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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #321, 1/23/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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This issue of Drug War Chronicle is dedicated to our friend Ron Crickenberger. Please read our memorial article in this issue to learn about his life, his work for libertarian causes, and what it meant to drug reform.

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  1. Ron Crickenberger Dead at 48 -- As Libertarian Party National Political Director Made Drug Policy Key Issue
  2. Death, Madness, Mayhem! Brit Tabloids in Fits Over Pot
  3. Review Finds Anti-Drug Campaign Works on Parents (Sort Of) But Not Kids -- Findings Contradict Drug Czar's Rosy Views
  4. Minnesota Sentencing Commission Report Says State Could Save $30 Million Per Year With Treatment Not Prison
  5. Newsbrief: European Union Envoy Criticizes Colombia Coca Fumigation
  6. Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca Growers Prepare to Gather, Government Gets Nervous
  7. Newsbrief: Bush Proposes More Money for School Drug Testing
  8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  9. Newsbrief: Kentucky Governor Unveils New Drug Offender Plan -- Less Prison, More Treatment
  10. This Week in History
  11. 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
  12. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Ron Crickenberger Dead at 48 -- As Libertarian Party National Political Director Made Drug Policy Key Issue

The US drug reform movement lost a leading light this week. Ron Crickenberger, who as the Libertarian Party's national political director from 1997 until a few months ago made ending drug prohibition a central plank in the party's platform, died of metastic melanoma (skin cancer) at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, on Tuesday less than two months after being diagnosed with the disease. He was 48.

Crickenberger at the Perry Fund
kickoff event, March 2002
With Crickenberger at the helm, the number of Libertarians holding elected office more than tripled, from 180 to about 600, and the party set new records for candidates on the ballot in both 2002 and 2002. Crickenberger himself was one of that number in 2000, when he campaigned for Congress in his home district in Northern Virginia.

"Ron was definitely an inspiration to everyone," said Troy Dayton, a drug reform activist who had worked with Crickenberger on Libertarian fundraising operations. "He worked so hard on issues of freedom, and he had a great sense of how all those issues intertwined. He was the one person most responsible for making drug policy the central issue for the Libertarians, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the party worked closely with the various drug reform groups," Dayton told DRCNet.

"He was the lead person in the party to make drug reform and drug policy such a big issue for the party," concurred new DanceSafe ( executive director Marc Brandl, who worked under Crickenberger as party national campus coordinator. "We had a drug war task force spurred by Ron, and he led the successful campaign to defeat Bob Barr," he told DRCNet, referring to the 2002 Republican primary election campaign where the hard-line drug warrior was rejected. In that campaign, Crickenberger teamed with medical marijuana patient Cheryl Miller -- who passed away herself in June -- to create television ads featuring a bed-ridden Miller asking, "Why do you want to put me in jail, Bob?"

"Ron was almost single-handedly responsible for making that happen," said Brandl. "He wanted to do a lot more with the strategy of un-electing legislators who threaten our freedoms. But now he's gone, and I'm sort of in shock, and I feel sort of down in the dumps. I saw him at DPA in November, but I never really had a chance to talk with him then."

In addition to fulfilling his duties as Libertarian Party national political director, Crickenberger had been a fixture at anti-prohibitionist events and demonstrations, both in Washington, where the party offices are, and at events around the country. DRCNet was a beneficiary of such efforts on Crickenberger's part, according to DRCNet executive director David Borden. "Ron traveled all the way to New York for a two minute speaking slot at our Perry Fund kickoff; and he made it out early on a cold winter morning to speak at my jury civil disobedience rally, even though we knew it would be small and mostly for practice."

Crickenberger at DRCNet's jury refusal "practice demo"

Crickenberger also showed up at the Justice Department in June 2002, when, with a handful of other Washington-based activists, he had himself arrested for blocking the doors to the Justice Department to protest federal raids on medical marijuana patients in California. "We're here to focus public attention on this issue," he said at the time. "Marijuana is one of the most benign therapeutic substances and it makes no sense for the federal government to be prosecuting patients who use it."

"Every protest I've been to in DC, Ron was there," said Dayton. "Not only did he run the national Libertarian movement, but he did what every activist in the country needs to do -- calling legislators, showing up at protests, putting signs on your car, all that kind of thing."

He had a sense of humor under pressure, too. "When we were arrested at the Justice Department and they put us in the holding tank, it was pretty tense," said Brandl. "But then Ron broke into 'Folsom Prison Blues' and got everybody laughing."

Crickenberger also had a personal life, which he shared with his partner of 12 years, Noelle Stettner, at their home in suburban Falls Church, Virginia. "Ron was positive to the last, even though these last two months were torture," she said. "Where other people might have given up, he was fighting to live. He wasn't ready to go yet," she told DRCNet. Crickenberger has two adult children, she told DRCNet, and a week-old granddaughter. "He got to see her before he left us," Stettner said.

Stettner also related how she and Crickenberger met. "It was through sci-fi," she said with a hint of a smile in her voice. "We were both geeks."

The Libertarian Party announced Crickenberger's death on its web site Tuesday. "The quest for liberty -- everyone's liberty -- was Ron's passion," said Steve Dasbach, who worked with Crickenberger as the party's executive director from 1998 to 2002. "His enthusiasm was contagious, infecting thousands of Libertarians with the desire to run for office, volunteer for campaigns, and willingly contribute their hard-earned money to the cause of freedom."

Crickenberger had worked his way up the party ladder after first becoming interested in libertarian issues as a small-businessman in Georgia, the state where he grew up. "It was taxes and regulation, not drugs, that got Ron started," said Dayton. Crickenberger managed a winning Libertarian Party city commission campaign in Georgia in 1995, served as state party chair after that, and was a member of the party's national committee before joining its Washington staff.

But Crickenberger was ousted from his position with the party last fall in what one observer delicately called "differences over vision and finances." Stettner had blunter words. "It was a bunch of infighting, and they made a bad decision, and I think it contributed to his death," she said. "Doing that job was his calling, and when a man is fired from a job he believes in like that, it affects him. He was outwardly positive, he was always outwardly positive, even about his illness, but he was forced out, and I think he was depressed about that."

Crickenberger's emphasis on the drug issue grated on some in the party, Stettner said, but he thought it was too important to ignore. "Ron thought it was stupid to run away from that issue because it upset a few people in the party," she said. "He felt like public opinion was already on our side and we could win. It could be our wedge issue. If we didn't get out front on that issue, someone else would. This could be part of the reason he was no longer with the Libertarian Party," she said.

But Ron Crickenberger was still plotting new battles when he died. He and Stettner were preparing to return to Georgia, where he had taken a position with Georgia Advocates for Self Government, a group that pushes for an expanded awareness of the libertarian philosophy. In line with this last twist in Crickenberger's vibrant and all-too-brief political career, his family is requesting that donations in his name be sent to: Advocates for Self-Government, The Liberty Building, 213 South Erwin Street, Cartersville, GA 30120, or online.

The New York LP has set up a page for people to leave their thoughts about Ron as well as some pictures of him, including his CD arrest for medical marijuana at the Department of Justice in 2002 at and more pictures at online.

2. Death, Madness, Mayhem! Brit Tabloids in Fits Over Pot

A full-blown outbreak of Reefer Madness has occurred in Great Britain in the last couple of weeks as segments of British society react hysterically to impending changes in that country's cannabis laws. Under an already-approved reclassification scheme that will go into effect January 29, cannabis will be downgraded from a Class B to a Class C drug. Changes in daily practice are expected to be minimal, with the primary difference being that police will generally no longer make arrests for simple cannabis possession. They will instead issue tickets. In some aggravated cases -- public disorder, smoking near schools or around kids, repeat offenders -- police will make arrests.

But to read the British tabloid press and the pronouncements of some "experts," one would be forgiven for mistakenly believing that the British government was about to embark on a program of mandatory daily cannabis injections for all citizens and the fate of civilization rested in the balance. In the past few days, the tabloids have been full of half-baked reports linking cannabis to madness and mayhem:

"Hedge-Feud Coroner Warns About Dangers of Cannabis" (Daily Telegraph, January 16). The warning came in the case of a pot-smoking man who killed his neighbor after a simmering, years-long feud boiled over. Coroner Roger Atkinson called it "undoubtedly the worst case I've come across of somebody under the influence of cannabis." He added: "I have stressed that cannabis is not a harmless drug, and this demonstrates, if nothing else, how devastating its effects can be."

"Hedge Fracas Death Fuelled by Cannabis" (The Independent, January 16). Same incident, additional quote. Detective Inspector Peter Bray of Lincolnshire Police told reporters outside the court: "It does nobody any good to use cannabis and can lead to these sorts of things." The Independent article, however, contained critical information not apparent from the headline: The shooter was drunk.

"Why I Ditched My Liberal Views on Dope" (The Observer, January 18). Here essayist Sue Arnold, who credits cannabis with saving her eyesight, explains that she changed her view after her college-age son "had what psychiatrists call 'a psychotic episode,' triggered by cannabis." Arnold is unclear about whether the diagnosis was made by a Cuban psychiatrist (her son was in Cuba) or from afar. "To cut a long, long story short, my son came home heavily sedated, spent six months in hospital in an intermediate care unit (ICU). He was prescribed different drugs and, after a series of events which are too difficult and painful to describe, has just resumed his final year at university. He's still on medication and will probably have to take it for ever. It goes without saying that if he ever smokes another spliff he will have a relapse."

"Ban Tobacco, Legalize Cannabis -- Are We Barmy?" (Daily Telegraph, January 19). Here the essayist, WF Deeves, explores the contradictions between the two policies, and even concedes that limited marijuana use isn't so bad. "In the days when I knew something about dangerous drugs, sat on government committees dealing with them and talked to schools about them, I learnt a bit about cannabis. In truth the occasional spliff does most people no more harm than the occasional cigarette or cigar." But then he goes on to note that cannabis is stronger now and reports ill-effects, the most serious of which he mentions is that "some of the girls we interviewed mentioned that relations with the boyfriend had become eerily estranged since he took it up." Eerie or barmy? You decide.

"Cannabis Law is 'Threat to Health'" (Peterborough Evening Telegraph, January 20). Cannabis reclassification is a "mental health time bomb" waiting to go off, warned Verina McEwen, the Peterborough Drug Action Team coordinator, adding that pot-smoking was a factor in 80% of inner-city mental health cases. "My fear is young people will be confused about the health risks," she said. "We know cannabis can be linked to confusion, both short-term and long-term, depression, and trigger more serious problems, such as paranoia."

"Doctors Support Drive Against Cannabis" (Times of London, January 20). The Times is no tabloid, but here the British medical establishment contributes to the climate of fear. Dr. Peter Maguire, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's board of science, said: "The public must be made aware of the harmful effects that we know result from smoking this drug. The BMA is extremely concerned that the public might think that reclassification equals 'safe.' It does not. We are very worried about the negative health effects of smoking cannabis and want the Government to fund more research on this issue."

But none of those stories, as frighteningly dramatic as they are designed to be, can hold a candle to one that hit the British press on Sunday. In a shocking coincidence, just days before cannabis reclassification is scheduled to go into effect in Britain, the first purported cannabis overdose fatality was reported -- in Britain, no less! "Man Killed By 23,000 Spliffs!" roared the Daily Record. "Cannabis Blamed as Cause of Man's Death," chimed in the Daily Telegraph. A real shocker, if true.

The story, however, appears to be a combination of a coroner's stab in the dark and the tabloids' insatiable appetite for titillation. Lee John Maisey, 36, died in August of unknown causes. Those causes are still unknown, despite the coroner's verdict that "cause of death was probable cannabis toxicity." That verdict appears to be based solely on the fact that he had cannabinoids in his system and the coroner could find no other cause.

According to the Pembrokeshire Coroner's Office: "An inquest was held on 18th December 2003 into the death of Lee John Maisey, who had died on 24th August 2003. A full autopsy had been carried out which had failed to reveal a cause of death. A histological examination also failed to establish a cause of death and, in consequence, a toxicological examination on blood samples obtained was carried out by Forensic Alliance. The samples showed a high concentration of Carboxy-THC, consistent with heavy cannabis usage. There were also traces of cannabidiol, indicating that cannabis and/or cannabis resin was used within a few hours of death. In the view of the pathologist, and in the absence of any other significant abnormality in spite of exhaustive investigation, it was likely that death occurred as a manifestation of cannabis toxicity. The coroner recorded a verdict of death by misadventure and that the cause of death was probable cannabis toxicity."

"They've proven nothing. We're still at zero fatalities," said a leading marijuana researcher who asked to remain unidentified for employment reasons. "They have no more proved he died from cannabis toxicity than he died from Mad Cow Disease from drinking orange juice," he said. "If you read carefully, you see it wasn't even a firm diagnosis. This does not constitute proof, either medical or legal." When asked for an alternative explanation, he pointed to heart disease. "Most often, when someone of that age dies suddenly, it is from cardiac arrhythmia," he speculated. "This is ridiculous."

Of course, such considerations did not stop a steady stream of British "drug experts" from confirming the fatal danger of cannabis. Nor did it stop the Daily Telegraph from printing those ill-informed pronouncements. "This type of death is extremely rare," said Prof. John Henry, a toxicologist at Imperial College, London. "I have not seen anything like this before. It corrects the argument that cannabis cannot kill anybody."

Dr Philip Guy, a lecturer in addictions at the University of Hull, said: "Cannabis is not the nice hippy drug it used to be. It has been experimented with to produce stronger varieties." Guy guessed that Maisey had eaten himself to death on pot brownies. "I would not be surprised if in this case the deceased had ingested a fatal amount of cannabis."

And Tory shadow home secretary David Davis was all aflutter, using the alleged news to jab at the Labor government. "This highlights what we have been saying about the effects of cannabis all along. When will people wake up to the fact that cannabis can be a harmful drug? By reclassifying the drug David Blunkett has shown he has lost the war on drugs. In my eyes, it's nothing more than an admission of failure."

So did Tristan Millington-Drake, the chief executive of the Chemical Dependency Centre. "We have always taken the view that cannabis is an addictive drug, unlike the pedlars who try to persuade us that it is harmless," he said. "The government's decision to reclassify cannabis is a mistake."

"All this was to be expected, the backlash is always waiting to pounce," said Danny Kushlick of the Transform Drug Policy Institute ( As for the amazing coincidence related to the alleged cannabis fatality, Kushlick pronounced himself boggled. "That's quite something, isn't it?" he laughed wearily. "They've done the same thing with this mental health stuff. They find some sort of correlation, but the causality gets very spurious when you look at it closely, and the correlation turns out to be extremely tiny."

"We are witnessing the dying gasp of prohibition there" said the anonymous marijuana expert. "Now we see a whole spate of articles about schizophrenia. That argument has been around forever; it's been studied for 115 years, ever since the Indian Hemp Commission in 1894, and the answer is always the same. The fact is, yeah, some people smoke and seem to go nuts for awhile, but it is self-limiting, and there is no evidence whatsoever that you can create schizophrenia with cannabis. People who are susceptible to schizophrenia could have problems, but at the same time, there are many schizophrenics who find it helps their symptomology."

And all of this over a simple rescheduling of cannabis. "The change is really minimal," said Kushlick. "For the police, they have to rely on their arrest guidelines, not the reclassification, to get that presumption against arrest. Ultimately, this should lead to fewer arrests for possession. The fact is, for the amount of furor around this, the government could have made a much bolder move."

To read the coroner's report in the "marijuana overdose death," visit online.

3. Review Finds Anti-Drug Campaign Works on Parents (Sort Of) But Not Kids -- Findings Contradict Drug Czar's Rosy Views

Just a little more than a month ago, John Walters, head of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office -- was loudly boasting that his $150 million a year youth anti-drug ad campaign was responsible for reducing marijuana use among kids. Based on the most recent figures from Monitoring the Future (, one of three widely used measures for tracking drug use levels, Walters proclaimed the ad campaign at least partially responsible for an 11% decrease in marijuana use among teens canvassed in the survey. (The numbers were 19.4% in 2001 and 17.3% in 2003, an actual difference of 2.1 percentage points. But an 11% decrease sounds more impressive.)

Monitoring the Future lead investigator Lloyd Johnston guardedly seconded that opinion, as did Dr. Glen Hansen, acting director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse ( But a study commissioned by NIDA and released Monday has come up with startlingly different results.

Here are what Johnston, Walters, and Hansen said last month:

  • Johnston: "It is quite possible that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign by the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which communicates the dangers of marijuana use, has had its intended effect. We have definitely seen a change in that direction." -- Monitoring the Future press release, December 19.
  • Walters: "Teen drug use has reached a level that we haven't seen in nearly a decade. This survey shows that when we push back against the drug problem, it gets smaller. Fewer teens are using drugs because of the deliberate and serious messages they have received about the dangers of drugs from their parents, leaders, and prevention efforts like our National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign." -- ONDCP press release, December 19.
  • Hanson: "A message is getting out there." -- ONDCP press release, December 19.
Neither Monitoring the Future nor ONDCP returned DRCNet's calls for comment this week, nor has ONDCP issued any press releases on the findings released this week.

The four-year, NIDA-commissioned study of the ad campaign by the University of Pennsylvania's Walter Annenberg School of Communications and the research group Westat had to say this week:

Effects on youth: "There is little evidence of direct favorable Campaign effects on youth, either for the Marijuana Initiative or the Campaign as a whole. The trend data in marijuana use is not favorable [although different measures, such as Monitoring the Future, show different results]. In any case, youth who were exposed to more Campaign messages were no more likely to hold favorable beliefs or intentions about marijuana than are youth less exposed to those messages, both during the Marijuana Initiative period and over the course of the Campaign."

Effects on parents: "Overall, there is some evidence of favorable Campaign effects on four out of five parent belief and behavior outcome measures, including talking with children about drugs, doing fun activities with children, and beliefs about monitoring children. The evidence for the Campaign's effects on monitoring behavior was much weaker. The lack of influence on monitoring is a concern because... it is the parent behavior most associated with youth non-use of marijuana. In addition, there is no evidence for favorable indirect effects on youth behavior or beliefs as a result of parent exposure to the Campaign."

The NIDA-commissioned study released this week will be the last independent audit of the anti-drug media campaign. Following similar previous analyses of the campaign's lack of success, ONDCP maneuvered to end funding for such independent evaluations. Instead, the campaign will be evaluated by campaign co-conspirators, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

"This independent evaluation confirms what has been obvious for some time: The government's anti-marijuana ads are a complete failure and a staggering waste of taxpayer money," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project ( in a Monday press release. "Hundreds of millions have been spent on these ads already, and Congress may soon authorize over $1 billion for the campaign over the next five years. We urge Congress to pull the plug on this propaganda," Fox said. "At the very least, Congress must demand reinstatement of the independent evaluations. Having the Partnership for a Drug-Free America evaluate its own ad campaign is like having Halliburton audit its own federal contracts."

"This study just confirms that the campaign isn't working," concurred Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( "The only independent scientific evaluation of the campaign shows no impact on those kids who have seen more ads than others, and in some cases, those kids who have seen more ads actually show a more pro-drug attitude than those who haven't. Not only does the campaign not work, it is sometimes even counterproductive," he said.

Armentano also had some criticism of Monitoring the Future's Johnston. "Johnston was not looking specifically at the ads' impact; he simply noted the downturn in use and attributed it to the ad campaign. But he didn't ask if the people he polled who reported lower use were actually influenced by the ads or had even seen them. That is not scientific," Armentano said.

As for action from Congress, Armentano wasn't optimistic. "If we had reason to believe that Congress would base its decision on appropriating funds for the campaign on the results of scientific evaluations, I would be optimistic," he said. "But Washington is completely uninterested in whether it actually works; instead, it's full speed ahead." Still, Armentano added, the anti-drug ad campaign had already seen its funding slashed from $200 million a year to $150 million a year after earlier doubts were raised. "It's not a slam dunk for the drug czar, but I've been to these appropriation hearings and I've seen Walters get up and say 'we're getting dramatically positive results, the ads are working,' and Congress says 'sounds like you're doing a great job.' They didn't question him."

The anti-drug ad campaign has been widely criticized, ridiculed, and even parodied, as well as repeatedly being found ineffective. But, in a sign of corporate collusion with conservative prohibitionists, CBS has pronounced the ads non-controversial and will once again run them during the upcoming Superbowl. CBS has denied air time for paid commercials from organizations including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and MoveOn, the anti-Bush grassroots organization, on the grounds that they are advocacy ads. But the drug czar's propaganda is okay.

The report, "Evaluation of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, 2003 Report of Findings," is available at online.

4. Minnesota Sentencing Commission Report Says State Could Save $30 Million Per Year With Treatment Not Prison

A special report on drug offenders released last week by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission has opened the door for another round of debate in the state legislature over what to do about the spiraling cost of increasing drug offenders. That report found the state could save $30 million a year if nonviolent drug offenders were sent to treatment instead of prison.

Since 1989, Minnesota has embarked an ever-harsher war on drugs, with the percentage of drug prisoners rising from 9% in 1989 to 23% in 2002. That year, for the first time ever, Minnesota sent more people to prison for drug offenses than for either violent or property offenses, and for longer. Average drug sentences more than doubled in length between 1988 -- the last year before the state's current harsh drug laws went into effect -- from under two years (22.9 months) to over four years (50.2 months) in that period, the report found.

The commission found that one reason Minnesota has so many drug offenders behind bars is that its punishments are much stricter than those of neighboring Upper Midwest states. But the state is also paying the price for its war against crack cocaine, with penalties being increased throughout the late-1980s, and in an ironic twist, a 1990 court ruling on discrepancies between powder and crack cocaine made it worse. After that ruling, Minnesota decided to punish powder violators as severely as crack violators instead of lessening penalties for the latter. This is not surprising for a state who complex sentencing guidelines explicitly equate drug sales over a rather low threshold with "rape by force or threat."

That decision was only one of many that led to "a combination of intended and unintended consequences" for drug warriors and the state budget, the report said. "In addition, reductions in treatment resources at both the state and local levels have contributed to a growing number of drug offenders recycling through our criminal justice system," the report noted.

The sentencing guideline commission consists of three members of the state judiciary, a county sheriff, a county prosecutor, a public defender, the state corrections commissioner, and two "citizen representatives" appointed by the governor. The makeup of the commission may help to explain the limited -- if progressive within the context of Minnesota crime and drug politics in recent years -- nature of its "options for consideration," which were:

  • Maintain the status quo. This option would entail "additional appropriations" to pay for more prison beds for the projected growth in drug war prisoners and for more prison-based drug treatment programs. The commission put the cost of new prison construction alone under this option at $58.2 million by 2012.
  • Reduce sentences by adjusting "thresholds," or quantities of a given drug that trigger stiffer penalties or a presumption of drug dealing. The commission gave the example of a man, "John Smith," caught with 10 grams of cocaine. Under the 1982 sentencing guidelines, he would have been sentenced to a year's probation; with changes in 1986, he would have served two years in prison; under the post-1989 legislative regime, he would serve seven years in prison. The commission suggested returning to the pre-1989 sentencing guidelines.
  • Reduce sentences by adjusting the state's complicated sentencing guideline structure. The changes envisioned by the commission under this option would involve downsizing some drug offenses to reduce maximum sentences faced. The commission found that Minnesota drug sentences were both "somewhat disproportionate" in the region and perceived to be disproportionate by Minnesota judges, who granted downward departures in drug cases at a rate much than those for other offenses.
  • Develop, implement, and pay for a community-based punishment and treatment program to reduce the number of drug offenders returned to prison for parole or probation violations. It would cost, the commission conceded, but "these costs would be less per offender than the annual cost to incarceration an offender in a state correctional facility."
  • Develop a comprehensive sentencing policy for drug offenders "guided by the need to protect public safety, hold the offender accountable for his/her illegal behavior and provide a meaningful opportunity for the offender to address his/her substance abuse problem and drug related behavior."
Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-Minneapolis) didn't wait for the commission to introduce a bill raising the amount of cocaine or methamphetamine needed to trigger the state's harsh sentences. Now, anyone caught with a half-ounce of either drug faces seven years in prison. Under Ellison's bill, that threshold would jump to two ounces. "We've got to reserve our prison cells for the truly dangerous," Ellison told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Other officials reacted to the commission's finding that Minnesota's sentences were tougher than neighboring states. "We have to figure out what is the right level of deterrence and get in line with other states," Rep. Eric Lipman (R-Lake Elmo) said. "Why would we be way out front?"

"If we're out of sync with other states, it's worth it to take a look at it," Hennepin County (Minneapolis) prosecuting attorney Amy Klobuchar told the Star-Tribune. "But we must keep a focus on drug dealers. We can't go too far the other way."

Visit to read the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission "Special Report to the Legislature on Drug Offender Sentencing" online.

To read about Rep. Ellison's sentencing reform bill, HF1037, go to and type the bill number in the search function.

5. Newsbrief: European Union Envoy Criticizes Colombia Coca Fumigation

European Union (EU) External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten criticized the US-backed drug eradication program in Colombia while in Bogota for two days of talks over the EU's role in funding Colombia's future. Patten also echoed criticism of Colombia's human rights record, singling out an "anti-terrorism" law passed last month that gives the military certain judicial powers, and rebuked the leftist FARC guerrillas for their kidnapping of civilians.

The EU has refused to fund Plan Colombia's drug war aspects, instead pledging funds for development programs, including $54 million Patten announced Wednesday. In a meeting of potential aid donor nations in London in July, participants agreed to condition assistance to Colombia on its compliance with United Nations High Commission on Human Rights recommendations. Another donor conference is set for later this year.

In remarks made after meeting with President Alvaro Uribe Wednesday night and reported on by Agence France Presse, Patten called for alternatives to crop fumigation, saying it led to too much collateral damage. There are other means of reducing coca production, he said, adding that fumigation destroys food crops as well as coca plants and damages the environment.

US and Colombian officials have hailed the program as a success, citing a decrease in overall production, but recent reports have cited reseeding in areas that have been sprayed and new crops being sown in formerly virgin areas. Coca production is now also on the increase in Peru and Bolivia, according to US and UN figures.

6. Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca Growers Prepare to Gather, Government Gets Nervous

Peruvian coca growers, including leaders Nancy Obregon, Maricela Guillen and Elsa Malpartida, will gather in Lima next month for a "Congreso de Cocaleros" (Coca Growers' Congress) -- and the Peruvian government of President Jaime Alejandro Toledo is warning melodramatically of the worst.

With some 4,000 or more cocaleros predicted to convene in the Peruvian capital on February 18-20 to discuss their plight, the Peruvian government is claiming to see the ghosts of Bolivia, where a popular uprising spearheaded in part by militant cocaleros overthrew the government of US ally Gonzalos Sanchez de Losada last October. Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi warned darkly of a potential "bolivianazo" (social explosion as occurred in Bolivia), conjuring up the specter of protests, road blockages, and strikes engineered by devious leftist politicos such as union leaders or the Red Fatherland communist party. "There are many who want to imitate the [Bolivian] cocalero leader Evo Morales and attempt to take advantage of the cocaleros to try to place the government in danger," he told reporters Wednesday.

Rospigliosi also claimed that "authentic" coca leaders were working with the government and that in 108 contracts signed with cocaleros, they had agreed to eradicate their plants.

"This shows that there is alternative development, which some people -- like the drug traffickers -- pretend has failed, the same as dialog and self-eradication," he said.

But Flavio Sanchez, president of the Coca Growers Association of Padre Abad Province in Ucayali, disagreed. "The government is not solving the problem of the producers of coca leaf," he told CPN Radio Wednesday, "but those of some fly-by-night farmers that do not belong to the association."

And Nancy Obregon, one of the leaders of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Producers, accused the minister of trying to disarticulate the movement by accusing it of promoting marches against the government. "I don't know where he got that idea," she told CPN Radio Wednesday. "We are not making any kind of marches or counter-marches," she said. For good measure, she reminded the government that the country is not in a state of siege. "We are in a state of democratic law and we can meet with whatever organization that wishes to meet with us," she bristled.

Obregon wasn't alone in accusing Rospigliosi of whipping up fears for no reason. "The government is seeing ghosts where they don't exist," Rep. Fabiola Morales of the National Unity Party told RPP Noticias the same day.

And Congressman Michael Martinez told RPP that Rospigliosi was laying the groundwork to repress the cocaleros. The interior minister's words "are part of preparations to quiet by force the peasants who will meet in Lima in the month of February," said Martinez.

Peruvian coca expert Hugo Cabieses told CPN Radio it was "lamentable" that Rospigliosi couldn't tell the difference between Peru and Bolivia. "He is making up fantasies," said Cabieses, alluding to the warnings of a "bolivianazo."

Rospigliosi's remarks appear to be more a reflection of very jittery government than impending chaos in the streets of Lima. But that is only the benign interpretation. A more sinister one would be that the government is trying to demonize the cocaleros by linking them to the specter of political violence and the drug trade.

Visit to read our interview with Nancy Obregon.

7. Newsbrief: Bush Proposes More Money for School Drug Testing

In a section of his State of the Union speech sandwiched between a denunciation of universal health care and an attack on the looming threat of gay marriage, President Bush Tuesday night took time out to praise his administration's teen anti-drug efforts and call for more federal funds for drug testing of students.

"One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs," said Bush. "Our government is helping parents confront this problem, with aggressive education, treatment, and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional 23 million dollars for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you."

But while Bush and his drug czar, John Walters, are eager to push school drug testing, they might want to look at what the researchers at the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future (MTF) project had to say about the utility of drug testing in the schools. MTF conducts annual surveys of middle and high school students to determine drug use levels. It is MTF figures on drug use that Bush cited in the paragraph above.

"Drug testing of students in schools does not deter drug use," MTF announced in a press release in May 2003. "The research findings challenge the premise that has been central to the rationale for schools adopting a drug testing policy." According to the statement, investigators found "virtually identical" drug use rates at schools that tested and schools that don't. The finding hold true across grade levels, the research found.

MTF found that 19% of American high schools tested for drugs, but 14% of those only tested "for cause," or if drug use was suspected. Only 5% of high schools had a drug testing policy that extended beyond "for cause" testing. There is good reason for that, said Lloyd Johnston, head researcher for MTF.

"We think that one reason so few schools test their students is that it is an expensive undertaking," said Johnston. "Schools are very pressed for funds, and I would say the results of our investigation raise a serious question about whether drug testing is a wise investment of their scarce resources. It's also very controversial with parents and students," he pointed out. "The way that drug testing has been carried out in the schools looks very unpromising. I have no doubt that one could design a drug testing program that would deter teen drug use, but at what monetary cost and at what cost in terms of intrusion into the privacy of our young people?"

But never mind all that. It sure made a good sound bite. And after all, Bush wants to do this out of love.

8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

We almost went foreign for the first time in this feature this week, as the Toronto drug squad reels from arrests and associated sleaze, if only to make clear to readers that Canada is not all sweetness and light when it comes to drug enforcement. But the Toronto story has legs, so we keep it in reserve and turn to another police corruption story that also has legs, but that we have so far neglected to mention.

In Detroit, two more officers pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges related to the long-playing scandal over police shakedowns of drug dealers and prostitutes in southwest Detroit in 2000 and 2001. Fifteen other officers face charges, while one has already copped a plea. All are accused of stealing drugs, guns, and money from some drug dealers and planting guns and drugs on others. Two people convicted of drug crimes based on testimony from those officers have been released from prison so far.

This week officers Troy Bradley, 37, of Detroit, and Nicole Rich, 25, of St. Clair Shores, copped pleas and promised to rat out their fellow officers in return for leniency. Bradley pled to conspiracy to deprive someone of his civil rights, a 10-year felony, while Rich pled to a misdemeanor version of the charge. She is looking at a maximum one-year sentence.

In their deals with federal prosecutors, Bradley and Rich both accepted prison time, but according to the Detroit Free Press, Assistant US Attorneys Michael Bullotta and John Engstrom will recommend probation if the pair provide "substantial assistance"—that is, if they testify or otherwise provide information to the help the feds nail the rest of the bad cops. But under the plea bargains, both have to resign from the force, and Bradley will still have to appear in an FBI training videotape about how to keep cops honest.

The Detroit story is far from over. Stay tuned.

9. Newsbrief: Kentucky Governor Unveils New Drug Offender Plan -- Less Prison, More Treatment

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) and his criminal justice point man, Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, have unveiled a plan that would put more drug offenders in treatment and fewer in prison. The plan would also expand the state's drug treatment complex and fledgling drug court system, and it could put a hold on opening a new 1,000-bed prison under construction in Elliot County.

The Bluegrass State's reliance on imprisonment as a method of suppressing drug use and the drug trade has led to a budgetary black hole that forced former Gov. Paul Patton (D) to release some prisoners early in 2002. With nearly 12,000 prisoners, the state's prison population has increased 41% in the last decade, driven largely by drug offenders. With the state's budget still under severe pressure, Gov. Fletcher is now hoping to save money by keeping drug offenders out of prison. Each prisoner costs the state $17,200 a year.

Pence outlined his proposals to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they draw praise from lawmakers and treatment advocates, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. And while some whose oxen may be gored, such as legislators from the area where the new prison will not open, have complained, Pence was stalwart. Need, not jobs, should determine when to open the prison, he said. "I don't think we can let that be our driving force on our rate of incarceration," Pence said. "Somebody has to pay for this. It's going to be cheaper in the long run," he told the committee.

Pence will also fight for treatment money. At $5,000 per year, treatment is more effective and cheaper than prison, he said. "I believe that if we have to take money from somewhere else and put it in treatment, we'll have to do that."

Drug treatment programs are starved for funds, advocates said. "We're pretty busy trying to Band-Aid the system and deal with the lines of people at the door," state Division of Substance Abuse acting director Karyn Hascal told the Courier-Journal.

But it was mental health advocate Sheila Schuster who had the most intriguing take on the issue. She pronounced herself "thrilled" at the administration's support for treatment, but said the state needs to take a broader approach than "treatment not jail." How about providing treatment for those who ask for it, she suggested. "Don't forget the system of care for those who have not committed a crime," she said.

10. This Week in History

January 23, 1912: In the Hague, twelve nations sign a convention restricting opium and coca production.

January 25, 1990: President George Bush proposes to add an additional $1.2 billion to the budget for the war on drugs, including a 50% increase in military spending.

January 25, 1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act extends ONDCP's mission to assessing budgets and resources related to the National Drug Control Strategy. It also establishes specific reporting requirements in the areas of drug use, availability, consequences, and treatment.

January 25, 1995: The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia by Robert Kampia and Chuck Thomas.

January 28, 1972: The Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) is founded. The Nixon Administration creates ODALE to establish joint federal/local task forces to fight the drug trade at the street level. Myles Ambrose is appointed director.

January 28, 1982: The South Florida Drug Task Force is formed. Outraged by the drug trade's increasing violence in their city, Miami citizens lobby the federal government for help. President Reagan responds by creating a cabinet-level task force, the Vice-President's Task Force on South Florida. Headed by George Bush, it combines agents from DEA, Customs, ATF, IRS, Army, and Navy to mobilize against drug traffickers. Reagan later creates several other regional task forces throughout the US.

January 28, 2004: 22 years after the formation of the South Florida Drug Task Force, drug trafficking in Florida continues unabated.

11. 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 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 and 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:
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 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.

1. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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

February 1-6, Hannibal, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Springfield, MO, "Special Delivery for John Ashcroft" speaking tour by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] or visit for further information.

February 15-22, nationwide, "Medical Marijuana Week 2004," day of protests organized by Americans for Safe Access. E-mail [email protected], call (510) 486-8083 or visit to get involved.

March 1-2, Houston, TX, speaking tour by Bob Owens of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] or visit for further information.

March 3-11, Idaho, "Modern-day Paul Revere calls America to the Truth," speaking tour by Howard Wooldridge of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] or visit 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 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 or e-mail [email protected] for information.

April 22-24, Washington, DC, NORML conference, details pending, visit 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 for further information.

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

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