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

Issue #292, 6/20/03

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. DRCNet Needs Your Help
  2. Editorial: No Drug War Exception to Good and Evil
  3. The Gathering in Cartagena: The Global Social Forum Thematic Meeting on Democracy, Human Rights, War, and the Drug Trade
  4. DRCNet Interview: Nancy Obregón, Sub-Secretary General of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers
  5. DRCNet Interview: Anthropologist Anthony Henman
  6. Dozens of Students to Embark This Weekend on 50-Mile "Skate for Justice"
  7. Newsbrief: 12 Tulia Victims Walk Out of Jail
  8. No Rockefeller Reform This Session
  9. Candidate Dean Bending on Medical Marijuana
  10. Newsbrief: RAVE Act Reverberations
  11. Newsbrief: Teachers Against Prohibition Reborn as Educators for Sensible Drug Policy
  12. Newsbrief: Kentucky Supreme Court Tightens Law on Methamphetamine Prosecutions
  13. Newsbrief: Thais Get Drug War Help from US
  14. Newsbrief: US-Peru Anti-Drug Flights Set to Resume
  15. Newsbrief: Israeli Company Receives Notice of Allowance from US Patent Office for Synthetic Marijuana Pharmaceuticals
  16. Teen Facing 26 Years for First-Time Marijuana Offense Sentenced to Two
  17. Marc Mauer Testimony on Comparative International Rates of Incarceration
  18. The Reformer's Calendar
(read last week's issue)

(visit the Week Online archives)

1. DRCNet Needs Your Help

Dear Week Online reader:

Since we launched our latest book offer, Jacob Sullum's "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use," and appealed to our readers for to help us reach the fall when major grants are expected to be received, more than 250 of you have responded to the call with book orders and donations providing much-needed funds. Because of you, we continue!

Because we are looking at more months, however, DRCNet's adverse financial situation unfortunately still remains. We need more of your help, from more of you, in order to continue to operate and get through this difficult time. The fall is likely to see exciting and groundbreaking new projects at DRCNet, along with the rest of our core work. So please help assure DRCNet can continue functioning until then by visiting and making the most generous contribution you can afford -- $35 or more will still get you a free copy of "Saying Yes," or your choice of our other current membership premiums.

You can also send in your donation by mail -- visit and click on the PDF link to print out a form to send in, or just mail your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- and contact us for instructions if you'd like to make a contribution of stock. (Remember that that donations to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible. If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to support our educational work, make your check payable to DRCNet Foundation, same address.)

Please visit if you haven't read Phil Smith's review of "Saying Yes" in the Week Online, including pictures from an author reception last month, and visit for video footage of Sullum's book talk at the Cato Institute.

Again, please visit today so DRCNet can continue our crucial work toward stopping the unjust "war on drugs," including this newsletter.


David Borden

2. Editorial: No Drug War Exception to Good and Evil

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 6/20/03

This week's drug war news as usual includes no shortage of outrages. Despite the mass murder of more than 2,000 Thai drug suspects without trial by police in recent months, the supreme commander of Thailand's Army and the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff are meeting to discuss how they can help each other fight drugs. And in Peru, the military, assisted by US forces, will resume shooting down airplanes that they suspect or claim they suspect of carrying drugs -- also without trial.

Our government will not reduce our country's drug problem by helping other governments around the world commit murder. Any reductions in coca in Peru will be replaced by increases in other countries. Any reductions in opium in Thailand will be replaced by increased in other countries. This "balloon effect" is well demonstrated, has been happening reliably for decades, and any public official or pseudo-academic who claims otherwise or that it might be different next time is lying to us and/or himself.

There is no legitimate moral, intellectual or practical justification for encouraging or assisting drug war murders. Yet the powers and interests driving them have no desire to stop nor even slow down, neither abroad nor at home. Just as the death of Veronica Bowers, the 35-year old missionary shot out of the Peruvian sky in error, stopped the shootdowns only temporarily, the death of Alberta Spruill in New York City from a "no-knock" warrant prompted only temporary discussion -- they're not even talking about ceasing the deadly no-knock drug raids, though the innocent deaths happen again and again. The drug warmongers will concede nothing voluntarily, no matter how terrible or outrageous or execrable.

Since policymakers lack the moral clarity or political will in sufficient numbers to perceive and stop drug war atrocities by the agencies under their authority, it is up to people to demand it of them. We must expose the grotesque immoralities of the drug war, we must insist that fundamental ethics and proportion and due process be restored to laws and policies, and we must demand accountability. We must describe failure as failure, injustice as injustice, and murder as murder. And we must regard informed inaction as complicity, and deliberation human rights violations perpetrated or permitted by governments as no less condemnable than acts of violence committed by criminals or terrorists.

To do so would be to devalue the fundamental ideals of what is right and what is wrong that have stood the test of millennia. There is no drug war exception to good and evil.

3. The Gathering in Cartagena: The Global Social Forum Thematic Meeting on Democracy, Human Rights, War, and the Drug Trade

More than 4,000 activists and academics met in Cartagena, Colombia, on Monday for a week-long confab to discuss war and peace, democracy and repression, the drug war and drug legalization. Convening under the rubric of the Global Social Forum, whose first general session drew 30,000 people to Rio de Janeiro last year, this special thematic meeting marked the first time the so-called anti-globalization movement has put drug policy and drug prohibition on its international agenda.

But drug policy is only part of the social forum, with its dozens of speeches, panels, workshops and roundtables on topics ranging from women's rights to alternative media to organizing against violence, and much more. Even the most well-attended drug policy events draw only a quarter of the social forum participants, but that is unsurprising given the multiplicity of panels and forums going on at any given hour.

Drug reform is an issue whose supporters span a wide political range including the progressive left, the libertarian right, and others in between and outside those points on the ideological spectrum. The Cartagena forum fell solidly in the left portion of the spectrum, and this defined many of the aspects of gathering as a whole. Perhaps the single most outstanding feature of the forum was the drumbeat of criticism of the policies of the US government -- something that has been a staple of the Latin American left for decades, but which has now, in the post-Iraq war era, deepened and spread among delegates from all over the world.

This anti-Americanism, sharpened to an angry edge by the militarism of the Bush administration, was perhaps less evident in the drug policy sessions than among the forum in general, but it still informed the analysis of speaker after speaker. Strident words about US foreign policies, however, should come as no surprise at a meeting deliberately convened in Colombia, a country that has suffered terribly as US military aid to a government deeply complicit in the worst kinds of human rights abuses on one side, and drug trade profits on the other side, continue to escalate a decades-long civil war and violence of all kinds.

[While DRCNet was a willing participant in the social forum as part of its ongoing effort to help forge a global anti-prohibitionist movement, as an organization it takes no position on issues other than drug policy.]

Many panels consisted of presentations of academic work on various aspects of drug policy, while others provided a forum for peasant, student, youth and labor leaders to address their struggles with the war on drugs and its ramifications on their lives. Indeed, some of the most powerful presentations came not from scholars but from grassroots activists, such as Nancy Obregón of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Producers (interview below). "They call us the initiators of subversion, those who cause war, they say we are malicious and the coca leaf is evil," an impassioned Obregón told a rapt audience of hundreds. "Sadly, now to be a peasant is a sin. Our leader, Nelson Palomino remains in jail as a terrorist and a narco, and where does this persecution come from?" she asked. "Imperialism," she answered herself.

Talk of imperialism may sound quaint or trite to North American ears, but the view is quite different on the other side of the Caribbean. And on drug policy at least, they have a point -- as evidenced by the fact that Peru's president went straight to the US embassy for his next appointment after Obregón's meeting with him last spring.

"I'm not some big professor," Obregón continued, "just a humble peasant, but I speak from my heart. The sacred leaf is our life, and we are here to say no to the war on drugs, no to the violence it brings, no to war. We are defending the lives of the most humble, we are defending the kids who need a chance. The coca leaf is not a drug, cannabis is not a drug -- they are plants. They are not evil -- they are plants. This war on drugs is a big show and it is the great punishment of the world," she continued. "We must now stand against neoliberalism and with our Colombian comrades. The same that happened in Peru is now happening in Colombia -- more war, more hunger, more children without parents. We want Colombian children to live in a humane condition and we reject the violence of the war, whether by the government or the rebels or the paramilitaries. They talk about the war on drugs, but we are not drugs, we are human beings."

Just in case Obregón wasn't clear enough, Cuban academic Louis Soares drew the connections that seemed obvious to most of the audience. Noting that there had been no noises from Washington about invading countries like Holland, a leading manufacturer of synthetic drugs, particularly ecstasy, Soares declared that the US war on drugs is a "selective employment of the theme of consumption and traffic of drugs as part of a politics of aggression and hegemony toward the third world." Agreeing that plants are not somehow illicit, he blamed US capitalism. "Capitalism transforms the most sacred plants into commodities, then demonizes them," he said. "They do this to justify their politics of aggression. I invite all who have read the new Bush national security doctrine to note that it includes drug traffickers as one of the threats. This occurs within the political discourse that seeks to legitimize Plan Colombia, seeks to legitimize US military bases all over Latin America, and seeks to strengthen the forces of repression, supposedly to fight the drug traffic," he said to sustained and enthusiastic applause.

As DRCNet will report next week, not all the talk at the conference was the fire-breathing anti-American or anti-capitalist rhetoric exemplified by Soares. There were reasoned analyses of Afghanistan opium production and numerous micro-analyses of various aspects of the drug war, from the impact on peasants in the Andes to the rise of the drug "commands" in Brazil's favelas. Stay tuned for an in-depth report on the conference in our next issue.

Also next week, DRCNet will report on the resolution of an effort by global drug reformers, organized by the Mama Coca organization (, to form an international commission to research the damage done by prohibition as part of the struggle to convince governments and international organizations that prohibition must end. In a working session attended by nearly 80 drug reformers from around the world, participants began working to arrive at a consensus on whether a global commission was the correct step. There will be more meetings on this potentially very important step today (Friday), and DRCNet will update you on the results next week.

4. DRCNet Interview: Nancy Obregón, Sub-Secretary General of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers

Nancy Obregón, an indigenous peasant woman from Tocache province in Peru, has emerged as a leading voice among Peruvian coca growers. Elected to the second highest office in the national confederation, Obregón stepped forward with the arrest of confederation leader Nelson Palomino in February. She helped lead the cocaleros' (coca growers) "March of Sacrifice" to Lima last month and participated in negotiations over coca with the government of President Alejandro Toledo. Obregón also attended the "Out from the Shadows" hemispheric anti-prohibition conference in Mérida, Mexico, in February. DRCNet spoke with Obregón at the Global Social Thematic Forum in Cartagena, Colombia, Wednesday evening.

The Week Online: When DRCNet last reported on the struggles of the cocaleros in Peru, you had just marched into Lima and met with the government, and it appeared that you had won important concessions. But within days, contrary reports appeared. What happened? Was your "March of Sacrifice," as you called it, a success, did you win the concessions you wanted?

Nancy Obregón: We made many sacrifices for the March of Sacrifice, and although there were problems, I consider it a success, because we gained things we had never gained before. We always wanted to go the capital to talk to the youth, the educators, the people of Lima. We had never been able to do that, but thanks to the march we were able to. And not only in Lima. Whatever provinces we marched through, we gained the respect and support of the people. And we gained the respect of President Alejandro Toledo. When he came out and spoke to us, he said that the coca grower is not a drug trafficker.

Nancy Obregón in Mérida
We presented a program with our demands. We wanted the value of the coca leaf to Peru to be recognized once again. We wanted freedom for Nelson Palomino. We wanted a halt to the eradication of coca. We asked for the promulgation of a new coca law. Since 1978, the Peruvian Coca Enterprise (ENACO, the state coca monopoly) has controlled the lands where state-sanctioned coca is grown. Likewise, we wanted a study of the production of coca leaf for traditional use -- we are limited to 12,000 hectares, but that figure was set in the 1960s and is now obsolete. Because of population growth and new coca products, that figure should be two or three times higher. We asked for a commission to be formed to see where all the alternative development money went, because it sure didn't come to us. We wanted an end to new logging concessions in the forest. These foreign entrepreneurs come in and want concessions on coca land, then they cut down all the trees and don't replant and blame it on the coca growers. They're taking our land and our trees away from us, taking peoples' titles and paying 40 cents a hectare -- that's practically nothing. We also asked that the government address the problem of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and the importation of products from outside, especially agricultural ones, because this would harm our farmers and they have no way of competing. If we cocaleros as agricultural producers could send our products to other countries, it might be different, but we don't see any benefit in the FTAA. Also, we wanted a government commission to study the effects of fumigation and the impact of fusarium.

Those are things we proposed to the government, and the president's council of ministers agreed to put this in a supreme decree from the presidency. But [prime minister] Solari wrote the decree, and used lawyerly tricks in doing so. He used all sorts of subtle and ambiguous words to muddy what they had agreed to. And that same day, as we were about to enter the ministry to see the agreement, reporters told us the US ambassador had gone in. Then we went in and had to wait and wait.

Finally, Solari came out and told us our advisor, Baldomero Cáceres, had to leave because President Toledo wanted to speak with us, but Toledo never came out. Instead, Solari, DEVIDES [Peruvian anti-drug agency] head Nils Ericsson, drug advisor Armendina Veramendi and agricultural ministry advisors came out. They had the decree all written when they came out and it was supposed to be in agreement with our points, but we said we had to analyze this and when we went through it point by point, they were full of double meanings, and they said they couldn't release Palomino because they couldn't interfere with the judiciary.

They thought we were useful idiots because we are peasants. And when we argued in a private meeting with them, they said we had to agree. That's not what President Toledo said. He said if we were not in agreement, the door would be open. But that's not what Solari and Ericsson said. They said if you mess with us again, you're fucked. That's the kind of language they used. But Toledo said he wasn't in agreement with the decree as written. I asked him if he would give his word, and he said had given his word. And that's where we are.

WOL: In the wake of violent strikes and protests by teachers and the unemployed in Lima last month, President Toledo put the country under a state of emergency. What impact has that had on your movement?

Obregón: We knew that when the teachers went on strike we could have done a lot, but if we had acted we could have created a catastrophic situation like Argentina in the 1970s. We abstain from acts of violence or protest as long as the door is open for dialogue with the government. And the state of emergency hasn't really had many repercussions in the countryside; the protests of the teachers and the unemployed that led to the state of emergency were in the city, as are most of the repercussions. I think the people being harmed were not the government, but the common people. I think the state of emergency will end soon.

WOL: Is the door still open?

Obregón: We continue to believe so. The state of emergency is sad but necessary because of the acts of violence against public and private property. It is good to protest, but not to damage property. We are against war, we don't believe in violence to express our demands. That is not the way to make demands on the government.

WOL: Your movement and its leadership have been described in various accounts as being with the Shining Path or terrorists or narco-traffickers. How do you respond?

Obregón: We have always said that to defend the rights of the peasants is not terrorism. And to cultivate the coca is not the same as participating in the drug trade. Now the government is trying to pull a trick like in Colombia, they are trying to tie us to the Shining Path or the narcos, but those are lies, and they come from the US State Department and the US Embassy. They fear the specter of Evo Morales. But the problem is, if they continue with their eradication and their counterinsurgency approach, they will guarantee that the Shining Path revives. It is the negative impact of eradication and repression that makes people rise up, not us. And peasants in Peru are not thinking like peasants anymore, but like politicians. What happened in Bolivia could also happen in Peru and Colombia if there is not change.

They are afraid because on September 11, 2002, a year to the day after the twin towers fell, our confederation came into being. It was the result of our continuing frustration with the government and with DEVIDES. We have complained about repression against us and corruption in the alternative development programs for years, but nothing ever happened, nothing but promises that they never accomplished. We had 35 delegates sitting in the DEVIDES offices waiting to talk to them. We sat there for five hours and we realized these people were not defending us in the face of eradication, and we decided to form a transition committee for a national confederation.

Four months later, on January 20 of this year, we held our first national congress. Thus CONCPACCP (Confederacion Nacional de Productores Agropecuarios de las Cuencas Cocaleras del Perú, the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers) was born. Nelson Palomino from the Rio Apurimac valley was elected secretary general, and I was elected sub-secretary. I am from the department of San Martin in Tocache. We also elected as leaders Flavio Sanchez Moreno from Aguatiya, Elsa Monpartida Jara from Tingo Maria in the Upper Huallaga valley, Deodora Espinoza Barra from Aucayacu, Guillermo Mendoza from Tingo Maria and Juan Rios from Uchiza. We are peasants who grow coca, we are not terrorists or drug traffickers.

WOL: Nelson Palomino was arrested in February on charges of terrorism. What is going to happen with him?

Obregón: Those charges are false and malicious, but Nelson remains in prison in Ayacucho. We see him as being in jail with the coca leaf. He is growing politically in there, he is preparing himself in there, he is studying. I know the judicial process must take place, but we are confident he will be freed. Once he is free again, things will begin to change for us because now we are not thinking as humble peasants but as politicians. Instead of hurting Nelson and our movement, the government has done us a great big favor. The same way the Bolivian government does when it throws mud at Evo Morales. They are making Nelson more powerful. Bolivia has its Evo, Peru has its Nelson.

WOL: Repression within the legal system is not the only form repression takes, is it? I understand there have been attempts on your life.

Obregón: It is true, at least two times. Last year, when they were dramatically eradicating the coca in my country, I went to Lima to protest and I took with me videos of the actual fumigation operation -- it was from helicopters, with soldiers manually throwing the pesticide out the door -- and the agricultural products damaged by fumigation. The government said we were lying, but we said look, we have it on this video. This got somebody's attention, because in November, on a day I was supposed to be in Venezuela for a meeting, they burned my house down. I wasn't in Venezuela, I was at home because I got a funny feeling. I told my husband I didn't want to go. Luckily, none of us was injured, but I regard this as an attempt on me and my children. When we tried to put out the fire, suddenly the water pipes went dry. What a coincidence, huh? We later found out the pipes had been cut. I think it was the intelligence service that did it. That demoralized me and for two months I didn't do anything with the movement, but I came back. I told one of the government bureaucrats, "You tried to kill me, you burned down my house, but I'm not dead, I'm still fighting, and if you don't kill me, I'll live long enough to see all of you dead."

On one other occasion during the eradication, the army saved me. There were men following me, and I went to the army base and told the commander, "If I am found dead tomorrow, please take my family away from here and watch out for my children." The commander asked, "Why do you say this?" I said, "Listen, there are two assholes following me." The commander said, "How do you know?" And I said, "Listen, I know a rat when I see one." He said, "Well then, Nancy, why don't you sleep here?" And I said, "No, I will sleep in my own house, thank you."

That night, at 2:20am, there was a loud knock on the door and we heard voices yelling, "Everyone out! The guerrillas are coming!" When we didn't come out, they started yelling at us with vulgar words -- "We've come to kill you, you miserable whore" -- and we knew it wasn't the guerrillas because they don't use such language. Then there were shots, and my husband said he would go out. I told the kids to hide in a hole in back of the house where it is very dark. I usually wear a dress, of course, but I put on my pants and boots, my war uniform, and grabbed a machete. In my heart I was enraged, but my brain was calculating how long it would take for the kids to escape while I confronted the killers. I was ready to chop off the head of whoever attacked me.

My husband told them they should take him instead of me, and they made him kneel on his knees. They were threatening me, yelling stuff like, "You already fucked us up, you whore, now you'll pay." I was ready with the machete, but then six flashlights appeared in the woods and voices yelled, "Up with your hands!" The guys came out of the woods carrying big rifles, and I thought, "Shit, it's the guerrillas." But it was the army! Then the commander of the army patrol made our attackers show their identification, and one of them was a police major. He told the soldiers there were terrorists at our house. The army guys told them, "We have orders to protect Nancy, and if you kill her, we will kill you right on this spot." I told those guys that if anything happens to me or my kids or my cousins, their families will pay unto the fourth generation.

What happened to me is not unusual. Many people have disappeared. There are some things that have happened that I don't even want to think about. It hurts my soul. But the threats and the intimidation and the violence don't stop us. In fact, we have learned to think and act like the government. When they send their intelligence officers after our leaders, we have our own people to find out what they are up to. Also, these attempts show how organized crime can be part of the government. Like Vladimiro Montesinos with [disgraced former president] Fujimori, he worked with the CIA and the paramilitary groups that have attacked us and killed people. The government is unintentionally training us to defend ourselves.

WOL: Why are you willing to risk everything for the right to grow coca?

Obregón: Coca is important to Peru's indigenous people, and those in Bolivia and Ecuador and Colombia, because it is a central part of our life, our traditions, our existence, and it is part of nature in which we live. It is very deep and strong in our culture. Without coca there would have been no Macchu Picchu, there would have been no Nazca. It impregnates our hearts and runs in our blood. One man I know can put coca leaves in his hand and read the future, he can tell people, "Don't travel on this day, there will be a crash." Many neoliberal economists and anthropologists have come and tried to separate us from the leaf, but they will fail. The coca leaf is our sacred plant.

WOL: What sort of international solidarity have you encountered?

Hugo Cabieses, Nancy Obregón, and US drug reformer Eric Sterling in Mérida

Hugo Cabieses, Nancy
Obregón, and US drug
reformer Eric Sterling in

Obregón: From governments of the world, absolutely none. There is USAID, of course, and other money for alternative development, but while that money comes to Peru, it never makes it to the peasants. This has been going on for 20 years. But on the level of people, there is much solidarity. When I went to Mexico in February for the Out from the Shadows conference, it was very good. I showed the people what was happening and they were very impressed, and eventually my Mérida trip led to two North Americans coming to the community to see how we live, and a European and a Chilean have come, too. That is something that brings us great joy, because it shows we are starting to have a much greater amount of international solidarity. No one ever came to see us in our villages before. Now we have friends overseas, friends in other countries. I have to be sure to tell people that this is not about Nancy; I am only part of an organization. In Bolivia, they have their Evo, but here we have Nelson and Nancy and Juan and Elsa and Flavio and many others.

WOL: Did the Mérida conference have other impacts on you?

Obregón: Oh, very much! When I arrived I was blind to the reality in front of my eyes. It was the first time I heard talk of prohibition and legalization and decriminalization, and these were strange concepts for me. But I took these ideas back to Peru, and we discussed them among ourselves and we analyzed them and we had lots of meetings about this. I got to the point where I believe that legalization is the answer, because prohibition only brings more misery and more hunger. Prohibition is the war on drugs as we know it, and I now feel that we should legalize the drugs and trust each person to be responsible in using something for pleasure. That is my perspective now.

WOL: What would you tell the people of the United States if you could talk to them?

Obregón: I would tell them they are completely mistaken if they think we cocaleros are their enemies, they are mistaken. We are not the enemy, we are the last wheel on the car of the drug trade. We want to let the American people know we are not the enemy, but it is the governments that want to dominate us that are the enemy. Coca should not be prohibited, I would tell them, it should come to the table with other foods. I'd like to see those gringo chefs make a coca cake and have those gringo scientists investigate to compare the coca cake to the natural cake and see which one is better.

5. DRCNet Interview: Anthropologist Anthony Henman

In 1978, Cambridge-educated anthropologist and author Anthony Henman published "Mama Coca," a groundbreaking work of ethnobotanical anthropology that for the first time showed Westerners not only the indigenous coca culture of the Andes but also the beginnings of the politics of coca and cocaine prohibition and how they impacted traditional cultures. Since then, Henman has continued to work as an anthropologist and expert on psychoactive substances in the Western Hemisphere, and was honored with a keynote address at the Global Social Thematic Forum in Cartagena, Colombia, this week. DRCNet spoke with Henman in Cartagena on Tuesday evening.

The Week Online: How did you come to write "Mama Coca," and what happened once it was published?

Anthony Henman: I first came to Colombia in the early 1970s. Things were wide open then; there was an open cannabis market in Bogota, and cocaine was just beginning to appear. At that point, I wasn't really interested in cocaine; I was more of a toker at the time. In 1973, I finished my university studies at Cambridge and was offered a job in Popayan, the regional capital of the traditional coca growing area in Colombia. It was very much a part of the gringo trail at the time, with all kinds of traveling hippies coming through town. There was very good weed, the Colombian red bud. And then there was the very traditional country scene as well. I was amazed at peoples' different reactions to the coca leaf. Having lived through all that, and given my interest in the plant and its traditional use, I couldn't ignore what was beginning to happen at the time. That was the first area that set up cocaine processing kitchens, although they produced pounds, not tons. And the cocaine always came out different, sometimes pink, sometimes off-white, which proved that is was coming from a number of small labs, not the monopoly business we have now. Actually, I doubt that even today it is as much a monopoly as portrayed by the media.

"Mama Coca" was originally conceived as a classic conventional anthropological description of coca use, and cocaine was not originally part of what I had planned. But cocaine was coming on top of the traditional use, and I couldn't ignore it. While people were interested in the ethno-botanical stuff, what made "Mama Coca" notorious was that it was the first time anyone got into print with criticisms and allegations against the war on drugs and the drug warriors. There was a chapter in the middle of the book that dealt with that. For my efforts, I got harassed by immigration officials for years to come, and in Britain the book was seized by police and the publisher was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. I guess they read the act broadly, since it is supposed to cover works likely to "corrupt or deprave." We got a lot of notoriety in the press, but it didn't do us much good, since all the copies had been seized and were sitting in a warehouse. The prosecution lost the case in 1984, but it still took us nine more months to get the books back, and by then everyone had lost interest. It's a good example of how official harassment can be effective even when they don't have a good legal case. It wasn't too good for my career as an author either, because it discouraged British publishers from publishing books about drugs or ever having anything to do with me again.

WOL: What have you been doing since then?

Henman: I've done research on lots of other sorts of drugs and drug use. I studied mushrooms in Wales for my doctoral thesis, and I did a lot of work on drug prescribing and needle exchange programs in Liverpool and New York, including a major evaluation of needle exchanges in the late 1990s in New York. It was an annual report for the Department of Health. I've also published a few papers about empowering drug users and their organizations in that context.

WOL: Are you affiliated with the organization Mama Coca?

Henman: No. They asked my permission to use the name, and I said of course. We also correspond all the time, but I am not a member.

WOL: What are you doing these days?

Henman: I'm working on a research project in Peru on mescaline-containing cacti, specifically the San Pedro. There are three different species of San Pedro, with slight differences among the three. I'm trying to collect as many as I can in their native environments. I am not a chemist, so I try to feel what the difference may be by subjective experimentation. I've tried different ways of preparing it, but it still tastes pretty awful. Still, it is very much the basis of traditional medicine in northern Peru and coastal Peru. It is the basis for divination and curing, but I find the doses they use for those purposes disappointingly small. People feel a little strange, but they don't really trip. The curanderos, however, are a different story; they sip it all day long. It is not discussed as a drug problem; in fact, it is even legal in the US, and you will find it in every garden store that carries cacti, because it is very good for root stock. It spread all around the world as root stock, and that was before anyone knew it contained mescaline.

My main interest has always been the coca leaf, but while it has interesting botanical, medicinal and ethnographic aspects, it is a subject that is becoming over-determined by the current politics of the cocaine business -- the violence, the corruption, all that -- so it difficult to talk about coca leaves as a traditional path in Colombia. You can do that in Bolivia or Peru, where it is still legal, but here in Colombia, when the public hears coca, it thinks of Pablo Escobar. I find it tedious and tiresome that one cannot talk about the interesting uses of coca in Colombia. This drug prohibition and drug trafficking nightmare will eventually end, or if not, the whole planet will be destroyed by it. I hope drug law reform will end this nightmare and people can get back to understanding these plants as they really are.

WOL: How do you look at coca?

Henman: Coca is not just an object for our consumption, but a historical subject in itself. First, we have to erase from our minds the image of the damned leaf. Coca doesn't deserve the sobriquet. It's a plant, and like every other species, it wants to reproduce. It is a hermaphrodite, it is very fertile, and it is chock full of alkaloids. It is a dangerous plant, some say, a liar, a traitor. But I say that this slander of the coca plant is hideously repugnant. After 50 years of war against coca, we have not met one goal of the anti-coca policies. The plant continues to reproduce. Even worse, every time there is a change of ministers, they come out with the same banalities about how they will fight the plant endlessly and how they will win. They can't win, but they always say they are on the verge of winning. A war against coca can never bring anything positive to the planet, despite what they say. We have to change our perspective completely and become at peace with coca as it deserves, for it is a plant with many virtues. Perhaps they can't eradicate coca because the objective is mistaken; perhaps it is because the real objectives of the war on drugs have nothing to do with their declared objectives. But I think this will pass; I can imagine a day when it is cultivated on a legal basis wherever it is advisable.

This war on coca is violence and killing without end. They say they are doing this killing and poisoning for the good of all. How absurd! It is absurd because what they accomplish is to make coca part of a malignant trade all over the planet. This has people thinking about the legalization of coca. That would be good. It would eliminate the negative aspects, especially the criminal aspect, which, after all, are not part of the coca plant, but part of drug prohibition.

6. Dozens of Students to Embark This Weekend on 50-Mile "Skate for Justice"

(press release from Students for Sensible Drug Policy)

About two dozen drug policy reform activists will embark on a 50-mile journey from Binghamton to Ithaca in upstate New York in the second annual "Skate for Justice" ( this Sunday, June 22.

Most of the participants are members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (, an organization with chapters on over 200 college campuses nationwide. The skaters and bicycle support team will depart from Broome Community College (BCC) in Binghamton and make a 48.9-mile pilgrimage to the Commons in Ithaca. The purpose of the journey is to draw attention to the failings of current drug policy.

The event isn't just for fun. "First and foremost, it will raise awareness," said Justin Holmes, event organizer and point skater. "Hundreds or thousands of motorists will see us on the day of the event. We hope to use this exposure to draw attention to the problems of drug prohibition and begin the process of an open and honest dialogue about drug policy."

The event draws attention to injustices inherent in American drug policy by highlighting several specific issues. The controversy surrounding the so-called "Rockefeller drug laws" is one such issue. "These laws are so horribly draconian that prisons have filled up across the state in the years since they've been enacted," said Sean Nosky, event organizer and point skater. "Across the political spectrum, cries for reform can be heard, including from US Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer, US Congressman Charles Rangel, and several NY state Senators and Assemblypersons."

Another issue that participants aim to raise awareness about is the Higher Education Act drug provision, which denies federal financial aid to students with drug convictions of any kind. Other issues of interest include securing safe and legal access to medicine for medical marijuana patients, re-legalizing industrial hemp cultivation, and reducing the ratio of prison spending to higher education spending.

"The Skate for Justice is helping to redefine the 21st century drug policy activist," said Shawn Heller, national director of SSDP. "No longer will we allow ourselves to be misrepresented; whether it is a 50 mile skate or 50 letters to Congress, the youth of today are energized and ready to bring about a more just America."

A press conference with opportunities for interviews with organizers and participants (including Shawn Heller) will be held in the main student parking lot of Broome Community College at 9:00am prior to departure (large lot in the center of the map at

7. Newsbrief: 12 Tulia Victims Walk Out of Jail

The people arrested and convicted on drug charges after the notorious Tulia, Texas, drug bust of 1999 are going home. Twelve of the 15 people remaining in prison on Tulia charges were released on bond Monday to await a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that should end their cases once and for all. The move came after Ron Chapman, a specially-appointed Texas judge who oversaw hearings on the cases, ruled that the prosecutions lacked credibility and the Texas legislature passed a bill that would allow the release of the remaining prisoners.

But it isn't over yet, according to attorneys who worked the case. "It's a significant day, but it's not the end at all," said Vanita Gupta, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "Our clients are walking out under the cloud of conviction."

And it could be tough for the released defendants to hang around, Amarillo lawyer Jeff Blackburn, who was key in springing the wrongly-convicted Tulia defendants, told the New York Times. "It's going to be impossible to stay here," said Jeff Blackburn, a lawyer from Amarillo. "These folks will have virtually no chance if they stay here. They will be arrested for spitting. They will be pursued to the ends of the earth."

Things could also get tough for the Texas criminal justice system, as a congressional committee prepares to scrutinize the Tulia incident this fall. Meanwhile, others in Congress are calling for the immediate overturning of the Tulia convictions. Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Melvin Watt (D-NC), Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) joined more than 40 drug reform, criminal justice, civil liberties and civil rights groups in decrying the convictions and demanding that the verdicts be overturned.

CNN report:

Previous Week Online coverage:

8. No Rockefeller Reform This Session

This spring's legislative session in New York is ending with no deal made on changes to the state's draconian drug laws. Despite a late-into-the-night session including Gov. Pataki, senate majority leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick), assembly speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and hip-hip impresario/activist Russell Simmons -- in which Simmons at one time physically blocked Bruno from leaving the room, according to the Daily News -- neither repeal nor reform will happen before the legislature adjourns for the summer.

The session also ended with not apparent resolution of a disagreement among advocates on strategy, with Mothers of the NY Disappeared and the Correctional Association of New York wanting a strong repeal approach but Simmons attempting to broker a compromise to get something passed this month.

Still, all parties to the effort signed on to a radio ad blitz, under the umbrella of the Countdown to Fairness coalition, asking listeners to call the governor and state legislature urging them to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The ads ran as follows:

"Thirty yeas ago New York Governor Rockefeller signed the harshest drug laws in the nation... imposing long mandatory minimum sentences for even low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. The result? Over-crowded prisons and no reduction in New York's drug problem. Thirty years have proven that prison cells are not the answer for these low-level offenders. Drug treatment costs less... is more effective... and keeps people from returning to prison. If the Governor and Legislature would fix these outdated laws, New York taxpayers could save over $250 million. For years Republicans and Democrats have promised change, but in three days they'll be on vacation... and they've still done nothing. Please join Secretary Andrew Cuomo, Mayor David Dinkins, Russell Simmons, The Mothers of the New York Disappeared and the Drug Policy Alliance... call Governor Pataki and your state legislators at (518) 474-8390. Urge them to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Law. Paid for by the Countdown for Fairness."

Gov. Pataki told the Daily News they would try again in September. DRCNet will continue to report on the Rockefeller effort. In the meantime, visit and and for continuing updates and action items.

9. Candidate Dean Bending on Medical Marijuana

According to the Saturday, June 14 installment of the "Dem Convention Diary" section of (, "Howard Dean and veteran Madison marijuana advocate Ben Masel faced off in an impromptu hallway debate on medical marijuana Friday night." Masel told, "It's hard to be the peace guy and blow off the potheads."

In an e-mail sent to fellow drug reformers, Masel reported that Dean, recent former governor of Vermont, used the occasion to "clarify" his position on medical marijuana, which has reported to be anti. According to Masel, Dean claimed he opposed the Vermont medical marijuana bill because he does not believe "medical decisions should be made by legislatures."

Dean proclaimed that as president, he would "on the day I take office direct the FDA to take a fresh look at the existing studies, and issue a report in 60 days," and would then implement the report. Dean then added that "speaking not as a candidate, but as a physician," he would "expect the report to recommend marijuana be approved for chemotherapy and AIDS, but not for glaucoma, because we have new medications for glaucoma that are even better. And no medication is completely safe."

Principle or posture? Clarification or Concession? You, the voter, decide.

10. Newsbrief: RAVE Act Reverberations

In the wake of the cancellation of a Montana NORML/SSDP benefit by the venue's owners after a DEA agent warned them they could face a $250,000 fine under the RAVE Act if anyone used marijuana at the event (, organizers of some drug reform-related events have begun to cancel events or relocate them to friendlier territory. At the same time, national drug reform and civil liberties organizations are mobilizing against the RAVE Act, now officially known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act.

The Sonoma Health and Harmony Festival ( in California has cancelled plans to have a medical marijuana smoking area due to fears of RAVE Act prosecutions, California NORML has reported. And the Wisconsin Weedstock festival ( is relocating across the border to Canada -- to Sault, Ontario, where there currently are no laws against marijuana possession, let alone anything like the RAVE Act. Weedstock will become part of the Planetary Pride Hemp Fest (, an Ontario-based event now in its fifth year.

(US citizens thinking of attending but who have an arrest record should make sure they can get into Canada. Visit and go to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada's web pages to get more information about entry.)

As some groups change plans under RAVE Act prosecution pressures, the drug reform movement is mobilizing to roll back the law, which was stalled under stiff opposition in the Senate last year, but which passed easily once it was stealthily inserted into the popular Amber Alert by RAVE Act sponsor Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). Drug Policy Alliance has made repealing the RAVE Act one of its action priorities (, and other major reform and civil liberties groups continue to plot strategies to kill the law.

11. Newsbrief: Teachers Against Prohibition Reborn as Educators for Sensible Drug Policy

With Montana State University-Billings education major and founder of Teachers Against Prohibition ( Adam Jones temporarily retiring from drug reform because of a repressive probation officer, the fledgling drug reform organization has reemerged with new leadership under a new name. During a Sunday Internet meeting of the group's board of directors, the board decided to rename the organization Educators for Sensible Drug Policy, name Richard Lake chairman of the board for the next year, and appoint chairs for the group's Canadian and New Zealand branches.

According to a posting by Lake, the name change came as part of an effort to provide a more positive image for the group and to make it more inclusive. The group's board also voted to revise the web site and email lists to reflect the group's new name and revise the web site to make positive policy recommendations. For example, wrote Lake, "we agreed that it is simply not enough to oppose DARE-like educational efforts. We will seek to recommend reality based alternatives; for example, the alternatives presented by Marsha Rosenbaum's Safety First ("

The organization is also seeking donations to defray costs, grow its membership, and reach out to other groups with similar interests. Look for an e-mail newsletter from ESDP by summer's end.

12. Newsbrief: Kentucky Supreme Court Tightens Law on Methamphetamine Prosecutions

Prosecutors in Kentucky can't charge people with manufacturing methamphetamine unless they actually have everything they need to do so, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on June 12. Prosecutors there had gotten in the habit of charging people they suspected of preparing to manufacture meth with actual manufacture. Under Kentucky law, attempted meth manufacture warrants a five-year minimum sentence, while actual meth manufacture garners a minimum 10-year sentence. The ruling came in the case of Ronald Kotila, who was convicted in Pulaski County on a meth manufacturing charge in 1999. Kotila possessed many of the items needed to cook speed -- all of them commonly available and legal by themselves -- but not two essential ingredients, anhydrous ammonia and muriatic acid. Kentucky law specifies that for someone to be charged with meth manufacture, he must possess "the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine."

The Supreme Court interpreted the phrase strictly. "The presence of the article 'the' is significant because, grammatically speaking, possession of some but not all of the chemicals or equipment does not satisfy the statutory language," the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Prosecutors began to whine immediately. "We're going to have to examine all of our cases that are pending right now," Davies County prosecutor David Nall told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. "It's really taken away a big stick so to speak, a punishment hammer. You've basically cut the fear in half." And so did at least one Supreme Court member, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, who wrote the minority opinion in the 4-3 decision. It will be difficult to prosecute meth manufacture cases, Lambert wrote, because a suspect "with the least amount of ingenuity will be able to prevent his conviction by merely omitting from his cache of tools and ingredients one or two of the more common, and bringing in the missing components only at the last moment. Thus to achieve a conviction... it will be necessary to catch the offender 'red-handed.'"

13. Newsbrief: Thais Get Drug War Help from US

Even as the Thai government faces global criticism for its brutal spring crackdown on drugs this spring -- more than 2,000 people were killed, with Thai police the leading suspects -- the US DEA is stepping up cooperation with the Thai military, the Bangkok Post reported. The Thai Army's Task Force 399, set up with DEA help to combat drug trafficking, has set up a new unit in Chiang Mai to coordinate information flowing from the DEA, and the agency will also provide intelligence and anti-drug training for the task force and the entire Third Army, according to sources cited by the Post.

Now, just two weeks after demonstrations worldwide against the Thai government's murderous campaign (, Gen. Surayad Chulanont, supreme commander of the Thai Army and creator of Task Force 399, will visit Washington, DC, to meet with Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to discuss further cooperation between the two countries in fighting the drug war.

14. Newsbrief: US-Peru Anti-Drug Flights Set to Resume

The Bush administration is set to resume cooperation with Peru in a program that shoots suspected drug-running planes out of the sky. That program was abruptly suspended nearly two years ago when Peruvian Air Force pilots working with CIA spotters shot down a private plane carrying US missionaries. In the August 20, 2001 incident, 35-year-old Veronica Bowers ( was killed and her husband wounded.

US officials are worried coca cultivation is on the rise in Peru. "We are seeing a large increase in the number of people clearing out old coca fields, and getting back into it," an unidentified "senior US official in Peru who is familiar with antinarcotics efforts there" told Knight-Ridder News Service. The increase in Peruvian cultivation is tied to intense pressure on growers in neighboring Colombia, the failure of alternative development programs in Peru's coca-growing regions, and the inability of the Peruvian state to enforce the ban on illicit coca crops.

The US-backed air surveillance and shooting down of unidentified planes was halted abruptly after Bowers and her daughter were killed, and investigations into the incident found that the US CIA employees involved did not have sufficient Spanish fluency to communicate with their Peruvian partners. But Peruvian pilots and US anti-drug employees have received new training, including simulator training in Oklahoma City, and the flights should be back in the air before year's end.

"We have detected unregistered flights that we cannot confirm are drug flights, but many probably are," said Peruvian drug czar Nils Ericsson. [Ed: Let's hope they can figure that out before they shoot down more innocent civilians or submit more suspected airborne traffickers to extrajudicial execution.]

The killing zone also includes Brazil, which has intercepted 88 drug flights since its new Amazon regional radar system went into operation, and Colombia, which is also expected to resume shootdown flights with US cooperation before the new year.

15. Newsbrief: Israeli Company Receives Notice of Allowance from US Patent Office for Synthetic Marijuana Pharmaceuticals

courtesy NORML News,

The Israeli-based Pharmos pharmaceutical company announced last week that it has received a Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office for a patent application relating to the use of the company's synthetic marijuana derivative Dexanabinol in the treatment of stroke, anti-inflammatory diseases and other disorders.

The company is presently in the patient-recruitment phase of a US Phase III trial on the effectiveness of Dexanabinol for the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A previous Phase II trial by Pharmos of 67 Israeli patients found that Dexanabinol reduced mortality and eased intracranial pressure in subjects suffering from severe head injuries.

Similar synthetic marijuana derivatives have been effective in preclinical models in the treatment of a variety of disorders, including "inflammatory disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, brain ischemia, autoimmune diseases and pain," a Pharmos press release stated.

According to a 1999 report by the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, naturally occurring cannabinoids in marijuana also provide symptomatic relief for a number of indications, including AIDS, cancer and chronic pain. Authors of the study further noted that marijuana's neuroprotective qualities are the "most prominent" of its potential therapeutic applications.

16. Teen Facing 26 Years for First-Time Marijuana Offense Sentenced to Two

courtesy NORML News,

A 19-year-old teenager from Moulton, Alabama, who had plead guilty to selling small amounts of marijuana, had his 26-year sentence cut to two by a state judge last week. The defendant, Webster Alexander, was ordered to serve one year in the county jail and a second year on probation. He will be eligible for a work-release program in one month.

Circuit Judge Philip Reich suspended 24 years of Alexander's 26 year sentence after noting the defendant had obtained a high-school diploma, started college, and successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program since his arrest. Webster must return to court in two years, at which time the judge will evaluate his progress.

Webster's original sentence sparked international headlines when the high-school senior was sentenced to 26 years in jail after pleading guilty to selling small amounts of marijuana to an undercover drug agent.

Under Alabama law, selling marijuana is a felony offense. The penalties for sale of marijuana are enhanced if the sale takes place within a three-mile radius of a school or public housing project, adding five years to the sentence for the sale.

17. Marc Mauer Testimony on Comparative International Rates of Incarceration

Marc Mauer, assistant director of The Sentencing Project, is delivering testimony on Friday, June 20 to the US Commission on Civil Rights on "Comparative International Rates of Incarceration: An Examination of Causes and Trends," examining the dramatic rise in incarceration in the US over the past thirty years and documents that these developments are due in large part to changes in policy, and not crime rates, over this period.

Visit to read the testimony online.

18. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [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.

June 25, 7:00pm, Buenos Aires, "Las Drogas Entre el Fracaso Y Los Daños de la Prohibición. Nuevas Perspectivas en el Debate Despenalización-Legalización," forum with La Asociación de Reducción de Daños de la Argentina (the Harm Reduction Association of Argentina, ARDA), el Departamento de Derecho Penal y Criminología de la Facultad de Derecho y el Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Drogadependencias y SIDA (CEADS) de la Universidad Nacional de Rosario. At Salon Rojo, Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Av. Figueroa Alcorta 2263, admission free. Contact Silvia Inchaurraga at [email protected] for further information.

July 7, 8:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, Students for Sensible Drug Policy/Marijuana Policy Project Benefit Show with Bill Maher, John Fugelsang and Pauly Shore. At The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Boulevard, $20 regular admission, $35 preferred seating, $500 VIP party and front-row, two drink minimum, 21 and over. Visit for info or to purchase tickets, or contact SSDP at (202) 293-4414 or [email protected].

July 23, "Drug Policy Reform 2003: The State of the Movement," forum with Ethan Nadelmann. At the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter St., call (415) 921-4987.

July 24, "Can We Really Afford a (Failed) War on Drugs?", forum with Ethan Nadelmann. At the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, 595 Market St., visit for info.

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.

September 18, Tallahassee, FL, "Innovations in European Drug Policy," the Richard L. Rachin Conference. Sponsored by the Florida State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, in conjunction with the Journal of Drug Issues, at the Center for Professional Development, contact (850) 644-7569 or [email protected] to register or (850) 644-7368 or [email protected] 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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