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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #324, 2/13/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Victory for Hemp! Federal Judges Reject DEA Effort to Ban Hemp Foods
  2. DRCNet Interview: Chuck Thomas and Troy Dayton, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative
  3. Sweet Home Alabama: Marijuana Legalization Advocate Convicted on Pot Charge in Kafkaesque Trial -- Appeal Filed Immediately
  4. Action Alert: HEA Campaign Entering New Stage -- Your Letters and Phone Calls Needed!
  5. Newsbrief: Legalization Talk in Trinidad
  6. Newsbrief: Brit Police Chief Says Legalize Heroin, Irks Other Cops
  7. Newsbrief: Australian Federal Government Issues Threat to Stop New Safe Injection Sites
  8. Newsbrief: Prohibitionist Sweden Sees Drug Deaths Climb
  9. Newsbrief: Philadelphia Drug War Reality Tour Hits the Airwaves, Internet
  10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  11. Newsbrief: US Senate to Consider Lifting Buprenorphine Restrictions
  12. Ohio Patients Network Art Contest
  13. UCSF Seeking Patients for Medical Marijuana Research
  14. Offer and Appeal: New StoptheDrugWar.org Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Victory for Hemp! Federal Judges Reject DEA Effort to Ban Hemp Foods

The hemp industry has won a three-year battle with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over the agency's effort to ban foods containing hemp products, and now the industry wants the feds to say they're sorry. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled February 6 that the DEA overstepped the bounds of the law when, in contradiction to the plain language of the Controlled Substances Act, it attempted to ban foods containing trace elements of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

And based on official documents obtained by the Hemp Industry Association's VoteHemp project (http://www.votehemp.com), the industry is charging that the Justice Department knew all along it didn't have a legal leg to stand on, but that it plotted the commerce-sabotaging move as part of its culture war against marijuana.

The court held that while the DEA does have regulatory authority over marijuana and synthetic THC, that authority does not extend to the "non-marijuana" parts of cannabis plants. The Controlled Substances Act explicitly exempts stalks, seeds, and fiber from regulation under the act. "The DEA cannot regulate naturally-occurring THC not contained within or derived from marijuana -- i.e., non-psychoactive hemp is not included in Schedule I," wrote federal Judge Betty Fletcher for a three-judge panel. "The DEA has no authority to regulate drugs that are not scheduled, and it has not followed procedures required to schedule a substance. The DEA's definition of THC contravenes the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress in the CSA and cannot be upheld."

"The decision in HIA v. DEA is a huge boost to the hemp food market, and we expect to see many more hemp food products on store shelves," said David Bronner, maker of the AlpSnack organic hemp nutrition bar and chair of the HIA Food and Oil Committee. "The three-judge panel agreed with our main argument that the DEA's 'Final Rule' ignores Congress's specific exemption in the Controlled Substances Act under the definition of marijuana that excludes hemp seed and oil from control along with hemp fiber. Based on today's decision, the court reasonably views trace insignificant amounts of THC in hemp seed in the same way as it sees trace amounts of opiates in poppy seeds," Bronner said.

Unless the Justice Department appeals the decision to the Supreme Court -- it has not yet made any announcement -- or seeks to move against hemp foods through other means, possibly using the Food and Drug Administration, the ruling marks an end to a legal battle that began in October 2001, when the DEA issued an "interpretative rule" banning the sale of hemp products for human consumption because they contained traces of THC. The DEA and its Justice Department attorneys argued that people might get high from hemp food and that hemp foods could affect drug testing, but those contentions were ill-founded and almost literally laughed out of court, first by the 9th Circuit in June 2003, when it invalidated the "interpretive rule," and again last week, when the court threw out the DEA's "final rule."

While industry figures hailed the ruling, the fight cost the HIA at least $200,000 in legal expenses and damaged the nascent industry as some retailers pulled hemp food products from their shelves. And with recently uncovered official documents in hand, the industry is crying foul. "The public and media should question the motives of the DEA," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp. "We have uncovered documents through the Freedom of Information Act that prove the DEA's own attorneys at the Department of Justice as far back as March 2000 knew they lacked the authority to ban hemp food products. The DEA owes over 200 companies and every American an apology for wasting taxpayer money pursuing a ban on hemp foods."

Steenstra was referring to a March 22, 2002, letter from John Roth, chief of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Division of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. In that letter responding to a request for a legal opinion from then Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Roth reviewed the history of court decisions relating to the issue and after noting differences between the treatment of marijuana and hemp, concluded: "With hemp, by contrast, Congress has made its intent known by specifically excluding these products from its definition of marijuana. While the department's overall policy toward the cultivation of cannabis for hemp purposes is currently undergoing review by the Attorney General, it is our legal opinion that we presently lack the authority to prohibit the importation of hemp products..."

But wait, there's more. Two years earlier, in another letter obtained by Vote Hemp, then Office of National Drug Control Policy general counsel Ed Jurith was plotting efforts to ban hemp foods because, as he put it, "hemp-hype has become a stalking horse for the marijuana movement." Allowing the importation and sale of hemp consumables "threatens the viability of our federal drug testing system and supports a movement to cultivate cannabis sativa in this country," Jurith warned head Customs lawyer Alfonso Robles. Such an outcome would be "unacceptable," wrote Jurith, suggesting that an "interpretation of the plain language of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act" might serve to block such evil.

But Jurith's interpretation, or one of its bureaucratic descendants, is what died in federal court in San Francisco last week. And with it died what can only be called a conspiracy impelled by the imperatives of drug war absolutism to disrupt and bankrupt a legal, healthful industry. "The truth is that the DEA, at the direction of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the urging of the Family Research Council, attempted to kill the legitimate, burgeoning hemp foods industry not because hemp is harmful to the human body, but because they see it as a 'stalking horse' for the marijuana movement," said Patrick Goggin, an attorney for the HIA, who warned of possible legal action against the government. "The damages this egregious policy have caused are widespread to say the least. The industry is fully considering its options for recovering these damages and the cost of defending against this underhanded governmental action."

While the hemp industry celebrates its victory, it also seeks to punish governmental wrongdoers. And it's looking over its shoulders to see what, if anything, the feds throw at it next. "We are prepared for an appeal," declared HIA publicist Adam Eidinger. "An appeal would help us, it would be more mud on the DEA's reputation and more publicity for us."

Read the US 9th Circuit Court decision in HIA vs. USA online at:
http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/90DC066FE8E8955688256E31007ACE3B/$file/0371366.pdf?openelement

Read the Roth letter online at:
http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/roth_letter.pdf

Read the Jurith letter online at:
http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/jurith_robles.pdf


2. DRCNet Interview: Chuck Thomas and Troy Dayton, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative

Chuck Thomas spent years in the drug reform trenches, most notably as a cofounder of the Marijuana Policy Project and its director of communications from 1995 through 2001. But following his own spiritual quest and seeing fresh opportunities to organize new flocks, in 2000 Thomas formed Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform (http://www.uudpr.org) as a means of bringing at least one section of the religious community into the struggle. Thanks largely to Thomas' guidance, the Unitarians have developed a very progressive position on drug policy -- legal use and regulated access -- and now he is seeking to broaden that success with other religious communities. To that end, Thomas formed the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (http://www.idpi.us), and with some seed money in hand hired on long-time drug policy activist Troy Dayton as the group's field coordinator. DRCNet spoke with Dayton and Thomas this week about what they're up to.

Drug War Chronicle: What is the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative and what does it seek to accomplish?

Chuck Thomas: I started Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform (UUDPR) a couple of years ago to help shape the Unitarian Universalist denomination's drug policy position statement and then to publicly advocate for the recommendations in it. Those recommendations include a variety of reform options, up to removing criminal penalties for drug possession and use and a medicalized way for people to access drugs. For the past couple of years, we have worked to educate the public and to do some policy work on these matters. UUDPR had a tax status that limited the amount of effort we could spend lobbying directly or even organizing grassroots lobbying. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we can only spend 5% of our time influencing policy, and we wanted to be able to spend more time and resources doing that. Also, other people of faith would contact UUDPR wanting to get involved through our organization. We realized it would be very useful to have a 501(c)(4) organization, one that the IRS allows to spend an unlimited amount of time and resources influencing legislation, including things like organizing the grassroots.

We figured we could get more bang for the buck as an interfaith organization, so I spent a couple of months trying to get all our ducks in a row and looking for a field coordinator. For the past month and a half, Troy Dayton has been doing that job. He's been involved in drug policy work since he was a student at American University, and he is also very spiritually attentive and very interested in this kind of work. Troy is doing a lot of outreach to religious organizations now.

Our goal is to organize religious or spiritually attentive individuals, as well as denominations and other religious activist groups to focus on advocating whatever drug policy reform positions their denominations already support and what is already on the public agenda. Most mainstream religious denominations don't go as far as the Unitarian Universalist Association, they don't support regulated access, but some actually recommend decriminalization, and others support a variety of reforms that are actually before state legislatures, such as ending mandatory minimum sentences, treatment not prison, medical marijuana, and a whole host of harm reduction measures.

The beauty of this project is that we match up the religious people whose denominations already support these things with the drug policy reform efforts already underway in various states, as well as Congress. For example, there are medical marijuana bills in several states, a treatment not jail bill in Maryland, the effort to end mandatory minimums in New York by repealing the Rockefeller laws, the federal effort to repeal the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, and a federal medical marijuana amendment coming up this summer. There are a whole raft of good and bad bills to work on.

We're doing basic grassroots advocacy work. Troy e-mails and calls various religious bodies, congregations, and individuals and gets them to participate in the coalition's activities and write letters to pass good bills and defeat bad bills.

Chronicle: So how are things going so far?

Troy Dayton: The outreach is going great. The rubber really meets the road when I'm talking to clergy, encouraging them to take a public stand or get their congregations active, or when I'm setting up appointments with different interfaith groups. We have come to realize that in almost every town or city there are organizations of the leaders of the various churches who meet to make decisions about policy. They often have lobbyists working the legislature, so they are already in the process. This is an amazing resource we are beginning to tap into here. We've been working with the coalition around drug policy reform in Maryland (http://www.treatnotjail.org) and we are applying what we've learned to other states. We're also getting key people already on our UUDPR lists and getting them to get their congregations active, to do forums and send e-mails and similar things. My job is basically to gather the ground troops and develop a groundswell of support from the congregations and an outcry for relief from religious leaders.

Thomas: We are also reaching out beyond the Unitarians. Troy mentioned Maryland. Last week, we met with the Maryland Interfaith Legislative Council, and while they have not yet reached consensus on endorsing the treatment not jail campaign, representatives from a variety of religious faiths were able to hear our message, and we are encouraging them to sign on individually. For example, we succeeded in getting the Episcopalians in Maryland to endorse this. This is the kind of thing we've been doing.

Chronicle: What else is on your agenda?

Thomas: Spring is a very busy season for us because that is when the state legislatures typically meet, but after that we will put more time into making the coalition even larger. We'll be digging up the drug policy positions from every denomination we can find, and then we'll see where there is room for improvement. This will involve working with individuals from those denominations who are already on board with us to help them figure out how to work through the policy process in their churches. We want to help shape these policy statements so they support substantial drug policy reform, and we will follow the model of what I did with the Unitarian Universalists a couple of years ago. We will help coordinate the efforts of other religious people to get them to push the envelope, so by the time the next legislative session rolls around, we'll have more to work with.

We are hoping to fill an important niche in drug policy reform. Ultimately, if we are to achieve to kind of drug policy reform the movement is working for -- removing criminal penalties for use and allowing regulated access -- we really have to shatter the common misconception that these kinds of policy changes are somehow immoral. People have the sense that drugs are bad, so the drug war must therefore be good. They may say there are excesses that could be eliminated or minor fixes needed, but there is a widespread sense that prohibition is inherently a moral response to drugs. The drug reform movement can win some victories in stopping some of the drug war's excesses, but to go that final step and actually end prohibition we really need to help the American people understand that drug use is not necessarily immoral, and even if you think it is, arresting people for it is not a moral response. It is wrong to punish people who are harming only themselves even if you think it is a sin. It is wrong for the government to punish people for sin. Drugs should be treated as a health issue. There are physical, psychological, and spiritual health issues, and these should be dealt with by families, doctors, communities, religious organizations, not the criminal justice system. Our slogan is "compassion not coercion."

If you look at the moral and philosophical underpinnings of the world's religions, you can draw logical conclusions about how we should handle drugs. It is a matter of getting people to think about it in that context and then to move through the decision-making bodies of the different denominations and have them recognize the merits of this position. That's our longer term mission. Over the next couple of years, we intend to spend a lot of time and resources to build a large, effective religious wing of the drug policy reform movement.

Chronicle: Aren't there already religious people in the movement?

Thomas: Oh, yes. One of things I'm excited about is that there are a lot of reformers who are already involved in religious communities or otherwise take their spiritual practices seriously. I'm always pleasantly surprised to find people I've worked with over the years getting involved in various mainstream religious communities. In some cases, they've already taken steps to help their fellow congregants, but in many cases it never really occurred to them. They hadn't really thought about organizing drug policy reform through their religions. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact us and let us work with them. There is much to be done, whether it is writing letters to a legislator or to a newspaper or otherwise communicating with the public, to articulate and advance the moral, ethical, and religious arguments against prohibition. And people should be explicit, whether it is quoting scripture that supports drug policy changes or whatever else it takes. Religious groups wield enormous influence in our political process, and if people think drug policy reform must be immoral, we have to shatter the myth of consensus that surrounds that notion. One letter from an authentic religious person involved in a mainstream denomination can be just enough to sway that legislator sitting on the fence.

The people who are involved in drug reform and are religious need to contact us so we can start to bridge the gap and help bring members of these religious communities on board and get them involved in our lobbying efforts. With our new tax status, it is very exciting. Now, we can be very explicit and tell people these are the bills they should support or not, and start working to win victories.

Chronicle: How does the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative support itself?

Thomas: Raising money is a challenge in drug reform, and even more so for 501(c)(4) organizations, because big contributions are not tax deductible. Unitarians have given money to UUDPR, but the initiative itself has so far had just one start-up grant from Peter Lewis. Funding will have to come largely through individual donors. We encourage people to check our web page and make a donation, whether they are religious themselves or they just recognize that effective political movements have a strong religious component. Religion has played a small role in our movement so far, but this is an opportunity to move quickly and really become a viable force in the world of drug policy reform.

My goal is for us to focus this spring on our work, not fundraising, and to be able to have enough accomplishments under our belts that when we go to funders and individual religious activists we can raise enough money to continue and cover our expenses. But UUDPR and the initiative are basically sister organizations, and if people want to make larger, tax-deductible donations, they can do it through UUDPR.

Chronicle: How is your message being received?

Dayton: I have not seen resistance to our message. I've always talked to people who seemed on the face of it unlikely to support reform, whether soccer moms, PTAs, or grandparents, and I've always been pleasantly surprised that when you speak with reason and compassion, people respond to that. I haven't heard any crazy drug war ranting. The other thing that is important to note is that we are talking about things like mandatory minimum sentence reforms, medical marijuana, treatment not jail, and these are all things that have broad support. I imagine that if I called up and said legalize it, I might get more opposition, but we're not doing that. We're trying to win concrete changes on popular issues this legislative season.

Chronicle: Are you specifically targeting inner city black churches?

Dayton: We plan to work on the African-American churches. We have not yet had the chance to place a speaker at a primarily African-American church, but we plan to do that.

When we start working on repealing mandatory minimum sentences, the black churches will be a primary focus of our effort. In many cases, black leaders, including church leaders, fought for tough drug laws to save their communities, but now there is a big shift in opinion happening. Here in Maryland, the legislative black caucus is 100% behind the treatment not jail campaign. I don't think black religious leaders will be far behind. They seem to be coming on board with the things we're talking about. To organize the black churches for drug policy reform will not be easy, but at this point I think it is more an issue of priorities than it is one of ideological difference.

Chronicle: Have you had any surprises doing this work?

Dayton: Yes. One of the most striking things I've found is that many members of the clergy are not necessarily aware that their denominations have taken positions on these issues. This is one place we can play a big role because the power of a denomination's national position statement is amazing. If it weren't for us, these clergy members might not even know an issue has been studied by people who believe what they believe or know that their denomination has concluded that some drug reform measure or another is desirable.

Visit http://www.idpi.us for more about the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative. Thomas and Dayton say it is a work in progress at this point, but already has much valuable information related to religion and drug policy and will soon have more.


3. Sweet Home Alabama: Marijuana Legalization Advocate Convicted on Pot Charge in Kafkaesque Trial -- Appeal Filed Immediately

Redneck justice in red dirt Alabama has Loretta Nall seeing red. Nall, a housewife from rural Alexandria City, was convicted Tuesday of possession of .87 of a gram of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia some 15 months after the Tallapoosa County Narcotics Task Force raided her home -- and 15 months and one week after Nall published a letter in the state's largest newspaper calling for the reform of the state's marijuana laws.

She told DRCNet she would immediately appeal the decision.

Nall, who is now president of the US Marijuana Party (http://www.usmjparty.org), began her career as a marijuana activist after her home was targeted by anti-drug helicopters in September 2002, two months before her arrest. That her arrest was at least in part politically motivated is evident in the fact that the search warrant leading to the bust cited as evidence her letter to the Birmingham News, where she wrote that "it is time to end cannabis prohibition." The only other evidence cited in the warrant was remarks Nall's five-year-old daughter was alleged to have made to either a teacher or a police officer assigned to her school and a supposed report from a "confidential informant" that unnamed persons were complaining of Nall's drug activity.

Nall's trial before Tallapoosa County District Court Judge Kim Taylor was a journey into Alice in Wonderland justice, Nall said. The search warrant was illegal and should never have been issued, she and her attorney argued, in a strong but ultimately futile effort to get the warrant thrown out and the charges dismissed. Judge Taylor, who issued the warrant in question, upheld himself, but testimony from the trial suggests that his ruling had little to do with the law.

Under the Constitution, which applies even in rural Alabama, police must present a judge with evidence they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed in order to secure a valid search warrant. But under cross-examination by Nall's attorney, that probable cause seemingly melted into air. Officer Eric McCain, the school resource officer who claimed that Nall's daughter ratted her out, offered varying versions of what the girl said, who she said it to, and who was present. First, McCain said that five-year-old Bell Nall spontaneously told him about green plants hanging from her ceiling. Then he testified that Bell's teacher approached him with the information. He also testified that he questioned Bell outside the classroom with no other adults present. Then he testified that her teacher was there. Then he testified that he might have questioned her in the classroom.

In the affidavit McCain submitted to support the search warrant, he said nothing about green plants hanging from the ceiling. Rather, he said that Bell told him some of the leaves she had brought from home for a school project were "illegal." Under cross-examination, McCain could not recall how many times he had obtained search warrants based on the testimony of a five-year-old, although he did concede that young children have vivid imaginations and have been known to make things up.

Officer McCain also testified that he included the letter to the editor Nall had published in the Birmingham News a week earlier as part of the affidavit supporting the issuance of a search warrant. But McCain contradicted himself moments later, saying that he didn't find the letter until the raid, which left hanging the question of how he could include it in the affidavit if he wasn't aware it existed until a week later. And in yet another bizarre twist, he could not produce the letter, which was Exhibit A in the case.

As for the "confidential informant" report on Nall, under cross-examination McCain conceded that local police had received no prior complaints about Nall or her residence, where she lives with her horticulturist husband and two children. McCain then said he had received complaints from concerned citizens, but under continued questioning admitted that he did not document the alleged complaints and that no list of such complaints existed.

Testimony showed that the search warrant was based on protected political speech (Nall's letter to the editor), a very hazy allegation about what a five-year-old said, and an even hazier set of anonymous complaints whose existence could not even be proven. It appeared an open and shut case of a bad search warrant. But not in the court of the judge who issued it. After hearing the evidence, Judge Kim Taylor upheld the warrant, virtually ensuring Nall's conviction on the marijuana and paraphernalia charges.

That happened later in the day, after more bizarre testimony from police and strange evidentiary decisions from Judge Taylor. Police misidentified the oversize envelope in which they found the leftover roach that constituted their drug seizure, repeatedly referring to it as a Fedex envelope even as courtroom spectators could see it was a USPS envelope. Taylor allowed prosecutors to enter into evidence a police videotape of the raid that did not show marijuana being seized, but did, Nall notes, "show some lovely pictures of the inside of my toilet bowls."

Officer Josh McCallister testified that he found rolling papers in a bedroom not near to where the pot was found. McCallister conceded that rolling papers could be used to roll tobacco cigarettes. He also testified that he found scales in the kitchen, but that there was no evidence of drug residue on them, they had not been tested, and yes, scales have many common uses. Nall, who makes candles, said she used them in her work.

Police did not find any evidence of a marijuana grow, nor did they find any large quantities of marijuana. But the half-smoked roach, the rolling papers, and the scales were enough to convict her on the two charges. She faces a suspended 30-day jail sentence, has to go to a court referral, and must pay court costs for the possession charge, but not for the paraphernalia charge.

None of that matters because the case will be overturned on appeal, Nall believes. "The judge's rulings and his conduct were deplorable," she added. "He flirted with women during the proceedings, he laid his head back and closed his eyes for minutes at a time, and he did not appear to even pay attention to anything our side said. He cared nothing for the fact that he held my very life in his hands. It didn't matter to him that the cops were obviously lying and contradicting themselves time and time again."

Some 700,000 people are arrested on marijuana charges in the United States each year. The proceedings in the Nall case lead one to wonder just how crappy are the charges in the rest of these cases. In most cases, the police evidence is never put to the test because defendants opt to plead guilty, but perhaps more should fight. While the judge's rulings in the Nall trial are not encouraging, they do have a good chance of being overturned on appeal, and if police and prosecutors are forced to actually present real cases instead of merely intimidating their victims to cop a plea, perhaps their enthusiasm for persecuting drug users will diminish.

"This kind of thing is an education for the public," Nall said. "I hired a court reporter so I could post the complete trial transcripts -- they should be on the web site in a couple of weeks -- and she asked me after the trial if she really sat there and heard them say they things they had said and if they were really pursuing me for allegedly possessing 0.87 grams of marijuana. She was appalled and said she had never witnessed anything like it in her life."

Nall's enthusiasm for taking the war to the drug warriors has certainly not diminished, and she, too, is appalled. "I am appalled at what I witnessed yesterday. I sit here now and wonder just how many innocent people are in jail because of judges like this one? How many lives have been destroyed because people did not have the resources to fight on?"


4. Action Alert: HEA Campaign Entering New Stage -- Your Letters and Phone Calls Needed!

As you may know, DRCNet, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and a wide range of education, civil rights, religious, drug policy reform and other groups have long campaigned against a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act that delays or denies federal financial aid to anyone convicted of a drug offense, no matter how minor. More than 128,000 would-be students have been adversely affected by this provision. H.R. 685, a bill in the US House of Representatives to repeal the HEA drug provision, has the support of 65 Representatives, and six presidential candidates have spoken out for its repeal as well.

Our battle has recently entered a new stage. The Higher Education Act is itself in the midst of reauthorization, making this a particularly critical moment for working on this issue. Also, our coalition has mounted a major new effort to launch the repeal effort into the Senate, after previously focusing only on the House of Representatives. Finally, responding to growing support for repeal of the drug provision, its sponsor, notorious drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), has offered a proposal to scale the law back so that it only applies to people who were in school at the time they committed their offense. While he has brought up this reform previously, this time it is particularly likely to become law.

While the Souder reform will help some number of people and represents an important partial victory for the students and others working on this issue, only full repeal can adequately address the education, discrimination and other serious concerns that members of our coalition have about the HEA drug provision. For all these reasons, we are asking you to take a moment right now to mark this new stage of the campaign by contacting your US Representative and your two US Senators -- use our web site at http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to do so online -- and to follow up with a phone call to them tomorrow, Friday February 13, or as soon thereafter as you can.

IF YOU USE OUR WEB SITE AT http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com TO CONTACT CONGRESS, WE WILL BE ABLE TO SEND YOU A CUSTOMIZED E-MAIL WITH THEIR NAMES AND DIRECT PHONE NUMBERS. YOU CAN ALSO REACH THEM VIA THE CONGRESSIONAL SWITCHBOARD AT (202) 224-3121. When you are done, please forward this alert to your family and friends or use the tell-a-friend form that we have made available on http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com online.

Also, we and our campaign partners at Students for Sensible Drug Policy will be sending you a special bulletin next week outlining our strategy for advancing the full repeal cause, announcing a NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION this April, and letting you know what students and non-students alike can do to help. You can start getting ready by visiting http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com for extensive information about the issue and resources for getting involved in the campaign, including our newly-updated student and non-student activist packets.

Some talking points for your phone calls:

  • The vast majority of Americans convicted of drug offenses are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.
  • The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will not have the doors of college closed to them for want to financial aid.
  • The HEA drug provision has a disparate impact on different races. African Americans, for example, comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users, but account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug possession charges.
  • Access to a college education is the surest route to the mainstream economy and a crime-free life.
Again, visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to write to Congress and get involved in the campaign!


5. Newsbrief: Legalization Talk in Trinidad

The drug policy L-word is popping up in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago these days, and at least one local newspaper is giving the theme prominent play. Located just seven miles of the coast of Venezuela, the reggae-inflected islands have become minor players in the shipment of illicit drugs from South America and, according to the US State Department, produce enough marijuana to meet domestic demand and then some.

There is no great drug-fueled crisis in Trinidad and Tobago, although the war on drugs continues apace and moral entrepreneurs worry publicly about the future of the youth. And some, at least, of the youth are embracing a hempen counterculture. But opposition to the drug war status quo is not coming just from the dreadlocked set.

In a speech at the University of the West Indies Trinidad campus February 9 and prominently reported in the Trinidad Express the next day under the headline "Legalize Narcotics," criminologist Maureen Cain told an audience of academics, activists, and law enforcement officials that drug use and the drug trade must be legalized. Drug prohibition had served only to "generate both more and new forms of violence," she said.

With the black market profits created by prohibition, drugs are a "valuable commodity," Cain said. "[The drug trade] makes money so guns can be bought. I cannot think of any other way to bring the price down. The only way is to legalize it." If drugs were made legal, she argued, there would be "a massive drop in price and a movement out of drugs to more lucrative trading opportunities by organized crime. Organized violence would decline and low-level pushers who put pressure on children and young people would become redundant."

Legalizing the drug business would also free up money currently spent on law enforcement and prison costs, allowing that money to be used elsewhere. "Initially there will be an increase in use and cost, but eventually money will be saved on that health problem of violence. Violence is a health problem."

Cain's speech isn't the only time the Trinidad Express has given prominent and sympathetic play to drug war dissidents in recent weeks. In an early January story, the paper interviewed singer Buju Banton about his pro-ganja beliefs weeks after the Jamaican reggae star was busted for Jah herb. "A how dem can lock up Buju fi a likkle ting like that?! More fire!" was how the Express expressed popular reaction to the bust.

And two weeks before that, the Express ran a feature on the opening of Mystic Hemp/Conscious Café and its founder, hemp missionary Troy Hadeed. After describing Mystic Hemp's merchandise -- hemp everything and Bob Marley posters -- and the Conscious Café's grand opening, the Express gave Hadeed the chance to "give Jah the glory," as he extolled the herb's virtues and criticized its downpressors. "I give you a helpful, everyday, nourishing plant, and you call it a narcotic, you call it a drug, you forbid it from being grown," he said.

One performer at the café may have been puffing on the stuff prior to her performance, if the Express's account is to be believed. A character in Crow face paint, white cotton bra and panties, torn army pants, and short brown boots calling him/herself Nikki B (for Bin Bad Bird) gyrated and pounced menacingly on the café's tiny stage before telling a befuddled audience that "The immensity of my density is beyond the realm of human comprehension."

But what is not beyond the realm of human comprehension in Trinidad, stoned or otherwise, is the realization that the drug laws must change.


6. Newsbrief: Brit Police Chief Says Legalize Heroin, Irks Other Cops

One of Britain's police chiefs told the BBC last week that heroin ought to be legalized and was nicely reamed for his efforts by some of his colleagues, who all but called him a traitor to the cause. The brouhaha came about when North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom told the BBC Wales' political talk show Dragon's Eye on February 5 that current drug laws "do more harm than good" and he was prepared to see heroin sold openly.

"Heroin is a very, very addictive substance, extremely addictive, far more so than nicotine, but it's not very, very dangerous. It's perfectly possible to lead a normal life for a full life span and hold down a job while being addicted to heroin," Brunstrom told the BBC. "I don't advocate anybody abusing their body with drugs but clearly some want to. What would be wrong with making heroin available on the state for people who wanted to abuse their bodies? What is wrong with that?"

Legalizing drugs would destroy a multi-million dollar criminal trade, said Brunstrom, adding that he has received "massive" public support for his views. "The question is actually not 'am I prepared to see the government selling heroin on the street corner or through the pharmacy?', but 'why would we not want to do that? What is wrong with that?'" he said. "It's a very challenging question. I don't know what society's answer is, but my answer is that is what we should be doing because our current policy is causing more harm than good."

As for public support for change, he said: "I've had overwhelming support at the very least for a no-holds barred, all-options considered, total review of the drugs laws. There is an enormous number of people of all age groups and all sections of our society who are ready to see a root and branch change to our drugs laws."

But not the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which quickly announced that Brunstrom's views were his personal ones and did not reflect ACPO positions. And certainly not London's top drug cop, Tarique Ghaffur, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who not only called Brunstrom's remarks "dangerous and divisive," but also pronounced heroin "evil."

"Any suggestion that we should relax our approach is not only dangerous but divisive and undermines the hard work of police officers in London who are trying to stamp out the evil of heroin through enforcement, education and partnership with those communities who are most vulnerable," said Ghaffur in a statement released to the press the next day. "Not only does this drug wreck people's lives and that of their families, it also destroys communities and it has to be stamped out now."

But Ghaffur didn't explain how he was going to stamp it out.


7. Newsbrief: Australian Federal Government Issues Threat to Stop New Safe Injection Sites

The government of Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that it would consider using federal law to prosecute anyone using a safe injection site if any state decides to open one. Currently, only one safe injection site operates in Australia, at Kings Cross in Sydney, and the Howard government opposes that as well.

The government was reacting to a vote taken at the opposition Australian Labor Party national conference in Sydney in late January. At the conference, Labor, which controls several state governments, voted that the decision to open a safe injection site should be left to the states.

That vote led Prime Minister Howard to retort that his government would do anything constitutionally permissible to block the expansion of the safe injection site at Kings Cross despite the experimental program being deemed a success in a September review and having its mandate extended for another four years.

Federal Justice Minister reiterated the prime minister's hard line on February 4, telling reporters that prosecuting safe injection site clients under federal drug laws was one option if new sites opened.

"We would look at what the Commonwealth could do constitutionally," Ellison said. "If there were any further proposals in Australia for heroin injecting rooms, we would look at what action we could take."

"Well for the life of me I can't see why we shouldn't have a completely zero tolerance, an uncompromising approach to illicit drug taking," Prime Minister Howard added later in the week.

Labor Party national leader Mark Latham responded feebly to Howard's attack, espousing a position at odds with the one his party adopted only two weeks ago. "Kings Cross is a one-off and I would expect it would remain that way," he told the newspaper the West Australian. Apparently unaware of the September report -- which found that the Kings Cross site prevented overdose deaths and the spread of disease and led to hundreds of referrals to treatment -- Latham added that he was eager to see results from the Kings Cross trial. "If it's a failure, it should be closed down," he said.


8. Newsbrief: Prohibitionist Sweden Sees Drug Deaths Climb

Swedish drug deaths have increased four-fold in the last nine years, the Swedish public television network Sveriges Television(SVT) reported on Wednesday. Citing coroners' figures, SVT put the number of drug overdose deaths at 99 in 1995, compared with 425 in 2002 and 413 last year. The city of Gothenburg was especially hard hit, with drug deaths jumping from one in 1995 to 53 last year.

"This is alarming and probably reflects a big increase of both heroin and mixed drug abuse, especially amongst younger persons, Peter Kranz of the Forensic Medicine Institute told the newspaper Upsala Nya Tidning.

The increase comes despite Sweden's well-deserved reputation as among the hardest of the hard-line when it comes to drug policy. Sweden remains committed to the utopian vision of a drug-free society, a policy most recently reiterated by a 2001 Expert Commission. "Sweden's restrictive policy on drugs must be sustained and reinforced," the commission concluded. "No arguments or facts suggest that lowering a society's guard against drug abuse and drug trafficking do anything to improve matters for individual users or society as a whole."

Hard drug users, of whom there are an estimated 30,000, might argue that not dying of drug overdose does improve matters for individual users. Per Sternbeck of the National Organization for Helping Drug Addicts told SVT deaths are up because the government has turned its back on users. "The reason is because addicts are refused care which is based on real needs and instead given care based on abstract ideas," he said. Many treatment centers are closed because local authorities will not pay for care, he added. "We ask, do you need to die just because you use drugs?"

But Swedish drug enforcement coordinator Bjorn Fries drew a different lesson from the numbers. "The developments show that efforts must be redoubled on a broad front," he said. Still, even Fries conceded that enforcement alone won't solve the problem. "The number of heavy drug abusers has increased and we must improve care for these people," he told SVT.


9. Newsbrief: Philadelphia Drug War Reality Tour Hits the Airwaves, Internet

For the past two years, Philadelphia's Kensington Welfare Rights Union (http://www.kwru.org) has been conducting "Drug War Reality Tours" of the gritty inner city neighborhood. Now the tour hits the airwaves in the City of Brotherly Love, thanks to the collaboration of the Guerilla News Network's video project (http://gnn.tv) and Philadelphia's DUTV, cable channel 54. The tour will air Tuesday, February 17, at 1:00am and 9:00pm, and is now playing on the Guerrilla News Network web site.

Kensington was once a thriving industrial center, but lost thousands of jobs overseas beginning in the 1970s. Now, says the KWRU, "Kensington's two major sources of income are welfare and narcotics."

"People who live here are survivors of the war on drugs and the war against the poor," the KWRU's Arun Prabhakaran told DRCNet after one of the first tours. "We are trying to expose the connections, the interests, that corporations and the US government have in the drug war. Our tour attempts to provide a full picture of the reality of the drug war. And we relate it to using money for more effective ways of dealing with the problem, the demand side, and building a movement designed to end poverty not only in the US, but around the world," he said. "One of the major issues here in Kensington is drugs. Not just drug use, but poor people having to resort to selling drugs or growing drugs as a matter of survival. The drug economy must be seen in the context of other economic factors," such as the deindustrialization of the Northeast, said Prabhakaran. "We feel like poor communities are dramatically affected by the drug war. The drugs go in, then the police arrest people and incarcerate them at unbelievable rates in poor communities. This is not a race thing, this is a class issue, poor people are under attack."

The Drug War Tour doesn't just the cover the heroin corners, pawnshops and prostitution corridors of Kensington, or the hospitals with detox centers and methadone. It also connects the dots, with visits to the airport, the Philadelphia docks and the I-95 corridor, where drugs pour into the city, and the chemical plants of Kensington, where multinational corporations produce the potassium permanganate and acetic anhydride used in turning coca and opium plants into the powders that plague the community.

For those of you in Philadelphia, check it out on the tube on Tuesday. For the rest of us, check it out at http://www.gnn.tv/war_on_drugs/reality_tour/ online.

Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/204/realitytour.shtml for our reporting on the early days of the Drug War Reality Tour.


10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

A dishonorable mention goes to two suburban St. Louis cops, Patrick Redenbaugh and Jonathan Terris of the Bel-Ridge, Missouri, police department. They were arrested last week trying to buy an eightball worth of cocaine and now face charges of possession and attempted possession of a controlled substance.

But this week's winner is former Washington County, NC, Sheriff's Office investigator James Edward Leonard, 55. Leonard pleaded guilty in federal court February 3 to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.

According to court documents, in the summer of 2003 Leonard set up a deal to buy two kilos of cocaine. Unfortunately for him, his seller was a snitch, and he was arrested shortly after making the buy. Leonard also accepted $1,500 from the same informant as payment for providing information that could shield drug shipments from police.

He now faces a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, a maximum of 40 years, and a possible $2 million fine. He remains in custody pending a June 7 sentencing date at the federal courthouse in Greenville.

Leonard's former boss, Washington County Sheriff Stanley James, pronounced himself shocked. "He did not give me any suspicion that anything like this was going on," the sheriff said Tuesday. "It was totally, totally shocking and surprising. He was a hard, hard worker," James said.

Yeah, a real overachiever.


11. Newsbrief: US Senate to Consider Lifting Buprenorphine Restrictions

Buprenorphine, a drug that has proven successful in treating heroin addiction, may be about to be more widely used. Buprenorphine has been used in the United States since 2000, when the Drug Addiction Treatment Act (DATA) allowed certified physicians to subscribe the drug in their offices (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/146/buprenorphine.shtml).

But DATA only allowed group practices to treat 30 patients at a time, and federal regulators interpreted the language broadly, so that HMOs and whole academic medical centers were interpreted as group practices.

Now, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced a bill that would eliminate the cap on the number of patients that could be treated. Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Carl Levin (D-MI) joined Hatch, the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in cosponsoring the bill, S. 1887. The bill is currently before the Judiciary Committee.


12. Ohio Patients Network Art Contest

The Ohio Patient Network has announced their first art contest, complete with a $100 first prize! OPN is searching for original artwork and photos to be used to further their mission of informing and educating the public about the compassionate use of medical marijuana in Ohio.

OPN is seeking original paintings, drawings, electronically designed artwork, photos with or without captions or slogans, all based on the theme of medical marijuana in Ohio. Submissions must be sent in PNG, JPG, PSD, TIFF or BMP format -- submissions in any other format will not be considered. All submissions must be original and not contain any copyrighted material, including the official OPN logo. All entrants certify that any artwork, photography or any combination thereof which they submit is their original work to which they hold all current rights. All winning entries will become the sole property of the Ohio Patient Network.

All entries must be submitted by midnight March 31, 2004. Prizes will be awarded no later than 10 days after the ending period of the contest. Prizes to be awarded are $100 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third. All entrants must provide their name, mailing address, and daytime telephone number to qualify for prizes. OPN's contest is open to the public, including but not limited to OPN members and their families. OPN board members and their immediate families are not eligible
for prizes. For further information, contact K. R. "Doc" Miller, OPN Director of Development, [email protected].

Ohio Patient Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit coalition of patients, caregivers, activists and medical professionals who support the compassionate use of cannabis for various medicinal purposes. OPN's mission is to coordinate information between patients, medical professionals, and attorneys, as well as to educate the public. Visit http://www.ohiopatient.net to learn more about OPN.


13. UCSF Seeking Patients for Medical Marijuana Research

notice from the Marijuana Policy Project, http://www.mpp.org

The University of California, San Francisco is seeking volunteers for two important medical marijuana studies. Both studies are being conducted at San Francisco General Hospital but are open to participants from anywhere who are able to travel to San Francisco to participate.

HIV-RELATED PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY:

Peripheral neuropathy is a painful condition sometimes caused by the AIDS virus or by medicines used to treat HIV/AIDS. This study will examine marijuana's effectiveness at treating the pain caused by this condition. This is an *inpatient* study: Participants must able to spend seven days and nights in a San Francisco General Hospital inpatient research unit, and they must also be HIV-positive, age 18 or over, be diagnosed with HIV-related peripheral neuropathy, and not be cigar or cigarette smokers. There are additional entry criteria as well. Volunteers can receive up to $650 for participating. For more detailed information about this study, please call Hector Vizoso, RN, at (415) 476-9554 ext. 366 or see http://www.mpp.org/pdf/study1.pdf online.

NAUSEA CAUSED BY TREATMENT FOR BREAST CANCER:

This study will compare marijuana to Marinol (the prescription THC pill) and a placebo for treatment of nausea caused by chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. This is an outpatient study. Participants must be female, age 18 or older, be experiencing nausea rated as moderate or worse from breast cancer chemotherapy, and not be cigar or cigarette smokers. There are additional entry criteria as well. For more detailed information about this study, please call Jill Israel at (415) 502-5240 or see http://www.mpp.org/pdf/study2.pdf online.


14. Offer and Appeal: New StoptheDrugWar.org Ink Stamps and Strobe Lights -- DRCNet Needs Your Support in 2004

DRCNet is pleased to announce two new "fun" gift items available as our gift to any and all interested parties who want to donate to DRCNet at or above a certain level and also get the message out in their own communities. In addition to our t-shirts, mugs and mousepads, DRCNet's merchandise line now includes a stop sign shaped StoptheDrugWar.org ink stamp (complete with red ink pad) and a stop sign shaped StoptheDrugWar.org strobe light. Mark your envelopes and other papers or appropriate possessions with the StoptheDrugWar.org message via red stamp; and use our 2 1/2 inch octagonal, flashing light as the perfect attention-getter at parties or other events. The StoptheDrugWar.org flashing red light also doubles as a bike safety device as it is visible for up to 1/2 mile, and comes complete with a replaceable battery good for 100 hours of continuous use and a handy clip.

Just visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ and donate $25 or more by credit card or PayPal, and we'll send your complimentary StoptheDrugWar.org strobe light. Donate $30 or more and we'll send you the StoptheDrugWar.org stamp with red ink pad. Donate $50 or more and we'll send you both, or two of either one. Send any amount, large or small and you will qualify for a free StoptheDrugWar.org button and sticker. While you're there, consider getting some of our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirts, mugs or mousepads, the exciting Flex Your Rights Foundation video "BUSTED: The Citizens Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" or any other item -- use the handy comment box at the bottom of the donation form for any needed clarifications to your order.

YOUR SUPPORT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SUCCESS OF OUR ORGANIZATION AND THIS IMPORTANT CAUSE. DRCNET HAS SURVIVED THIS TROUBLED ECONOMY BECAUSE OF MEMBERS LIKE YOU. IF YOU VALUE OUR WORK, PLEASE VISIT http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ TO DONATE TODAY!

If you're not comfortable donating by credit card, visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to print out a paper order form to mail with your check or money order 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.

Again, please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to check out the new items and help DRCNet work to end the war on drugs! Thank you for your enthusiasm and support.


15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 http://www.leap.cc for further information.

February 6, 8:30am-2:30pm, San Diego, CA, "Demystifying Harm Reduction: Social, Political and Clinical Implications for Abstinence Based Treatment," conference sponsored by A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing), and NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies). At the San Diego HILTON Hotel Mission Valley, 901 Camino Del Rio South, guest speakers Ethan Nadelmann and Pat Denning. For further information visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/events/event.cfm?eventID=277 or contact Dr. Annette Smith at (858) 549-8949 or [email protected] or A New PATH at (619) 670-1184.

February 10, 4:00pm, Brooklyn, NY, Keith Donoghue of the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project speaks on the Conant v. Walters Ninth Circuit medical marijuana free speech case. At Brooklyn Law School, 250 Joralemon Street, contact David Ries at [email protected] for further information.

February 15, 4:00-6:30pm, Austin, TX, "Where is Our Constitution When We Need It?" Dinner hosted by the Libertarian Distinguished Speaker Series, featuring LP presidential candidate Gary Nolan and former Austin City Councilman George Humphrey discussing peace, politics and the dissolution of our freedoms. At Threadgill's, 301 W. Riverside at Barton Springs Rd. Dinner $12 and optional, all political affiliations welcome. For further information call (512) 467-1776.

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 http://www.safeaccessnow.org 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 http://www.leap.cc 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 http://www.leap.cc 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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