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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #326, 2/27/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Needless Danger
  2. Nevada Voters to Get Second Chance to Legalize Marijuana
  3. New York: Medical Marijuana on the Move in Albany and NYC
  4. South Dakota "Internal Possession" Drug Law Upheld
  5. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Denies Federal Appeal in Medical Marijuana Case
  6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Nader on Drugs
  7. Newsbrief: Utah Federal Judge Questions Mandatory Minimums
  8. Newsbrief: South Carolina Urine Felon Jailed for Six Months
  9. Newsbrief: Psychedelic Pioneer Humphry Osmond Dead at 86
  10. Newsbrief: California Narcs Kill Wrong Man
  11. Newsbrief: Hempster Becomes Local Hero in Icy Pond Rescue
  12. This Week in History
  13. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Needless Danger

Countless drug war tragedies transpire every day across our country. One from the most unfortunate variety was reported in San Jose this week, the sad case of Rudy Cardenas, 43-year old father of five, unarmed but gunned down by a narcotics officer looking for another man.

As usual, the police and their allies have quickly trotted out their mouthpieces to slander the dead. They should be ashamed of themselves. It's true that even in situations such as this one, the killer by law must be considered innocent until proven guilty. But that doesn't justify the heaping of grave insult on top of deadly injury. An attorney general's spokesman bizarrely claimed that Cardenas "wasn't the wrong man" -- even though police weren't looking for him -- and justified the shooting by saying that Cardenas was running away.

I don't consider running away from police officers to be a justification for the use by the police of deadly force, at least not in and of itself. Running away is a natural and time honored response to danger, and Cardenas was quite correct in his perception that the police officers approaching did represent danger. They killed him, after all; it doesn't get much more dangerous than that. Cardenas' death suggests that running away from police may be an inadvisable strategy. But people don't always think clearly when confronted with threats to life and limb. To blame an unarmed man for his own death by firearm, because he was running away from the person who moments later would end his life, and to cast such blame in the media no less, is morally repugnant.

One of the strongest critics of the drug war is a former police chief of Cardenas' own city, Dr. Joseph McNamara, now of Stanford University's Hoover Institution. McNamara blames these kinds of killings on drug policies, and he doesn't mince words. In a 2000 article on police killings published in this newsletter (, McNamara opined, "This is a real ethical issue, and evidence of the kind of callousness abroad in the land. It results from the emotionalism surrounding drugs and the whole war mentality that goes along with it. Things happen in war that we would not excuse in a civilized society."

He also predicted more fatalities, one of the reasons being the nature of the underground drug trade created by prohibition. "These shootings are inevitable," McNamara said. "Police are doing military operations in drug raids, not because dealers are anxious to shoot it out, but because dealers are armed to avoid being robbed."

If the past is any guide, Cardenas and his family are unlikely to get justice, at least not in a criminal court. But that's not a reason not to try. Nor, however, should the desire to hold his killers accountable and have their possible culpability examined by an impartial court of law, be allowed to distract from discussion of the root causes: the political and law enforcement leaders who've encouraged the paramilitarization of policing, and the system itself -- drug prohibition -- that creates such conflicts in the first place.

2. Nevada Voters to Get Second Chance to Legalize Marijuana

The Marijuana Policy Project ( hopes the second time is the charm. In 2002, MPP attempted to make Nevada the first state to legalize marijuana possession and regulate its sales, but its initiative was beaten back after facing a strong counterattack, and picked up only 39% of the vote. Now, MPP and its Nevada affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana ( are set to try it again.

On February 18, CRCM filed papers with the Nevada Secretary of State's office to get the signature-gathering process underway for the Regulation of Marijuana Amendment. Proponents must now gather some 51,000 valid signatures by June 15 to get on the November ballot. If the measure passes in November, under Nevada law it must be resubmitted to the voters for a second approval in 2006.

Last time around, opponents of marijuana legalization hammered hard and effectively at the quantity adults would be able to possess (three ounces in 2002), the dangers of driving under the influence, and the alleged deleterious impact legalization would have on the youth. MPP and CRCM were listening, and this year they have crafted an initiative that they hope addresses those concerns.

According to CRCM, the initiative would:

  • eliminate the threat of arrest and jail for adults aged 21 and older who use and possess up to one ounce of marijuana (which is the equivalent of one-and-a-half packs of cigarettes);
  • direct the state legislature to regulate the manufacture, taxation, and sale of marijuana, whereby establishments that are licensed to sell tobacco will also be permitted to sell marijuana, provided that they neither sell alcohol nor are within 500 yards of a school or place of worship;
  • earmark marijuana-related tax revenues to alcohol and drug treatment and education;
  • maintain penalties for underage marijuana use, smoking marijuana in public, using or possessing marijuana on school grounds or in prisons, and transporting marijuana across state lines;
  • increase penalties for providing marijuana to minors, as well as for motorists who kill someone while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or any other substance; and
  • take effect on December 5, 2006, if a majority of Nevada voters pass the initiative in November 2004 and again in November 2006. December 5 is the anniversary of the end of Prohibition in 1933.
"People said we lost and we should give up," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia, "but our mission is to regulate marijuana like alcohol, and to do that we are going to have to win in some states. We want a state where people are sympathetic, and even though we lost in Nevada in 2002, that doesn't mean we can't win there this time."

MPP and CRCM had listened not only to opponents but to voters in crafting this year's initiative, Kampia added. "We've changed the language on the permissibility amount, lowering it from three ounces to one ounce," he told DRCNet. "We've hard-wired in penalties for vehicular manslaughter while under the influence, we've hard-wired in penalties for selling marijuana to minors, we've noted that tax revenues will be earmarked for drug and alcohol treatment. Now people in Nevada who want treatment have a 35-day waiting list, and you know how tragic that can be for someone who desperately wants treatment. With this measure, we can bring that wait down to zero."

And in a move that is politically savvy though certain to rub some youth rights advocates the wrong way, the campaign will hammer hard at theme of teen pot use, Kampia said. "We have started running a series of TV ads whose focus is to explain that marijuana prohibition has not prevented teens from using. According to the White House, 67% of Nevada teens have tried marijuana. The ads compare that figure to the 28% of teens that have used in Holland, where it is regulated, and suggest that maybe it is time for a change," said the MPP head. "Running these ads will change the tone of the debate, and we'll be running them for months."

The campaign has even created a special web site ( to further the argument that regulation is the best way to keep pot out of the hands of kids.

"In this campaign, we're targeting teens, we're saying current laws aren't working," agreed CRCM spokeswoman Jennifer Knight. "Anyone who is supporting the status quo is essentially saying they want to keep teen pot use sky high. What kind of message is that sending? This initiative actually allows for stricter control of marijuana than we currently have for tobacco or alcohol," she told DRCNet. "Under the initiative, no one under 21 can enter a shop where marijuana is sold, and anyone who sells marijuana to a minor faces up to ten years in prison for a first offense, life for a second. No one who sells alcohol or tobacco to minors faces a penalty like that," said Knight.

The presence of Knight is another difference from 2002, said Kampia. Along with Andy Anderson, the former head of the Nevada Council of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, Knight will help bring a strong in-state component to a campaign criticized last time for being led and financed by outsiders. "Last time around, our man on the ground in Nevada, Billy Rogers, was an out-of-stater, but being an in-stater brings with it lots of political connections," he said. "So we have brought back Andy Anderson, who will be paid by us to work full-time organizing police and tough guys around the state and building a coalition of police leaders to support the initiative. And we hired Jennifer Knight as our spokesperson. She was a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, which makes her hiring particularly important because she knows reporters all around Las Vegas and she knows opinion leaders at the state house. She is really part of the community," Kampia said.

Knight may also be able to help bring her former employer to a less hostile position. The Sun became especially vocal in its opposition to the 2002 effort after one its editors was run down and killed by a driver under the influence of marijuana.

Knight will also hammer at the issue of traffic safety, she said. "The argument was that this is going to create more carnage on our highways, but if you look at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration numbers, you see that in 2001, we had 78 traffic fatalities to due alcohol, but 121 due to speeding. Those people are just as dead and their families just as bereaved, and there are more of them, but no one is talking about that. If we want to reduce highway fatalities, maybe we should just enforce existing laws," she suggested.

Also, Knight pointed out, most of the alcohol traffic fatalities are people coming home from drinking from bars and hotels. "The initiative does not allow for smoking marijuana in a public place or in your car, so there will be no driving home stoned," she argued. "And coupled with the stronger language about DUI fatality penalties, I think we will actually see a big deterrent to people driving under the influence of alcohol."

While MPP and CRCM appear to have their ducks in a row -- they've done the polling and the focus groups, their ad campaign is underway, their ground troops are mobilizing -- Kampia acknowledged that factors external to the campaign could derail it, as, he suggested, was the case in 2002. "Some things are out of your control," he said. "One reason we lost was because in 2002 Republican voter turnout was heavy, while the Democrats and independents stayed home. There were actually more votes for legalizing marijuana than for any Democratic candidate except one. This time around, everybody is going to be doing get out the vote work. Democrats and independents are 57% of the Nevada electorate, and if they come out in large numbers, unlike 2002, they will trend in our favor. A big turnout will be good for us."

Visit for CRCM's new text. Visit to view the campaign's TV ads.

3. New York: Medical Marijuana on the Move in Albany and NYC

A bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in New York state passed one of its first legislative hurdles Wednesday at the state capitol in Albany, while two days earlier in New York City a resolution expressing the city council's support for a state medical marijuana bill also moved forward.

The medical marijuana bill in Albany, A0576, was okayed by the Assembly's Health Committee on an 18-6 vote a day after dramatic and sometimes wrenching testimony before the committee, including some from surprising sources. "If you have ever seen anyone on their deathbed, dying in agony, screaming in pain every day as I had with my father who had cancer, the risks of smoking marijuana are outweighed by the therapeutic benefits," conservative Assemblyman Robert Prentiss (R-Colonie) told his colleagues.

The bill is rapidly picking up bipartisan support in the Democratic-dominated Assembly, with 41 Democrat and seven Republican cosponsors. It is now headed for the Assembly Codes committee, then the Ways and Means committee before coming up for a floor vote.

"We are on our way," said Vince Marrone, who is working the issue as a paid lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project ( "We got through that first committee in good shape, and the Codes committee, which must review all legislation that impacts the criminal justice system, already approved it once last year," he told DRCNet. "And we have Republicans on the Ways and Means committee who will vote for this, so I think it is safe to say we will have this bill on the floor of the Assembly by the end of the year. The question then becomes whether the leadership will act on it."

But Marrone is already looking forward to the next phase: the Republican-controlled state Senate. "We do have a bill introduced in response to constituent requests by a Democrat from Brooklyn, but that doesn't really help in the Senate," Marrone explained. "We need Republicans. I'll be meeting with some Republican members next week. There are a number who say they will vote for it, but they are nervous about getting out there and sponsoring it. I hope to help them get over that."

Even though some of his colleagues are hesitant, Assembly Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), said his chamber will also consider the bill. "We're going to look at that," he told the Albany Times Union Tuesday. "We're very aware that there are addictive substances that have a medical value."

The broad support for the bill in the state's medical community may help ease Republican fears. So far, the bill has been endorsed by medical societies in New York, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland and Duchess counties, and it is being supported by the state Health Department's AIDS Advisory Council, the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the New York State Nurses Association, the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, the Statewide Senior Action Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the New York AIDS Coalition.

But despite those endorsements, Gov. George Pataki (R) remains opposed. "The Health Department tells us, and many health experts agree, that there are already approved legal medications in place that treat symptoms like nausea and help deal with pain management," a Pataki spokesman told the Times Union. He did not identify those health experts.

Meanwhile, the city councils of Albany and Buffalo have passed resolutions supporting a medical marijuana bill, and the New York City council took steps in that direction this week as well. After being besieged by Tom Leighton and his Marijuana Reform Party ( for nearly a year on the issue, the council's health committee took it up Monday.

"It went great," Leighton told DRCNet. "We already had 13 sponsors going in and we picked up four more during the hearing. This is something we've been working on almost single-handedly, with no movement financial support, for a long time."

The committee heard from a number of patients and doctors, including testimony from National Review editor Richard Brookhiser, who told of his struggle with testicular cancer and chastised committee conservatives for failing to support the resolution. Bronx resident Ann Wilson provided some of the hearing's most moving moments, though, as she described how her brother had used marijuana to ease the side-effects of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer before he died two years ago. "How can we deny marijuana to our friends and loved ones when it has the potential to ease their pain and possibly prolong their life?" an emotional and tearful Wilson asked.

That was enough to prompt her councilmember, Madeline Provenanzo (D), to ask then and there to be added to the list of the resolution's supporters.

One important medical marijuana authority who was unable to give oral testimony was Dr. John Morgan of the New York University School of Pharmacology and coauthor of "Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts." Although originally scheduled for the first panel of the hearing, he was bumped from that group and the next panel as well, at which point he left.

"That was a shame," said Leighton, who himself sat through hours of hearings before getting a chance to address the council at the end of the session. "There was a point when committee members were raising questions about any downsides, and no one on the panel was really prepared to address it. We needed a man with Morgan's scientific and medical expertise up there then."

With 51 members on the health committee, committee chair Councilwoman Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) is cautiously counting votes before calling a vote. Although she congratulated the committee for putting the issue "front and center," she said she wanted to gauge support across the committee. No date is set yet.

Securing passage of the resolution would be an important signal to Albany, said Leighton. "We're talking about 40% of the state's population here. If you have a legislative body that represents those people saying we want medical marijuana, that's not small potatoes."

MPP's lobbyist, Marrone, who addressed the committee on one of the early panels, pointed out that most New York City members of the state Assembly already support the medical marijuana bill, but still saw passage of the resolution as an important step. "It would draw more media attention and it would convey a sense of momentum," Marrone said. "It would show the politicians that the issue is not as politically scary as they think it is."

Visit to read the text and legislative history of the medical marijuana bill online.

4. South Dakota "Internal Possession" Drug Law Upheld

Dave Johnson was sitting in his Huron, SD, home minding his own business last year when local police showed up at his door with a search warrant alleging he was a marijuana trafficker. They didn't find any evidence of drug dealing or even any pot on the 50-year-old disabled former meat-cutter living on Social Security payments, but they did manage to come up with a used pipe. They arrested Johnson on paraphernalia charges, and in most states that would have been the end of it. But not in South Dakota. Dave Johnson's ordeal was just beginning.

"The cops took me downtown and said if I didn't piss for them, they'd stick something in my dick and take it by force," Johnson told DRCNet. "They were going to take it forcefully -- that's what they told me. So I said okay."

The Huron police weren't lying. Under state law, they could, with probable cause, seek a warrant from a judge ordering an individual to provide a urine sample, and if he refuses, forcibly extract one from him. And under state medical ethics rules, medical personnel are required to comply with state law.

But when Johnson's urine sample came back with traces of cocaine, local prosecutors charged him with felony drug possession under a state law that as far as DRCNet can determine is unique in the United States. Johnson eventually pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to probation, but ended up serving 5 ½ months in state prison after being caught in possession of about $10 worth or marijuana. He is currently on parole.

Last week, the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld the state's internal possession law. In a February 18 ruling, the court gave a constitutional thumbs-up to the conviction of Joshua Schneider, who was detained in a traffic stop after the arresting officer found a scale in his car. Schneider was found guilty of drug possession after consenting to provide a urine sample that came back positive for methamphetamines. No other drug evidence that could be used against him was found.

In appealing his case, Schroeder and his attorney, Don Covey of Winner, argued that absent any other physical evidence, a positive drug test was insufficient to obtain a possession conviction. But in a unanimous ruling, the court held that a 2001 amendment to the state's drug laws erased the dichotomy between laws that make it a crime to ingest a drug and laws that make drug possession a crime. "Possession may now occur if a person knowingly possesses an altered state of a drug or substance absorbed into the human body," wrote Justice Steven L. Zinter.

"What the state Supreme Court has done is to uphold the 2001 law that defines possession as including ingestion," said University of South Dakota law professor Chris Hutton. "It isn't like that in other states," she told DRCNet. "In other states where prosecutors have charged people with possession just for having something in their urine sample, the courts have said no. Not here."

In fact, the South Dakota Supreme Court cited one such ruling, a 1998 Wisconsin Supreme Court case that found that a urinalysis result alone is not sufficient to sustain a conviction for drug possession. But because the South Dakota legislature explicitly amended the law to define a controlled substance so that "[t]he term includes an altered state of a drug or substance listed in Schedules I through IV absorbed into the human body," the South Dakota court found the Wisconsin precedent and Schroeder's appeal unpersuasive.

"The court has traditionally held that once a substance is in your body you can no longer exercise dominion and control, which are key elements of defining possession," said Covey, who argued the case at trail and before the Supreme Court. "This decision obliterates those precedents," he told DRCNet. "This is the result of an intellectually dishonest backdoor effort by the legislature. They could have tried to make drug ingestion a felony, but instead they just redefined what a controlled substance is so they could get away with this sort of thing."

Defense attorneys and civil libertarians told DRCNet that the correct thing to do is to refuse to consent to provide a urine sample, but that few people exercise their rights. "I defend a lot of drug cases," said Huron attorney Ron Volesky, "and I've defended several of these urine sample cases, but I haven't yet seen an instance where we could challenge a court order because everyone has voluntarily consented," he told DRCNet. "As a practical matter, when the police pick someone up they say, 'Look, we can do it the hard way or the easy way; you can voluntarily consent because we have probable cause, or we can wake up the judge, have him sign an order, and take you down and have you catheterized.' They basically threaten you," said Volesky.

"Don't consent. You just don't do it," said Covey. "You make them get their warrant. Maybe they won't get it, or maybe by the time they do get it the substance is metabolized," he said. But his clients don't exercise their rights, he moaned. "They can't wait to spill their guts."

"People should just say no to pissing in a cup at a policeman's request," said Steve Silverman of the Washington, DC-based civil liberties group Flex Your Rights (, which recently released a video narrated by former ACLU head Ira Glasser, "BUSTED: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," designed to educate Americans about exercising their rights when confronting the cops. "BUSTED doesn't cover this particular example -- because we've never heard of such a thing before -- but the same message applies whether you're in your car, your home, on the street, or even asked to pee in a cup: Do not consent to a search, or in this case to giving a urine sample. Never consent to police searches. You gain nothing. If you consent, you have waived your rights. If they think they have probable cause to get an order, make them get it," he told DRCNet.

"If you refuse to consent and they get a court order and take a sample against your will, you can challenge it. You can file a motion to suppress the evidence for lack of probable cause," said Volesky. "Any good lawyer will try to suppress the evidence, but you can't do that if your client voluntarily hands it over."

And don't count on medical professionals to let ethical qualms about forcing unwanted medical procedures on unconsenting individuals stop them from assisting the police. Under state law, they have to, said South Dakota State University School of Nursing Professor Lori Hendricks. "There are many things nurses may not agree with, but we are bound by state law. If the law says the state can order someone's urine sample against their will, we are bound to follow the law."

Read the opinion in South Dakota v. Schroeder online at:

5. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Denies Federal Appeal in Medical Marijuana Case

If the US Justice Department wants to be able to harass medical marijuana patients in the Western United States, it will have to seek a victory at the Supreme Court. The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday denied the government's motion to rehear Raich v. Ashcroft. In December, a three-judge panel of the court ruled in the case that the federal government could not use the Controlled Substances Act to move against medical marijuana patients if those patients were not engaged in interstate commerce in marijuana.

"The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority in December. "This limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug market, as well as any broader commercial market for medical marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in this case is not intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce."

Now, in a unanimous decision, the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the Justice Department's request to undo the decision of its three-judge panel. Separately, the court also turned down DOJ's request for a rehearing by that three-judge panel.

The only recourse left for the Ashcroft Justice Department is to seek a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court. It has 90 days to file a petition for the court to hear its appeal. Justice has not announced whether it will ask the nation's highest court to intervene.

6. Newsbrief: Campaign Watch -- Nader on Drugs

Long-time public interest crusader and 2000 Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced Sunday that he is running again this year, this time as an independent. While his candidacy has created controversy among foes of President Bush as to whether it would more help Bush or his Democratic opponent, one thing is clear: Nader's position on drug policy is light-years more advanced than either Bush's or any of the front-running Democratic candidates.

Here is Nader's issue statement on drug policy, from the Nader campaign's web site (

Wants to end the war on drugs

The drug war has failed -- we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. We need to acknowledge that drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. Therefore, the solutions are -- public health, social services and economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control not at the center. It is time to bring some illegal drugs within the law by regulating, taxing and controlling them. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.

In a related position statement on civil liberties, Nader also called for "the restoration of civil liberties, repeal of the Patriot Act," and an end to draconian practices associated with the "war on terror," but which seem to also have a way of leaking into drug prosecutions. He also warned of a "perilous diminishment of judicial authority in favor of concentrated power in the executive branch," words that would warm the hearts of embattled federal judges forced to mete out assembly-line harsh sentences.

And in his position statement on reforming the criminal justice system, Nader emphasized crime prevention through education, rehabilitation, and investing in neighborhoods and communities, while criticizing the nation's swollen prison system. "To reverse this, we need to invest in humane treatment, personal involvement of youngsters, and job creation," said the statement. "We need to restore sentencing discretion to judges by repealing mandatory sentences and arbitrary 'three-strikes' laws. We also need to restore due process, judicial discretion and constitutional restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and due process of law." And he opposed the death penalty for good measure.

With Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the only Democratic presidential contender with anything approaching a progressive drug policy, failing to win support at the polls, with Sens. Kerry and Edwards only grudgingly and hesitatingly moving toward a progressive position on the most innocuous of issues, medical marijuana, and with President Bush and his criminal justice apparatus prosecuting the drug war full speed ahead, Nader is the only candidate headed to the November ballot who says he wants to end the war on drugs. The Libertarian Party traditionally has a strong anti-prohibitionist platform, but it does not choose a nominee until May. Aaron Russo (, perhaps the best known of the candidates for the party's nomination, only mentions support for medical marijuana on his web site.

7. Newsbrief: Utah Federal Judge Questions Mandatory Minimums

The case of a Utah record company founder facing a series of consecutive mandatory minimum sentences for carrying a gun while in the marijuana business has inspired yet another federal judge to question practices imposed by Congress that limit judges' discretion in sentencing, the Salt Lake Tribune reported Monday. US District Judge Paul Cassell has done so in a novel way, ordering lawyers in the case of 24-year-old Weldon Angelos to submit briefs on whether such a stiff mandatory sentence is constitutional before he pronounces sentence on March 26.

"At first blush, this appears to be an extraordinarily long prison term for Mr. Angelos," Cassell wrote in the order. "Indeed, it would appear to effectively be a life sentence. Before imposing such a severe sentence, the court plans to carefully consider all relevant legal issues."

Angelos, who founded the hip hop and rap label Extravagant Records, was convicted in federal court in December of 16 counts of drug trafficking, weapons possession, and money laundering. The three weapons charges of which he was convicted -- carrying (but not brandishing) a weapon during two pot deals and having a gun in his apartment while he was in the pot business -- carry mandatory minimum sentences of five years on the first count, and 25 years each on subsequent counts, to be served consecutively. As a result, Angelos is looking at more than 60 years in federal prison without parole.

"It's ridiculous," his attorney, Jerome Mooney told the Tribune. "This case is a perfect example of what's wrong with some of these mandatory minimums. This is a 24-year-old kid who possesses, but doesn't brandish, a weapon."

Judge Cassell seems to agree. In his order to lawyers in the case, Cassell listed the lower terms given to violent criminals who harm their victims and noted that without the mandatory minimum sentences on the weapons counts, Angelos would be looking at eight years maximum. And, Cassell added, if Angelos were convicted in a Utah state court, he would probably be out on parole in two or three years.

And the quiet rebellion of the black robes continues.

8. Newsbrief: South Carolina Urine Felon Jailed for Six Months

To protest the repeated drug tests that he, a non-drug user, was forced to endure in order to get and keep work, South Carolina resident Kenneth Curtis six years ago formed a company that sold clean urine, along with tubing and a heating pack. In response, the South Carolina legislature crafted a law directed solely at Curtis, making it a crime to try to defraud a drug test. Then after being pressured by the law's author, Senate Chairman David Thomas (R), South Carolina authorities arrested and convicted Curtis -- the only arrest and conviction ever made under that law.

Now, with his appeals exhausted, Curtis has begun serving a six-month prison sentence. He was actually sentenced to six years, but had all but the six months suspended, ensuring that Curtis will be under the thumb of the state parole department for years to come. He began serving the sentence last week, after the South Carolina Supreme Court last month rejected his appeal arguing that the conviction should be overturned because the charges were vague, there was insufficient evidence he intended to defraud with the kits, and the law constituted an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

"I wanted to show how ridiculous this whole urine testing law is and what I got is a dramatic illustration of how far the government is willing to go to prop up the war on drugs," Curtis told DRCNet in an interview after being convicted in late 2001 ( And while Curtis said at the time he had no regrets, he quickly amended that. "Never having been through a criminal proceeding, I now regret my naivete in thinking I could find justice in the criminal courts. I expect to be treated to the worst prison conditions South Carolina has to offer if I lose on appeal, but I will continue my course. I hope the courts will eventually uphold me. I can't believe the Founding Fathers wanted the courts to be doing what they did in South Carolina in my case."

And now he rots in prison, the victim of a political vendetta by Sen. Thompson, his legislative allies, and the courts and prosecutors who undertook to persecute him for what was in essence an act of political theater.

9. Newsbrief: Psychedelic Pioneer Humphry Osmond Dead at 86

Dr. Humphry Osmond, a pioneer in the therapeutic use of hallucinogenic drugs to treat alcoholism and other psychological ailments, died at his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, on February 6. But despite his groundbreaking scientific accomplishments, Osmond is better known as the man who turned on Aldous Huxley, who in turn became part of a cultural elite that helped introduce a whole generation to LSD and a host of other psychedelics. And, by the way, Osmond was the man who created the term "psychedelic."

In the 1950s, Osmond led the way with studies of the effect of LSD on alcoholism and had amazing success rates. By the late 1960s, medical journals had published more than a thousand articles on the therapeutic use of psychedelics. But since then, similar research has been largely blocked as psychedelics became identified with a youthful counterculture, and science has fallen victim to the cultural war on drugs. Only a few courageous individuals and institutions, such as Rick Doblin and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (, have in recent years sought to pick up the torch first lit by Osmond nearly a half-century ago.

Ironically, by providing British writer Huxley with his first taste of psychedelics -- a healthy dose of mescaline in May, 1953 -- Osmond helped precipitate the very cultural phenomenon that later made reseach into psychedelics difficult, if not impossible. Huxley, already well-known as the author of the dystopian classic, "Brave New World," where a totalitarian government rules a populace controlled by drugs, soon produced the novel "The Doors of Perception," based on his pleasant and impressive psychedelic experiences. That book soon became part of a quickly expanding psychedelic canon that both chronicle-oldd and helped forge the massive, and in no small way drug-induced, cultural shifts of the 1960s and beyond.

Interestingly, Huxley took the title for his book from the poetry of early 19th Century visionary anarchist William Blake. And as Huxley borrowed from Blake, so 1960s LA rocker Jim Morrison borrowed from Huxley, naming his band The Doors in honor of Huxley's psychedelic tome. The counterculture may often be hidden, but its subterranean currents flow down through the centuries.

Osmond publicly coined the term psychedelic at a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957. The word meant "mind-manifesting," he wrote, calling it "clear, euphonious and uncontaminated by other associations." And he offered up some doggerel to explain: "To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic."

An appropriately Blakean suggestion from a man who would have been proud to walk beside the great London Dissenter. Humphry Osmond will be missed.

10. Newsbrief: California Narcs Kill Wrong Man

A California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement officer who was part of a team looking for a fugitive parolee gunned down the wrong man in San Jose February 17. According to a series of reports in the San Jose Mercury News, 43-year-old Rudy Cardenas, a father of five, was shot in the back by the state narc after leaving the parolee's address in a van and attempting to elude police, first in the van and then on foot. He was shot in a downtown alley. Cardenas was unarmed. The fugitive parolee, whom law enforcement had for unclear reasons described as "armed and dangerous," was arrested without incident, and without weapons, two hours after Cardenas was killed.

State law enforcement officials almost immediately sought to blame Cardenas for his own death. "To say the wrong man was shot is inaccurate," claimed attorney general's spokesman Nathan Barankin. "A suspect was shot. It just wasn't why they were there. They were there to serve a warrant, and then it became something else," he told the Mercury News, adding that, after all, Cardenas had been running away from police.

Within a couple of days, the police offensive was in full gear as unnamed "law enforcement sources" told the Mercury News that Cardenas had "twisted around... was holding a digital scale as if to simulate a pistol," making the narc in chase feel threatened. This same source added that Cardenas had told relatives he would rather die than go back to prison -- something Cardenas' family vigorously denied.

And at least one eyewitness saw and heard something quite at odds with the police version of events. Dorothy Duckett, 78, told the Mercury News she looked out her fifth-floor window after hearing one gunshot and saw Cardenas pleading for his life. "I watched him running with his hands in the air. He kept saying, 'Don't shoot. Don't shoot,'" Duckett said. "He had absolutely nothing in his hands."

The killing of Cardenas has raised tensions in San Jose's Latino community, with two vigils marking his death and demanding a public grand jury investigation into the shooting since he was killed. "All they did was shoot and ask questions later," said Jesse Villarreal, Cardenas' nephew, at a February 19 vigil.

It could have happened to any member of the community, said Danny Garza, whose Mexican American Political Association is calling for an open investigation. "The concern is that it could have been anybody who looked like him," said Garza. "It could have been me -- I used to have a mustache and black hair, too. We shouldn't be afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I just want them to give us an honest, open investigation into what happened," said Cardenas' brother, Raul Cardenas, 59, who wore a yellow jacket with a bull's-eye and "police target" written on the back. "I just want justice for my brother."

Good luck. Grand jury or not, the prospects for justice for Cardenas are bleak. In case after case of questionable police shootings of civilians, grand juries fail to indict the police shooters.

11. Newsbrief: Hempster Becomes Local Hero in Icy Pond Rescue

Viewers of NBC local news in and near Washington, DC last Friday night heard about two young girls who fell through the ice of a thawing pond in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the neighbor who rushed in and pulled them out. "Authorities thank Eric Steenstra" for rescuing the girls, the news report concluded.

If any hemp food enthusiasts or others following the issue happened to be watching, they might have wondered if the hero of Loudoun County was the long-time hemp activist by the same name. Indeed, Eric Steenstra, best known to Drug War Chronicle readers for his work with the organization Vote Hemp (, was standing on the deck of his Broadlands, VA, home when he noticed the two girls in an icy pond nearby. One was already in the water. He took off, but by the time he got to the pond both had fallen through the ice.

Steenstra, a 6'4" 40-year-old, jumped into the pond, finding the water over his head, and managed to push the first girl to shore. By then, the second girl had disappeared beneath the water, but Steenstra dove in and found her and got her to shore. She coughed up water, but neither girl was seriously injured.

Streenstra is a bit embarrassed by the media attention his selfless act attracted, he told DRCNet. "I don't think I did anything different from what anyone else would have done," he said modestly. "There were a couple of kids in big trouble, and I happened to be there at the right time. I have two girls of my own," he explained.

The mother of the two girls, ages 6 and 8, called to thank him, Steenstra said. "I'm just glad it turned out okay," he added.

12. This Week in History

February 29, 1996: In his State of the Union address, President Clinton nominates Army General Barry McCaffrey, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Two days later, the appointment is confirmed by the Senate without debate. McCaffrey had been head of the US Southern Command (SouthCom) which provides military backup for US policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with chronically ineffective and corrupt drug enforcement.

March 1, 1915: The Harrison Narcotics Act goes into legal effect, beginning prohibition of drugs.

March 1, 1999: The advice columnist Abigail Van Buren in her popular column Dear Abby said, "I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of the majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation."

March 5, 1995: Lester Grinspoon, MD, one of America's leading medical marijuana authorities, visited London and took part in a live debate on BBC television. The topic was "Should marijuana be legalized?" In less than half an hour, over 137,000 phone calls came in, of which 90 percent were in the affirmative.

16. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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.

February 24, 5:00pm, Oakland, CA, "Triumph Over Fear" Victory Party and Award Ceremony, celebrating the Raich v. Ashcroft court victory. At the Oakland Box Theater, 1928 Telegraph Ave., RSVP to (510) 764-1499 or [email protected], or visit for further information.

February 26, noon-2:00pm, Washington DC, Washington Council of Lawyers Brownbag on Tulia. At the firm of Hogan & Hartson, contact (202) 942-5063 or visit for further information.

February 26, 4:30-6:00pm, New York, NY, "Over the Influence: Managing Drugs and Alcohol, A Harm Reduction Perspective," forum at The Lindesmith Library, Drug Policy Alliance, 70 West 36th St., 16th Floor. RSVP to Julie Ruckel at (212) 613-8053 or [email protected], or visit for info.

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 1-3, Houston, TX, "Breaking the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs," conference of Drug Policy Alliance, contact [email protected] or (888) 361-6338 or visit 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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