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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #332, 4/9/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. In Memoriam: Keith Cylar, Prominent Figure in AIDS and Harm Reduction Communities, Passes Away at 45
  2. DRCNet vs. DC Courts: Borden and Guard Garner Publicity, Facing Possible Fines Pending Resolution of Jury Service Refusal
  3. Florida Pain Patient Faces Decades in Prison for Pain Medication
  4. Kampia v. Souder at Medical Marijuana Hearings
  5. Million Marijuana March Coming to a City Near You
  6. HEA Continues to Get Publicity
  7. Peter Jennings Ecstasy Special Draws Praise, Criticism -- Your Letters to ABC Can Help!
  8. Newsbrief: Florida Legislators Push Student Drug Test Bills
  9. Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Look at Highway Drug Dog Searches
  10. Newsbrief: American Medical Association Worries About Pain Medication Crackdown
  11. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story
  12. Newsbrief: Bulgaria Update -- Organized Youth Protest Against Total Cannabis Ban
  13. Newsbrief: "Khat Madness" in Uganda
  14. This Week in History
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. In Memoriam: Keith Cylar, Prominent Figure in AIDS and Harm Reduction Communities, Passes Away at 45

Friends and coworkers of long-time New York City AIDS and harm reduction activist Keith Cylar announced this week that he had died early Monday morning. Cylar's HIV turned into AIDS in 1989, and in the last year he developed cardiomyopathy, a serious enlargement of the heart. Cylar died in his sleep of cardioarythmia. He was 45 years old.

Diagnosed with HIV two decades ago, Cylar embarked on a career serving the most downtrodden among those afflicted with the disease. After organizing ACT-UP's Housing Committee, Keith joined his partner Charles King and attorney Virginia Shubert in founding Housing Works (http://www.housingworks.org), a community-based AIDS service organization that helped thousands of homeless people with HIV and AIDS find housing and other social services at a time when the medical and social services system were failing to respond to the twin crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS. Cylar served on a number of nonprofit boards, including DRCNet's.

Housing Works is the nation's largest minority-controlled AIDS service organization, and one of its most innovative, especially when it comes to dealing with mentally impaired or chemically dependent aids sufferers. Instead of insisting on abstinence-based programs, Housing Works has offered "low-threshold" programs designed to work with current drug users "where they're at." These programs include syringe exchange as well as the whole panoply of harm reduction measures.

An announcement from Housing Works this week excerpted portions of an interview that appeared in the Housing Works bulletin last year. Recalling Housing Works' early days, "I couldn't get people out of the hospital because they didn't have a place to live... New York City literally had hospital gridlock and that was when they were keeping people out on hospital gurneys in the hallways. That was when people were not being fed, bathed, or touched. It was horrendous. You can't imagine what it was like to be black, gay, a drug user, or transgender and dying from AIDS."

Cylar didn't have to imagine it -- he was living it. "There was this incredible sense of anger and fury and determination that we were not going to die," said Cylar. "And if we were going to die, then we were going to go down fighting. It's a weird place that gets you to not care whether you had enough sleep or if you were going to pay your taxes. A lot of things just weren't important. What was important was making sure you were at the demo. Making sure that we were going to stop this government, changing the way this epidemic was killing us. Life could not just go on as usual as long as we were suffering, as long as our friends, our lovers, and our sisters, our brothers were dying."

At Housing Works, Cylar was tireless in demanding that the city, state, and federal governments provide housing and services, making the agency a leader in both providing services and advocating for its clients. He played a leading role in the development of federal legislation to create and fund HIV/AIDS service programs, as well as HIV-related substance abuse and mental health services.

Leading lights of the AIDS movement sang his praises in the Thursday bulletin, including Sandra Thurman, who served as Director of the National Office of AIDS Policy (the "AIDS Czar") under President Bill Clinton. Thurman said Tuesday that "as a social worker, an activist and an advocate, Keith brought a passion and brilliance to his work that is unparalleled in the AIDS community. His willingness to vigorously challenge those with whom he did not agree was matched only by his willingness to stay at the table until the needs of those who had no seat at the table had been heard."

"He was loud when others remained silent," said Dennis DeLeon, founder of the Latino Commission on AIDS (http://www.latinoaids.org). "He could shame any bureaucrat into action, by any means necessary. He put his body in harm's way on countless occasions, spending innumerable hours behind bars to try to wake people up to injustice. He was a national figure on the AIDS scene, promoting the successful model of client empowerment and entrepreneurship to address social ills. He consoled the families of countless friends who were clients who had lost loved ones."

Cylar's death came mere days after he traveled to Houston to attend the Drug Policy Alliance's "Breaking the Chains" conference on race and the drug war. His long-term commitment to the anti-drug war cause and the rights of drug users was demonstrated by his presence at many such events over the years. For example, DRCNet executive director David Borden recalls first hearing Cylar speak at a major northeast conference in New York City sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition in June 1995. "That conference was an eye-opener for me, and the panel I remember the most vividly was one on which Keith was a speaker and which had a lot of passionate dialogue between the panel members and the audience. At one point, responding to an issue raised in the question and answer session, Keith made clear just how fully he embraced the personal autonomy aspect of harm reduction philosophy by declaring, 'It is okay to use drugs.' He wasn't just talking about marijuana."

Cylar did work with DRCNet in 1999, when DRCNet and other organizations were in a "war of words" with TV personality "Judge Judy" Sheindlin over a comment she had made in Australia dismissing needle exchange programs. Sheindlin had been quoted in Australian as saying "Give 'em [injection drug users] dirty needles and let 'em die." To Cylar, Judge Judy's remarks were a callous death sentence, not only for drug users but their loved ones. "I assume that she means that if one of her children was unfortunate enough to get themselves addicted to drugs, or to sleep with someone who at one time injected drugs, that she is advocating that her child is not worth saving... even that we ought, as a society, to cause her death," he told DRCNet at the time. "The population at risk here numbers in the millions, including untold numbers of children yet unborn. She is advocating genocide." (See http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/116/judgejudy.shtml and http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/128/dumpjudgejudy.shtml online).

Being an AIDS activist and harm reductionist sometimes putting himself on the line for Cylar. One occasion when he did just that was during the confirmation hearings for Attorney General-to-be John Ashcroft in 2001. Outraged by Ashcroft's leadership of congressional opposition to needle exchange programs, Cylar and three Housing Works colleagues disrupted his hearing with shouted demands to quite blocking the harm reduction measure and, most audibly, "Stop Ashcroft!" Cylar and the others were arresting on a misdemeanor charge of "disrupting Congress" (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/169/housingworks.shtml).

Cylar recently took a humorous view of a much less confrontational type of civil disobedience committed by DRCNet's David Borden and David Guard. "We had dinner a few weeks ago, working on things he was going to do for us as a board member moving forward, and I mentioned I had done my first civil disobedience," Borden said. "Keith asked me what it was, and I told him I had refused to report for jury service. He put his hand to his forehead, nodded for about ten seconds, then looked up and said, 'I guess you have to start somewhere.' It didn't occur to me immediately just how tame our action might seem to a hardcore AIDS activist like Keith. When I told him a few minutes later that the full humor of it had just sunk in, he laughed out loud. It was one of many ways in which he opened my mind to larger perspectives on activism." Borden added, "The value of a major AIDS activist leader and service provider, who was widely known in New York City to the general public, and who was willing to speak out not only about AIDS but against the drug war and prohibition itself, was inestimable. Our movement has lost a powerful ally."

"He is irreplaceable," said Michael Kink, an attorney and lobbyist who is legislative counsel for Housing Works. "There is no one with his depth of commitment and strength of leadership. We will all be very changed as we go on without him," he told DRCNet. "He certainly brought together a great crew of people, but we depended on him for guidance and inspiration. His death leaves a huge hole as we try to go on without him. His dedication to harm reduction issues and drug reform issues and his concern with the day to day needs of people who are using drugs was unparalleled."

Cylar also worked to ensure that Housing Works never forgot its core mission, said Kink. "Keith built into the DNA of this organization that we must always be a powerful melding of direct social services and advocacy for the people who are too often left out of the debates," he said. "Housing Works will never become another outpost of AIDS, Inc. And as a gay black man living with HIV/AIDS, he spoke clearly about all these issues, as well as the issue of drug use, both his own and that of others. That was something that has been really unique in the fields of AIDS prevention and treatment, as well as chemical dependency and drug reform. Every area where he worked was touched by his contributions."

Allan Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC), offered a perspective to DRCNet on Cylar's and Housing Works' importance. "I don't believe people outside of New York know his or Housing Works' status here in the City. Housing Works houses homeless people with AIDS -- that means they house drug users. At the same time, Housing Works turned its clients into activists and self advocates. Keith's death is kind of like losing the king of the activists. He was also a consummate schmoozer and loved having his inside connections. Keith moved from mixing with the government, to threatening the government, to beating the government -- all in the space of five minutes."

Cylar was also striking for the sheer pace of life and work that he kept up despite his affliction. Clear told DRCNet, "Keith was rarely available because he had to be somewhere else -- DC, Albany, or wherever. He was always on the go. He also overcommitted; he couldn't do it all. Once you got used to it, it became just who Keith was. It became factored into the equation." Clear also revealed a final, friendly zap he's waiting for from Cylar. "On the other hand, Keith was completely consistent. He told me this year that he's suing me for being part of the NYC Mayor's Commission on AIDS. Being a colleague or friend wouldn't affect that kind of move. [Cylar served on the HRC board of trustees.] Once Housing Works' lawyers sort it out I'll probably get served. When the papers arrive, I'll think of them as Keith's parting valentine."

Many more words have or will be written about Keith Cylar. These are a few of the places to read them:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/08/nyregion/08CYLA.html
http://www.latinoaids.com/emails/Sadews_04_05.htm
http://www.se-alliance.org/news.cfm
http://www.housingworks.org/home_f.html (use http://www.housingworks.org/cylar.html if you don't allow popups) -- scroll down to read or add to the condolence book
Housing Works has established a Keith Cylar Fund to channel donations to Housing Works, per Cylar's request before he died. Donations may be sent to 320 W. 13th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10012, or visit http://www.housingworks.org to donate online -- make sure to indicate it is for the Keith Cylar Fund.

Housing Works has also announced memorial plans, which are open to the public. A wake will be held on Monday, April 12 from 6:00-9:00pm, at the Church of the Intercession, 550 West 155th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave., including a service from 7:00-8:00pm. Funeral services will be on Tuesday, April 13, noon, also at the Church of the Intercession. Following the funeral service, there will be a motorcade (including buses for those without vehicles) downtown and a procession to the Housing Works residence at 9th St. and Ave. D for internment of Keith's ashes in the garden and a reception. And, as Keith wished, Housing Works is hosting a party for Keith from 6:30-10:00pm at Webster Hall, 125 East 11th St., between 3rd and 4th Avenues.

Listen to Keith's conversation with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee during last week's Breaking The Chains conference, courtesy of Cultural Baggage: http://www.cultural-baggage.com/Audio/keithcylar.mp3


2. DRCNet vs. DC Courts: Borden and Guard Garner Publicity, Facing Possible Fines Pending Resolution of Jury Service Refusal

DRCNet executive director David Borden and associate director Dave Guard went to court last week for refusing to report for jury service in the District of Columbia. Unlike most who decline to report for jury service, Borden and Guard were not seeking to shirk their civic responsibilities, but to demonstrate through civil disobedience their disapproval of drug laws and a criminal justice system they describe as "unjust" and "corroded" by the drug war.

The pair, represented pro bono by attorney John Zwerling (a prominent criminal defense lawyer who took the case at the request of NORML leader Keith Stroup), went to court prepared to be jailed for their stance, but DC Superior Court chief judge Rufus King had a surprise in store for them. Instead of fining and/or jailing them for contempt, he instead issued a court order giving them the weekend to change their minds and avoid all any penalty but imposing a fine starting after that of $100 each per day for each day they continue to refuse to report for jury duty.

"Judge King threw us a curveball," said Borden, who together with Guard is now in consultations with Zwerling about how to respond. "We thought the maximum sentence would be a week in jail and/or a $300 fine each. We didn't want to get the maximum, but we were prepared for the possibility. Instead, the judge didn't penalize us for not reporting before, but gave us a different penalty for refusing his new order, fines that could escalate indefinitely," he said.

"Our attorney has filed a motion requesting that the fines be stayed pending any appeals. We'd hoped this would be granted earlier in the week, but we're still waiting to hear his response to that request," said Borden. "Our lawyer thinks Judge King is likely to grant it, though it's not certain -- he seemed to hint he would, and he didn't seem anxious to punish us in the first place. He made a point of acknowledging the legitimacy of the issues we've raised."

Borden continued, "We've also filed a request that he reconsider a decision he made at our hearing to not accept an offer we made to do community service in lieu of jury service, for a number of hours exceeding what a juror would be likely to spend. Our lawyer is also optimistic about that. But if King says no to both these requests, we'll probably have to back down by today or Monday. The publicity has been well worth the possible monetary penalties so far, and some of it has already been replaced by unsolicited donations from members. We've really impressed some larger donors or potential donors too. But neither we nor our most enthusiastic supporters have an extra $50,000 a year to pay into the Victims Compensation Fund, laudable as financial relief for victims of crime may be. And we've made our statement."

"US drug policy is in a state of moral and humanitarian crisis, shaming us before history," wrote Borden in a letter declining to serve that he delivered to Judge King last August. "Drug policies have significantly driven a deep corrosion of the ethics and principles underlying our system of justice. Jurors in the United States cannot confidently rely on the information we are provided for deciding criminal cases. We cannot know if we have been told the whole truth of a case -- as in the trials of Ed Rosenthal and Bryan Epis, whom California jurors convicted without knowing they were medical marijuana providers. We cannot trust the testimony of witnesses for the state to be truthful and balanced; for example, Andrew Chambers, a "super-snitch" used by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for numerous prosecutions, even after a court found him to be a repeat perjurer," Borden wrote.

"We are not permitted knowledge of the possible consequences a defendant may face if we vote to convict -- and in a society that hands out decades-long punishments as a routine matter, and which fails to provide adequate safety or medical care to our incarcerated, we cannot have faith that a judge will be able, even if willing, to pronounce a sentence that is just," the letter continued. "We are instructed to decide verdicts based solely on facts, showing no consideration to larger moral principles, with those daring to inform potential jurors of their power to do otherwise themselves subjected to criminalization to an increasing degree. And we subsidize the injustices by providing our time for mere travel cost as members of the jury pool, and for less than a living wage while serving as jurors on cases."

Guard, coincidentally, received his own jury duty summons a short time after Borden sent his letter to King. "I declined my jury summons for the same reason Dave Borden did," he explained, "because of our shared and principled conclusion that our nation's drug laws have eroded the ability of jurors to adequately and in good conscience perform the important, Constitutionally-called-for civic duty of jury service. And that is an increasingly popular notion," he added.

Now, while Borden and Guard ponder their next move, they can at least enjoy the play their act of civil disobedience is getting. "We are starting to pick up press attention," said Guard. "We got a story in the Washington Post on Saturday, and that started the ball rolling. Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation was interviewed on our behalf on the radio Friday (WPFW 89.3, a Pacifica affiliate) while we were in court, and Dave Borden just taped a program yesterday that will air repeatedly on the local cable station. WPFW ran a second, great interview with the two of us this morning. And other major outlets have expressed interest."

The pair remain stalwart in their positions. "I have no problem serving on a jury," Borden said. "My objection is to continuing to show up for the jury pool but getting sent home without serving on a jury because of my views. This is what has happened to me and it is what has happened to colleagues, not only on drug cases. It's not in the interest of the prosecution in any kind of case to allow a juror on who is aware of the pervasiveness of perjury by police officers, for example. With that being the likely outcome, it doesn't seem like reporting for jury duty is very meaningful public service for me. Instead, it legitimizes a system that is biased from the outset against including those of us who understand the criminal justice system all too well."

Stay tuned.

Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/openletter/ to read Borden's open letter to Judge King.

Visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46364-2004Apr2.html to read Saturday's Washington Post article, including a big picture of Borden and Guard at the courthouse, page B-3 in the Metro section.

We don't yet have a link for online audio of this morning's WPFW interview, but will let you know if one becomes available.

Check out Reporter's Roundtable on the District of Columbia cable station Channel 16, running at 11:00 and 7:00pm every day for the next two weeks. Borden is on the third segment. We hope to make video footage available in the near future.

Visit http://www.druglibrary.org/special/king/rufusking.htm to learn about the historic work in drug policy reform done by Judge King's father, the late Rufus King Jr.


3. Florida Pain Patient Faces Decades in Prison for Pain Medication

Richard Paey, 45, of Hudson, Florida, is disabled. Injured in a traffic accident in 1985 while attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Paey suffered a severely herniated disk in his lower back. A first surgery failed, and a second operation, an experimental procedure involving screw inserted into his spine, only aggravated matters. It left his backbone splintered and the mass of nerves surrounding it mangled. Paey, who relies on a wheelchair for mobility, was left in excruciating chronic pain, which he treated with prescribed opioid pain relievers.

But Paey's odyssey from being just another of America's tens of millions of chronic pain sufferers to a Florida jail cell was about to get underway. Paey and his family had been living in New Jersey, where a physician prescribed large amounts of opioid pain relievers for Paey, but when they moved to Florida, they could not find doctors willing to provide the high-dosage prescriptions needed to fend off the pain that tormented him.

Paey, who has also been diagnosed with advanced multiple sclerosis, resorted to filling out prescription forms obtained from his New Jersey doctor and eventually came to the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Investigators reported watching Paey and his wheelchair roll into one pharmacy after another to pick up fraudulent prescriptions, adding up to more than 200 prescriptions and 18,000 pain pills in a year's time.

No one could take so many pills, investigators suspected. Paey must be a drug dealer. And they charged him as one, even though no one has ever presented any evidence that Paey did anything with the pain pills except ease his own pain. Now, after two mistrials, plea bargain offers made and withdrawn, and plea bargain offers rejected by Paey, prosecutors have managed to win a conviction. A week from today, a Florida judge will decide Paey's fate, although if the judge follows state law, there is not much to decide. As a convicted Florida "drug trafficker," Paey faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.

In a last minute bid to win freedom for Paey, who is currently imprisoned in the hospital wing of the Pasco County Jail and is being treated with a morphine pump while in jail, his attorneys will use the occasion of next Friday's hearing to ask that the verdict be dismissed on the grounds that Paey's New Jersey physician, Dr. Steven Nurkiewicz, lied on the stand when he testified that he did not give Paey permission to fill out undated prescription forms.

"The state knew Dr. Nurkiewicz was lying when he said he did not provide the prescription forms and that he only prescribed small numbers of pain pills, but they said he wasn't on trial, and they won't charge him with perjury," said Paey's wife Linda. "We tried to get a mistrial, but they were still able to put Nurkiewicz on the stand knowing that he had lied," she told DRCNet. "They feel like the end justifies the means, that my husband is a bad person, and that they've invested too much money in prosecuting him to let him get away. Now they will lose face if they drop the charges," she said.

"We were so naïve when this began," she said. "They accused him of selling the medicine and we said no, he's a pain patient. I thought that once they saw that was true, they would understand. But no. They not only charged him as a drug trafficker, but they harassed his doctors to stop him from getting more pain medication."

Paey's family and a growing number of supporters are not merely relying on the courts for justice, but taking his case to the court of public opinion. A letter writing campaign to local newspapers is underway, and the St. Petersburg Times has editorialized on Paey's behalf. Paey has also drawn support from national organizations including the Pain Relief Network (http://www.painreliefnetwork.org) and the November Coalition (http://www.november.org), a group working to end the drug war and free its prisoners. This evening, supporters will hold a vigil outside the Pasco County Courthouse in Port Richey.

"Richard Paey is a hero, not a criminal," said Siobhan Reynolds, founder and executive director of the Pain Relief Network, as she prepared to board a flight for Tampa Wednesday. "The more people hear about this case, the more disturbed they are. He refused plea bargains because he would not be complicit in criminalizing his own efforts to save his own life," she told DRCNet. "This is about medicine and medical care, not about illegal drugs or drug trafficking, and it is startlingly clear that local prosecutors and the DEA have totally lost track of that distinction."

The Pain Relief Network and other Paey supporters will ask the prosecutors to not stand in the way of the acquittal motion, Reynolds said. "We are calling on them to join the motion to acquit. This was not a real crime, only a statutory one," she said. "We want them to do the right thing for this suffering individual."

The conviction of Richard Paey comes as Florida is in the midst of its own version of drug czar John Walters' war on prescription drug abuse. Alongside such high profile actions as the investigation of Rush Limbaugh and the nearly monthly arrests of pain management physicians, the Florida legislature has been at work crafting a prescription monitoring bill that would allow doctors and law enforcement to access a database showing prescriptions to all potentially addictive drugs statewide.

As part of the White House's National Drug Control Strategy, Walters is pushing for more states to join the 15 that already have such programs. They would help reduce abuse by allowing physicians and law enforcement to spot patients seeking multiple prescriptions, Walters said. Paey's representative, state Sen. Mike Fasano, is sponsoring the bill in the state Senate. The bill would protect patient privacy by making it a felony to unlawfully divulge patient information, Fasano told the Orlando Sentinel in February.

But Paey's case shows the danger of such a database, said Reynolds. "Richard Paey was prosecuted three times in the very same district that is represented by Senator Mike Fasano, the sponsor of Florida's prescription monitoring bill. Fasano's claim that prosecutors won't use private medical information gathered in government computers against patients in pain, is exposed for the hollow assurance it is," Reynolds said. "Law enforcement already looms over medicine to such an extent that patients with the highest dose requirements, those with the most severe pain, can't find medical help. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs only ensure that the under-treatment of pain will continue to plague our most vulnerable citizens and their families."

Still, the Senate bill and its companion bill in the Florida House are moving.

Meanwhile, Paey's supporters are gathering for a last minute effort to bring him home.

"John Chase of the November Coalition and Siobhan Reynolds have really been working hard to get the word out," said Linda Paey. "I couldn't do all this myself. But we are encouraged by all the support we are finding out there. The Times editorial certainly helped. And my coworkers and neighbors have been very supportive. There are people I don't know who pull up in my driveway and offer their support," she said. "It's a little shocking." She has also had nibbles from the CBS news program 60 Minutes, Paey said.

Linda Paey is not pleased with local law enforcement and prosecutors. "They have done nothing but try to prosecute my husband, and they used the most disgusting tactics. They're used to threatening everyone with long mandatory minimum sentences, then getting them to cop a plea and get probation," she said. "If these people are so dangerous they need mandatory minimum sentences, why do they turn around and give them probation?" she asked.

"This case should not even be in the courts," Paey added. "Cases like this should be given to the medical board to see if there was any wrongdoing to begin with. Instead, they assume the doctor is over-prescribing or the patient is abusing the drugs, but they don't know that. It's an easy way for cops and prosecutors to look tough on drugs."

"My husband refused to plea bargain because he believes this prosecution is wrong, that this should not be happening. I haven't been able to convince him otherwise. Now he is collateral damage in the war on drugs."

And now Richard Paey and his supporters have only a week in which to act to prevent him from being sent to prison for 25 years. Paey's case is not only an object lesson in the way a dogmatic war on drugs creates new victims, but also a sad commentary on the state of our nation's judicial systems. When someone is punished for actually trying to defend himself against criminal charges, as opposed to accepting a plea bargain of guilt, something is very much amiss in the halls of justice.

To read the House prescription monitoring bill online, go to:
http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&BillNum=0397

To read the Senate version, go to:
http://www.flsenate.gov/session/index.cfm?BI_Mode=ViewBillInfo&Mode=Bills&SubMenu=1&Year=2004&billnum=580

Also going on in the pain movement, the national march on Washington later this month -- visit http://www.PainCoalition.us for info -- check back in next week's Drug War Chronicle for more info here too!


4. Kampia v. Souder at Medical Marijuana Hearings

One of Congress' leading drug warriors, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), was at it again last week. At a hearing of his House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources April 1, Souder once again took up the cudgel against medical marijuana, lining up a panel heavy on government anti-drug experts, more neutral state medical marijuana program administrators, and what he hoped would be an easily demonizable trio of medical marijuana advocates, Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) executive director Rob Kampia; Dr. Claudia Jensen, a California pediatrician who dared to suggest that marijuana could help kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and Dr. Phillip Leveque, the prolific Portland, Oregon, medical marijuana prescriber who was recently sanctioned by the state medical board. (To Souder's consternation, Leveque did not show up. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/226/drleveque.shtml http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/234/drleveque.shtml for previous DRCNet coverage of Dr. Leveque.)

"This wasn't a panel set up to show the positive aspects of medical marijuana programs, but the worst," said Steve Fox, MPP director of legislative affairs. "If they were truly examining medical marijuana from a science-based approach, it would have been more appropriate to have a researcher, but given that Souder wanted to talk about state medical marijuana laws, we thought it would be good to have Rob on to address the whole range of issues," he told DRCNet. "We got him on the panel by working with minority staff."

Souder, who is most infamous as the author of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, through which people convicted of any drug offense lose access to federal student financial aid, started off the hearing in typical fashion, telling the audience he was there to look into the "highly controversial topic of the use of marijuana for so-called medical purposes." Many Americans have been duped by "a large and well-funded pro-drug movement," he asserted. The success of the pro-druggies in convincing people to vote for medical marijuana initiatives "has set up a direct conflict between federal and state law" and "put into focus the competing claims about marijuana as a medicine," he continued. It was the claims that marijuana is an efficacious medicine he hoped to puncture during the hearing.

Souder brought on witnesses such as Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse to emphasize that marijuana is a dangerous drug. "Marijuana is not a benign drug," she told the committee, citing two million "marijuana addicts," as well as a host of ill effects ranging from intoxication to the inhalation of carcinogens.

Souder then went on a great length with witnesses from the Food and Drug Administration and the DEA about how marijuana has not been approved as a medicine by the FDA. "Souder kept repeated that the FDA hasn't approved it, so it's not an approved medicine," said Fox. "A great example of circular logic."

"There has been ample research that shows marijuana is safe and effective," said Kampia in his prepared remarks. "It's safer than most prescription medicines. It's safer than aspirin. And it's certainly medically efficacious." Kampia conceded Souder's point that there are insufficient studies to have the FDA approve it as a medicine, but he blamed "political reasons," citing Department of Health and Human Services guidelines that make it more difficult to research marijuana than LSD, ecstasy, or newly developed drugs. "That has a chilling effect on research," he noted. Kampia also described the DEA as "obstructionist," pointing to its failure to either approve or deny a Massachusetts program that would privately grow marijuana for research purposes.

"Rob was there to there to make clear that marijuana does have recognized medical benefits, but Souder didn't really want to go back and forth with Rob about the federal government not recognizing marijuana as medicine or its efforts to thwart research," said Fox. "We were, however, able to get some written questions submitted to the DEA about why it is taking so long to approve or deny that license for the Massachusetts project, and now they will have to answer those questions within 30 days."

Kampia also lit into Souder over the make-up of the panels heard by the committee. Noting that the only medical marijuana-prescribing doctor invited to testify was Dr. Leveque, the physician recently disciplined by the Oregon medical board for his prescribing practices, Kampia called the selection process "highly biased." He also took issue with Souder's failure to invite any actual medical marijuana patients to testify. "You say you wonder what impact medical marijuana has on these patients, given that it hasn't gone through the FDA, yet you didn't invite any patients to speak today."

And he called Souder on his demonstrably false claims that medical marijuana has no support from medical groups and that the Dutch government does not support medical marijuana. "On the House floor, you said you met with officials from the Dutch government and they said, supposedly, that they rejected the use of smoked marijuana for so-called medical purposes," Kampia noted. "I don't believe you. "Holland is currently allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana, and patients are picking it up at the pharmacy. It hardly sounds to me like the Dutch oppose medical marijuana."

"I want to thank you for at least being consistent," Souder muttered at the end of Kampia's testimony.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), a supporter of medical marijuana, used the question portion of the hearing to ask Dr. Jensen about her limited use of marijuana in treating in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in adolescents -- Jensen has recommended it for two patients -- and explored the reasons for Dr. Leveque's being disciplined by Oregon medical authorities. Leveque was suspended last month for allegedly violating Oregon medical practice standards by signing medical marijuana recommendations without conducting on-site physical exams. "Did any violations adversely affect his patients?" asked Sanchez. She got no answer.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) didn't stick around for the testimony, but lingered in the committee long enough to jab at Souder over the HEA anti-drug provision. "It doesn't seem we ought to ruin a kid's life by giving him a record for smoking pot," she said, noting that "it's not middle class white kids who get arrested for smoking pot."

Dr. Jensen, for her part, was deft enough at explaining her use of medical marijuana in treating ADHD that Souder barely bothered to attack her and desisted when she proved able to hold her own. Jensen even had a gift for Souder: A copy of University of Southern California clinical psychologist Dr. Mitch Earleywine's "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence." Now, if he would only read it.

"This was Souder's show," said MPP's Fox. "We were basically playing defense, but I think we prevented Souder from doing anything to hurt medical marijuana, which is what he wanted to do."

Visit http://www.mpp.org/hearing/ for complete transcripts of written and oral testimony, and the question and answer period.


5. Million Marijuana March Coming to a City Near You

If it's springtime, it's Million Marijuana March time. Come May Day, grassroots activists in about 200 cities around the globe will be hitting the streets to celebrate marijuana and demand its legalization. A tradition that has endured (under various names) for more than 30 years, the marches have been a means of forcing the issue of marijuana and its consumers into the public eye, as the pot culture lets its freak flag fly. The marches provoke media coverage -- not necessarily all sympathetic -- especially in the more remote locales, such as Spokane, Washington, or Yuba City, Arizona, not to mention Rosario, Argentina, or Stockholm, Sweden, a hotbed of Nordic prohibitionism that will see its first Million Marijuana March this year.

"We're at about 150 cities right now and we think we'll make 200 before it's all over," said the march's founder, Dana Beale of Cures Not Wars (http://www.cures-not-wars.org), a group devoted not only to reforming marijuana laws but also to proselytizing for the virtues of the African plant ibogaine in treating addiction. That is about the same as last year, when slightly more than 200 cities participated.

Finding organizers for the marches in various cities is a constant challenge, said Beale. "While we get new cities each year, there are also cities where it has happened in the past but activism has sluffed off," he said. Expansion of the marches is also stymied in part for lack of funds for organizing, he added. "If you want this to flourish, you have to begin working on it the previous summer and you have to have people doing some traveling. It can be done cheaply, but we need to be able to have someone go to different cities where we know someone, but they don't quite have it together."

The veteran organizer has his eyes on new lands as well. "There is not a single event planned in all of India, and there is a huge marijuana culture there," he said. "And there is only one event in all of South Africa. We want to branch out and expand, but you have to send someone to those places to make contact with the people there." There is a tipping point, he argued. "We should be in 900 cities, not 200. At some point, if we get into enough cities and have large enough events, we could break through. What we need are the equivalent of those global antiwar rallies that were covered on every channel and in every newspaper," he said.

The marches have long been a fixture in North America and Europe, but have begun spreading in Latin America as well in recent years. This year, marches are set for Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Rosario, and Sao Paulo.

"We will be doing a festival and concert called the 'Festival Against Intolerance,'" said Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association, who is involved in organizing both the Buenos Aires and Rosario events. "There will be rock groups and speakers in both cities. Last year, we had 12,000 people in Buenos Aires for the festival, and we are doing it in both cities this year," she told DRCNet. "We expect maybe 15,000 in Buenos Aires this year and several thousand more in Rosario. We started with a Million Marijuana March in Rosario in 2002, and support and attendance continue to grow, as does debate on the issue," she said.

As for event organizers around the planet, for Inchaurraga the annual march is an opportunity to highlight local or national issues in the context of a global movement for marijuana liberation. "Here in Argentina," she said, "we are doing this in the framework of our Argentine depenalization campaign, a project to modify the national drug law. There was a bill introduced in November to depenalize possession for personal use, and we are supporting that."

Last year, said Inchaurraga, they created a CD called "Music for Depenalization" with cuts from groups that performed at the festival. "It was a selection of songs against prohibition, against the war on drugs, and in favor of marijuana depenalization or legalization. We plan to do that again this year to keep on having an impact after the march is over," she said.

Back in New York, Beale explained that this year's slogan is "May Day is Jay Day" and the overall theme is regulation, not prohibition. "We're not doing medical marijuana," he said. "We are trying to stress the idea of the Dutch model, the fact that they have been extremely successful in controlling their overall drug problem by separating cannabis from the hard drug markets."

The Million Marijuana Marches are a unique demonstration of the incredible spread and variety of pro-marijuana groups and the grassroots pot culture, with participants including numerous local and national chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter or two, Berlin's Hanfmuseum, the First Church of the Magi and Sacred Truth Mission in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Finnish Cannabis Association, the Stoner Club in Las Vegas, Sister Somayah's Nigerian Kief Society in Los Angeles, Mountaineers for Medical Marijuana in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the Philadelphia Pot Party, and Tarzan's Mission of the Sacred Herb in Sturgeon Falls, Wisconsin.

And they may be scruffy and they may smoke pot on camera, but while that bothers some more buttoned-down drug reformers, it doesn't seem to bother the celebrants and it definitely doesn't bother Beale. When asked to respond to a question about whether the movement would be better off if the hippies stayed off camera, he bristled. "They don't say that about gay people, do they? If they think we're so unclean, how can these people claim to represent us?" Besides, Beale pointed out, he has short hair and wears a three-piece suit when he goes lobbying.

Visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org/cities.htm for a list of MMM cities and organizers.


6. HEA Continues to Get Publicity

The campaign to repeal the drug provision of the Higher Education Act continues to garner favorable publicity for the issue. On Monday, April 5, Dr. Marc Shinderman, head of a major methadone treatment program in Chicago, responded to the recent New York Times story with a letter to the editor on the topic -- visit http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/05/opinion/L05ADDI.html to read it!

An article with which we had no direct role in prompting (that we know of) appeared on March 30 in the Sacramento Bee, showing that our media efforts are getting the word out and fostering a wider level of interest and awareness in the issue. Visit http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/columns/erwin/story/8693948p-9621708c.html to read the Bee's story.

Our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy continue to rack up press hits too. Some of the following articles mention SSDP, some involved other members of our coalition, some don't, but check them out regardless:

http://www.westernfrontonline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/04/02/406e0c1970426?in_archive=1
http://www.thebatt.com/news/2004/03/26/Opinion/Unfair.Drug.Law-642196.shtml
http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi=20040412&s=tuhusdubrow
http://www.jointogether.org/sa/news/summaries/reader/0,1854,569908,00.html
http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,200~20954~2031160,00.html
http://www.jointogether.org/sa/news/summaries/reader/0,1854,569784,00.html
http://technicianonline.com/story.php?id=009101
http://www.advancetitan.com/story.asp?issue=11019&story=2830
http://www.advancetitan.com/story.asp?issue=11017&story=2769
http://www.dailyvidette.com/news/2004/03/24/News/Drug-Convictions.Block.Financial.Aid-639208.shtml
http://www.advancetitan.com/story.asp?issue=11018&story=2802
http://www.dailyillini.com/news/1245
http://www.ccchronicle.com/back/2004-03-15/campus9.html
Visit http://www.ssdp.org to learn about next week's National HEA Day of Action and visit http://www.raiseyourvoice.com to write to Congress and learn much more about the issue and campaign.


7. Peter Jennings Ecstasy Special Draws Praise, Criticism -- Your Letters to ABC Can Help!

On Thursday, April 1, ABC aired a special report by Peter Jennings that has drawn praise from observers in the drug reform community and an attack in print by the avid Congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), leading opponent of medical marijuana (see article above) and author of the infamous drug provision of the Higher Education Act.

While we are not able to fully report on the Jennings special this week due to time constraints, we thought we would refer you to the new blog Grassroots Buzz, started by former DRCNet HEA campaign coordinator Kris Lotlikar, for info and links to news passages about the special and ways to write ABC to send positive feedback to counter Souder's congressional demagoguery. Just visit http://www.grassrootsbuzz.com and scroll down to the April 7 post, "Souder Is Outraged (Again)."


8. Newsbrief: Florida Legislators Push Student Drug Test Bills

Two bills that would encourage student drug testing are moving in the Florida legislature. A bill introduced by Rep. Ed Homan (R-Tampa) would give school boards explicit state approval to require drug tests of all students participating in extracurricular activities. The US Supreme Court has already ruled that school boards may do so, so the measure is largely symbolic, but that hasn't stopped the bill, HB 113, from winning an important committee vote in the House on March 30. A companion measure is awaiting a hearing in the Senate.

In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Homan said his bill was directed at two constituencies: school districts and student athletes. The bill would relieve school districts' worries about lawsuits, he said. "I'm just saying 'Yes, you can do this,' " Homan said. "I'm trying to lessen the concern of school districts that say it's a good idea, but don't want to go to court over it."

Passing the bill would scare student athletes straight, too, he added. "This bill works on the fear factor," said Homan. "It will discourage serious athletes who want to go to college from doing drugs."

A legislative analysis found only six Florida districts had student drug testing, and cited fear of lawsuits and cost for the relative lack of interest. While Holman's bill encourages districts to resort to drug testing, it explicitly forbids the use of state funds to pay for it. According to the legislative analysis, the tests could run from $15 to $56 per student, a cost the districts would have to bear themselves.

A second bill, HB 861, is more than symbolic. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Marcelo Llorente (R-Miami), attempts to attack steroid use. It would require schools to test 5% of student athletes for performance enhancing drugs annually or lose their membership in the Florida High School Athletics Association. It passed the House education committee on a 5-0 vote on March 22.

Unlike Homan's bill, HB 861 would impose a large cost, estimated at $1.2 million by state legislative analysts, on school districts without allocating funds to pay for it. "School districts would have to provide funding to pay for the test or require students to pay for their own test, as some school districts do for the required medical evaluation," the analysts noted. Steroid testing would run about $110 per test, they reported.

For complete online information about the bills, including legislative analyses, go to http://www.myfloridahouse.com/bills.aspx and enter the bill numbers in the search box.


9. Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Look at Highway Drug Dog Searches

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a case that could clarify when police can use drug-sniffing dogs to check cars of drivers who have given them no reason to suspect criminal activity. Police and prosecutors have argued that merely walking a dog around a vehicle did not constitute a search, but lower courts have not always bought that argument. Some have ruled that police must have specific suspicion before allowing a drug dog to search a vehicle at a traffic stop.

The case, Illinois v. Caballes, will be argued this fall, with a decision expected in the spring. It began when an Illinois state trooper pulled over Roy Caballes for speeding on Interstate 80. The trooper issued Caballes a warning ticket and asked his permission to search the vehicle. Caballes refused, but by then another trooper had arrived with a drug dog. The dog signaled that drugs were present, and on that basis, the troopers searched the vehicle, finding an estimated $250,000 worth of marijuana. Caballes was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 12 years in prison, but has been out on bond pending his appeal.

The use of drug dogs has become increasingly popular, and according to Ralph Meczyk, one of Caballes' lawyers, is now a favored tool of law enforcement seeking to find ways to search vehicles stopped for traffic violations. "It happens every day as we're speaking, all over the country," he told the Associated Press Monday. Drug dog alerts are "a convenient pretext" for a search, he said, asserting that in eight out of nine Illinois traffic stop searches initiated after drug dog alerts, no drugs were found.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the national Major Cities Chiefs Association have filed briefs urging the court to uphold the suspicionless (non)searches. Drug dogs are effective, work fast, and pose little inconvenience for drivers, they argued.

The Rehnquist Court has generally been a friend of police searches, especially in the context of the war on drugs. In a 1983 case, the court ruled that drug dog sniffs did not constitute a search. On the other hand, the court in 2000 refused to allow random roadblocks to search for drugs. In that case, police used drug dogs to check vehicles at roadblocks in poor Indianapolis neighborhoods, but the court held that the roadblocks were unconstitutional suspicionless searches of passing drivers.

The case is Illinois v. Caballes, 03-923, online at:
http://www.supremecourtus.gov/docket/03-923.htm


10. Newsbrief: American Medical Association Worries About Pain Medication Crackdown

In an editorial in the April 12 edition of American Medical News, the house organ of the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's largest physicians' organization again expressed concern that the federal government's ongoing campaign against prescription drug abuse is leading to people in pain going untreated (http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/04/12/edsa0412.htm).

While the AMA called the federal government's effort to crack down on the illicit use of prescription drugs "an essential goal," it noted that the government figure of 6.2 million Americans abusing prescription drugs is far exceeded by the tens of millions of Americans who suffer chronic pain without being able to get adequate treatment. The government effort to crack down on prescription drug abuse "must not discourage patients and physicians from appropriately treating chronic pain," said the editorial. "Some of the methods used to control drug abuse make physicians fearful of prescribing opioid painkillers for patients who truly need these medications."

That was a rather oblique reference to the ever growing list of pain management physicians who have been indicted by the Justice Department as pill-shilling Dr. Feelgoods and threatened with decades in federal prison. While those indictments often end in acquittals or convictions only on peripheral charges, the impact of those prosecutions has been chilling on physicians.

While the AMA has not been as quick as some other professional organizations and patient advocacy groups to denounce federal abuses of pain patients and the doctors who seek to treat them, it has worked for the last several years to educate law enforcement about current best practices in pain treatment. Three years ago, the AMA joined other health organizations in signing an agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration in which the agency promised to try to balance the conflicting goals of ensuring that pain is adequately treated and simultaneously cracking down on the abuse of prescription pain suppressants.

Given what has occurred since then, and particularly since the announcement of the new federal offensive against prescription drug abuse a few weeks ago, the AMA is understandably concerned that the balanced approach it sought has been thrown off-kilter. While the editorial said the AMA supported the call for cracking down on illicit internet pharmacies and the push to implement prescription monitoring programs in the states, it warned that such programs "must maintain physician-patient confidentiality, lest patients shy away from seeking treatment for prescription drug abuse," while they must not "increase physicians' liability by holding doctors at fault for not requesting patients' prescribing histories." Doctors might choose to do so, the AMA noted, but the patient-doctor relationship is built on trust, which could be damaged by laws that require doctors to "check up" on their patients.

The AMA even has concerns about the continuing medical education training program it has made available for physicians. While nearly 100,000 doctors have reviewed the pain management program, its effectiveness "could be compromised significantly if the program were viewed by physicians as an enforcement tool instead of an educational tool," the AMA wrote in a letter last month to Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Karen Tandy.

For the AMA the bottom line is "the prevention and treatment of pain disorders through aggressive and appropriate means, including in many cases opioid pain relievers." Doctors who appropriately prescribe such drugs to relieve pain "should not be subject to the burdens of excessive regulatory scrutiny, inappropriate disciplinary action, or criminal prosecution."

Read the AMA editorial online at:
http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/04/12/edsa0412.htm

Read the AMA position statement on pain management using opioid analgesics online at:
http://www.ama-assn.org/go/painpolicy/

Read the Bush administration's position on prescription drug abuse online at:
http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/news/press04/030104.html


11. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story

Who says those anti-drug task forces aren't good for anything? Just ask former Kokomo, Indiana, police officer Michael Holsapple, the long-time head of the Howard County Drug Task Force. He was able to use the task force drug buy slush fund as his own personal bank account. At least that's what Howard County Prosecutor James Fleming alleged as he charged Holsapple with six felony counts related to the theft of nearly $4,000 in task force funds. He is looking at a possible 43-year prison sentence.

Holsapple has admitted to forging the signatures of fellow drug squad officers on phony vouchers for cash payments for drug buys. As head of the task force, Holsapple was responsible for doling out the drug cash, and in a taped statement given to the Indiana State Police, he said he signed other officers' names and pocketed the cash. He used the money for personal expenses, he said, and planned to pay it back, authorities said.

In anticipation of an annual audit, Holsapple discovered the account was short by $4,999 and forged officers' names on receipts to cover the loss, according to his statement.

The first hint of a problem for the 25-year veteran of the Kokomo department came with his sudden retirement in February, according to reports in the Kokomo Tribune. The day he quit, his family reported him missing after he handed out money to various relatives and appeared suicidal. He was found dazed and near death in freezing temperatures a mile into the woods in neighboring Brown County. After a short stay in the Methodist Hospital emergency room, he was transferred to the Indianapolis hospital's Behavioral Health ward.

On the day he quit, Holsapple knew that an audit of the account was coming due, and it was $4,999 short, he said.

Holsapple had been one of the public spokesmen for the Howard Country Drug Task Force, appearing in local papers periodically to warn of the dangers of Oxycontin or methamphetamine. He and his task force also gained notoriety for winning a conviction against local businessman Jeff Collins for "stalking" and "intimidating" task force members by following them around and documenting their activities. Collins is currently serving a four-year sentence for inconveniencing the narcs, a rather nasty conclusion to a squabble that began over gambling machines owned by Collins' company.

According to Collins, who spoke with Kokomo Perspective, Holsapple wasn't a very nice guy. "The first thing Mike Horse-Apple (Collins' name for Holsapple) ever said to me when I first walked in during the raid," said Collins, was, "He pointed his finger in my chest and said, 'I'm going to take your money, your house, your cars and your business, and I'm going to put you in jail for a very long time.'"

And now maybe he will join him. A first hearing is scheduled for April 14. Holsapple is free on $1,000 cash bond. We wonder how many drug offenders he arrested on multi-decade charges got $1,000 cash bonds.


12. Newsbrief: Bulgaria Update -- Organized Youth Protest Against Total Cannabis Ban

The following communication was distributed on the morning of Friday April 9 by the Bulgarian drug reform organization Promena.

Last Sunday the Promena Movement organized a protest against Parliament's ditching the single-dozse escape clause for people arrested for possession. Some 700-800 people marched through the central streets of Sofia waiving banners reading "In Europe or in "Jail?" and shouting "Freedom!" However modest, the demonstration is a success by Bulgarian standards, as rallies of political parties seldom enjoy more participation.

During the promotion of the protest many reported they were afraid to participate, which indicates people's fear rather than actual danger of any police action. The average age of the attendants has grown since last year, as well as the media coverage of the event.

The President did not veto the law, and the open letters Promena sent to all the institutions involved remained without response. The law change now allows for up to 15 years' imprisonment for even the smallest amount of any illicit drug. Current legislation doesn't differentiate between cannabis and heroin or cocaine.

Visit http://www.promena.org/_gligi/040404/ShestviePhotos.htm to view photos from the protest. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/330/bulgaria.shtml for further information on this subject.


13. Newsbrief: "Khat Madness" in Uganda

Khat is driving people crazy in Uganda, but it is prohibitionists rather than users of the mild stimulant who are in the throes of delirium, if a recent report from the Ugandan newspaper New Vision is to be believed. Khat use is common throughout the Horn of Africa, where the leaves of the shrub have been chewed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It is commonly described as producing an effect similar to drinking several cups of coffee or coca tea.

While khat, referred to locally as mairungi, is legal in Uganda, efforts have been underway since at least 1999 to ban its use, and, New Vision reported, a bill that would do just that is again before the Ugandan parliament. The New Vision article is part of that effort.

While khat consumers believe the plant is harmless, they are wrong, the paper asserted, citing Michael Were, the Anti-Narcotics director for the Uganda Police Force. "Mairungi is a narcotic because it has the ingredients of a narcotic drug," Were explained. [Editor's Note: Actually, the ingredients of a narcotic drug are opiates, either synthetic or from the opium poppy.]

The paper then turned to Simon Nantamu, a Makerere University psychologist, who issued a dire warning. "There is no doubt that mairungi, like any other narcotic, can cause mental illness," he said. Nantumu was especially concerned about taxi drivers on khat. "There is a big problem of mairungi in the country especially among taxi drivers. The cause may be their hectic routine, because their work is too stressful. They take mairungi in an attempt to break the monotony of their work life, and alter their energy levels. That is why there are many accidents," he offered.

"Another reason they take mairungi is because it is not detectable on breath in case of an accident. The problem is that it is addictive and those who take it remain hooked onto the drug long after they quit their professions," he explained.

Despite the specter of khat-crazed taxi drivers, the stuff is popular and used openly, policeman Were complained. "Mairungi is being consumed allover the country in the open. It is consumed openly in our slums and other urban areas. It is most common in places like local video clubs where it is even sold openly."

Of course, there is a reason for that, Were conceded. "Mairungi is not illegal in Uganda and that is why these people chew and trade in it freely." But the days of legal khat are numbered, he warned. "Government is coming up with a bill which has already been presented to Parliament, and deals with narcotics and psychotropic substances. When it is out, it will pave the way for the arrest of these mairungi consumers," says Were.

Besides causing taxi madness and general dementia, added Were's colleague Moses Adipa, khat is a gateway drug. "Mairungi is a stepping stone for harder drugs," he said. "When these people reach a certain point they feel they need something stronger and they take on to marijuana or heroin."

Not content to publish the mouthings of alarmist police and mental health workers, New Vision itself joined the battle, describing the plant as "cunning, baffling, and powerful," as well as being a "subtle crude, brain-wrecking substance."


14. This Week in History

April 14, 1989: A congressional subcommittee on Narcotics, Law Enforcement, and Foreign Policy, chaired by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), finds that US efforts to combat drug trafficking were undermined by the Reagan administration's fear of jeopardizing its objectives in the Nicaraguan civil war. The report concludes that the administration ignored evidence of drug trafficking by the Contras and continued to provide them with aid.

15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

April 10, 1:00-7:00pm, Providence, RI, Second Annual Brown University Students for Sensible Drug Policy Medical Marijuana Symposium, featuring panel discussions and a 4:00pm press conference with legislators from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. At Hunter Lab, 89 Waterman Street, Brown University, admission free, $10 donation suggested. Visit http://www.ssdp.org/brown/ for further information, or contact Jesse Stout at (401) 867-5592 or [email protected].

April 12, 8:00-10:00pm, Iowa City, IA, "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" screening. Sponsored by University of Iowa SSDP, at Lucas Dodge Room in Iowa Memorial Union. For further information contact Kyle Fitzgerald at [email protected] or visit http://www.flexyourrights.org.

April 13, 8:00am-4:00pm, Durham, NC, "Symposium on Sentencing and Public Safety: Strategies for Effective Reform," sponsored by Families Against Mandatory Minimums. At the Sheraton Imperial Hotel, Research Triangle Park, $25, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Visit http://www.famm.org/ncsymposium.htm for further information or to register, or contact Angelyn Frazer at (202) 822-6700 or [email protected].

April 13, 7:00pm, Big Rapids, MI, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," performance by Sheldon Norberg. At Ferris State University, the Dome Room, contact the Student Activities office at (231) 591-2606 for further information, visit http://www.adopedealer.com or call (866) DOPE-DLR.

April 14, noon, Big Rapids, MI, "The Dynamics of American Drug Use," lecture by Sheldon Norberg. At Ferris State University, the Dome Room, contact the Student Activities office at (231) 591-2606 for further information, visit http://www.adopedealer.com or call (866) DOPE-DLR.

April 14, Urbana, IL, "Hash Wednesday," marijuana reform event sponsored by the UIUC chapter of NORML and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Visit http://www.uiucnorml.org or contact Frank Nardulli at (217) 390-4488 or [email protected].

April 15, 1:00pm, Philadelphia, PA, "Life on the Outside," book talk with authors Elaine Bartlett, former Rockefeller drug law prisoner and reform activist and Jennifer Gonnerman, journalist with the Village Voice. Luncheon address at a conference organized by Rutgers University's Center for Mental Health Services and Criminal Justice Research. At the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel, visit http://www.lifeontheoutside.com or http://www.ihhcpar.rutgers.edu/cmhs-cjr/conference.html for further information.

April 15, 1:00pm, New York, NY, rally to end the Rockefeller Drug Laws with the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo from Argentina. In front of Governor Pataki's Office on 3rd Ave. and 40th St., contact Shayna Kessler at (718) 838-7881 or [email protected] for further information.

April 15, 4:00pm, Washington, DC, panel on the war on drugs, featuring Criminal Justice Policy Foundation president Eric Sterling. At Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, Slowinski Courtroom, 3600 John McCormack Road, NE. Sponsored by the American Constitution Society CUA chapter, for further information call (202) 319-5140.

April 15, 7:30pm, New York, NY, Farewell Dinner/Thank You/Benefit for the Madres de Plaza de Mayo Linea Fundadora, and special salute to state assemblyman Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, sponsored by Mothers of the NY Disappeared. At Caffe Taci, 2841 Broadway (northwest corner of 110th St.), admission $125, seating limited. For information or reservations contact Jan Warren at (646) 206-7854 or [email protected].

April 17, 11:00am-11:00pm, Kingston, RI, "6th Annual Hempfest," free outdoor event with live music, vendors, speakers, activism and fun. Sponsored by University of Rhode Island SSDP, at URI, visit http://www.uri.edu/home/visitors/Map/kingston_direction.html for location or contact Micah at (401) 829-0904 or [email protected].

April 17, 4:00pm, Chatham, OH, "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" screening. Presented by North Ohio NORML, at the Chatham VFW Hall, 6299 Avon Lake Rd. (off Rt. 83). For further information, contact Cher Neufer at 330-948-WEED or visit http://www.flexyourrights.org.

April 18, 7:00pm, Berkeley, CA, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," performance by Sheldon Norberg. At UC Berkeley, 155 Dwinelle Hall,reserve tickets at http://www.adopedealer.com or call (866) DOPE-DLR.

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 19, 7:00pm-8:30pm, Tempe, AZ, "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" screening. Sponsored by ASU SSDP, at Arizona State University, Life Sciences Lecture Hall, LSA 191 (ROOM CHANGE). For further information, contact Lauren Hathorn at [email protected] or visit http://www.flexyourrights.org.

April 19, 8:00pm, Minneapolis, MN, "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" screening. Sponsored by U of MN NORML, at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Coffman Union Theatre in Coffman Memorial Union. For further information, contact Jason Holstein at [email protected].

April 20, noon, Fredonia, NY, "The Dynamics of American Drug Use," lecture by Sheldon Norberg. At SUNY Fredonia, contact the Student Activities office at (716) 673-3144 for further information, visit http://www.adopedealer.com or call (866) DOPE-DLR.

April 20, 7:30pm, Billings, MT, "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" screening. Sponsored by Montana State University-Billings NORML, one of three events this week including a benefit concert/after party, at the Petro Theater at Montana State University-Billings or visit http://www.flexyourrights.org.

April 20, 8:00pm, Washington, DC, "420 Festival," featuring The Ordinary Way, Indica Jones, silent auction and guest speakers. At Chief Ike's Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Rd. NW, admission $12. Visit http://www.geocities.com/fourth_of_july_hemp_coalition/ for further information.

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.

April 23, Carbondale, IL, "15 to Life: Unintended Consequences of the War on Drugs," multi-visual presentation by artists and anti-drug war activist Anthony Papa. For further information contact David Warden at (217) 721-4002 or [email protected] or visit http://www.15yearstolife.com for further information.

April 28-30, Warsaw, Poland, Sessions with the European NGO Council on Drugs and Kanaba, at the European Economic Forum. Visit http://hyperreal.info/wiki/go.to/see/Solstice%202004 for further information.

May 1, international, Million Marijuana March, visit http://www.cures-not-wars.org for event listings and further information.

May 6, 7:00pm, Cotati, CA, "Confessions of a Dope Dealer," performance by Sheldon Norberg. At Sonoma State University, contact the Student Activities office at (707) 664-2815 for further information, visit http://www.adopedealer.com or call (866) DOPE-DLR.

May 7, 8:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Green Therapy," medical marijuana comedy show. Featuring Joe Rogan, Rick Overton, Dean Haglund and others. Admission $20 or $10 for patients with a compassion club card or a doctor's recommendation, funds to benefit the Inglewood Wellness Center and the Crescent Alliance Self Help for Sickle Cell/Nigritian Kief Society. Visit http://www.greentherapy.com or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

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.

June 26, Copenhagen, Denmark, Assembly of members of the European NGO Council on Drugs (ENCOD), coinciding with the United Nations "Day Against Drug Abuse" spring event. Contact [email protected] before June 1 to attend, or visit http://www.encod.org for info.

August 21-22, 10:00am-8:00pm, Seattle, WA, "Seattle Hempfest." For further information, e-mail [email protected], visit http://www.hempfest.org or call (206) 781-5734.

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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