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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #337, 5/14/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Always Another Angle
  2. Russia Enacts Sweeping Reforms in Drug Laws: No Jail for Possession
  3. Maryland Treatment Not Jail Bill Signed Into Law
  4. Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Dying as Government Prepares to Call Elections, Few Mourners
  5. Calls for Sentencing Reform Grow in Arizona
  6. 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
  7. Newsbrief: Local Prosecutor Tries to Block Atlantic City Needle Exchange, Would Be New Jersey's First
  8. Newsbrief: Pennsylvania Attorney General Hops on Prescription Drug Abuse Bandwagon
  9. Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties
  10. Newsbrief: Congress Defeats Effort to Abolish Cap on US Troops in Colombia
  11. Newsbrief: Anti-Drug Ads Pique Curiosity, Researcher Finds
  12. Newsbrief: Alcohol Prohibition Coming to Nigerian State
  13. Newsbrief: Study Finds "No Increased Risk" for Marijuana-Using Drivers
  14. Newsbrief: Hip-Hop Summit Announces Mass Rally Against Drug War at GOP Convention
  15. Newsbrief: Finnish Green MP Causes Flap with Admission of Cannabis Use
  16. Newsbrief: Million Marijuana Marches, Continued -- Rocking in Rosario, Repression in Russia and Israel
  17. This Week in History
  18. Job Opportunity: Program Coordinator, International Harm Reduction Development Program, OSI
  19. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Editorial: Always Another Angle

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/14/04

David Borden
One of the reasons I became interested in drug policy was the wide range of issues on which it impacts. There are few areas of policy, or of life, that aren't touched by the drug war. I haven't found a connection between the drug war and social security reform -- yet -- but that's an exception. I have learned to presume that there is always another angle I haven't thought of, some harm flowing from the drug laws that has heretofore escaped my notice.

Still, ten years into this, it's seldom that any really new angles come to my attention. This week National Public Radio uncovered a new one. It's a minor angle, at least on the surface, compared with the extremities that have become so common in today's drug war. But sometimes the understated injustices, or even the mere annoyances, can illustrate a point in a different way than the worse ones.

According to a report by Alex Cohen of NPR affiliate station KQED in Los Angeles, aired Thursday night on All Things Considered (http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php?prgDate=13-May-2004&prgId=2), the California legislature is wrestling with the issue of teen posture, including the impact of heavy school textbooks that kids have to carry around with them. A student named David from North Hollywood was interviewed who takes Tylenol regularly to manage chronic pain; the culprit, possibly, is the 30 pounds of books in his backpack, 19% of his body weight. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that young people limit their backpack loads to 10% of their weight.

Contributing to the phenomenon, a state politico explained, is the decision by some school systems to stop providing students with locker space. Schools are trying to cope with the twin problems of guns and drugs, which some administrators see the lockers as facilitating. Get rid of the lockers, and maybe that will help to protect students from drugs and guns, I suppose is the line of reasoning.

You can't blame school officials from wanting to keep the guns, or drugs, out of their schools. I don't know enough about guns and schools to say whether eliminating lockers could make students safer. I'm skeptical, but I don't really know.

I do know enough about drugs and schools to say that eliminating lockers is unlikely to do more than shift drug selling from inside the buildings to outside in the parking lots. And I know enough about drugs and guns to say that drug prohibition is one of the reasons so many young people possess guns, in schools and elsewhere. Prohibition creates a criminal underground that is governed by violence or the threat thereof, and which is subject to no government regulation. Hence an incentive is created for kids to sell drugs to other kids, in the schools, and to carry guns to protect themselves and their goods. And the guns thereby become normal and customary, spreading out to non-sellers.

It is possible to overestimate the contribution prohibition-spurred locker closures make to teen back pain, of course. One expert commented that lack of exercise or stretching is a more important factor than heavy textbooks, in his opinion. Still, the war on drugs has been potentially implicated in a public health problem facing our nation's youth. Who would have guessed it? Maybe no one, but that only demonstrates even more strongly how pervasive the unintended consequences of the drug laws are in our society -- you just can't get away from them, wherever you look. And if the example seems trivial, tell that to young David -- who deals with pain daily, whose liver is at risk of damage from frequent Tylenol use; who may suffer such pain all his life, perhaps worsening with age -- in part because his school won't let him keep his books in a locker, because they're afraid that some of the lockers might be used to store drugs or to hide guns carried by students who sell drugs.

There are innumerable ways the drug laws serve to adversely affect our nation's youth, not to mention the rest of us. The scariest thing is that we have no good way to know or predict all of them. Rather than tearing out school lockers and forcing the nation's children to bear the resulting toil and inconvenience -- knowing full well that this too will fail to solve the problem -- shouldn't we try to address the root causes instead? Legalization would be a much sounder, more fundamental way of reducing the dangers to young people posed by drugs under prohibition and the drug war. I say, keep the lockers, change the drug laws.


2. Russia Enacts Sweeping Reforms in Drug Laws: No Jail for Possession

DRCNet reported in March that Russia was on the verge of making dramatic reforms to its draconian drug laws after the Duma passed legislation that would remove criminal penalties and the possibility of jail time for simple drug possession. But then the wheels flew off the whole process as drug warriors within the Russian government attempted to turn the reform on its head by defining the quantities of each drug that would constitute possession for personal use at levels so low as to render the reforms meaningless, or worse. (Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/328/russia.shtml and http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/329/russialaw.shtml for our earlier coverage.)

Now the drug warriors have been fought off, and reformers have managed to get quantities set at levels that will keep hundreds of thousands of Russian drug users out of prison. Under the old law, possession of even a single marijuana cigarette could garner a three-year prison sentence. According to Russian authorities, somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people are currently serving time for drug offenses.

Russia's Duma
Under the new law -- actually an amendment to the Criminal Code -- which went into effect Wednesday, people possessing no more than 10 times the "average single dose" will no longer be charged with a crime, but an "administrative infraction." Possession of between 10 and 50 times the "average single dose" is punishable by a larger fine and community service, but again, no jail or prison time. Small-scale dealers will find themselves protected against drug trafficking charges by this second provision -- unless they get caught in the act of selling. Punishment for drug sales is increased under the new law.

Here are the critical quantity levels determined by the Russian government in consultation with drug reform groups such as the Russian Harm Reduction Network and the NAN Foundation. These are the quantities that represent ten times the "average single dose," up to which no one can be arrested or criminally charged:

heroin, 1.0 grams
cocaine, 1.5 grams
marijuana, 20.0 grams (dried)
hashish, 5.0 grams
ecstasy, 0.5 grams
methamphetamine, 0.5 grams
mescaline, 0.5 grams
LSD, 0.003 grams
psilocybin, 0.005 grams
The Russian equivalent of the DEA, the Federal Drug Control Service, wanted much lower levels, Vitaly Djuma, head of the Russian Harm Reduction Network, told DRCNet while the levels were being decided. "The agency responsible for setting new doses is the Ministry of Health," said Djuma, "but using its status as a state security agency, the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) tried to push through its own determinations where, for example, a single dose of heroin was 0.0001 gram, thus turning all drug users once again into 'drug dealers.' This could not only nullify the humanizing of legislation by the Russian administration but also directly threaten the safety -- and lives -- of millions of Russians who use drugs."

Under the quantities proposed by the FDCS, the "average single dose" of marijuana would be 0.0015 grams. With a standard joint weighing in at about one gram, possession of a single joint would make the possessor subject to penalties for drug dealing because one gram exceeds 50 doses (0.75 grams) by the FDCS standard. Similarly absurd low "average single doses" were set for other drugs as well.

But all that has been undone, and the FDCS is not happy. "Now drug addicts have the right to run around with their pockets full of marijuana, and we can't even detain them," FDCS deputy chief Alexander Mikhailov complained to the newspaper Kommersant Thursday. "The heroin dose is normal for a chronic drug user, but for a regular person it's nonetheless a dose of potassium cyanide. We were categorically against it, but the Justice Ministry simply went crazy chasing its European standards."

An FDCS spokesman was more diplomatic. "It's the law, and we are required to abide by it and enforce it," he told the Moscow Times Thursday.

Drug reformers welcomed the law and the new, improved "average single dose" levels. "This is a brave, humane law," said Lev Levinson, head of New Drug Policies, and one of the people who helped set the new quantities. "Now that police will stop persecuting users, they can start focusing on real threats like large-scale drug trafficking," he told the Times.

Now, if the Russians can only reign in the drug warriors. They were busy repressing the Moscow Million Marijuana March last weekend (see newsbrief this issue).


3. Maryland Treatment Not Jail Bill Signed Into Law

A broad-based campaign to reform Maryland's sentencing laws reached fruition Tuesday as Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich signed into law a bill that will divert nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs instead of sending them to prison. The bill also gives Maryland judges more discretion at sentencing and appropriates $3 million in new funding for drug treatment. It will go into effect October 1.

"Maryland is part of a growing national trend to treat drug addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue, and Marylanders will be healthier and safer as a result," said Michael Blain, Director of Public Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org). "The Drug Policy Alliance has worked on similar legislation in California and other states to further reduce the harm done by the war on drugs. The impact has been tens of thousands of people receiving treatment instead of incarceration, and savings of hundreds of millions of dollars to state budgets."

"We didn't get everything we wanted, but we did get a few things we hadn't even asked for, and I think we got a good solid bill that will benefit the state of Maryland," said Tara Andrews, head of the Maryland Justice Coalition, which, along with DPA is a member of Maryland Campaign for Treatment Not Incarceration (http://www.treatnotjail.org), the umbrella group that spearheaded the effort to change the state's sentencing practices.

"There was a lot of negotiating between Democrats and Republicans, between judges and the campaign, the parole commission got involved, there were various versions of this bill flying around for awhile," she told DRCNet. "By the time it got done, a forensic scientist couldn't have identified all the fingerprints on this bill."

Under the new law, prosecutors will have discretion to divert drug offenders into treatment instead of prosecution and judges will have the discretion to divert convicted drug offenders into treatment instead of prison. Also, persons already serving prison time will be able to be paroled for treatment purposes.

Not only will the law reduce racial disparities within the state's prison system -- 90% of imprisoned drug offenders are black in a state where blacks make up only 28% of the population -- and slow the expansion of inmate numbers, it will also save the state money. According to studies commissioned by the Campaign, diverting 2,000 to 3,000 nonviolent drug offenders or drug-related offenders into treatment instead of prison would save the state between $44 million and $66 million per year.

The effort to pass the sentencing reform bill was a model of effectively lobbying a state government. "We were in this campaign from the beginning," explained DPA's Blain. "About two years ago we joined others in beginning to build up the coalition," which now includes 43 different social justice, criminal justice, good government, and other organizations. "We did a concept paper that evaluated how Maryland could best be served by some form of treatment instead of jail. We did polling and found that 72% of voters favored treatment," he told DRCNet. "Then we went out and started building legislative relationships."

It was a strategy that worked, as the Campaign managed to gain the support of the Legislative Black Caucus, the Hispanic and Asian caucuses, and the Women's Legislative Caucus. The Campaign tailored its message carefully, said Blain.

"Those numbers about African-Americans making up 90% of the drug prisoners but only 28% of the overall population were the hook we needed for the black caucus," said Blain. "This is Maryland, this is where Kunta Kinte landed as a slave in 1757. Sitting right on the Mason-Dixon line, Maryland was always half slave and half free, and there's a lot of blacks in Maryland who still think they're free. When we educated the black caucus about those numbers, even moderate and conservative members were moved to get off the fence."

There was also personal politicking, said Blain. "I sat down with black caucus chairman Rep. Obie Patterson, and I showed him the numbers and showed him the polling and said, 'I'm going to make you famous, and we can do it one of two ways. I'll provide the media support you need to pass this, we have a coalition in place to pass this, and we can shop you all around the country as someone who successfully championed reform. Or, if you want to do it the other way, I'll go back to your constituents in Prince Georges County and tell them you don't care about this injustice,'" Blaine explained. "I wanted to give the members a torch to carry, but I also wanted them to understand they could get burned if they didn't pick it up."

But it wasn't just working with the Democrats or the minority caucuses, said Blain. "I also met with Republican legislators like Rep. Tony O'Donnell, who sits on the judiciary committee and is very conservative," he explained. "When I showed him the numbers, though, he conceded it was a problem. He said he would support this, he would sponsor the bill, but only if we delivered the black caucus. So we got O'Donnell and the caucus together, and," Blaine laughed, "we actually got him quoting Frederick Douglass, saying 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress.'"

While Republican Gov. Ehrlich had made getting drug offenders out of jail and into treatment a centerpiece of his inaugural speech in January 2003, the bill produced by the administration in response to the Campaign's efforts was lackluster, said Blain. "Once they saw our bill, all of a sudden the administration wanted to do their own bill, but the governor's bill would only have diverted 98 people, while ours will divert two or three thousand. The governor asked us to drop our bill, but we already had 40 or 50 sponsors and we said 'No way -- we'll kill both bills before that happens.' Because of all the support we had, we drove the governor into our camp."

One measure of the success of this sort of legislative effort is the final floor votes. In the Assembly, the measure passed 139-1, while the Senate voted unanimously for the bill. This is a deal that was done before the votes were counted.

"It's a beautiful thing that Maryland has joined the national trend to reform its drug laws at a time when the state can ill afford to be wasting more money or more human lives," Blaine said. "We applaud the efforts of everyone who helped make this happen."

But getting the bill passed and signed into law is just the beginning, said the Justice Center's Andrews, and there is plenty of work to be done before October. "Between now and then, we'll be putting together a short strategy on educating judges, states' attorneys and public defenders about what the new law is, so they will take full advantage of what the law now provides," she said. "We will also be educating prisoners because there is a section of the law that applies to people currently serving time if they are nonviolent, have a drug problem, and can identify a drug treatment program. We want them to harass their case managers to find that treatment so we can get them out of prison and on the path to being productive citizens," she said.

With the new law allocating $3 million for new treatment as part of the governors inmate reentry program, there is also work to be done to ensure that money is divvied up properly, said Andrews. "The bill sets up a local coordinating council to determine needs and receive funding," she said. "We want to make sure those councils are set up so that minorities are present -- not just treatment professionals, but also the community, just regular folks, and even recovering addicts as well. Winning the battle in the legislature is just the beginning."

Maryland has now become the 27th state to reform its drug or sentencing laws in the past few years, but as Andrews suggested, passing legislation is only half the battle. Now comes the struggle to see that it is implemented in the most advantageous manner.


4. Canada Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Dying as Government Prepares to Call Elections, Few Mourners

The marijuana decriminalization bill introduced by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and reintroduced by his successor, Paul Martin, appears dead as Canadian political circles focus on what is expected to be Martin's call next week for new elections. According to a Saturday report in the Toronto Globe & Mail citing "government insiders," the decriminalization bill is not a priority for Martin's Liberal government in the one week left in the parliamentary session before Martin announces a federal election for June 28.

The proposed law, Bill C-10, would have removed possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana from the criminal law, making it instead a ticketable offense, with fines ranging from $100 to $500. It would also have allowed people to grow up to three plants, but would have increased penalties for all but the smallest growers.

Although pressure for marijuana law reform has been building in Canada for more than 30 years, the Liberals' decrim bill died the lonely death of a bastard stepchild. It was opposed by elements of the Canadian law enforcement establishment, conservative politicians, and hyperventilating US officials as too lenient, as well as by many Canadian marijuana smokers and activists and progressive politicians, who saw it as too little and its grow penalties too severe. And while the Martin government did reintroduce the bill and shepherd it partway through the legislative process, in recent weeks it has become evident that Liberal legislators were more interested in passing drugged driving legislation to deal with the anticipated tide of stoned drivers than with passing the decrim bill itself.

In Canada, a federal election dissolves parliament and kills all bills that have not been passed, so any effort to pass a new decriminalization bill after the elections will have to begin at square one.

Libby Davies
"For all intents and purposes, the decrim bill is dead," said Libby Davies, New Democrat Party (NDP) Member of Parliament from East Vancouver, a leading advocate of complete legalization. "We're all expecting an election call next week, which means this is the last week the House is sitting. It's on the calendar, but we never got to it, and that's at the government's control," she told DRCNet.

And while Davies and the NDP ended up not supporting C-10 because it failed to go far enough -- the party platform embraces legalization in all but name -- neither was she impressed with Liberal Party leadership on the issue. "The Liberals introduced this bill and they ought to have the guts to follow through on it," she said. "I wanted to see it debated and voted on, but the government has totally caved in to pressure from the police lobby, and they're saying they want to be seen on moving on impaired driving first. That's chickenshit," she said. "Paul Martin doesn't want this bill to go forward; the government could get it through if it wanted."

"Most people feel it's a good thing the bill died because it does so little and would probably crank up the level of enforcement," said Eugene Oscapella, director of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation (http://www.cfdp.ca). "In Vancouver right now, people are walking around freely smoking dope, but the ticketing provision would give police an excuse to go after people. In areas like BC, where the mood is definitely more tolerant, the bill was seen as a bad thing, but in other areas it would be an improvement. It depends on what the current enforcement is like."

The Conservative opposition hailed the apparent demise of the bill, but also criticized the ruling Liberals for not pushing it through. And Conservative MP Randy White, the party's criminal justice spokesman, vowed that his party would not introduce such a bill if it wins the elections. "The issue is not decriminalization," he told the Globe & Mail, adding that he preferred a national drug strategy. "The issue is, what do we do with drugs of all sorts?" White said.

It's not often that White and Vancouver marijuana seed entrepreneur and BC Marijuana Party founder Marc Emery find themselves on the same side, but the bill's death was "a good thing," said Emery. "It may have benefited some people if they only got a $150 fine instead of being arrested, but the police have said they'll give out a lot more tickets. Now, they don't take possession that seriously because it requires too much manpower," he told DRCNet. "The bill also earmarked $175 million for anti-marijuana ads in the major media. I've seen those ads, and they are nothing but blatant propaganda. We haven't done that before in Canada. If the bill is dead, that's money that doesn't get spent."

But Emery was almost looking forward to taking on the ticketing system, he said. "I have a methodology for defeating the tickets," he enthused. "Because it is a summary conviction, anyone can represent you. Call me and I will represent you. You don't even have to go to court. I will demand lab analysis of the substance in question, I will make the police officer appear and identify my client -- there are lots of possibilities for fucking up that system."

But Emery's prankery will have to await a suitable target as all eyes now turn to the forthcoming elections. While the conventional wisdom is that Prime Minister Martin and the ruling Liberals will return to power, the question is whether they will do so as a majority government or be forced to seek the support of other parties to pass key legislation. If that comes to pass, prospects for a better marijuana bill could increase.

"If there were a minority government, there would be a lot more horse trading for votes and the NDP, which supports regulation, could have some clout," predicted CFDP's Oscapella. "The NDP could say, 'if you want to pass another bill, you need to help us with this one.'"

The NDP is ready to make marijuana an issue in the elections, said Davies. "We need some sort of legalized regime," she said, "and we want the federal government to take a much stronger position for a non-punitive, rules-based approach to drugs. [NDP head] Jack Layton will deal with this very forthrightly in the campaign," she said. "In many places, this is an issue people will want to look at, and we want to be part of bringing about change. This could be a first step toward dealing with our ridiculous prohibition laws."

In Vancouver last weekend, some Canadian political figures were not waiting for an election campaign to stake out frankly pro-legalization positions. At a conference on the politics of legalizing marijuana sponsored by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (http://www.bccla.org), Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs whose 2002 report called for the outright legalization of marijuana, reiterated that clarion call.

"The federal and provincial governments could establish a regulatory framework governing the use and production of cannabis," said Nolin. "I am referring here to the concept of legalization with strong government control. As you see, for the Special Committee, legalization of cannabis does not mean establishing a "free market environment for drugs" as some people are arguing," the Conservative senator said. "After many years of hard work, I can say that our committee has succeeded in offering an alternative to prohibition that is both promising and innovative."

Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell was more flamboyant. Campbell told the meeting he supported legalization, and that he would "tax the hell out of it" and use the proceeds to fund health care and drug treatment. "What I do want is to stop seeing people go to jail. I want to stop seeing the waste of resources, our resources, taxpayers' resources," he explained. British Columbia would be in a recession if not for the pot business, he added. "Remember, the BC marijuana trade is estimated at $4 billion annually -- larger than construction or forestry," Campbell said.

And if Nolin and Campbell aren't waiting for other politicians to make the call for legalization, neither is Canada's thriving pot culture. "There are more shops opening here in Vancouver where anyone can buy it," said Emery. "We don't have to wait for the government to tell us we can do this," he said.


5. Calls for Sentencing Reform Grow in Arizona

Arizona doesn't seem like that sort of place that worries too much about prisons and prisoners. It is, after all, the home of Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for his myriad degradations and humiliations of prisoners under his careóthe pink underwear (to prevent prisoners from taking them home, said Joe), the green meat (it may be almost rotten, but it's cheap, said Joe), the cell-block web-cams that exposed prisoners to the prurient gaze of whoever it is who would watch such a thing. But it is also home to a prison system bursting at the seams, one that made the national news earlier this year when two desperate inmates conducted the longest prison guard hostage-taking in the nation's history.

And now, even in rock-ribbed conservative Arizona, the clamor to do something about the state's swollen prisons and ever-larger prison budgets is growing louder. Although a legislative special session on the topic last year achieved little except a resort to private prisons and a call from Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) for a half-billion dollar prison construction program, concerned legislators in the House have formed a working group to examine alternatives to the state's harsh sentencing laws. Their report is due soon.

And Arizona-based groups such as Middle Ground Prison Reform (http://www.middlegroundprisonreform.org), led by retired lower court judge Donna Hamm, have been fighting for years to bring more justice into the Arizona criminal justice system. Middle Ground issued a detailed report in September 2003 calling for sweeping legislative and administrative reforms within the Arizona prisons.

Now, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (http://www.famm.org), the Washington, DC-based national sentencing reform advocacy group has joined the fray. This week, FAMM released a report, "Arizona Prison Crisis: A Call for Smart on Crime Solutions," finding that mandatory minimum and sentence enhancement laws had resulted in prisons filled with nonviolent offenders at a substantial cost to Arizona taxpayers, but without significant gains in public safety.

"Arizona's experience with mandatory sentencing is all too common: more and more state policymakers are discovering that mandatory sentences tie the hands of judges, send the wrong people to prison, and waste valuable dollars on nonviolent offenders" said Laura Sager, executive director of FAMM. "Like other states, Arizona should consider smart-on-crime solutions to focus scarce correctional resources on more serious offenders, while giving judges the authority to hold nonviolent and low-level offenders accountable in community based sanctions."

Arizona State Prison Complex -- Phoenix
Arizona sentencing practices hit hard at women and minorities, the report found. The number of women in prison grew 58% in the last five years, largely driven by imprisonment for drug and property offenses, while racial minorities fill the state's prisons in disproportionate numbers. Minorities constitute about one-third of the state's population, but more than half of all prisoners, and nearly two-thirds of all inmates held for drug or DUI offenses. (Because of Arizona's repeat offender provisions, the state imprisons a large number of repeat drunk drivers for long sentences -- 3.1 years on average.)

As a result of harsh sentencing practices, Arizona's prison population has increased more than 600% since 1980, nearly seven times faster than the state's overall population. According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, the state has the highest incarceration rate of any Western state, and last year, 80% of new admissions were for nonviolent offenders. Drug offenders accounted for 18% of all new admissions, with nearly 6,000 behind bars in the state for drug crimes. In the past decade, the amount of time they serve has increased from 23 months to 34 months.

The overcrowding does not appear to be merely a reflection of Arizona's rapid population growth. From 1980 to 2000, the state's population grew by about 90 percent, from 2.7 million to 5.1 million. During that same period, Arizona's inmate population grew by about 600 percent, from 3,859 inmates to more than 27,000, and has since crept up to 31,000 inmates.

Imprisoning those low-level criminals cost money -- money that the state of Arizona does not have. The corrections budget has increased twenty-fold since 1978, from $32 million to $638 million this fiscal year, the agency reported.

"The mandatory minimum sentencing laws are driving a population that is more than half nonviolent offenders -- drug offenders, property crimes, and a high number of drunk drivers," said study coauthor Kevin Pranis of Justice Strategies, the organization commissioned by FAMM to conduct the study. "It would cost an additional $40 million in corrections spending every year just to keep up with the current rate of growth," he told DRCNet.

Not only is Arizona filling its prisons with nonviolent offenders serving long sentences, said Pranis, it is doing little to rehabilitate them. "One of the things we found was that over half the prison population got the highest possible need score for alcohol or drug treatment," he explained, "and over 85% of the prison population in Arizona has problems with chemical dependency. But there is almost no treatment available; they are just warehousing these prisoners."

Back in 1996, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which was supposed to divert first- and second-time drug offenders away from prison. While it has kept some people out from behind bars, Prop. 200 has been limited in its effects for a couple of reasons. "One big problem is that it only applies to drug possession, not low-level drug dealing or property crimes," Pranis said. "The other big issue is the state's rigid system of sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders, with their mandatory sentencing provisions. If you get picked up for drug possession once or twice, you wouldn't go directly to prison, but then if you got arrested three years later for something as minor as shoplifting you could face a mandatory minimum three-year prison sentence because of your prior convictions. Prop. 200 has had a positive impact, but the drug problem isn't limited to drug possession."

"Our report was, we hope, a first step in reviewing and reforming the system," said Prentice. "Our major recommendation is for a high-level policy commission to do further research, but we also identified some concrete changes that would make a big difference now. We should limit the mandatory minimum sentencing enhancement to people who commit violent crimes -- now it doesn't matter if it was armed robbery or drug possession, you still get hit with the mandatory minimums," Pranis argued. "Also, we need to reclassify small-time drug sales as less serious felonies. Currently any drug distribution crime is the second most serious class of felony, so you end up with people serving longer average sentences than most violent offenders."

That's not all that needs to be done, said Middle Ground's Hamm. "Mandatory minimum sentences are only part of the problem, and many of them are for murder or sex crimes," she told DRCNet. "The real problem here, and FAMM didn't say it very forcefully, is that prosecutorial power and the misuse of that power is rampant. Prosecutors have way too much power, and they sometimes abuse it, especially with the ability to enhance and aggravate sentences."

Hamm pointed to one notorious Arizona case where a man was sentenced to 130 years in prison for looking at 13 child porn images. "We have a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence for each and every image, and those terms runs consecutively unless the judge provides a reason for departing from the sentence," she explained. "This guy ends up with 130 years for 13 pictures -- that's far more than a rapist or a child molester who actually touched a child would get. The idea that this man should serve 130 years for looking at pictures but not touching anyone is absurd," said Hamm. "And judges and prosecutors mete out those sentences with a straight face."

Prosecutors have created for themselves powers that they are unwilling to give up, Hamm said. "They understood early on the need to organize and lobby, and they got laws that gave them unalterable and highly disproportionate power. Now it's very, very hard to undo that." The result, said Hamm, is that "the justice system is not a level playing field. All that hoopla about criminals' rights is completely bogus, when you consider that the vast majority of defendants give up their rights when they are forced into plea bargains. They are subject to the whim and political calculations of local prosecutors."

Still, even with the power of the prosecutors and their "tough on crime" allies, an alliance for sentencing reform is growing. "This year's legislative session is wrapping up now, but we are looking to sit down with legislators over the next few months to seek agreement on what should happen next year," said FAMM's head Arizona organizer, Joel Foster. "There is a House working group looking at these issues that will produce its own report any time now, and we expect there will be substantial agreement on what needs to be done."

Although the House working group on sentencing alternatives is chaired by a conservative Republican, Rep. Bill Konopnicki, and dominated by Republicans, FAMM has been laying the groundwork for cooperation with the panel. "They asked FAMM to submit recommendations, which we did, and I testified before their panel," said Foster. "We are working closely with the chair and other members."

In fact, Konopnicki attended a Tuesday press conference trumpeting the release of the FAMM study. "Clearly what we are doing now just isn't making sense," he said. "We are taking people we are mad at and turning them into hardened criminals. We do have a prison crisis in Arizona, not just because of beds but because of how we incarcerate. It is time to stop warehousing people, it is time to start treating people and making a difference in their lives."

But not everyone is on board, especially drug war hard-liners like Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County prosecutor Rick Romley, who in 2001 angled unsuccessfully to be appointed national drug czar. Not only are there not too many people in prison, Romley told the Arizona Republic, drug users belong there. "We must consider building more prisons," Romley said. "No one's showed me that the wrong people are in prison. The ones that are on cocaine and marijuana are the ones who beat their children," he said.

Still, FAMM's Foster is optimistic. "The prospects are great. We have a bipartisan mix of elected officials from extreme right-wing conservatives to extreme liberals -- all the ideological camps are coming together and getting interested in reform. Fiscal conservatives are reconsidering priorities in the face of the budget crisis, while elected officials of color are concerned about sentencing disparities. They are coming from different places, but they are working together on the same goal."

Read the FAMM report, "Arizona Prison Crisis: A Call for Smart On Crime Solutions," as well as a press release and summary, at: http://www.famm.org/si_sbs_arizona_press_release_5_11_04.htm

Read the Middle Ground Prison Reform report, "Dollars, Sentences, and Public Safety" at:
http://www.middlegroundprisonreform.org/forms/Dollars_Sentences.pdf


6. 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.

Responses to our initial offer have been strong -- a heartfelt thanks to those of you who've ordered copies from us. If you haven't already, we hope you'll consider it again. You can order a copy of "The New Prohibition" from DRCNet by making a donation of $25 or more to DRCNet and selecting it as your complimentary membership premium -- visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ 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 http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ 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.


7. Newsbrief: Local Prosecutor Tries to Block Atlantic City Needle Exchange, Would Be New Jersey's First

A pioneering effort by officials in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to start the state's first needle exchange program (NEP) has been challenged by Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz, the Press of Atlantic City reported Wednesday. Although the state has no law allowing NEPs, which seek to reduce HIV and Hep C infection rates by reducing needle sharing among drug users, Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford last month gave the city health department the okay for an NEP using mobile vans.

Faced with the state's highest rate of HIV infection among black males, Mayor Langford sought a legal way to start such a program. According to the Press, Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey Director Roseanne Scotti alerted Langford to an obscure 1999 amendment to the criminal code that, according to her analysis, exempts governmental agencies from the state law that makes needle possession a crime.

But Prosecutor Blitz, who learned of the planned city-operated NEP by reading the Press, reacted quickly. On April 30, four days after the first Press article appeared, he notified Atlantic City officials that he had reviewed the law and found it allowed government agencies to distribute needles only to people with prescriptions. "There is no authority for programs to place needles and syringes in the hands of people addicted to heroin," Blitz said Tuesday. "This is a program that has to be considered by the Legislature."

Blitz's opinion contradicts that of Atlantic City Solicitor Beverly Graham-Foy, who had reviewed the law at Mayor Langford's request and found it did allow the city to operate a program. And needle exchange law expert Temple University professor Scott Burris told the Press Blitz was wrong. The amendment clearly exempts local governments, he said. "I'd be happy to be their lawyer," Burris said. "You never know, 100%, what a court is going to do. But I think the city has an extremely strong case."

Mayor Langford and his administration appear committed to starting an NEP, even if it means a court challenge. "We're still planning on moving forward," Atlantic City Health and Human Services Director Ron Cash told the Press. "There are some legal challenges we need to address."

New Jersey still awaits its first sanctioned needle exchange project. In the meantime, the state Health Department reports that 46% of all new HIV cases in the state are caused by shared needles. That number rises to more than half of all new cases in Atlantic City.


8. Newsbrief: Pennsylvania Attorney General Hops on Prescription Drug Abuse Bandwagon

Pennsylvania Attorney General Jerry Pappert has been holding news conferences across the state to announce his crusade against what US drug czar John Walters portrayed as the nation's leading drug menace (when it isn't marijuana): prescription drug abuse. Pappert announced that he is nearly doubling the size of a statewide investigated unit to target doctors, pharmacists, users, and street dealers of prescription drugs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The state Bureau of Narcotics Investigation unit has increased its agents from 11 to 19, and they will be hitting the streets and visiting medical offices in the next two months, the attorney general announced at a May 4 Pittsburgh press conference. "The hiring of new agents will enable us to investigate more people who engage in this illegal conduct and also send a message that we are focused on prescription drug abuse," Pappert said.

Pappert also said he supported legislation that would heighten penalties for prescription theft or forgery, and which would make "doctor shopping" a misdemeanor. He warned that the looming rollout of generic Oxycontin by Purdue Pharma, which would cost half what the name-brand goes for, would lead to increasing supplies of the drug on the street. "We have seen the devastation that this often-overlooked problem has had on individuals and communities," Pappert said. "It is a problem that many of us in law enforcement see as getting worse."

The bill heightening penalties for prescription drug-related offenses is HB 2019, introduced by Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia). It hasn't moved in the General Assembly since September. Read the bill and related documents online at:
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/ALL/2003//0//HB2019.HTM


9. Newsbrief: Ohio Appeals Court Upholds City's Harsh Marijuana Penalties

Under Ohio's drug laws, possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana is considered a minor misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $150, no jail time, and no criminal record. That wasn't tough enough for the good burghers of Medina, a small city of 25,000 located a few dozen miles south of Cleveland. They passed a city ordinance making possession of up to 100 grams a first degree misdemeanor, with a maximum $1,000 fine, a criminal record -- and a mandatory minimum three-day jail sentence.

Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long for the ordinance to be challenged, and a Medina Municipal Court judge found it unconstitutional because it conflicted with state law. But in a surprising May 5 ruling, the Ohio 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

The defendants in the case argued that the city criminalized conduct that is not criminal under the Ohio Revised Code. The municipal court agreed, holding that the city ordinance increased the offense level (from minor to first-degree misdemeanor) and thus violated the Home Rule section of the Ohio Constitution, which allows cities to enact ordinances that "are not in conflict with general laws."

The city appealed the ruling, and in a unanimous decision, a three-judge Ohio 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel led by Judge Lynn Slaby overturned the municipal court and upheld the ordinance, ruling that only city ordinances that changed offenses from misdemeanors to felonies would conflict with state law.

Defense attorney Ronald Spears told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he would appeal the ruling. The ordinance makes carrying a joint a more serious offense than possessing methamphetamine or cocaine or heroin in Medina because none of them carrying mandatory jail time, he pointed out. "It's a ridiculous waste of money," he said.

But the city of Medina is ready to get right back to business. Mayor Jane Leaver greeted the ruling by announcing the next day that the city police would "re-implement" the ordinance pending any further rulings.


10. Newsbrief: Congress Defeats Effort to Abolish Cap on US Troops in Colombia

A Republican effort to abolish the congressionally-mandated limits on the number of US troops in Colombia was defeated in Congress Wednesday. Members of the House Armed Services Committee rejected language by committee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that would have lifted the cap and declined to accept an administration proposal that would have doubled the number of US troops there, instead voting 32-24 to raise the current cap on US military personnel from 400 to 500.

Limits on the number of US military personnel and civilian contractors were imposed in 2000 by a Congress leery of being sucked into an ever-escalating involvement in Colombia's decades-long civil war in the name of the war on drugs and now the war on terror. Although Congress approved a $1.3 billion aid package for what was then known as Plan Colombia, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-VA) and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) added language limiting the number of military personnel and civilian contractors to 400 each. Taylor was also the author of the successful amendment this year slightly raising that cap.

Two months ago, in the run-up to voting on the Defense Appropriations Bill, administration officials began arguing that the troop limits needed to be doubled in order to support Plan Patriota, a huge Colombian military offensive in the country's guerrilla-dominated south. Plan Patriota depends heavily on the logistical and intelligence support of US personnel deployed in southern Colombia.

Rep. Hunter wanted to go the administration one better by simply removing the caps. Neither got what they wanted.


11. Newsbrief: Anti-Drug Ads Pique Curiosity, Researcher Finds

The White House Office of National Drug Control Strategy's anti-drug media campaign is intended, at least ostensibly, to stop kids from using drugs. With the government spending about $200 million in taxpayer money annually and private enterprises kicking in a like amount, whether that campaign is working properly is a question worth asking. Now, once again, a researcher is suggesting that the campaign is having paradoxical effects.

Carson Wagner of the Department of Advertising at the University of Texas at Austin has conducted a number of experiments designed to test the impact of anti-drug ads using more sophisticated attitudinal measures than the self-reporting used in most research on the topic, the University of Texas announced this week.

"The majority of the current anti-drug advertising research is flawed because it relies on research participants self-reporting their attitudes in response to watching anti-drug ads," explained Wagner. "However, an immense body of research reveals that, due to their conspicuous nature, self-reported attitude measures are highly susceptible to social desirability, especially with regard to sensitive issues such as drugs."

In his most recent work, he studied the impact of edgy, gripping ads, such as those linking drug use with terrorism, and found surprising results: The more exciting the ad, the more the kids thought about drugs. "Keeping drugs on youths' agendas by using hard-hitting ads keeps them thinking about drugs," said Wagner. "And those same ads can motivate people to pay attention, which can result in lower anti-drug [attitudinal scores] as compared to watching ads that don't call attention."

That study won the Top Faculty Paper award for the Communication Theory and Methodology Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the largest and oldest mass communication academic organization, UT was proud to note

Based on his research, Wagner had some advice for anti-drug advertisers: Don't try so hard. "The conventional anti-drug advertising strategy has been to produce highly visible, attention-grabbing ads, most notably the campaign linking drug use and terrorism, and to place them at times when viewers are likely to be most attentive, for example, the Super Bowl," adds Wagner. "Although this may be an effective political strategy, it's less likely to achieve the goal of preventing illicit drug use."

No, but it makes great theater and provides many opportunities for parody.

Read an extensive feature article on Wagner and his work at http://www.utexas.edu/features/ online -- find the article in the archives when it is removed from the current feature page.


12. Newsbrief: Alcohol Prohibition Coming to Nigerian State

Lawmakers in the mostly Islamic northern Nigerian state of Kano have voted for a law that would impose whipping for Moslems and jail time for Christians caught drinking alcohol, the Associated Press reported Saturday. The bill stand must be signed by the governor before becoming law.

Kano Central Mosque
The move has stirred fears it will stir ethnic and religious violence in Kano, which, along with other Muslim-dominated Nigerian states, has seen waves of conflict as local authorities have attempted to impose sharia, or Islamic law, since the overthrow of the military dictatorship five years ago. Tensions are high this week after the killing of an estimated 500 Moslems by Christian mobs in the central state of Plateau, the AP reported. More rioting broke out in Kano City itself this week, leaving at least 30 dead in Muslim-Christian strife, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation Thursday.

Muslims who get caught drinking alcohol will be whipped with "80 strokes of the cane," while Christians face a one-year jail sentence, a $380 fine, or both, Kano legislative speaker Saidu Balarabe Gani said in local radio broadcasts Saturday.

That is a tougher policy than instituted in other Muslim-dominated states with sharia laws. According to the AP, in those states, the ban against Muslims drinking is rarely enforced, and Christians are allowed to drink at federal military and police establishments. [!]

The radio announcement didn't go over well with at least one central Kano City listener consulted by the AP. "This is an attempt to cause bloodshed," shouted Adams Yakubu, who said he was Christian. If authorities try to enforce the alcohol ban on Christians and animists, "only God knows what will follow," he warned.


13. Newsbrief: Study Finds "No Increased Risk" for Marijuana-Using Drivers

Dutch researchers studying the association between drug use and traffic accidents have found "no increased risk" of accident-related trauma in drivers who have been using marijuana. The finding comes amidst increasing controversy over "drugged driving" and the federal push to see zero-tolerance DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) laws passed nationwide (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/329/driving.shtml). Under federal model legislation, those laws would define drivers found with even traces of illicit drugs in their system as impaired -- without requiring any showing of actual impairment.

The study, which was conducted by scientists at the Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, reviewed the cases of 110 drivers hospitalized in traffic accidents, as well as an additional 816 control subjects selected at random as they drove down Dutch roads. All 926 subjects underwent blood or urine drug testing. The main objective of the study, wrote the authors, "was to estimate the association between psychoactive drug use and motor vehicle accidents requiring hospitalization." Researchers used the "odds ratio," or the likelihood that the use of single or multiple drugs would increase the odds of getting into a traffic accident requiring hospitalization.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that driving under the influence of alcohol dramatically increased the odds of getting in wreck. Even people who consumed less than the legal limit (those between 0.5% and 0.8% blood alcohol levels) had a five-fold increase in the risk of serious accident, while drivers above the US legal limit were 15 times more likely to get in bad wrecks. Likewise, drivers using benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Rohypnol, were five times more likely to smash up. And drivers using multi-drug or drug and alcohol combinations were also much more likely to have an accident requiring hospitalization.

For drivers using amphetamines, cocaine, or opiates, the researchers found some increased risk, but qualified it as "not statistically significant." And the pot-heads?

They didn't actually live up to the portrayal of them by the drug warriors as a highway menace. "There was no increased risk for road trauma found for drivers exposed to cannabis," is how the authors put it in their abstract.

The complete article, "Psychoactive substance use and the risk of motor vehicle accidents," published in the professional journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, is not available online unless you want to pay $30 to the publishers (http://www.sciencedirect.com), but an abstract is available at PubMed at:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15094417


14. Newsbrief: Hip-Hop Summit Announces Mass Rally Against Drug War at GOP Convention

New York City is going to be a very busy place when the Republicans venture into potentially hostile territory for the national convention at the end of August. Numerous groups are already planning protests and demonstrations, and now hip-hop entrepreneur turned social activist Russell Simmons and his Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (http://www.hiphopsummitactionnetwork.org), or HSAN have filed for a permit to hold a demonstration outside Madison Square Garden, where the convention will take place, on August 30, the meeting's opening day.

The "Mobilization to Focus on Ending the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State and Mandatory Minimum Sentences Throughout the United States" will draw 50,000 people, the New York Civil Liberties Union estimated, in the permit application it helped draft for the demonstration.

Russell Simmons addresses the media
at the June 4, 2003 rally
(photo courtesy 15yearstolife.com)
Given Simmons' past performance, such a turnout is not unlikely. Last June, Simmons and a slew of hip-hop performers drew tens of thousands to midtown Manhattan on a rainy day in an effort to break the legislative stalemate that has stymied reform or repeal of the state's draconian Rockefeller drug laws (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/290/tensofthousands.shtml). And Simmons and HSAN have promised more star power this time around, with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Nas, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Mariah Carey and Carly Simon among those slated to attend the rally. "We intend to raise public awareness by mobilizing tens of thousands of young people to register to vote and to speak out about the unfairness of the Rockefeller Drug Laws," Simmons told AllHipHop.com. "This will be the biggest hip-hop gathering ever, and we intend for our voices to be heard. We will not be silenced. The March on New York is going down. It will be the illest march in history."

Late last month, Simmons and Dr. Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, president and CEO of HSAN, issued a call to youth leaders across the country to organize busloads of young people to travel to New York City for the demonstration and Hip-Hop Action Summit. They should come to New York to protest "the unfairness of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and other mandatory minimum sentences, as well as support for more funding for equal, high quality education in the public school systems throughout the nation," said the pair.

While emphasizing the injustice of the drug war, Simmons and Muhammad are also placing that struggle within the context of a broader progressive agenda. "The March on New York is a march for freedom, justice and equality," said Muhammad. "We are saying 'no' to Rockefeller Drug Laws and we are saying 'yes' to youth voter registration and mobilization, as well as saying 'yes' to equal, high quality education for in all public schools. We are saying 'no' to the war in Iraq and 'yes' to a war on poverty and ignorance in America. Hip-hop is about spitting truth in the face of injustice," said Muhammad.


15. Newsbrief: Finnish Green MP Causes Flap with Admission of Cannabis Use

There are Green parties and then there are Green parties. In most countries, the Greens have adopted progressive drug reform planks, and in some places, Green politicians are prominent cannabis advocates, but things are a little different in Scandinavia. An indication of Nordic sensibilities came last week, when Finnish Green League Member of Parliament (MP) Rosa Anneli Meriläinen was scolded by her own party leadership for being a little too candid about cannabis.

Rosa Meriläinen
The flap started when Meriläinen admitted in an interview with the magazine Image that she "smoked a little cannabis at some parties" around a year ago, during her term as an MP. The 28-year-old former party vice-chair then became the object of discussion in the Green's Parliamentary Group, the Helsingin Sanomat reported.

According to the Finnish newspaper, Meriläinen's comments were regarded as "awkward" for the party as it prepares for June elections to the European Parliament. Current party leaer Osmo Soininvaara was not amused. "Particularly stupid," he said. "The laws currently in force should be respected."

That reaction is not surprising, given the Finnish Greens' stance on drug policy. In a single platform paragraph that lumps drugs in with prostitution, the party position fails to mention legalization or even decriminalization of cannabis. Instead, the platform emphasizes prevention and treatment -- "recovering from alcohol or drug abuse is supported," it says. The platform does call for improved availability of maintenance and substitution treatments for hard drug addiction.

Whatever their stance on drug policy, the Finnish Greens are weak, with only 14 MPs out of 200, making them the country's fifth-largest political party.

Visit http://www.vihrealiitto.fi/english.shtml to read the Finnish Green platform online.


16. Newsbrief: Million Marijuana Marches, Continued -- Rocking in Rosario, Repression in Russia and Israel

This year's Million Marijuana Marches, which stretched across two weekends this year, have come to an end, but not always happily. The forces of repression, which visited Buenos Aires the previous weekend, were busy in Moscow and Tel Aviv.

In Israel, uniformed and undercover police shut down the May 8 International Marijuana Day event at HaYarkon Park in Tel Aviv after arresting 30 people for the suspected use or possession of marijuana, the Jerusalem Post reported. Event organizer and Green Leaf Party head Boaz Wachtel was among those detained.

The police moved in four hours after the event began, swarming the sound system and shutting it down, cutting off the music right in the middle of Peter Tosh's classic herb anthem, "Legalize It." Although some pushing and shoving and shouts of "fascists" and "police state" broke out, that was the extent of the violence.

"I came to the conclusion that this was a drug party and violation of the law won't be tolerated. After thirty people were arrested for using drugs, it was decided to close down the event," said Brigadier General Aaron Ezra of the Tel Aviv police.

But the Post suggested that perhaps Ezra had other reasons for shutting down the event, which had been held peacefully for the past six years. This year, the event had a higher profile because Knesset member Roman Bronfman was set to give a speech announcing he would file medical marijuana and marijuana decriminalization bills. The event was shut down 15 minutes before Bronfman was set to take the stage.

"From my standpoint, today's event is legal, after the high court rejected a petition [to ban the event] and after the city of Tel Aviv gave authorization for the event to be held," Bronfman told reporters at the event. "I think the police were the ones who disturbed the peace. "The police knew I was supposed to speak at 4:00pm, and I interpret what happened here now as a suppression of free speech and not allowing a Knesset member to express his opinion."

Official reaction was much the same in Moscow, where protesters at the "World Hemp March" were arrested for taking part in an unauthorized protest. According to the Moscow Times, the city refused to grant a permit for the march, claiming it would violate the state law that forbids illicit drug propaganda. About 30 people showed up anyway, and they were arrested. They were to be released "once their transgressions are documented," police told the Times.

Although authorities in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires behaved like those in Tel Aviv and Moscow earlier this month, shutting down the Buenos Aires "Festival Against Intolerance" at the last minute even as thousands streamed toward the site, it was a different story last weekend in Argentina's second largest city, Rosario.

Like its Buenos Aires counterpart, the Rosario "Festival Against Intolerance" was organized by the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). More than 6,000 attended, reported ARDA's Silvia Inchaurraga. "We organized this as part of our National Campaign for the Depenalization of Drugs for Personal Use," she said. "We had 11 bands, as well as ARDA representatives, national Deputy Eduardo Garcia, author of the decriminalization bill introduced in November, and a member of the drug user network RADDUD, as well," Inchaurraga reported.

Participants chanted slogans such as "Just Say No to The War on Drug Users," "Cures Not Wars," and "In Argentina the Drug Law is More Harmful Than the Drugs." Now if someone could just convince the drug warriors.


17. This Week in History

May 14, 1993: The New York Times reports that Judge Whitman Knapp said, "After 20 years on the bench I have concluded that federal drug laws are a disaster. It is time to get the government out of drug enforcement."

May 15, 1928: Arnold Trebach, founder of The Drug Policy Foundation and widely regarded as the father of the modern drug policy reform movement, is born.

May 15, 1988: Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and others call for a national debate on decriminalizing illicit narcotics. Schmoke is quoted by the Washington Post, "Decriminalization would take the profit out of drugs and greatly reduce, if not eliminate, the drug-related violence that is currently plaguing our streets."

May 15, 1997: Conclusions from a comprehensive, long-term study by Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, CA) show no substantial link between regular marijuana smoking and death, but suggest that marijuana prohibition may itself pose a health hazard to the user.

May 15, 2001: Governor of Hawaii Ben Cayetano is quoted by the Associate Press, "I just think that it's a matter of time that Congress finally gets around to understanding that the states should be allowed to provide this kind of relief [medical marijuana] to the people. Congress is way, way behind in their thinking."

May 16, 2001: Regina McKnight is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in South Carolina for using crack during a pregnancy that ended in a stillbirth. It is the first time in US history that a woman is convicted of homicide for using drugs during a pregnancy.

May 20, 1997: In Redford, TX, eighteen year-old Ezequiel Hernandez, Jr. is shot on his own property by camouflaged Marines who were involved in a Joint Task Force-6 border drug interdiction operation. Hernandez becomes the first American citizen killed on American soil by US soldiers in peacetime. No drugs of any kind were found on the young high school student's body or in the immediate vicinity. Hernandez had never been suspected of or arrested for any criminal or drug-related activity.


18. Job Opportunity: Program Coordinator, International Harm Reduction Development Program, OSI

The Open Society Institute (OSI), a private operating and grantmaking foundation based in New York City, implements a range of initiatives to promote open society by shaping government policy and supporting education, media, public health, and human and women's rights, as well as social, legal, and economic reform. To foster open society on a global level, OSI aims to bring together a larger Open Society Network of other nongovernmental organizations, international institutions, and government agencies. OSI was created in 1993 by investor and philanthropist George Soros to support his foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Those foundations were established, starting in 1984, to help former communist countries in their transition to democracy. OSI has expanded the activities of the Soros foundations network to other areas of the world where the transition to democracy is of particular concern. The network encompasses more than 50 countries with initiatives in Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, as well as in Haiti, Mongolia, and Turkey. OSI also supports programs in the US and selected projects elsewhere in the world.

The International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD) strives to reduce the level of health and social harms related to illegal drug use, especially the risk of HIV-infection, in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Program Coordinator works under the supervision of the Program Director, providing both administrative and program support, which includes both basic administrative functions (faxing, filing, paying bills) as well as cooperating with the Program Director to complete special projects.

The responsibilities of the Program Coordinator will include: supervising and monitoring grantees' and consultants' reporting; assisting with preparation and monitoring of all IHRD program and administrative budgets; processing and tracking payment requests and budget modifications; working closely with National Foundation staff to resolve substantive and administrative issues, including grant administration and travel logistics related to policy initiatives; drafting correspondence; maintain and updating electronic and paper files; overseeing program databases; preparing reports to the IHRD Advisory Group, Network Public Health Sub-Board, and others as necessary; reviewing of proposals, recommendations for funding, and preparation of contracts and grant letters; assisting in the development and writing of funding proposals and other fundraising efforts; assisting in the organization, content development, and logistics for international trainings, conferences and meetings; accounting for senior staff's travel and other expenses; researching public health and policy issues as directed; assisting New York and Budapest program staff with special projects, as directed by Director and Deputy Director; providing input into program strategy and development and work with program staff to implement long range plans; developing relationships with partner organizations; responding to general program inquiries; and assisting with administrative elements of busy office upkeep.

Required qualifications include: bachelor's degree; high level of organization and self-motivation; attentive to detail; flexibility and willingness to work on a range of tasks from the mundane to the more creative; ability to listen and communicate clearly and effectively with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds; willingness to travel internationally as required; ability to work independently and as a team member (with staff in the New York and Budapest offices and with partner organizations) to accomplish specific projects or tasks; willingness to work on concurrent issues and projects; and strong oral and written English skills. Knowledge of Central or Eastern European language is preferred but not required; interest and related experience in HIV prevention, drug use issues, needle exchange and substitution therapy is preferred but not required.

Must be available to work until May 2005, salary commensurate with experience, includes full benefits, start date May 2004.

To apply, send resume, cover letter, and salary requirements, by June 7, 2004, to: Open Society Institute, Human Resources, Code PC/IHRD, 400 W. 59th Street, New York, NY 10019, or fax to (212) 548-4675. No telephone inquiries please. The Open Society Institute is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


19. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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.

May 21-22, Sturgis, SD, "Fourth Annual Hemp Hoe Down," two-day educational event. At Elk View Campground, Exit 37 off I-90, $20 includes two days of live music, hemp food and hemp beer, and campaign, or $7 per day with $5 one-night camping fee, 1/3 of proceeds to benefit Alex White Plume and family. For further information visit http://www.HEMPhasis.net or contact Jeremy at (605) 484-1806 or [email protected].

May 22, Chicago, IL, Drug War Awareness Party, event celebrating Columbia College SSDP's new recognition as a student organization. Contact Emily Fioramonte at [email protected] for information.

May 26, 7:30pm, Kailoura, New Zealand, Drug Policy Forum Trust public presentation on medical marijuana. At the Old Government Buildings, Room LT3, 3 Lambton Quay, Wellington (across from Beehive and Cenotaph), free and open to the public. For further information, contact DPFT at 083 275 557 or [email protected] or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org.nz online.

May 27, 7:30pm, Kailoura, New Zealand, Drug Policy Forum Trust public presentation on medical marijuana. At the Old Government Buildings, Room LT3, 3 Lambton Quay, Wellington (across from Beehive and Cenotaph), free and open to the public. For further information, contact DPFT at 083 275 557 or [email protected] or visit http://www.drugpolicy.org.nz online.

June 3, 7:00pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Un-Cabaret" benefit event for Drug Policy Alliance, featuring Arianna Huffington, Laura Kightlinger, Beth Lapides, Bill Maher, Kevin Nealon, Jill Sobule, Jerry Stahl and Tenacious D (Jack Black & Kyle Gass). At the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., contact Mann Productions at (323) 314-7000 for further information.

June 4, US, National Day of Action for Medical Marijuana, visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/05_12_04dayofaction.cfm for further information.

June 4-5, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Legalize! street rave against the drug war. Visit http://www.legalize.net for further information.

June 5, 1:00pm, Ottawa, Canada, "Fill the Hill 2004: Freedom March on Parliament Hill," demonstration against marijuana prohibition. Visit http://www.fillthehill.ca or e-mail [email protected] 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.

July 9, Bangkok, Thailand, "Human Rights at the Margins: HIV/AIDS, Prisoners, Drug Users and the Law," satellite conference preceding the 15th International AIDS Conference. Sponsored by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit (India), the International Harm Reduction Development Program, and the Thai Drug Users Network, co-hosted by UNAIDS with additional partner ICASO. Registration fee $75, can be waived for persons with HIV or from developing countries, limited to 125 participants. For further information, visit http://www.aidslaw.ca/bangkok2004/e-bangkok2004.htm or contact Natalie Morin at (514) 397-6828 or [email protected].

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.

August 30, 3:00-6:00pm, New York, NY, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network protest against the drug war and mandatory minimum sentences, requested location 7th Ave. between 24th & 34th Streets. For further information e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.hiphopsummitactionnetwork.org online.

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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