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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #318, 1/2/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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DON'T FORGET THE 60 MINUTES MANDATORY MINIMUMS SPECIAL SUNDAY NIGHT: Sunday, January 4, Ed Bradley hosts "More Than They Deserve," CBS, features Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, a board member of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (and of DRCNet's advisory board), among other interviews.
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/1998/07/08/60minutes/main13502.shtml

Students for Sensible Drug Policy will convene in Manchester, New Hampshire JANUARY 7-10 -- THAT'S THIS WEDNESDAY -- visit http://nh2004.ssdp.org for information and hope to see you there!

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. In Farewell Report, Syracuse Auditor Examines Drug War, Finds It Wanting
  2. Spanish Government Moving to Close Pot Magazines, Grow Shops
  3. BUSTED: New and Improved Video Offer from DRCNet
  4. Pain Treatment Advocates to March on Washington this April, Call for Congressional Hearings on the DEA's War on Doctors
  5. Newsbrief: Rehnquist Rakes Congress on Interference in Sentencing
  6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Sharpton Demands Justice in Georgia Drug War Killing
  7. Newsbrief: Maryland Appeals Court Says Rectal Search Too Much
  8. Alaska Marijuana Legalization Initiative One Step from 2004 Ballot
  9. Newsbrief: Bush Administration Using Colombia Drug War to Go After Venezuela's Chavez
  10. DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime
  11. Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions
  12. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. In Farewell Report, Syracuse Auditor Examines Drug War, Finds It Wanting

In a report issued Monday, outgoing Syracuse, New York, City Auditor Minch Lewis (http://www.minchlewis.com) detailed the fiscal impact of drug prohibition on city finances and concluded that strict enforcement of the drug laws was an ineffective and even counterproductive use of city funds. In what is the first such report on the impact of prohibition by a local elected official, Auditor Lewis called for the exploration of alternatives to the drug war status quo, including decriminalization, harm reduction programs, and effective prevention programs.

"It's just not working," said Lewis, referring to business as usual in the city's drug war. According to Lewis's report, nearly one-quarter of all arrests in the city are for drug offenses. "The police could arrest twice that many and it wouldn't solve the city's drug problem," he told DRCNet.

"Public safety is a big issue," he said, "and that's why we were looking at the police department. I was the city's auditor, so this started with the budget process," said Lewis, who retired -- forced out by term limits -- effective Thursday. "We were looking at the amount of money we were spending for police, which at about $34 million a year was second only to schools. So we asked the police what they actually accomplished with that $34 million," he told DRCNet. "They supplied us with very solid statistics -- calls for requests for service, incidents, arrests -- and we found out they were arresting about 28,000 people a year, and about one-quarter of them were drug-related. We had to ask if we arrest 7,000 people a year for drugs and nothing ever changes, is this policy working? The answer is no."

The report had not started out as an indictment of the drug war, said Lewis. But as the numbers came in, they showed twice as many arrests for drug crimes as for any other offense -- nearly one-third of them on marijuana charges. "We started looking at statistics for the Police Department because public safety is so important," Lewis said. "But we were surprised to learn that twice as many people are arrested for drug-related incidents than for any other violation, and the violence in our neighborhoods is worse every year."

The report did not just rely on statistics, Lewis said. "I went to many neighborhood meetings and I listened to people and talked to people," Lewis said, "and they universally said they weren't that concerned about others using drugs at home. It was the violence associated with drug sales on street corners that concerned them. If we made those drugs available in some other fashion, well, I don't think we'd be spending $34 million a year to prevent people from smoking pot in their living rooms. Our policy today may be contributing to the violence, just as prohibition did for the last generation," Lewis said.

"The police are a little concerned, but this is not an attack on the police," Lewis clarified. "This is a question of public policy, and somebody has to ask the fundamental question: Why are these drugs illegal? When we talk about how we deal with this illegal drug or that one, we are dancing around the real question. We need to decriminalize drugs, and by that I don't mean legalizing them but dealing with them from the medical approach, not the criminal justice approach. We need to be talking about treatment on demand, and maybe making some drugs available through harm reduction programs. We need a different approach than locking people up."

"This is an important step," said Nicholas Eyle, cofounder and executive director of the upstate New York-based drug reform group ReconsiDer (http://www.reconsider.org). "This is the first time a city had done a report like this itself. There have been a handful of other reports on the impact of prohibition, such as the one Jeffrey Miron did on marijuana in Massachusetts, but they've all been done by some professor somewhere -- not by an elected official," he told DRCNet.

And ReconsiDer deserves some credit for the report. "It was my idea," said Eyle, "we've been working on this for months. Minch is on the ReconsiDer advisory board; he started silently showing up at meetings and I guess he liked what he heard. We've spoken many times. As an elected official, he hadn't done much on the issue, but now that his term is ending, he decided he had to do something."

Both Lewis and Eyle are looking for the report to do more than just gather dust.

"The report recommends that the Common Council and the mayor look at alternatives to prohibition, including decriminalization, harm reduction programs, and prevention programs," Lewis said. "I hope the council will pick this up and hold hearings. I would also like to see a task force appointed -- the police department, county health officials, the housing authority, the board of education, and local nonprofits should all be involved," he said. "We need an alternative approach, something like the medical model," he added.

"Hearings are probably our next step," agreed Eyle. "If the mayor and the council decide to hold hearings, we will certainly testify. If they hesitate or balk, we will push them as best we can. Getting some press would help." Lewis held a Tuesday press conference announcing his report, but as of Thursday only the local Syracuse Post-Standard had run a story, under the headline "Auditor: Anti-Drug Tactics Flawed." "That's a start," said Eyle, "but this needs to be in the New York Times."

Whether the council will agree to hearings is an open question. "There is a brand new council now," said Lewis, "and this is an opportunity for them to address this issue. This and education are the two most critical issues facing the council, but at this point I don't have a commitment from any of the council members to move on this."

And even if the council did act, its powers are limited. But there is plenty the council could do, said Eyle. "This is a tremendous financial burden for the city, and the council could vote to make drug law enforcement the lowest priority just to keep the costs down," he said. "There is precedent for this in New York. During Alcohol Prohibition, the state legislature passed a bill that basically said it respected the right of the federal government to enforce the law, but New York didn't have the resources to deal with it. The city of Syracuse could do something similar," Eyle said.

Pressure is not coming only from outgoing Auditor Lewis and ReconsiDer. Black minister the Rev. Larry Ellis has formed a group called Families Against Injustice to protest the federal prosecution of young men from the city's heavily black south side who had already served time for the same crimes in the state system. In what is a rare step for a black religious leader, Ellis and the organization are calling for an end to drug prohibition. And they are bringing in nationally known figures, such as the Rev. Edwin Sanders, to spread the message to other local religious and community leaders.

For ReconsiDer's Eyle, the Lewis report is a vindication of the group's strategy of playing it straight. "We've always been very careful not to be labeled pro-drug," he explained. "As an organization, we do not say it's okay if your kids smoke dope -- no matter what we may feel privately. There are no pot leaves on our web site. We don't do rallies, we don't attract the stoners," he said.

"We have a conservative image, and that allows us to take very radical positions," Eyle continued. "As most drug reformers know, we're pretty comfortably in the drug legalization camp. We're clear about that. But we've been talking to people like the Rotary Clubs for years, and everyone in the movement said that was a waste of time. They were wrong. Hundreds of Rotarians are members of ReconsiDer, and so is Minch Lewis."

Visit http://www.reconsider.org to read the Syracuse City Auditor's "Report on Syracuse Police Activities for the Year Ended June 30, 2002" online. (Eyle promised Wednesday it will be up "very, very soon.")


2. Spanish Government Moving to Close Pot Magazines, Grow Shops

The conservative Spanish government of Prime Minister Jose Aznar and his Popular Party is moving to rein in that country's lively cannabis culture. Although cannabis use and possession is not a crime in Spain, for the last six months Interior Minister Angel Acebes has been spearheading the effort, which includes proposals to shut down marijuana grow shops and seed sellers, as well as an attack on Spain's leading pro-cannabis publications, Canamo and Yerba, as "apologists" for pot-smoking among teenagers. A government panel is expected to make recommendations for the cultural offensive in March.

Although the Aznar government had made noises about going after the cannabis culture as early as the fall of 2002, the offensive really got underway in July 2003, when Acebes, pronouncing himself perplexed by a rise in cannabis consumption among Spanish youth, blamed it on magazines like Canamo. Such publications are "manipulating" the kids, he said at a press conference in Santander.

Acebes announced the formation of a a group of experts "to review all the measures that can be more effective in halting this manipulation regarding the supposed innocuousness of cannabis, and in some cases the benefits it produces, in order to pursue those who realize these types of activities that are so harmful and so prejudicial for young people." Those measures could include new laws "that can pursue with a greater strength those who do such pernicious and negative work."

Since then, the Spanish government has embarked on an all-too-familiar campaign of demonization of the weed, replete with shocked reports that marijuana use among teens is on the rise and US drug czar-style warnings that marijuana is stronger than it once was. Last month, Acebes released data gathered for his group of experts by the National Drug Plan, the equivalent of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. He trumpeted findings that marijuana potency had increased from 4-7% in 1994 to 10-20% in 2003, using them as more evidence of the need for a counteroffensive.

Acebes also announced that marijuana consumption is on the increase among the youth, with 22% of young people identifying themselves as habitual users -- up from 19% in 2000 -- and 37% saying they had smoked pot at least once. Again taking a page from the US drug czar's playbook, Acebes warned that the figures showed "a low perception of risk" from marijuana among young people.

And thus the attack on the pot mags. Canamo, which has published since 1997, and Yerba, have been leading voices of the cannabis culture and have published rigorous, independent articles on both the benefits and risks of numerous illicit substances. For Acebes, such reporting translates into "apology for the consumption of cannabis among teenagers."

But Canamo roundly denies such claims, noting that its issues carry a "for sale to adults only" sticker. Its web site (http://www.canamo.net) carries a similar warning. In fact, Canamo has taken the rhetorical offensive. In July, Canamo editor Gaspar Fraga told the Spanish media Acebes "should not look for scapegoats" to justify "the failure of his drug prevention policies." In addition, Fraga suggested, Acebes might want to worry less about cannabis and more about alcohol (used regularly by 55% of teens) and tobacco (29%), "legal and lethal drugs that provoke many grave, dangerous, and devastating effects."

But it's not just about keeping kids off drugs, Fraga told DRCNet, it's about politics. The Aznar government faces elections in March, he said. "By attacking Canamo, the government has played politics, hoping to win the favor of public opinion. By accusing us of 'apology for cannabis use among adolescents and students,' it hopes to gain the support of parents, educators, and a conservative majority," he explained. "If Acebes' and Aznar's Popular Party gains an absolute majority, Canamo could have problems with being shut down," Fraga warned.

But it's not just Canamo, or even Yerba. The grow shops and seed sellers who supply Spain's 2.5 million pot smokers will also be endangered, if not by new laws then perhaps by new administrative regulations designed to run them out of business. In an early hint of such a strategy, Acebes last month publicly complained that "some shops are selling seeds when they have licenses for selling caramels."

But again, it comes back to politics, Fraga said. "We have the support of the parties that control the government of Catluna -- the socialists and others of the left -- and throughout Spain we have the support among the socialists, the communists, and ecologists. Also, the cannabis movement is very strong in Spain, and much of society sees neither alarm nor worry with cannabis users."

Some of that support was evidenced last month, as the cannabis people and the leftist parties denounced the repressive moves. Jaime Torrens, head of the Ramon Santos Cannabis Studies Association, accused the government of beginning a "crusade" against cannabis. It would be wrong to say that marijuana has no negative effects, he told Linea Digital Social, but "the relation between the negative effects and this constant criminalization is not justified."

The socialists' spokeswoman on drug policy, Carmen Romero, told Linea it was "scandalous" that Acebes was concentrating on pot smoking instead of breaking up large hard-drug trafficking networks, while the United Left's parliamentary spokeswoman, Marisa Castro, added that it was "dangerous" to say all drugs are equally bad for the health. "You can't educate the young with abstinence, but with responsible use, and the greatest antidote to fear is information," she said.


3. BUSTED: New and Improved Video Offer from DRCNet

Over 300 DRCNet members have ordered VSH copies of the new Flex Your Rights film "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." BUSTED is hot! We are pleased to announce that DRCNet now has a new and improved version of our BUSTED membership offer to those of you who have already ordered a copy, or who order two or more now: We will send you your second, third or further copies of BUSTED free with a donation of $25 or more -- a perfect gift for your friends, family members, or school or public library! That means $35 or more for your first copy, $25 or more for your second (or $60 or more for your first two, if you haven't ordered already), $85 or more for your first three or $50 or more for your second and third, etc. Also, BUSTED will soon be coming out in DVD (though we don't have an exact date yet), and we are willing to hold your orders for DVD copies if you request it.

Just visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ and make a contribution in an appropriate amount by credit card -- or by US mail to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036 -- and let us know in the comment box or in a written note that you would like to take advantage of the new BUSTED repeat order offer. Also, if you really want BUSTED, but really, really can't afford it, write to us and let us know what you can afford or can scrape up, and we'll see what we can do. Also, add $5 to your donation, and in addition to BUSTED, we'll also send you a copy of the new "A Drug War Carol" anti-drug war comic -- send $15 or more for a free copy of A Drug War Carol only.

Your donation will also help DRCNet (and Flex Your Rights) navigate the troubled waters of our nation's struggling economy. The drug reform movement is in a financial crisis of greater proportions than we have seen in our nearly ten year history -- which means that members and readers like yourself are more important to drug policy reform than ever before -- we need your help! So please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make a generous donation today! And please contact us for instructions if you'd like to make a contribution of stock.

Note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network are not tax-deductible. Contributions to the DRCNet Foundation are tax-deductible as provided by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; requesting copies of BUSTED will reduce the portion of your gift that is deductible by $20 each.

Thank you for your interest and support.


4. Pain Treatment Advocates to March on Washington this April, Call for Congressional Hearings on the DEA's War on Doctors

Earlier this week, The Washington Post ran an important story on the under-treatment pain and law enforcement agencies' pogrom against doctors who prescribe opiates that is causing it (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37015-2003Dec28.html).

Many of the same advocates who have succeeded in drawing attention to this problem are gathering from April 18-20 in Washington, DC, to call for Congressional hearings on the DEA war on doctors, pharmacists and pain patients. We hope that those of you who are able will attend and participate in "America's In Pain!" -- MARCH ON WASHINGTON -- "Silent No More!"

For further information or to donate to this and related projects, call (202) 331-8864 or contact the Pain Relief Network, P.O. Box 231054, New York, NY 10023, (212) 873-5848, or visit http://www.PainReliefNetwork.org online.


5. Newsbrief: Rehnquist Rakes Congress on Interference in Sentencing

US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist pointedly criticized Congress Wednesday for passing a law this spring intended to prevent federal judges from granting softer sentences than required by federal sentencing guidelines. The law, known as the Feeney Amendment for its sponsor, Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), gained approval after being attached to an unrelated but politically popular "Amber Alert" bill. It instructs the US Sentencing Commission to issue new rules to "ensure that the incidence of downward departures is substantially reduced." The Feeney Amendment requires the commission to keep records of judges' departures from the harsh federal guidelines and report them to the Attorney General and to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Federal judges have increasingly complained that the sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences hamper their ability to craft sentences that are just. In September, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of 27 judges who set policy for the federal courts, voted unanimously to ask Congress to repeal the amendment. And the fact that Chief Justice Rehnquist made it the focus of his annual year-end report on the courts indicates that dissatisfaction has reached the highest levels of the federal judiciary.

The legislation "could appear to be an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges in the performance of their judicial duties," Rehnquist said. "It seems that the traditional interchange between the Congress and the judiciary broke down" when Congress passed the amendment without any input from the bench, he added. "By constitutional design," said the chief justice, judges have had "an institutional commitment to the independent administration of justice and are able to see the consequences of judicial reform proposals that legislative sponsors may not be in a position to see."

The chief justice also criticized Congress for dissing the federal courts. Rehnquist said that while "judges are bound to respect" congressional perspectives on how to run the courts, that respect should be a two-way street . "Consultation with the judiciary," he said, "will improve both the process and the product."

But if Rehnquist wanted respect, he wasn't getting it from House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), who issued a statement Wednesday in response to the chief justice's criticism. It's not that the Congress didn't know what the judges wanted, Sensenbrenner said, it's just that it didn't care. "This disagreement," he said, "resulted from a policy dispute between Congress and the judiciary and did not result from any breakdown in communication between the branches or a lack of opportunity for judges to express their thoughts on this issue."

Federal prisons held an all-time record high of more than 163,000 prisoners at the end of 2002, generated in large part by the war on drugs. While the prison population in the states has stagnated in recent years, growth of the federal prison system has increased at an average of 5.8% a year since 1995, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.


6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Sharpton Demands Justice in Georgia Drug War Killing

Rev. Al Sharpton brought his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination to Columbus, Georgia, on December 24 to demand justice in the killing of 39-year-old Kenneth Walker. Walker was gunned down December 10 by a Muscogee County deputy sheriff who had pulled over the vehicle he was driving as part of a drug investigation. No drugs or weapons were found in the vehicle, and local authorities have since conceded that Walker was not a target of their investigation (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/316/columbus.shtml).

That's not enough for the black community in Columbus, and it's not enough for Sharpton, who has made a career of denouncing law enforcement abuses against minorities. Speaking at a Columbus group packed with more than 350 people, the dark horse presidential contender drew parallels between the killing of Walker and broader abuses committed by law enforcement.

"Some would say that this shooting and my campaign should be addressed separately," Sharpton said. "But I say that someone has got to bring to a national level the brutality of law enforcement and the people sworn to uphold the law. We cannot have people that are sworn to uphold the law think they can become the law."

The killing is currently under investigation by the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Sharpton put both on notice that the case is being followed. "We are watching this case... and if the report is not right, we will be back," said Sharpton to roaring applause. "I've seen enough here to see that this warrants national attention."

During a break in Sharpton's speech, members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and local chapters of the NAACP and Operation PUSH circulated petitions calling for the resignation of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson and the naming of the deputy who killed Walker. Johnson has so far refused to release the shooter's name. Sharpton seconded that call. You say you have to protect the officer," he said. "Protect him from what? If he's an officer of the law, he's a public servant, paid by public taxpayers. We have the right to know." Sharpton then continued, his voice rising, "Who protected Kenny Walker?"

While Sharpton is not considered a first tier candidate by most observers -- he has consistently polled between 0% and 1% in New Hampshire -- the New York-based black activist has the potential to make an impact on the campaign, especially in South Carolina. According to a December 20 poll conducted by the American Research Group, Sharpton has 12% of the vote there, leaving him tied for second place with Wesley Clark and four points behind Howard Dean.


7. Newsbrief: Maryland Appeals Court Says Rectal Search Too Much

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has thrown out the drug conviction of a man subjected to a rectal strip search during a traffic stop. Carl Nieves had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute after police found small baggies of crack in his rectum.

Nieves was stopped after the car he was driving rolled back at an intersection and hit a police car. Nieves neither owned the vehicle nor had a valid driver's license. What he did have was a record of two previous drug arrests. Based on those arrests, Hagerstown police conducted a strip search and found the rocks.

That was too much for the appeals court, which noted that any search is an invasion of an individual's privacy, "... but a strip search procedure flies in the face of individual privacy rights. Strip searches, moreover, particularly intrude upon the individual's sanctity of his own body." The "extreme intrusiveness" of strip searches demands well-articulated reasonable suspicion a crime is being committed, wrote Judge Raymond Thieme. And the factors cited by Hagerstown police -- Nieves' prior arrests and the fact that the vehicle was owned by a suspected drug dealer -- did not rise to that level.

"Neither factor alone nor the combination of the two supports the conclusion that a reasonable suspicion was present to justify the strip search," the court said. "Where is the reasonable suspicion that drugs or other contraband are concealed in the particular place they decided to search? There is none," wrote Thieme.

Thieme added that the court was "troubled by the fact that, any time an individual has a prior drug history, that history alone may be used to justify a strip search of the individual upon subsequent arrests for minor offenses. Officers on nothing more than a 'fishing expedition' for narcotics without an articulable suspicion whatsoever will essentially be given carte blanche to violate an individual's privacy when arrested for a minor offense," the court noted.


8. Alaska Marijuana Legalization Initiative One Step from 2004 Ballot

An initiative that would legalize the possession, growing and sale of marijuana has officially achieved the number of signatures necessary to be placed on the November 2004 election ballot. All that remains is for slow-moving state officials to certify the signatures.

Under an Alaska appeals court ruling in August, marijuana possession by adults in the privacy of their homes is already legal. An initiative that would have legalized marijuana and established a commission to study reparations for people arrested under the marijuana laws mustered only 40% of the votes in the November 2000 election.

This time, the initiative's organizers, Free Hemp in Alaska, have been a little bit less ambitious. According to the measure's language, "Persons, 21 years or older, shall not be prosecuted, be denied any right or privilege, nor be subject to criminal or civil penalties for the possession, cultivation, distribution, or consumption of" hemp. The measure defines hemp broadly to include "hemp, cannabis, or marijuana, or any part or preparation of the plant Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis americana, or any species or variety of plant of the genus Cannabis."

Initiative organizers had had problems with the state official in charge of certifying initiatives, Lt. Gov. Loren Leman. A prominent foe of drug reform, Leman is known for leading a 1999 effort to undo the state's medical marijuana law. In January 2003, Leman threw out hundreds of booklets filled with qualifying signatures, citing violations of state law. But in September, an appeals court judge ordered him to reinstate those booklets, calling the elections office run by Leman "a snake in the grass" and describing the signature-gathering errors as "trivial rules violations."

Late in November, Leman notified organizers that they had reached the 28,782 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. His staff told the Juneau Empire this week that they expect certification to take place "within a couple of weeks."

Visit http://www.freehempinak.org to read the Alaska initiative online.


9. Newsbrief: Bush Administration Using Colombia Drug War to Go After Venezuela's Chavez

They didn't manage to get rid of him with the failed April coup attempt. Now, members of the Bush administration are using alleged links between the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia to press for stronger action against Chavez. These officials claim Venezuela is providing aid and comfort to rebels of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) and the smaller ELN (National Liberation Army), who are battling the government in Bogota for control of Colombia. The US intervened in Colombia as part of its "war on drugs," but that policy has morphed into the broader "war on terror," as the Bush administration last year removed any restraints limiting US involvement to the anti-drug effort.

Chavez has long been a thorn in the side of US conservatives. A former Army paratrooper who was imprisoned after leading a failed coup in 1992, Chavez was elected president in 1998 on vows to end the rule of Venezuela's famously corrupt political class and to craft policies that favored the country's poor majority. Since then, he has become a leading critic of US policy on a broad range of issues, including Plan Colombia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Chavez currently faces a recall referendum brought by embittered members of the country's middle and upper classes with US support.

Now, reports well-connected Miami Herald columnist Juan Tamayo, Bush appointees are using questionable intelligence to bolster their case that Chavez is helping the rebels. And they are doing so as part of a campaign to oust him. The campaign has parallels with the build-up to the war against Iraq, according to Tamayo.

The clique of Bush hard-liners, led by Assistant Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs Roger Noriega (a former Sen. Jesse Helms staffer) and special envoy to Latin America Otto Reich (a key architect of the Reagan interventions in Central America in the 1980s) claim that Chavez's left-populist policies have at least created an atmosphere supportive of Colombian rebels and other US bogeymen and that Chavez isn't doing enough to support the US in its global "war on terror."

But despite numerous reports of Colombian rebels crossing into Venezuelan territory and back, even the hard-liners concede that there is no hard evidence Chavez approved any assistance to them. "There is no smoking gun on Chavez's personal intervention or direction on this," one US government source told Tamayo, describing his words as the consensus in Washington.

Nor, despite the whispers of the anti-Chavez hard-liners, is there any evidence that links Chavez to radical Islamists. There are reports that Cuban security advisors are working with Venezuelan military and intelligence and the country's secret police, but that is no different from the collaboration existing between US agencies and those of numerous other unelected governments. In response, the US has broken ties with the secret police, leaving it dependent on regime foes for intelligence.

One former House staffer told Tamayo such people are "the Ahmed Chalabis of Venezuela," a reference to the exiled Iraqi politician who fed US intelligence claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, which, as Tamayo delicately puts it, "have so far not proven to be correct."

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Chavez government urged Colombia to tighten security along their joint border after rightist paramilitaries killed seven Venezuelan National Guard troops in Venezuelan territory. "Apart from caution in Colombia's response, we would welcome more cooperation from the Colombian authorities on their part of the border," Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton told reporters. "Colombia really could do more on the frontier."


10. DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime

Due to funding shortfalls, DRCNet has been forced to suspend our web-based write-to Congress program. We will bring it back to life as soon as you and other DRCNet supporters make it possible through your financial contributions. Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ and make the most generous donation that you can!

Most importantly, don't let this temporary setback at DRCNet prevent you from lobbying Congress. We intend to continue to issue legislative action alerts in the meantime, and you can act on them by calling your US Representative and your two Senators on the phone; go through the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or visit http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov to look up their names and phone and fax numbers or to contact them via e-mail or web form. The information contained on the alert pages of our legislative web sites will provide you with sufficient information to take such action. There are current action alerts posted at:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/
http://stopthedrugwar.org/justice/
http://stopthedrugwar.org/stopthehelicopters/
http://www.raiseyourvoice.com
It's important that we get the web-based service online as soon as possible, for a few reasons:
  1. E-mails to Congress are more important and effective now than they were in the past, since the 2001 anthrax attacks and the resulting slowness and unreliability of snail-mail to Capitol Hill;
  2. The ease of going to a web site, reviewing and editing a prewritten letter, typing in your address and sending it at the click of a mouse, is highly effective for increasing our participation rates and resulting impact on Congress;
  3. The action alert web sites are a highly effective means for recruiting new people onto our e-mail lists, growing the movement and doing so in the process of carrying out needed grassroots activism -- and ultimately increasing our potential donor base and ability to maintain and enhance these services;
  4. The system lets us look up subsets of our list based on geography (e.g. state, congressional district, city, state legislative district, county), and target action alerts to people who live in the key areas whose legislators or officials need to be lobbied especially vigorously due to their membership on committees responsible for active legislation or other reasons; and
  5. The personalization features the online system provides us allow us to send each of you individualized e-mails containing the name and phone number of your legislators, making it easier for you to take it to the next level of lobbying by phone, thereby increasing the number of phone calls to Congress that we can generate, a crucial show of passion for the issue that members of Congress need to see. For example, if you've used our write-to-Congress web forms in the last 2 3/4 years, you've probably received a few e-mails from us recently with text like the following:

    "If you haven't moved since we last communicated (zip code ___ in ___, __, than your US Representative is Rep. ___. Please call Rep. ___ at ____ and ask him to vote YES on ___ when it comes to a vote on the House floor..."
So while we can continue to send you legislative alerts without the online lobbying system, we can't make use of any of those extremely powerful features described in the paragraphs above. In order to resume our use of the service, we need to pay off our balance with the company that provides it as well as raise additional funds to ensure we can continue to afford it after that. All in all, we need to raise at least $10,000 in non-deductible donations to our 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, to reactivate the service and be fiscally responsible in continuing to subscribe to it. While this sounds like a lot of money, it's only slightly more than members like you gave us during our most successful previous fundraising appeal.

So please take a few moments to send DRCNet a few dollars today and make it happen! Please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make a contribution by credit card or PayPal or to print out a form to send in with your check -- or just send your donation by mail to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Donations to the Drug Reform Coordination Network to support our lobbying work (like the action alert program) are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible contributions to support our educational work can be made to the DRCNet Foundation, same address. We can also accept donations of stock: Our broker is Ameritrade, phone: (800) 669-3900, account number: 772973012, DTC number: 0188, make sure to contact us directly to let us know that the stocks are there and whether they are meant for the Drug Reform Coordination Network or the DRCNet Foundation.


11. Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions

The John W. Perry Fund, a project of the DRCNet Foundation in association with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, provides college scholarships to students losing federal financial aid because of drug convictions. The Fund has monies remaining for fall 2003 as well as future semesters, and eligible students are urged to apply as soon as possible.

Please visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/perryfund/ to fill out a pre-application, print out an application form or brochure, or for further information. Students, financial aid officers, friends and family members and supporters of students, as well as media, activists, potential donors and other interested parties, are all welcome to contact us!

Supportive parties are urged to take copies around to financial aid offices, social services agencies whose clientele are likely to include drug ex-offenders, high school guidance offices, and to forward information about the Perry Fund to appropriate e-mail lists. Community and state colleges are of particular interest to the Perry Fund, because the low tuition rates enable us to fully finance a student's education in many cases, and because their student bodies include a high proportion of low income with especially great financial need.

Any applicant losing federal financial aid due to a drug conviction, however, attempting to attend any school, is welcome and encouraged to apply. We continue to raise money for the Perry Fund, and the more applications we have received, the more money we will likely be able to raise for them. Please urge potential applicants to visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com/perryfund/ for information and to apply, or to contact DRCNet at (202) 362-0030. Thank you for spreading the word.


12. The Reformer's Calendar

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

January 7-10, Manchester, NH, Students for Sensible Drug Policy Annual Conference, held at the New Hampshire College Convention. E-mail [email protected], call (202) 293-4414 or visit http://nh2004.ssdp.org for further information.

January 17, 3:00pm, Sacramento, CA, Medical Marijuana Seminar. At the Actors Workshop Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., free, contact (707) 275-8879, (916) 806-2314, or [email protected], or visit http://www.eddysmedicinalgardens.com for further information.

January 21, 5:00-7:00pm, San Francisco, CA, "Got Rights? Drugs, Security, and the Future of Freedom in America." Forum at the San Francisco Medical Society, 1409 Sutter St., call (415) 921-4987 or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org for further information.

January 24, 4:00pm-3:00am, Brickell, FL, 6th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert, supporting medical marijuana campaigns by Florida NORML and Florida Cannabis Action Network. Admission $10, at Tobacco Road, 626 South Miami Ave., 21 or older with ID, contact (305) 374-1198 or Ploppy Palace Productions at [email protected] for further information.

January 28-February 7, Hannibal, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City, MO, "Special Delivery for John Ashcroft," speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Roger Hudlin. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for details of individual engagements.

January 31-February 1, Vancouver, BC, Canada, " Entheogenesis: Exploring Humanity's Relationship With Sacred Plants, Past, Present and Future." Visit http://www.entheogenesis.ca for further information.

March 27, noon-6:00pm, Sacramento, CA, Medical Marijuana Rally. At the State Capitol, L & 12th, north steps, featuring singer/songwriter Dave's Not Here, speakers, entertainment. Contact Peter Keyes at [email protected] or (916) 456-7933 for further information.

April 18-20, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!", March on Washington and Chronic Pain Patients Leadership Summit. For further information, visit http://www.PainReliefNetwork.org or contact Mary Vargas at (202)-331-8864 or Siobhan Reynolds at (212)-873-5848.

April 20-24, Melbourne, Australia, "15th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm." Visit http://www.ihra.net or e-mail [email protected] for information.

April 22-24, Washington, DC, NORML conference, details pending, visit http://www.norml.org for updates.

May 18-19, New York, NY, "Break the Cycle: Tear Down the New Slave Industry -- Criminal Injustice." Conference at Manhattan Community College/CUNY, 199 Chambers St., for further info contact Johanna DuBose at (212) 481-4313 or [email protected], or Victor Ray or Umme Hena at the BMCC Student Government Association, (212) 406-3980.

May 20-22, Charlottesville, VA, Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. At the Charlottesville Omni Hotel, visit http://www.medicalcannabis.com for further information.

September 18, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 15th Annual Freedom Rally, visit http://www.masscann.org for further information.

November 11-14, New Orleans, LA, "Working Under Fire: Drug User Health and Justice 2004," 5th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the New Orleans Astor Crowne Plaza, contact Paula Santiago at (212) 213-6376 x15 or visit http://www.harmreduction.org/conference/5thnatlconf.pdf for further information.


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PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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