pressure," said MPP's Fox. "We'll be reaching out to other groups outside the drug reform community. When you're doing this sort of lobbying, step one is creating public awareness. That has happened now, especially with everyone on the Hill reading the Roll Call article. Now we have to keep on top of this and see what sort of new language they try. If it's more bad language, we'll fight that, too."

While the authorization bill provides funds for the anti-marijuana media campaign, there is little evidence the campaign is serving its stated purpose. The presidential budget submission for the 2004 fiscal year noted that "The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has not demonstrated the results sought and does not yet have adequate performance measures and related goals." Walters himself admitted earlier this year that "this campaign isn't reducing drug use."

That's right, said DPA's Piper. "All they're really doing is stating explicitly that this campaign is not about reducing teen drug use but about advancing a political agenda. Interestingly, one provision that was stripped out of the bill was one that required local treatment and prevention contact information on the ads. Taking the two provisions together tells us they've given up on using the ads to reduce teen drug use and will turn the ads into a blatantly political operation."

5. Drug Testing Has No Impact on Student Drug Use, Study Finds

While the US Supreme Court has twice okayed the drug testing of school kids on the grounds that the invasion of their privacy is offset by the role of drug testing in preventing drug use, the first major study of the efficacy of drug testing in schools has found that it just isn't so. In fact, the study found that drug use is as frequent in schools with testing as in schools without it. The findings, which every activist faced with a proposal to institute school drug testing should have in hand, are a serious blow to the rationale behind school drug testing.

The federally-financed survey of 76,000 students and 891 schools across the country, conducted by the social scientists at the University of Michigan who do the Monitoring the Future surveys of student drug use, came up with only statistically insignificant differences between schools which subject their students to drug testing and those that don't. Among 12th graders, for example, 37% reported having smoked pot at schools that tested, while 36% reported doing so at schools that didn't. Similarly, 21% reported having used other drugs at schools that tested, while 19% reported doing so at schools that didn't. The findings hold true with other grades as well, the researchers reported.

The survey represents the only large or nationally representative sample of schools that has ever been used to evaluate the effectiveness of school drug testing.

"It suggests that there really isn't an impact from drug testing as practiced," said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston in announcing the study results. "We think the reason so few schools test their students for drugs is that it is an expensive undertaking. Schools are very pressed for funds, and I would say that the results of our investigation raise a serious question of whether drug testing is a wise investment of their resources. It's also very controversial with a lot of students and parents," Johnston added.

"The way that drug testing in the schools has been carried out looks very unpromising. I have no doubt one could design drug testing programs that could deter teen drug use, but at what monetary cost and what cost in terms of the intrusion into the privacy of our young people?" Johnston asked.

Some 19% of schools nationwide had some sort of drug testing program in place, the study found, but of those, the vast majority tested only "on suspicion," that is, when a student was already suspected of using drugs. Only 5% of schools test student athletes and only 4% test students involved in extracurricular activities, the two groups singled out by the Supreme Court for special attention. Another 4% of schools test students who volunteer to be tested. (Many of the schools that test athletes also test students in extracurricular activities or who volunteer, suggesting that rigorous drug testing programs are probably underway in less than 10% of all schools.)

The results of the study could put a damper on the use of drug testing in the schools, according to one attorney who has played a lead role in litigating school drug testing cases. "Now there should be no reason for a school to impose an intrusive or even insulting drug test when it's not going to do anything about student drug use," said Graham Boyd of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Policy Litigation Project, who argued the case against drug testing before the Supreme Court last year.

While the Supreme Court, in its two rulings allowing drug testing of student athletes (1995) and students involved in extracurricular activities (2002), may have allowed ideology to trump science in finding that drug testing prevents teen drug use, now the science is available to rebut that presumption. Battles to block student drug testing may have been lost at the high court, but this study provides powerful ammunition to win them at the school district level.

The full study, "The relationship between student illicit drug use and school drug-testing policies," published in the Journal of School Health, can be found at online.

6. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users -- International Day of Action, June 12

A coalition of organizations has launched an international day of action, in support of drug users in Thailand, scheduled for June 12. Initial supporters of the collective action include Lifeline, The (Methadone) Alliance, the UK Harm Reduction Alliance, Transform Drug Policy Institute and the International Harm Reduction Association, along with many drug user activists and others who are outraged at the extra-judicial killing of drug users that has become common in Thailand since their government pledged to completely eliminate drug use this year.

Support has been pledged by Lifeline Publications to bring Thai drug users over to the UK for the day of action and to provide a firsthand account of their experiences. The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) has pledged to pay for accommodation and expenses for the visit.

There will be high profile actions in support of Thai drug users at the Thai Embassy in London and at the consulate in Liverpool and in other regions across the UK. Plans are rapidly being developed and will be announced on both the UKHRA and Lifeline web sites as soon as they are confirmed.

The coalition is calling on all drug services, drug user groups and individuals to support this action. While the plight of drug users is dire in many countries, the sheer loss of life in Thailand at this moment is at a different level: 3,000 people have been killed since January in the government's war on drugs.

Demonstrations will be held outside the Thai consulate in Liverpool and the Thai Embassy in London on June 12. The coalition also asks those who cannot attend to arrange a minute of silence in their workplaces at 2:OOpm on that day.

T-shirts supporting the action can be purchased from Lifeline, with all profits going to the Thai Drug User Network. Visit or to buy your t-shirt or for further details about the event and situation. Contact Michael Linnell at [email protected] for further information, to pledge support or to find out about organizing a local event.

DRCNet coverage of the recent Thailand killings:
Other Thailand drug war coverage:

7. CNN Special Report on "Killing Pablo"

Pablo Escobar

The CNN special report on the demise of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar will air this Sunday, May 25, 8:00pm and 11:00pm EST, and Saturday, May 31, 6:00am, 8:00pm and 11:00pm EST. While DRCNet has not reviewed the report, if it is complete then it will include discussion with Gustavo de Greiff, the attorney general of Colombia who organized the operation that led to Escobar's defeat. Visit


Gustavo de Greiff
em Mérida

Dr. de Greiff is a vigorous advocate of drug legalization, and was a featured speaker at our Latin America conference last February, "Out from the Shadows: Ending Drug Prohibition in the 21st Century." Visit the Out from the Shadows web site at to read the Week Online interview with de Greiff and to watch the exciting online video footage of his speech, available in both English and Spanish.

Visit for more about "Killing Pablo."

8. Newsbrief: Rosenthal Loses Motion for New Trial, Sentencing Date Looms

California medical marijuana activist and cultivation expert Ed Rosenthal is one step closer to federal prison after a judge denied his motion for a new trial. Rosenthal, who grew marijuana for patient providers in compliance with state law and the approval of local authorities, was convicted on federal marijuana cultivation and trafficking charges. The bespectacled author of numerous books on marijuana cultivation now faces up to 85 years in prison and a minimum of five years at sentencing hearing set for June 4.

Rosenthal was convicted on federal charges after a trial in which US District Judge Charles Breyer refused to allow him to mention medical marijuana or California's law in his defense. After the trial, jurors in the case denounced their own verdict, saying they would not have convicted Rosenthal had they known the whole story and creating a wave of national attention to the federal persecution of the medical marijuana movement.

In his motion for a new trial, Rosenthal claimed Breyer erred by refusing to let him argue in his defense that he believed he was immune from federal prosecution under state law and local action, by improperly excluding potential jurors who had favorable beliefs about medical marijuana, and by improperly instructing the jury about its right to nullify the law by voting not guilty. Rosenthal also argued that juror misconduct -- one juror asked a lawyer friend for advice about jury nullification and was told to follow the judge's instructions -- violated his right to a fair trial.

But Judge Breyer was having none of it. No federal official ever told Rosenthal he was immune from prosecution, Breyer wrote in a 27-page opinion upholding his own courtroom rulings. And federal law superseded state law, anyway. "Since the Civil War this country has recognized that whatever the views of local governments, such views do not control the enforcement of federal law," he wrote. Neither did his instructions to the jury "preclude the jury from bringing its sense of justice to bear on its verdict, nor did they divest the jury of its inalienable right to nullify," Breyer wrote. "As such, Rosenthal is not entitled to a new trial on this basis." And the fact that a juror's friend advised her to follow the law "interfered with [her] inclination to disobey it" is hardly basis for appeal, Breyer wrote.

Rosenthal told the Associated Press he would appeal Breyer's ruling to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, while Breyer told the courtroom he would consider legal reasons to sentence Rosenthal to less than the five-year mandatory minimum sentence on June 4. With both time and legal options running short, it appears that the Bush administration's determination to stamp out medical marijuana experimentation in the states will soon turn the "guru of ganja" into one very high profile federal prisoner.

9. Newsbrief: Medical Marijuana -- Yes in Maryland, No in Connecticut

Medical marijuana advocates won one and lost one at statehouses this week. In Maryland, Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) signed into law HB 702, the Darrell Putnam Compassionate Use Act. Ehrlich's signature marked not only Maryland's first medical marijuana law, but the first time a Republican governor has signed such a bill anywhere. The bill, which does not legalize marijuana for medical purposes but does provide for a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, passed the Maryland legislature this year after several years of defeats.

There had been some concern that Ehrlich would not sign the bill. He had been a supporter of medical marijuana in his election campaign, but once the bill had passed the legislature, foes of medical marijuana, including drug czar John Walters, pressured Ehrlich not to sign it. That pressure didn't work, and Ehrlich signed the bill into law on Thursday. Maryland becomes the ninth state to protect its medical marijuana patients from jail and the second to act to do so through the legislative process.

Connecticut won't be the third state to do so, at least not this year. On Wednesday, the Connecticut House of Representatives defeated a medical marijuana bill on a vote of 79-64. The bill would have allowed doctors to certify that a patient needed marijuana for medical purposes and would have allowed patients to grow a limited number of plants.

In Connecticut, compassion ran up against fear of marijuana, with opponents worrying aloud that such a bill would "send the wrong message," that marijuana was not proven effective as a medicine, and that protecting medical marijuana patients was a back-door maneuver by the "drug legalizers."

10. Newsbrief: "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act" Reintroduced


Barney Frank

A bipartisan group of legislators, including Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA) and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) have reintroduced the "States Rights to Medical Marijuana Act." The bill would reschedule marijuana under federal law so that states that wish to enact medical marijuana laws can do so without fear of federal persecution. If the bill were to pass, federal prosecution of medical marijuana users in states that have legalized the practice would end and states could actually experiment with various means of providing marijuana to patients.

This marks the sixth time the bill has been introduced, and while it has yet to gain a committee hearing, the number of cosponsors continues to increase. So far this session, legislators who have signed on to cosponsor the bill include Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Ed Case (D-HI), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), William Delahunt (D-MA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Michael Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), George Miller (D-CA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ron Paul, (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), Fortney H. "Pete" Stark (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

That comes to 22 Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent.

11. Newsbrief: "Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Student Loan" Bill Introduced in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin legislator is seeking to emulate the federal Higher Education Act (HEA) anti-drug provision at the state level. Rep. Robin Kreibich (R-Eau Claire) has introduced a bill that would bar college students with drug convictions from receiving state financial aid. Assembly Bill 342, which is modeled on the HEA anti-drug provision, makes college students convicted of a state or federal drug offense "ineligible for a state grant, loan, or work assistance for a period of two years following a conviction" and ineligible for an "indefinite period" following a second offense—unless he or she submits to drug treatment.

Robin Kreibich

The Wisconsin bill marks the first time such legislation has been introduced in any state. Under the anti-drug provisions of the federal HEA, nearly 100,000 college students have been denied federal financial aid because of drug convictions, including some 29,000 this academic year. The HEA anti-drug provision has already sparked a national coalition, including educators, universities, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, and the rapidly-growing Students for Sensible Drug Policy (, which grew to national prominence in that campaign.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Colleges and Universities, where a public hearing was set for Wednesday. No reports on the hearing were available at press time.

Visit to read the bill online.

12. Newsbrief: House Committee Takes Slap at Needle Exchange

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce took an unnecessary slap at needle exchange programs (NEPs) on May 15, when it approved legislation that would bar groups who receive federal funding for health care services to runaway youths from using those funds for NEPs directed at young people. Such groups could still use private funding to do needle exchanges. The committee approved the ban on NEPs as part of a bill authorizing more than $100 million in federal spending for homelessness and teen runaway programs next year.

Federal regulations already ban the expenditure of federal funds for needle exchange programs, but the legislation was a chance for Capitol Hill moralists such as Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO), who authored the amendment, to do a little cheap posturing. "The last thing we need to do for a homeless child is enable them to continue the injection of illegal drugs into their body," she told the committee.

While the committee bit on Musgrave's symbolic attack on NEPs, it rejected another amendment from the Colorado crusader. That amendment would have barred federally funded groups from distributing contraceptives.

The bill now goes before the full House. The Senate has yet to take up any complementary legislation.

13. Newsbrief: García Márquez Says Legalize Drugs to End Colombian Violence


Gabriel García Márquez

Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez has once again called publicly for the legalization of drugs. In a message sent by video hook-up from Mexico City, García Márquez told a conference convened Saturday to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the University of Antioquia en Medellin that it was impossible to end the violence in his home country without ending drug prohibition. "It is impossible to imagine an end to the violence in Colombia without the elimination of the drug trade, and it is unimaginable to end the drug trade without the legalization of drugs, which become more dear the more they are prohibited," said the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

Comparing Colombia's current bloody, multi-sided civil war with La Violencia, the deadly upheaval that wracked the country in the 1940s and 1950s, García Márquez noted that last year there were "about 400,000 Colombians who had to flee their houses or plots because of the violence, just as 3,000,000 had to do for the same reason a half-century ago. The displaced are the embryo of another country -- almost as populous as Bogota, perhaps more so than Medellin -- that goes in search of a place to survive with nothing more than the shirt on its back," García Márquez said. "The paradox is that those fugitives are victims of a violence sustained by two of the most profitable businesses in the world: the drug traffic and the illegal arms trade."

As for the United States effort to wipe out the drug trade and the country's leftist guerrillas, García Márquez said such policies showed an "imperial voracity" toward Colombia. President Alvaro Uribe, whose hard-line policies are strongly backed by Washington was in attendance at the conference, but his reaction to García Márquez' remarks is unknown.

14. Newsbrief: Scotland Yard Chief Says Legalize It

One of Britain's most senior police officers has joined the legalization chorus. Chief Superintendent Anthony Wills, borough commander of Hammersmith and Fulham in London, called for the government to take over the drug trade since it cannot stop it.

In an interview with the Hammersmith and Shephards Bush Gazette last week, Wills said even hard drugs, such as crack cocaine and heroin, should be legalized. "I would have no problems with decriminalizing drugs full stop," said Mr Wills. "There have to be very stringent measures over the production and supply of drugs, and we have got to remove the drug market from criminals. I do not want people to take drugs, but if they are going to, I want them to take them safely, with a degree of purity and in a controlled way."

Wills repeated his insistence that he was not promoting drug use. "I am not saying people should take drugs. They are very bad for you, but the reality of the world we live in is this: If people want to get drugs, they can get them. Drugs are a fact of life, and you cannot eradicate them," Wills said. "My only concern is to increase the safety of the community and not to allow these ghastly people to make a fortune out of other people's misery."

Wills, a 30-year veteran who commands more than 2,000 officers, said that no matter how harsh drug laws are, they are doomed to failure. "There are some places where people are beheaded if they sell drugs, but even this does not stop the trade."

And enforcing the cannabis laws is a waste of police resources, Wills added. "I am very liberal in relation to possession of drugs," he said. "Policing cannabis is a waste of our time, as I do not feel the effects of cannabis are any worse than over-consumption of alcohol."

Wills may have joined the growing number of high police and government officials who have gone off the reservation on drug policy, but the Blair government remains steadfast. "All controlled drugs are harmful and will remain illegal," the Home Office noted tersely in response to Wills' remarks. "The Government's drug strategy focuses on the most dangerous drugs as the misery they cause cannot be underestimated. We have not seen the interview and so cannot comment on it."

15. Newsbrief: British Government to Issue Guidelines for Heroin Prescriptions, Pilot Programs Coming Soon

British Home Secretary David Blunkett told a meeting of British general practitioners on May 16 that the government is about to issue guidelines that will allow specialist doctors to prescribe heroin for a limited number of hard-core drug users. The guidelines will be followed by the start-up of pilot programs in which doctors will prescribe heroin to help users manage their addiction and lessen their criminal behavior.

"We need radical thinking about how we engage them [hard-core drug users] in treatment," Blunkett told the Sheffield conference. "Prescribing heroin is all about what is right for the individual. It is about making it available to all those with a clinical need."

Currently, some 440 people are being prescribed heroin in Britain. That number would not increase dramatically, Blunkett said, adding that most addicts would still be treated with methadone.

But doctors at the conference warned Blunkett that most physicians would decline to get involved in heroin prescribing because they feared police action. The Royal College of General Practitioners is also less than enthusiastic about the heroin prescription plan. "We caution against any expansion in the prescribing of heroin in a primary care setting until there is clearer evidence around its efficacy," the college said in a position paper.

But querulous physicians notwithstanding, prescription heroin is coming to Britain once again.

16. Newsbrief: Australian State to Do Medical Marijuana Trials

The Australian state of New South Wales will begin a four-year trial program allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons, NSW Premier Bob Carr announced Tuesday. Carr told parliament the move was aimed at alleviating the suffering of people in severe pain.

"This is a compassionate scheme," the premier said. "It's directed at people like the 62-year-old man with bowel cancer who uses cannabis to relieve pain and to beat the nausea that stops him from eating. Medical evidence supported the proposition that in a number of these cases marijuana can relieve the symptoms of suffering, and we have an obligation wherever we can to minimize human pain and human distress," Carr said.

The premier added that legislation with strict safeguards and penalties would be introduced in the spring session of parliament. Under the Carr plan, patients would have to win approval through a new Office of Medical Cannabis within the NSW Health Department. "Patients must be able to show that conventional treatment will not relieve their suffering, Carr said.

"We're talking about people suffering wasting due to cancer and HIV/AIDS, nausea from chemotherapy, severe or chronic pain, muscle spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis and spinal cord injuries."

People convicted of an illicit drug offense (except a minor personal use offense), on parole, under 18 years of age or pregnant will not be able to register as a user, he said.

17. Newsbrief: "Indian Hemp" Farmers Shoot It Out With Nigerian Narcs

The weed wars have reached West Africa. According to reports from the Vanguard (Lagos), drug warriors from Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) shot it out with pot farmers in the Ugbogie woods in Edo state on May 10. In a quaint throwback to the country's legacy as a British colony, newspapers there still refer to marijuana as "Indian hemp," the name British colonial administrators used to describe cannabis when they ran across it in India.

After a "fierce shootout" in which no one was hurt or killed, NDLEA narcs arrested three farmers and seized two guns, 15 bullets, a battle axe, a motorcycle, and about 300 pounds of Nigerian weed.

"The suspects and their gang are notorious Indian hemp farmers in Ugbogie forest who use their arms to guard their farms and their farm produce," NDLEA local commander Harriman Manuwa told the Vanguard. "Information also has it that they kill people who get close to the area where they farm their Indian hemp, believing that they must be spies and also rob timber merchants that go into the forest for their legitimate timber business," he said.

"Those engaged in the nefarious activity of illicit trafficking in drugs in the state need to retrace their steps, otherwise they run the risk of being vigorously pursued until they are apprehended and dealt with according to the due process of law," Manuwa warned.

The Ugbogie bust was not unusual. According to the US State Department's annual report on drugs, "Cannabis is the only illicit drug produced in large quantities in Nigeria. The drug is cultivated in all 36 Nigerian states, and the crop is therefore large." The crop is consumed domestically and exported throughout West Africa and into Europe. And the NDLAE makes frequent raids. Last year, the narcs seized more than 300 metric tons of the weed, but always with the risk of confrontations with growers. As the State Department noted, "For many farmers cultivating cannabis, cannabis represents their sole source of income. The potential for emotional, even armed resistance to eradication campaigns exists. It is therefore difficult for the government to plan and execute eradication and interdiction efforts."

18. Media Scan: Cockburn on Rosenthal, Forbes on Buying Initiatives, CNN on Bad Drug Raid

Alexander Cockburn writes about Ed Rosenthal's recent marijuana conviction in "The rebellion and Its Martyrs":

Dan Forbes covers the Congressional attempt to allow anti-drug officials to overtly campaign against drug reform ballot initiatives with taxpayer dollars:

Mistaken drug raid causes heart attack, covered by CNN:

19. The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 23, 6:30-8:30pm, New York, NY, "Speak Out on the Rockefeller Drug Laws," forum with the Seven Neighborhood Action Partnership. At Mt. Sinai Medical Center, Goldwurm Auditorium, 1425 Madison Ave., 1st Floor (corner of 98th St.), featuring ex-prisoners and state and local legislators, including a Senatorial Proclamation from the office of state senator Paterson recognizing SNAP's work in East Harlem. For further information, contact Jennifer Arroyo or Jessica Dias at (212) 348-8142.

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, Washington, DC, "Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market," book talk with Eric Schlosser. At Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, visit or e-mail [email protected] for further 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 Jack Cole. 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 4, nationwide, National Day of Action protesting the sentencing of Ed Rosenthal. Sponsored by Americans for Safe Access, contact Hilary McQuie at (510) 486-8083 or [email protected] or visit for further 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 12, Liverpool, London and other locations, "Stop the Murder or Thai Drug Users," international Day of Action protesting extrajudicial killings in Thailand's drug war. Visit or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

June 16-20, Cartagena, Colombia, World Social Thematic Forum, including drug policy track organized by Mama Coca. For further information, visit or contact María Mercedes Moreno at [email protected], or contact the World Social Thematic Forum at +1 571 3480781 or [email protected].

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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