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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #335, 4/30/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy
  2. Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership
  3. Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire
  4. There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace
  5. NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana
  6. Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections
  7. Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says
  8. Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans
  9. Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition
  10. Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War
  11. Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers
  12. Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park
  13. Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping
  14. This Week in History
  15. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Announcing: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War" -- New Compendium by Sheriff Masters Features David Borden and Numerous Other Thinkers on Drug Policy

If you've been reading DRCNet for awhile, or have been keeping up with drug policy reform in different ways, then you may be familiar with the work of Sheriff Bill Masters, a top Colorado law enforcement official who is a leading critic of the "war on drugs." In 2002, Sheriff Masters published "Drug War Addiction: Notes from the Front Lines of America's #1 Policy Disaster."

We are doubly pleased to announce that Sheriff Masters has come out with a new work, "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War," a compendium of essays authored by drug reform thinkers representing a range of angles and viewpoints on the issue. The reason we are doubly pleased is that DRCNet's executive director, David Borden, is one of those featured authors -- "The New Prohibition" opens with a foreword by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and closes with a chapter by Borden. In between can be found another 20 fascinating chapters, whose authors and titles I list below.

We hope you will order a copy of "The New Prohibition," hopefully by making a donation of $25 or more to DRCNet and selecting it as your complimentary membership premium -- visit to contribute online. If you haven't read "Drug War Addiction," feel free to select it instead for the same donation amount, or donate $40 or more and receive both. You can also opt with your $40 donation to receive "The New Prohibition" and a DVD or VHS copy of "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." Donate $50 or more and receive free copies of "The New Prohibition" and another recent book, "Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett" by Jennifer Gonnerman, donate $70 or more and select all three, or $90 or more and receive all four of the above-mentioned items.

DRCNet needs your financial support now more than ever -- this 2nd quarter of 2004 is our leanest in terms of grants and major gifts; we simply need your help now to get through to our next round of likely major funding in July. So visit to support DRCNet and order your copy of "The New Prohibition" today! You can also donate by mail -- just send your check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Remember that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network to support DRCNet's lobbying work are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible gifts can be made to DRCNet Foundation instead, same address; the portion of your gift that is tax-deductible will be reduced by the retail value of any premiums that you choose to receive.

Following below is a list of the essays you can read in "The New Prohibition." As you'll see, the book is notable for the serious treatment it gives to a range of drug policy options and viewpoints, "liberal," "libertarian" and in between; for practical, philosophical and tactical analyses of their differences; and in the ink it devotes to a number of reform thinkers whose words have not previously been well distributed to the reform community or the general public -- as well as to long-time reform luminaries like Kurt Schmoke and Eric Sterling and Joe McNamara -- all of it new, fresh and relevant to the present. We're especially pleased that Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Nick Eyle of ReconsiDer were included. A chapter by Ari Armstrong of the Colorado Freedom Project (who played a major role in making "The New Prohibition" happen) provides a fascinating analysis of the federal government's recent "drugs and terrorism" ads. You'll also see that one of the chapters was written by our friend Ron Crickenberger, who sadly did not live to see its publication. Ron's discussion of his act of civil disobedience in late 2002 is both witty and inspiring. Last but certainly not least, a member of Congress, Dr. Ron Paul (R-TX), provides his overview of the drug war from his vantage point on Capitol Hill. Here's the full listing:

Foreword, by Jesse Ventura

Section I: Perspectives from Law Enforcement

1. Shoveling Hay in Mayberry, by Sheriff Bill Masters
2. Prohibition: The Enemy of Freedom, by Sheriff Richard Mack (Ret.)
3. Gangster Cops in the Drug War, by Chief Joseph McNamara (Ret.), PhD
4. End Prohibition Now, by Lieutenant Jack Cole (Ret.)
Section II: Public Officials Speak Out
5. Policy is Not a Synonym for Justice, by Judge John L. Kane
6. A View of the Drug War from Capitol Hill, by Congressman Ron Paul, MD
7. Forging a New Consensus in the War on Drugs, by Mayor Kurt Schmoke (Ret.), JD
Section III: Harms of the Drug War
8. A Businessperson's Guide to the Drug Problem, by Eric E. Sterling, JD
9. A Foreign Policy Disaster, by Mike Krause and David Kopel, JD
10. The Social Costs of a Moral Agenda, by Fatema Gunja
11. A Frightening New Trend in America, by Nicolas Eyle
12. How Drug Laws Hurt Gunowners, by John Ross
13. The Drug War as the Problem, by Doug Casey
Section IV: Answering the Prohibitionists
14. America's Unjust Drug War, by Michael Huemer, PhD
15. Drugs and Terror, by Ari Armstrong
16. Your Government Is Lying to You (Again) About Marijuana, by Paul Armentano and Keith Stroup, JD
Section V: Strategies for Reform
17. Liberal Versus Libertarian Views on Drug Legalization, by Jeffrey Miron, PhD
18. Medicalization as an Alternative to the Drug War, by Jeffrey A. Singer, MD
19. My Arrest for Civil Disobedience, by Ron Crickenberger
20. Restoring Federalism in Drug Policy, by Jason P. Sorens, PhD
21. Out from the Shadows, by David Borden
Again, the web page to make a donation to DRCNet and order your copy of "The New Prohibition" or other gift items is online. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments, and thank you for your support and your interest in this important book and cause.

2. Peruvian Coca Growers' "March of Protest and Sacrifice" Reaches Lima as Government Seeks to Elevate Alternative Leadership

A little more than a week after the beginning of a strike called by a leading Peruvian coca-growers' organization, the National Association of Peruvian Coca Producers (CONPACCP), the vanguard of thousands of coca-growing peasants, or cocaleros, has reached the capital, Lima, after embarking on a "march of protest and sacrifice" from their homes in the Peruvian highlands. Hundreds of cocaleros from the central highlands, a CONPACCP stronghold, were camped in the Chosica stadium on the city's outskirts Thursday night, with thousands more expected to reach the city this weekend.

According to the newspaper Correo-Regional, more than 5,000 cocaleros departed from the valley of the Upper Huallaga on April 22. Another 4,000 coca-growing peasants from the Huanuco region are marching to meet them in Lima, the newspaper reported Thursday. Reports from other locations are sketchy.

Among the first to arrive was CONPACCP feminine affairs secretary Diodora Espinoza, who told the Lima newspaper El Comercio that many were following behind her. "Only some of us came by bus because most don't have the money to pay the fare," she said. "There are other groups arriving today and tomorrow and probably Monday we will leave for the Congress."

Nancy Obregon at
DRCNet's international
conference in Mérida
The protestors, headed by CONPACCP leaders Nancy Obregon and Elsa Malpartida, seek government redress of a number of demands, foremost among them freedom for Nelson Palomino, the CONPACCP leader imprisoned for more than a year in Ayacucho. But the cocaleros also want the government to recognize coca as a traditional crop in Peru and to drastically revamp the "alternative development" programs operated by foreign NGOs under the wings of the Peruvian antidrug agency DEVIDA. In fact, the cocaleros want the NGOs to leave, calling them corrupt, and they want an end to forced eradication of their crops.

Although CONPACCP made its position clear to the government weeks ago (, the government of President Alejandro Toledo has failed to respond. Instead, particularly through Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi, it has attempted to portray the cocaleros as alternately dupes or villains, revolutionists or drug traffickers. As road and bridge blockades, local strikes, and other unrest broke out last week at the start of the cocalero strike, Rospigliosi attacked CONPACCP and Malpartida in particular.

Particularly disturbed by a purported Malpartida comment about "shooting politicians who deceive the country," the interior minister, in remarks to the newspaper La Republica on April 21, first painted CONPACCP as linked to the Shining Path, then threatened Malpartida. "She is increasingly resorting to violence," he said. "They are threatening people and blocking highways. This situation will not be permitted to continue indefinitely. If Malpartida doesn't want to follow the path of Nelson Palomino [jailed on charges of inciting to riot and apology for terrorism], she needs to recover her senses and talk to the government."

"I hoped it wouldn't come to this," said Peruvian coca expert Hugo Cabieses, who is advising CONPACCP. "The potential for trouble is great. But this has come about because the government has been deaf and blind to the demands of the cocaleros," he told DRCNet.

But now, after weeks of waiting for the government to listen to them, the cocaleros refuse to talk to Rospigliosi, saying they will deal only with the Congress. And if the government will not talk to the cocaleros of CONPACCP, it is happy to talk about them. Nils Ericsson, the director of DEVIDA, was quick to tell El Comercio Thursday that the cocaleros' demands were "impossible" and would only aid the drug trade. Some dark party must be pulling the strings because all of the coca-growers' demands "are in favor of more and more coca," said Ericsson. "It is impossible to accede to the suspension of all means of eradication of crops and to accept the deactiviation of DEVIDA, which are part of the conditions demanded by the cocaleros to raise their show of force," he said.

Not all Peruvian coca growers' organizations have joined the strike, and some are maneuvering to replace either CONPACCP or its current leadership as the preeminent voice of the cocaleros. Cocaleros from the Rio Apurimac-Ene Valley, La Convencion, and the Monzon Valley have, according to local press reports, criticized CONPACCP leaders Malpartida and Obregon for having "personal" or "political" ambitions, although they offered no specifics. In a move that has already raised tensions among cocaleros, the dissident coca leaders met Wednesday with Interior Minister Rospigliosi in a meeting the ministry described as taking place in an "atmosphere of great cordiality."

According to the ministry, Marisela Guillen of the Producers' Federation of the Rio Apurimac-Ene Valleys (FEPA-VRAE) and Iburcio Morales, leader of cocaleros in the Monzon Valley, "who have not joined the strike convoked by some sectors of the cocalero movement," said that cocaleros were being taken advantage of by Malpartida, Obregon, and the other leaders of the CONPACCP. The CONPACCP leadership was not representative, they said, and they would not recognize any agreement signed between Malpartida and Obregon and the central government.

Guillen and Morales earned quick rewards for their nicely-timed sit-down with Rospigliosi and his director of national defense in the ministry, Ruben Vargas. The government will recognize Guillen and Morales as the leaders of a new cocalero grouping created to compete with CONPACCP, the National Junta of Peruvian Agricultural Producers, said Vargas. Rospigliosi also promised regular visits to their coca fields, promised to help them gain financial aid, and promised a "permanent and direct dialogue" with their federation.

The cocaleros of CONPACCP, for their part, will gather by the thousands at Congress Monday and promise a week of protests and demonstrations in an effort to gain support for their demands. Meanwhile, the government works in Machiavellian fashion to weaken and divide the movement. The politics of coca in Peru is about to get even more interesting.

3. Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Vancouver's "Pot Block" Rebounds from Weekend Arson Fire

An intentionally-set fire swept through the 300 block of West Hastings Street in downtown Vancouver early Sunday morning, gutting a group of businesses that made up the heart of "Vansterdam," the physical manifestation of the marijuana culture that has blossomed in the city in the past two decades.

Several businesses were destroyed, including the Blunt Brothers Café, owned by marijuana seed entrepreneur Marc Emery, where tired tokers could sit and smoke in peace, and Cabbage & Kinx, the adjacent fetish wear shop. Also destroyed was Spartacus Books, a left-wing bookstore that has been a fixture in the neighborhood for decades, as well as the New Amsterdam Café, another pot café that had closed recently. In addition, the building housing the offices of Emery's British Columbia Marijuana Party ( suffered severe smoke and water damage. That building is home to a set of Emery enterprises, including the BC Marijuana Party Bookstore, the studios of Pot-TV, and the Urban Shaman entheogen shop.

Vansterdam is ground zero for cannabis pilgrims headed for British Columbia and the first stop for the many US pot tourists visiting Vancouver. While neither Blunt Brothers nor Cabbage & Kinx actually sold marijuana, they did allow it to be smoked on-premises, and there are always scruffy-looking fellows loitering across the street ready and willing to sell buds to travelers coming across the international border.

But despite the damage and dire predictions of doom, Vansterdam is already substantially back -- and spiffier than ever, said Emery. "Within 48 hours after that devastating fire, we were open again and selling goods," he told DRCNet Wednesday. "We have pipes, seeds, bongs, and all our other retail items available again. And the store is cleaner and more modern -- I'm actually extremely pleased with how we've recovered. Even Pot-TV will be up and running again within a few more days."

Initial reports painted a dire picture. Vancouver media outlets Sunday morning showed a three-alarm blaze being battled by up to 50 firefighters, and images of the scene showed clouds of black smoke billowing from the buildings housing Blunt Brothers and the BCMP. It appeared as if the entire middle of the block was severely damaged, but Emery said it wasn't as bad as it looked.

"The block is missing a couple of buildings now, but the BCMP Bookstore has already reopened, and it is completely improved and recovered," he said. "Blunt Brothers will have power and electricity by Thursday, and should be reopening within a few days. People in the community have really been responding and helping out, and we've even received about $800 US in donations from the web," he said.

The donations will help. Although Emery has made a fortune through his pot seed business and related enterprises, such as Cannabis Culture magazine, whose offices in a high-rise at the end of the block were unaffected by the fire, his businesses were uninsured because they operate on the margin of the law, and he is incurring costs from the fire. "I've spent about $15,000 in repairs and cleaning up smoke and water damage," he said, "and there's probably about another $5,000 in lost business, but we will do what it takes to get up and running again."

The fire apparently broke out simultaneously in several dumpsters in the alley behind the buildings around 6:30am Sunday. While Vancouver fire officials would only call the fire "suspicious," according to Emery, there is no doubt it was arson. "Police have found conclusive evidence that someone on Sunday morning intended to torch the pot block with multiple set infernos," he said. "They found accelerants, they found four gas bombs, there was a clear intent to burn it to the ground."

While the fire has led to much speculation and conspiracy theorizing about who is responsible -- the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is often mentioned -- no suspect has been identified. "This reads like an Agatha Christie novel," said Emergy. "It could be the DEA, it could be the Scientologists, but it could also just be a disgruntled employee from one of the other businesses on the block," he speculated. "Not our businesses; we haven't fired anyone for a long time, but there have been some people in the area who have demonstrated psychotic behavior. The police are looking at people who might have a grudge," he said.

Vansterdam is coming back to life, slowly but surely. For those of you who were planning to visit the area, there is no need to tear up your travel plans. The smell of smoke from burning buildings may have faded, but the smell of pot smoke on West Hastings is in no danger of fading.

4. There You Go Again, Joe: CASA Report Uses Suspect Science to Hype Teen Marijuana Menace

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has once again raised the alarm about teens and marijuana. And once again, CASA head Joseph Califano and his team of researchers appear to be playing games with the numbers in order to advance an anti-marijuana political agenda in lockstep with drug czar John Walters.

CASA's most recent report, released April 20, was sensational: "New CASA Report Finds More Teens in Treatment for Marijuana Than for Alcohol or All Other Illegal Drugs Combined," shrieked the headline on the CASA press release accompanying the report. "Huge Increase in Emergency Room Admissions Among 12 to 17 Year Olds Where Marijuana is Implicated," read the subheading. There has been a 142% increase in teens in drug treatment for marijuana, the report noted.

And if the screeching all-caps headlines were not enough to make the point, Califano was on hand to reiterate. "The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana is a dangerous drug," he said in the press release announcing the report. "Parents should recognize -- and help their children understand -- that playing with marijuana is like playing with fire. More kids are in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse than ever before, and marijuana is a culprit in an increasing proportion of emergency room visits. Moreover, CASA's latest analysis provides increasing evidence that marijuana is a gateway to other drug use. The more researchers study the drug and the consequences of its use, the clearer it becomes that teens who smoke pot are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette, not engaging in a harmless rite of passage."

Kudos to Califano for managing to stuff three controversial and widely criticized ideas -- about teens in treatment, teens in emergency rooms, and the gateway theory -- into the space of a single paragraph. His work here would make the drug czar proud. But there is no need to speculate about that, because Walters was up next.

As if evidence were needed that Califano and CASA are working hand in glove with the drug czar, Walters gladly provided it by contributing his own anti-marijuana rhetoric to the CASA press release. "The CASA white paper reinforces the fact that today's marijuana is very different from what was available in the 1970's and 1980's, in terms of its potency and addictive potential," Walters chimed in. "Thanks to research such as this, we know more than we ever have about the adverse health impacts of using the drug, particularly for our youth. Marijuana poses a significant danger to young bodies and minds, and should be a matter of serious concern for American parents."

It all sounds pretty darned scary, which, of course, is precisely what Califano and Walters intended. But there is less to the report than meets the eye. For starters, take the claim that teens are flocking to drug treatment to get a grip on their marijuana habits.

The numbers are indeed going up, but not for the reasons CASA suggested. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Drug & Alcohol Services Information System (DASIS) Treatment Episode Data Sets (TEDS), which CASA used, the increase in teen marijuana treatment is driven almost entirely by referrals from the criminal justice system or the schools. In the most recent TEDS numbers, only 16.6% of teen marijuana treatment episodes were self-referrals, while nearly two-thirds (64.9%) were the result of referrals from the courts (54.1%) or the schools (10.8%). An additional 10.3% of treatment referrals came from health care providers. Another 8.6% of referrals came from "other community," which can include defense attorneys advising their young clients to cop a treatment plea.

"Why are there more teens in treatment for marijuana now? Duh," snorted Mitchell Earleywine, author of "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence" and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Southern California. "It's because you can go to treatment or you can go to jail," he told DRCNet.

"This is bogus," said Paul Armentano, Senior Policy Analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( "If you take out all the referrals from the criminal justice system or school authorities, you find that less than 17% of teens who underwent treatment for marijuana checked themselves into treatment. What happens is that someone is arrested for marijuana possession and he is offered a choice between doing jail time or attending a treatment program. They either volunteer or a judge orders them into treatment."

The increase in teen marijuana treatment admissions is not due to high potency pot or people reporting negative health consequences, Armentano told DRCNet, but to increased enforcement of the marijuana laws. "In reality, the increase in treatment episodes merely mimics the proportional increase that we have seen in marijuana arrests in recent years," he explained. "The rise in treatment episodes correlates strongly with the rise in arrests."

The upshot is that teenagers who do not need drug treatment are undertaking it to avoid jail or other unpleasantness. And the consequences of filling treatment slots with those who don't need them extend beyond the teenagers in question. "The reality is that every individual ordered to go to treatment because of marijuana is taking bed space from people who could be addicted to hard drugs," said Armentano. "If a large percentage of those people in treatment for marijuana are there even though they don't meet the scientific criteria for treatment, but because a judge didn't want to send them to jail, then we are just wasting scarce and valuable treatment slots."

There are indeed a few who seek treatment for their marijuana use, conceded NORML executive director Keith Stroup. "Some people may decide they need help, and if they want treatment, that is terrific," he told DRCNet. "But there is no increase in marijuana smokers in treatment in the last few years except for those referred by the criminal justice system. On the one hand, the cops and the courts pack these treatment programs with people doing it to stay out of jail, and on the other hand, people like Califano and Walters turn around and point to the increase as evidence of a problem," Stroup growled. "That's bullshit. It doesn't prove that marijuana is making more people seek treatment, it merely shows that people will do almost anything, even undergo humiliating and unnecessary treatment, to avoid going to jail."

Well, then, what about that high potency marijuana sending kids to hospital emergency rooms? The numbers cited by CASA come from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a network of big city emergency rooms that reports all visits where drugs are mentioned. Drug War Chronicle has reported on problems in the DAWN statistics (, but it is worth repeating that under DAWN nomenclature an "emergency room mention" of marijuana means not that marijuana caused the visit but only that pot was one of up to four drugs mentioned by the patient. For example, if a person is run down by a drunken driver and goes to the emergency room and tells hospital personnel he smoked a joint that day, that is an "emergency room mention" of marijuana.

The CASA report trumpets a 48% increase in "mentions" of marijuana by young emergency room patients, but fails to explain what a "mention" means, instead leaving readers to reach the incorrect, but politically useful, conclusion that kids are overdosing on high potency marijuana in droves. What is really occurring is that a miniscule number (7,000 -- less than 0.5% of all emergency room drug "mentions") of young people have arrived in emergency rooms saying they used marijuana that day. And according to the DAWN numbers, nearly half of them reported no problems related to their marijuana use but were there for other reasons. The remainder cited "unexpected reactions" to getting high or other non-life-threatening.

CASA and Walters would like to blame teen marijuana-related emergency room visits on high potency weed. "Especially troubling is the possibility that this rise in teen emergency department mentions is related to the increased potency of the drug," the CASA press release speculated. But marijuana experts aren't buying it despite repeated statements from Walters and other prohibitionists that today's marijuana "is not your father's pot" or is 10 or 20 or even 30 times stronger than marijuana available in the 1970s.

"It is easily apparent that these estimates of the increase in pot potency are really far off the mark," said Earleywine. "They are based on estimates from the 1970s that suggested 1% THC levels, but that was from marijuana police had in evidence that had been sitting in hot evidence lockers for months before they sent it down to Mississippi to be tested," he explained. "You don't even get high at 1% THC levels. Now they're saying it's 20% THC, but that is extraordinary, and if you look at the averages from other labs, you see that average potency has increased two or three times since the 1970s, not the 10 or 20 times claimed by people like Walters."

But don't take the word of Earleywine. Here's what the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center had to say about marijuana potency in its 2004 National Drug Threat Assessment released this month: "Reporting from the Potency Monitoring Project indicates that the average THC content in submitted samples of commercial-grade marijuana was 5.03 percent in 2001 and 5.14 percent in 2002. In those same years, the average THC content in submitted samples of sinsemilla was 9.60 and 11.42 percent, respectively. Rising marijuana potency is perhaps more a factor of the demand for better quality marijuana, however, than a reflection of marijuana's widespread availability. Marijuana testing at 9.0 percent THC or higher accounted for 15.3 percent of submitted samples in 2001 and 23.2 percent in 2002."

And besides, said Earleywine, that high potency marijuana could be beneficial in some respects. "Data that researchers Peter Cohen and Craig Reinarman have collected show that no one reports getting any higher on high potency pot, they just smoke less to get high. In that sense, high potency pot could be seen as harm reduction. There is no lethal dose, so making marijuana stronger doesn't make it worse or more dangerous. The idea that higher potency marijuana is leading to more need for treatment does not seem to be the most parsimonious explanation," he said. It is also unclear that teenagers are actually buying and smoking high potency marijuana, Earleywine said. "Go up to a teenager and ask him whether he would rather buy a whole bag of Mexican pot for $100 or a couple of grams of the high potency pot. Most teens have limited budgets; they aren't even smoking the stronger stuff."

So much for the threat of "not your father's pot." That leaves the claim that marijuana is a gateway drug, a claim upheld not by the scientific community but only by prohibitionist propagandists. The gateway theory has been debunked numerous times by reputable scientists, including the National Academy of Science's 1999 Institute of Medicine Study on the medical uses of marijuana. While researchers are apt to carefully couch their conclusions, the Institute of Medicine was forthright: "There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."

Other than misleading, distorting, or being downright wrong on each of its major points, CASA's report on the teen marijuana menace is a fine piece of science.

To read the CASA report, "Medical Marijuana II: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette" online, visit:

To read the National Drug Intelligence Center on marijuana potency online, visit:

To read about the methodology and data in the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) project online, visit:

To read the government's Treatment Episode Data Sets (TEDS) online, visit:

To read the 1999 Institute of Medicine report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," online, visit:

For other reports by reputable authorities debunking the gateway theory, see:

A helpful online resource for debunking prohibitionist distortions is Common Sense for Drug Policy "Drug War Distortions" web site:

5. NORML 2004: Stroup to Retire, Lobbying the Hill, Initiative Excitement, Medical Marijuana

Another 4/20 has come and gone, and with it the annual national convention of the nation's oldest drug reform group, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( Somewhere around 350 people attended this year's conference set in downtown Washington, DC, down by about 200 from last year's conference in San Francisco, but that is always the case when NORML meets on the East Coast instead of the more pot-friendly Left Coast. Similarly, medical marijuana patients taking their medicine on sidewalks outside the hotel ran into more problems in downtown DC than they do in San Francisco, but those problems were resolved peacefully and without arrests (although presumably with some embarrassment for the straight-laced presidential scholars meeting in the same building who tried unsuccessfully to sic the cops on Irvin Rosenfeld, one of only seven Americans who have federal approval to smoke marijuana for medical reasons).

While, as always, the NORML convention was packed with panels and presentations on all aspects of marijuana law, culture, and politics, and in particular, presentations related to the conference's theme, "We're here, we smoke, we vote," the single biggest bit of news from this year's conference was the announcement by NORML founder and long-time executive director Keith Stroup that he would step by the end of the year.

"It is time for some younger blood," Stroup told a stunned crowd. "I'll be gone by the first of the year," he said. But Stroup isn't sinking silently into his dotage, he told DRCNet. "I'll still be involved, I'll still be on the board, and I want to make sure that some of the celebrity and contributor connections I've developed over the years are not lost."

The group has not announced a timeline for replacing Stroup, said NORML assistant director Kris Krane. "The board of directors has a committee set up to look into candidates," he told DRCNet, "and there will be an announcement for potential applicants within the next month or two," he said. "Keith will leave by the end of the year, and we will have a replacement by then."

In what was Stroup's swan song to supporters, the silver-haired veteran came out swinging. "We're here, we smoke, we vote," Stroup shouted out, hitting the conference theme early. "We won't support candidates who treat us like criminals. If everyone who smoked pot took that pledge, we could change those laws in two election cycles," he said.

Stroup saw good news and bad news as he surveyed the state of NORML. "We've never been in better shape in terms of public support," he said. "Almost one-quarter of the American public knows what NORML is, and among pot-smokers we've polled, 87% have a good impression of NORML. Good will and name recognition are among our biggest assets," Stroup told the crowd. "The bad news is that we have never found the key to adequate fundraising. The question is how we use our assets to increase funding." Not by hiding the group's message, Stroup said. "We speak for pot-smokers and we don't apologize for our choice of intoxicants."

If there is good news and bad for NORML, said Stroup, the same holds true for the larger marijuana reform movement. "We have stronger support than ever before," he said, citing large majorities in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and punishing recreational users only with fines. "We've won half the battle, but we can't seem to get more support from legislators because they fear they will be defeated. We haven't reached the tipping point. That will come when tens of millions of pot-smokers take the pledge," he said.

Stroup also identified key issues facing the movement, including the push by federal authorities for drugged driving laws nationwide ( "We will have to fight these laws," he said, "because they really target pot-smokers, not impaired drivers." Another battleground is medical marijuana, said Stroup, citing the need to avoid the "pharmaceuticalization" of medipot and to "protect options for patients."

But the movement must move beyond medical marijuana, he said. "We have to find brave state legislators, and once we do that, I am terribly optimistic that we will lead the country out of the closet of ignorance and into the sunshine of the regulated adult use model."

NORML and conference attendees tried bringing some sunshine to Capitol Hill Wednesday as part of a "Congressional Lobbying Day" that opened the conference. While the day of lobbying was a success not only in terms of participation (more than 150 people lobbied their representatives) and results (members of the Illinois congressional delegation promising to vote for the Hinchey Amendment, which would bar the Justice Department from prosecuting patients who use medical marijuana in compliance with state laws), it was also notable for the cooperation it engendered among sometimes squabbling reform groups.

The citizen activists lobbied Congress on four issues -- medical marijuana, decriminalization, the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, and the CLEAN-UP Act, which would expose event promoters to similar punishments as venue owners face under the RAVE Act -- with pros from different reform groups leading the way. NORML's Stroup led the decrim session, the Marijuana Policy Project's Steve Fox led the medical marijuana session, SSDP's Ross Wilson led the HEA session, and the Drug Policy Alliance's Bill Piper led the CLEAN-UP Act session.

"The lobby day was really the key to the conference, and it was a big success," said NORML's Krane. "We will be going back to the Hill to follow-up on this," he told DRCNet. "Some of those congressmen who voted against us on Hinchey, for instance, had no idea what they were voting for or against. We'll make sure they understand, and we'll watch to help them remember." For Krane, though, it was the cooperation of movement groups as much as the reception on the Hill that warmed his heart. "We had four major drug policy reform groups working together on common goals. I don't know if we would have seen that even a year or two ago," he said.

But not everyone is waiting for a state or US senator to ride up on a white horse. In fact, much of the potential progress this year could come from states and cities where activists have bypassed elected officials and taken the marijuana reform message directly to the voters. One of the most well-attended panels was the one on the initiatives on the ballot this year, with the Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia explaining how the group has tweaked its Nevada adult regulation (don't use the L-word, he pleaded) initiative to address concerns expressed by voters when a similar initiative failed in 2002.

Also talking about regulation initiatives on the ballot were Leland Beatty of Alaskans for Rights and Revenue, whose group is sponsoring the far-reaching Alaska legalization ballot question and California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who is part of the coalition behind the Oakland Cannabis Revenue and Regulation ordinance, which would direct the Oakland City Council to set up regulated adult access to marijuana as soon as state law allows and make pot busts the lowest law enforcement priority in the meantime.

"We're really pushing the envelope with this," said Gieringer. "This is not medical marijuana, it's not decrim, but the regulated availability of marijuana in stores." The ordinance is showing 2-1 support in polling, he added, perhaps because "the state could raise $1-1.5 billion a year from pot taxes."

Oregon attorney Leland Berger told the audience about OMMA2, the new Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which, if passed in November, would direct state officials to create a system of licensed and regulated medipot dispensaries. "OMMA2 will leave no patient behind," said Berger, alluding both to President Bush's controversial education bill and to what he said were thousands of Oregon residents unable to avail themselves of medical marijuana under current state law.

Medical marijuana was also on the mind of Registered Nurse Mary Lynn Mathre of the Virginia-based Patients Out of Time and her fellow panelist Melanie Dreher, dean of the University of Iowa School of Nursing. "There are too many health professionals who don't dare say the word, let alone recommend medical marijuana," said Maithre. "The biggest cop-out is to say we need more research, but the Institute of Medicine basically said 'no we don't.' We want more research, yes," said Mathre, "but we don't need it."

Mathre and Patients Out of Time are sponsoring the third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapuetics at the University of Virginia next month, and she urged the press to attend. "Clinicians aren't hearing about the research on medical marijuana because the press doesn't cover it unless it's bad news," she said.

But it was Dreher who stole the show. "I'm a middle-aged, middle class white woman from the Midwest in stodgy clothes," she announced. "I also support marijuana law reform." Dreher discussed the issue of marijuana use during pregnancy, telling the audience how she received call after call from pregnant women worried to death that they would give birth to monsters because they smoked pot. Those worries are unwarranted, she said. "There were 120,000 pregnant women who used marijuana in 1994," Dreher pointed out. "We would have a big problem by now if marijuana were a danger during pregnancy. It isn't and we don't."

Mathre and Dreher were among the people honored at the conference for their achievements, Mathre winning the Pauline Sabin award for women's leadership in ending marijuana prohibition, and Dreher winning the Lester Grinspoon award for achievement in marijuana science and research. Others whose contributions were acknowledged this year were federal medical marijuana patient Irv Rosenfeld, who won the Peter McWilliams award for outstanding achievement in advancing medical marijuana; Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris for outstanding cannabis advocacy; High Times senior editor Steve Bloom, who won the media and culture award; Florida State University NORML student Ricky Bradford, who won the student activism honor for his efforts with the Tallahassee de-prioritization initiative; and NORML board member Paul Kuhn, who won the lifetime achievement award.

"A youthful indiscretion has turned into a lifetime achievement," Kuhn joked.

And for many others at the conference, a youthful indiscretion has turned into a way of life and a path to political activism. As for NORML, the times may be a-changing and the old guard giving way to the new, but the organization seems inspired and ready to ride out to do battle for the forces of goodness and light.

6. Newsbrief: Drug Czar, Media Campaign Well-Positioned to Influence November Elections

With marijuana "regulation" initiatives on state ballots in Alaska and Nevada and a local question in Oakland, medical marijuana going before the voters in Arkansas, Oregon, and Detroit, and Seattle-style de-prioritization initiatives on local ballots in Tallahassee and Oakland, there is little question that pot will be a political issue in various spots this fall. The last time that happened, the Office of National Drug Control Policy ( and its head, drug czar John Walters went all out to defeat marijuana reform efforts.

This year, thanks to a pair of rulings in the federal bureaucracy and a complacent Congress, Walters, ONDCP, and their $200 million a year anti-marijuana media campaign have the green light to do it again. After Walters helped shoot down its 2002 Nevada initiative by making in-state appearances against it, the Marijuana Policy Project (, filed a complaint with the White House Office of Special Counsel charging that Walters' activities violated Hatch Act prohibitions against involvement in election by federal employees. Sorry, said the Special Counsel in May 2003, initiatives are nonpartisan and don't elect individuals to office, so Walters is free to campaign (

Then, Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican from Texas, complained to the General Accounting Office (GAO) about Walters' shenanigans. The drug czar and his underlings were illegally spending federal funds on "publicity or propaganda," Paul complained. Not so, the GAO reported back last month. The prohibition on spending to influence elections only applies to "legislation pending before Congress." What's more, they were okay because they were "made in furtherance of ONDCP's statutory responsibilities."

As a result, wrote drug war muckraking freelancer Dan Forbes in a piece published on last week, "the White House drug czar [has] full license to try to influence the vote on state ballot initiatives, amendments, and referenda." Unless the Senate, which is considering the ONDCP reauthorization bill already passed by the House, intercedes to address the contradiction between ONDCP's congressionally-mandated responsibility to fight "legalization" and the federal prohibition on interfering in state elections, Walters will be free to go.

As Forbes put it, "[T]he drug czar and his entourage can continue traipsing the country at will swaying the votes of those who pay for his trip, the way paved by another $2 billion in ad time and space trumpeting -- not the status quo -- but actually an ever-harsher war on drugs."

Oh, yes, those ads. They're supposedly aimed at preventing teen marijuana use, but half of them are aimed at parents, "otherwise known as voters," as Forbes put it. Citing a University of Pennsylvania study of the drug czar's media campaign released in December, Forbes reports that, oddly enough, after having nearly vanished from the air in August 2002 the ads shot up sharply in late October, just before election day, before returning to low levels the week after the election.

Anyone up for an October ad blitz from the drug czar? It's nothing to do with influencing elections, you understand; it's all about saving the kids.

Read Dan Forbes' article, "GAO Green-Lights White House Interference in Elections," online at:

7. Newsbrief: FBI Was Looking for Dope, Not Terrorists, 9/11 Commission Says

In a report issued April 13, the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft for not making counterterrorism a top priority. The report, produced by commission staff, singled out a May 10, 2001, Justice Department memorandum setting out priorities for the year. According to that memorandum, the Justice Department's top priorities were fighting the war on drugs and prosecuting gun crimes.

That memorandum stood in stark contrast to Attorney General Ashcroft's testimony before Congress just one day earlier, when he told legislators that his Justice Department had "no higher priority" than fighting Al-Qaeda. But the memorandum issued the next day didn't even mention counterterrorism. Instead, the commission found, "the department issued guidance for developing the fiscal year 2003 budget that made reducing the incidence of gun violence and reducing the trafficking of illegal drugs priority objectives."

Ashcroft's lack of concern about the threat from Al Qaeda came despite increasingly urgent appeals from the FBI's counterterrorism unit to reassess its priorities in the face of growing signs of Al Qaeda activity. According to the report, when Dale Watson, head of the bureau's counterterrorism unit read the May 10 memo setting priorities and found emphases on drugs and guns but nothing about fighting terrorism, he "almost fell out of his chair."

Watson wasn't the only one worried. Then-acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard, who replaced Louis Freeh in the position, testified before the commission that he had appealed to Ashcroft for more money for counterterrorism on September 10, 2001, the day before the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Ashcroft rejected that appeal.

But blame does not reside only with Ashcroft, the commission found. "As the terrorism danger grew, Director Freeh [a Clinton appointee] faced the choice of whether to lower the priority the FBI attached to work on general crime, including the war on drugs, and allocate those resources to terrorism," the commission noted. The agency formally made counterterrorism a priority, but "it did not shift its human resources accordingly." A year before the devastating attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, the report continued, "there were twice as many agents devoted to drug-enforcement matters as to counter-terrorism," and even agents who were assigned to counter-terrorism were often moved temporarily to drugs and crime.

In fact, immediately after the September 11 attacks, the FBI moved more than 400 agents to counterterrorism, the vast majority coming from drug investigations. At that time, only 6% of the FBI's total personnel were working on counterterrorism.

In a 1996 speech, Arnold Trebach, a founding father of the contemporary drug reform and anti-prohibitionist movements (, presciently warned of what could happen if the drug war continued to be a higher priority than fighting terrorism. "All of us would be infinitely safer if the courageous efforts of anti-drug agents in the US... and other countries were focused on terrorists aimed at blowing up airliners and skyscrapers (rather than) drug traffickers seeking to sell the passengers and office dwellers cocaine and marijuana."

Too bad John Ashcroft wasn't listening.

8. Atlantic City Announces Needle Exchange Plans

press release from Drug Policy Alliance,

City Officials in Atlantic City revealed this week that they are planning to establish a sterile syringe access program in the city to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. City officials have long been on record as supporting such a program. The Atlantic City City Council unanimously passed a resolution last year in favor of sterile syringe access. With its commitment to move forward with the establishment of its own program, the city could become the first in the state to have municipally ordained syringe access. City Council President Craig Calloway, who will introduce an ordinance creating the program, said, "If we can save one person's life, in a sense we have saved humanity."

Atlantic City has the highest proportion of African Americans infected with HIV in the state, with 1 in 32 African Americans in the city living with HIV/AIDS, according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Sixty percent of all HIV infections in the city are caused by people sharing dirty needles. Until now, it was thought that municipalities did not have the legal authority to establish their own programs as cities in other states have done. But a legal memo prepared by the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey found that the city clearly had such legal authority.

The memo was independently reviewed by the City Solicitor for Atlantic City, who agreed that the city has such legal authority. Roseanne Scotti, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, applauded the city's move. "We thank the elected officials of Atlantic City for their leadership on this issue," said Scotti. "For too long we have fought the battle against AIDS with one hand tied behind our backs. Nothing the city could do would do more to protect the lives and health of the families and communities in Atlantic City."

New Jersey has the 5th adult HIV rate, the 3rd highest pediatric HIV rate, and the highest percentage of women infected with HIV in the nation. In addition, NJ's rate of injection-related HIV is almost twice the national average. Despite these statistics, New Jersey has been almost alone among states in allowing no access whatsoever to sterile syringes to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. New Jersey is one of only five states that require a prescription to purchase a syringe in a pharmacy, and even in states that require a prescription to purchase a syringe, there are state or municipally mandated syringe access programs. "Anywhere needle exchange has been instituted, it's been successful," South Jersey AIDS Alliance Executive Director Keith Egan said. "There have been reductions in HIV transmission without increases in drug use."

Ronald Cash, Atlantic City's Director of Health and Human Services, has been gathering information from health officials in Philadelphia, which has provided sterile syringe access services since 1991. Cash said, "The numbers are so clear. Needle exchange is a bridge to treatment. It saves money on health care and, most importantly, its saves lives."

9. Newsbrief: European Union Blocks Cannabis Exhibition

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marco Cappato of the anti-prohibitionist Transnational Radical Party ( reported Monday that the parliament has blocked the authorization for an exhibit of industrial cannabis (hemp) products that was to take place in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. The denial of permission was made by the parliament's Quaestors, a small group of MEPs who look after the organization's affairs.

Cappato had been working since July 2003 with Chanvre Info (, a Swiss hemp industry group, to win authorization for the exhibition, which would have dealt only with hemp products, not those related to psychoactive marijuana. Cappato and Chanvre Info had followed all the rules, Cappato said in a statement, but the Quaestors still refused to allow the exhibit.

The Quaestors denied permission on April 5, prompting Cappato to write them a letter hoping that their decision was the result of a "misunderstanding." In the letter, Cappato explained that "cannabis derivatives are not only a legal product throughout the European Union, but they are also subsidized by the European money destined to agriculture." Moreover, Cappato wrote that "it would be paradoxical, as well as unacceptable, to use the rules governing exhibitions at the EP -- where it is said that the 'exhibition cannot, in any way, trigger major political objections' -- to impede the exhibition of goods that are the products of cultivations financed by the EU budget."

Despite Cappato's clarification and despite assurances from the parliament that a formal statement that no illegal products would have been exhibited would have been sufficient to gain authorization, the Quaestors have refused to revisit their decision, Cappato reported.

"The decision taken by the Quaestors is inadmissible and underscores, once again, the fact that bureaucratic decisions are de facto, and increasingly also de jure, substituting the legitimate political powers within European institutions," Cappato said Monday. "I urge all those European citizens that will read this message, and in particular producers and vendors of cannabis derivatives that are legally used as widely useful, to express their indignation to the President of the EP Pat Cox and the other Quaestors."

Cappato has thoughtfully provided their email addresses:

MEP Pat Cox, [email protected]
MEP Mary Banotti, [email protected]
MEP Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, [email protected]
MEP Jacques Poos, [email protected]
MEP Miet Smet, [email protected]
MEP Richard Balfe, [email protected]

10. Newsbrief: New Web Site Compiles Judicial Opposition to Drug War

The good folks at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics ( have launched a new project: a web site that brings together in one place the best and most incisive judicial commentary on drug prohibition and the war on drugs.

The web site, Judges Against the Drug War, (, is an online database of judicial opinions critical of the war on drugs, compiled from rulings in the various state and federal courts. Made possible by startup funding from the Marijuana Policy Project, the web site "represents a unique historical record of judicial dissent against national drug policy," CCLE noted in a release announcing the site's debut this week.

It seeks to let judges critical of the drug war know they are not alone. "Judges are often isolated and unaware of what other judges are thinking about the war on drugs," said CCLE director Richard Glen Boire. "We hope the web site will provide a kind of support system for judges who would otherwise not speak out."

Still, as the web site's database makes clear, judicial dissent from the drug war is still a minority opinion. The database includes excerpts from 69 opinions rendered in cases since 1970, but 49 of those opinions were dissenting opinions. Even in the web site's "Hall of Fame" listing of the most cogent judicial comments, five of the six were from dissenting -- or losing -- opinions.

But dissenting opinions can be notable for their nobility as well as their futility, and warnings of drug war excess can, as is the case in these days of war without end against "terror," reverberate far beyond the confines of drug policy. Listen to US District Judge Weinstein harkening back to US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall as he contemplated drug war mission-creep in a 1990 case. "The war on drugs is today the excuse for a perceptible narrowing of the warrant clause. We are gradually creating what one author has termed the 'drug exception to the Fourth Amendment,' wrote Weinstein. "We ignore at our peril Justice Marshall's warning: 'Precisely because the need for action against the drug scourge is manifest, the need for vigilance against unconstitutional excess is great. History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.'"

And, of course, we don't lose them all, and sometimes the victories are all the sweeter for the artful judicial musings they inspire. Here is US District Court Judge Carrigan, writing the majority opinion in a case where Fourth Amendment rights were upheld. "If this nation were to win its "War on Drugs" at the cost of sacrificing its citizens' constitutional rights, it would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed. It ill behooves a great nation to compromise or sacrifice the freedoms of its citizens as the price of more efficient law enforcement."

Judges Against the Drug War is a contribution to the effort to end the drug war and protect traditional civil liberties that will be useful not only to judges and lawyers, but reporters and activists seeking judicial perspective and all of us seeking inspiration.

11. Newsbrief: Canadian Couple Appalled at Being Treated Like, Well, New Yorkers

New Yorkers have long been inured to the daily thuggery and brutality displayed by the New York Police Department as it enforces the laws against marijuana. Responsible for nearly 10% of all marijuana arrests in the entire country, the NYPD typically hauls people in for possessing a joint or two, an offense usually punished with a small fine, but gets its pound of flesh by detaining those arrested in dirty, cramped holding cells for an average of nearly an entire day. For jaded New Yorkers, it's just business as usual, especially in the police state atmosphere that pervades the city since the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

But for visitors from more civilized climes, the NYPD's behavior is shocking and scandalous. Ask Canadian couple Paul Dehler, 45, and his wife, Caroline Gudz, 41, of Ottawa. According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen this week, the couple is officially complaining to Mayor Michael Bloomberg over a run-in they had with some of the city's finest during a January visit to the city.

Dehler and Gudz were sitting eating a bagel in Cooper Square Park in Manhattan's Lower East Side when they were set upon by undercover narcs who claimed they were smoking marijuana. They were not, said Dehler and Gudz, only having lunch before a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, when two scruffy looking men in civilian clothes rushed them, yelling something about smoking marijuana. Thinking they were being mugged, Gudz screamed for help. According to Dehler, the undercover cops punched him in the face and threw him to the ground. Although no marijuana was found, both Gudz and Dehler were arrested and jailed at the 9th Precinct for nearly 24 hours.

"I got brought in front of this big bull sergeant who looks at me and says, 'Do you like to fight with cops up in Canada?' I said, 'I don't know what's going on. I'm willing to apologize to the arresting officer,'" Dehler told the Ottawa Citizen. "He interrupts me and says: 'If that was me arresting you, you would be in the hospital right now.' He said, 'Take him in the back and strip search him and give him the whole nine yards.'"

The NYPD strip-searched Dehler and Gudz and repeatedly blocked their efforts to contact friends, family, or attorneys, Dehler said, but a good Samaritan who witnessed the encounter contacted the Canadian consulate. Gudz was charged with resisting arrest and obstructing justice, while Dehler was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest, harassment and disorderly conduct. All the charges have since been dropped, but the couple is out $5,000 in legal expenses and has, for good reason, developed a jaundiced view of the Big Apple and the United States.

"I don't drink, I don't smoke, we have an organic garden in the back. We're as clean as they come," said Dehler. "We met nothing but wonderful people until this incident, and then we thought we were in a bad Hollywood movie." As for New York City: "It's a beautiful city," said Gudz. "I love it. But I'm telling you, I don't want to go back there. I don't want to go back to that country."

But the couple does want to let Mayor Bloomberg know about their experience. In their letter to the mayor, they wrote: "Every Canadian who has heard our story has been horrified that law-abiding, well-intentioned tourists can suffer such a terrifying experience at the hands of NYC law enforcement authorities," Dehler wrote. "My wife and I inform you of this incident with the expectation that your office will respond by taking the necessary measures to protect the safety and security of Canadians visiting your city."

Don't expect too much, Mr. Dehler. After all, Mayor Bloomberg, who has publicly admitted enjoying pot himself, blithely continues the draconian marijuana policy begun by his law-and-order predecessor Rudy Giuliani and ignores the same abuses perpetrated against New Yorkers by "New York City's finest" on a daily basis.

12. Newsbrief: Albuquerque Cops Block 4-20 Event by Closing Park

Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have found a unique way to block a pro-marijuana event: Simply close down the park where the event is scheduled. That's what happened for the second year in a row, the Albuquerque Tribune reported last week. Roosevelt Park in the city's Southeast Heights neighborhood had been the traditional venue for the annual celebration of marijuana culture, with 4-20 events in previous years drawing as many as 400 people, the newspaper reported.

But for the last two years, Albuquerque police have taken it upon themselves to quash the celebrations by closing the park. This year on April 20, instead of a scene of celebration at Roosevelt Park, there was only an empty park surrounded by police cars and cops on horseback. "It's not in the best interest of public safety to have a designated area for an open display of breaking the law," Albuquerque police Lt. Larry Sonntag said.

As 4:20pm approached on 4/20, only a handful of University of New Mexico students gathered on the street across from the park, one of them holding a sign portraying a marijuana leaf and the word "Freedom." Ben Tucker, 25, was one of them. "It's a good day to rob a bank; all the cops are here at the park worried somebody might smoke some weed," Tucker told the Tribune.

The park closure didn't sit well with some neighbors, either. "I'd like to cross the street and have lunch under the trees. If they want to prevent people from smoking pot, they can have a police presence. But this is ridiculous," said Cora Kammer, 25, an Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute student who lives across the street from the park. "They don't need to keep citizens from enjoying a public park."

13. Newsbrief: Colorado Drug Task Force Sued Over Methamphetamine "Decontamination" Public Stripping

Barbara Adriaenes, 39, of suburban Denver admits she sometimes used methamphetamine. She concedes that she was in possession of a small personal amount of the drug when the Metro North Drug Task Force broke in her window and kicked in her door as she was studying for an art class one morning last year. But she denies that she was cooking meth in a home lab, and police concede as much -- they found no lab, no toxic chemicals. So why did they force her to strip naked in the parking lot of her condo behind a windblown tarp that only intermittently hid her from ground level observers and left her fully exposed to upper floor residents, not to mention the three male officers and two female officers ogling her from inside the tarp's perimeter as part of a "meth lab decontamination procedure"?

That's what Adriaenes and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado intend to find out. To do so, they have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the task force charging that the raid itself, the nude decontamination in a public place, and the presence of a private party who videotaped the entire proceedings at the invitation of the police were all violations of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for Adriaenes' humiliating experience.

Adriaenes was handcuffed in her condo's garage while police searched her home, the lawsuit narrated, then instructed to remove her clothes, bend over twice, and rinse her entire body in front of gawking cops and neighbors, even though police had detected no presence of meth labs or associated chemicals. "She was humiliated at the thought that her neighbors could see her naked. She felt like she wanted to die," the lawsuit said. "As she began to comply with the order to remove her clothes, she screamed that someone should 'call the cops.'"

"We are the cops," a detective replied, and several officers laughed.

"She felt as if she was being raped," the lawsuit said. "She started to go numb inside and felt she was going into darkness. She wanted to be dead," the lawsuit said. "Plaintiff was crying and shaking, dizzy with fear, anxiety and humiliation."

"This case presents one more example of how the War on Drugs has become a war on the Constitution and basic human rights," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director.

"Because of the possibility of toxic and volatile chemicals, suspected meth labs are often treated as hazardous material sites," Silverstein said. "Before taking drug lab suspects into custody, law enforcement officers routinely force them to strip naked and submit to a 'decontamination' procedure, often without adequate respect for their privacy or basic human dignity. But in this case, the search team had already determined that there was no meth lab and no dangerous fumes. There was no legitimate law enforcement or public safety purpose that could possibly justify subjecting our client to this emotionally painful, embarrassing, degrading, and pointless ritual."

The Metro North Drug Task Force did not respond to requests for comment from local media. The task force, which includes officers from Adams County, Brighton, Broomfield, Commerce City, Federal Heights, Northglenn, Thornton and Westminster, was last heard from in these pages when it unsuccessfully attempted to seize book purchase records from legendary Denver bookseller the Tattered Cover in another meth case (

Like its counterpart a few hundred miles to the southeast, the Texas Panhandle Drug Task Force, Metro North must be an example of those bad drug task forces giving all those good drug task forces a bad name. Let's hope that even if they don't learn their lesson, they do pay out the nose for it. Then maybe the good taxpayers of suburban Denver will have something to say.

14. This Week in History

April 30, 1984: Assassination of the Colombian attorney general fuels the extradition controversy. Colombian Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, who had crusaded against the Medellin cartel, is assassinated by a gang of motorcycle thugs. President Belisario Betancur, who had opposed extradiction, announces, "We will extradite Colombians." Carlos Lehder is the first to be put on the list. The crackdown forces the Ochoas, Escobar and Rodriguez Gacha to flee to Panama for several months. A few months later, Escobar is indicted for Lara Bonilla's murder and names the Ochoas and Rodriguez Gacha as material witnesses.

May 1, 1972: Nobel Prize winner for economics Milton Friedman was quoted in Newsweek: "Legalizing drugs would simultaneously reduce the amount of crime and raise the quality of law enforcement. Can you conceive of any other measure that would accomplish so much to promote law and order?"

May 2, 2001: The Louisiana Senate, voting 29-5, passes sweeping legislation to bring relief to an overflowing state prison system, ending mandatory prison time for possession of small quantities of drugs.

May 5, 2001: The United States is voted off the United Nations Narcotics Control Board, the 13-member board that monitors compliance with UN drug conventions on substance abuse and illegal trafficking.

May 6, 2001: Sydney, Australia opens its first legal heroin injection room in the Kings Cross Neighborhood -- it is operated by the Uniting Church. The effort was an attempt to stop drug overdoses and the use of infected syringes.

15. The Reformer's Calendar

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

April 30, noon, Warsaw, Poland, Session with the European NGO Council on Drugs and Kanaba, at the European Economic Forum, Hall 2 of the Radical Theater Forum at Pola Mokotowskie, visit or for further information.

May 1, international, Million Marijuana March, visit for event listings and further information.

May 1, noon-5:00pm, Burlington, VT, Million Marijuana March event, including speakers, music and information tables. At Burlington City Hall Park, contact Denny Lane at (802) 496-2387 and [email protected] for further information.

May 1, noon-10:00pm, Eau Claire, WI, Eau Claire's 10th Annual Hempfest. At Rod and Gun Park, sponsored by Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Students for Sensible Drug Policy, contact Randy Lusk at [email protected] or (715) 834-0424 for further information.

May 1, 7:00-10:00pm, Kingston, RI, "Black and White: An Evening of Poetry and Discussion about Race, Class, and the War on Drugs." Organized by URI SSDP and cosponsored by several student groups, featuring Cliff Thornton of Efficacy and spoken word poets Alixa Garcia of Colombia and Naima Penniman of New York. At the URI Multicultural Center, Hardge Forum (room 101), admission free, visit for further information or contact Micah Daigle at (401) 225-9779 or [email protected].

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 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 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

May 8, 8:00am-5:30pm, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Beyond Prohibition: Legal Cannabis in Canada," featuring keynote speaker Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin. Sponsored by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue, registration $20. For further information, visit or contact Kirk Tousaw at [email protected] (preferred communication method) or (604) 687-2919.

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.

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 for info.

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

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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