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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #339, 5/28/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Judge the System
  2. California Senate Votes to Bar Random Drug Tests in Schools
  3. DRCNet Interview: Frank Fisher, MD
  4. Medical Marijuana Minds Gather in Charlottesville
  5. Federal Appeals Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law -- DEA Threats to Prosecute Hindered Pain Control
  6. Newsbrief: Camden Opens Second Front in New Jersey Needle Exchange Rebellion
  7. Newsbrief: Needle Exchange Comes to Paraguay
  8. Newsbrief: Ohio Man Deported for Minor Marijuana Conviction Found Murdered in Brazil
  9. Newsbrief: Life for Meth
  10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  11. Newsbrief: Kentucky Prosecutor Offers to Drop Charges in Return for Sex -- X-Rated Romp Caught on Video
  12. Newsbrief: Supreme Court Expands Police Search Powers Again -- Cops Can Now Search Parked Cars Incident to Arrest
  13. This Week in History
  14. Media Scan -- Too Many to List in the Headline This Time!
  15. 3rd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival and Contest
  16. Job Opportunities at MPP
  17. Job Opportunity: Campaign Coordinator for Marijuana Policy Reform, ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project
  18. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Judge the System

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 5/28/04

David Borden
One of the things about this job -- running an organization calling for an end to prohibition of drugs -- is that any new introduction in a social situation inevitably turns into a political conversation. Sometimes instead of just telling people exactly what I do, I instead describe myself as a "professional troublemaker."

Recently I caused some actual trouble -- or rather, got into some trouble -- with a civil disobedience I committed, an act in which I was followed shortly thereafter by our associate director. In August of last year I sent an open letter to DC Chief Judge Rufus G. King III explaining that I was refusing to report for jury service, and laying out as my reasons a critique of the drug war and the corrupting impact it has had on the US criminal justice system as a whole (

Reaction to my letter was varied, even within the drug reform movement itself. Indeed, the gesture is not a straightforward one -- we want people who hate the drug laws to serve on juries, after all, especially drug case juries. Maybe some of them will get to set someone free who would have otherwise served a prison term undeservedly. Most people came around to appreciating what we were doing when they realized how unlikely it was that either of us would get picked for that kind of a jury, given that we have to inform the court who our employer is, and seeing the press we got for the issue in venues including The Washington Post. And there was a principle involved that is sound -- not only are the drug laws wrong, but the system itself has become so badly corroded in its ethical standards that reasonable people can feel they should not be associated with it or support it with their service. Not to say that that is an inevitable conclusion; this was very much an individual action, and others have to individually decide what is the right course for them.

Two of the reasons to feel that way about the system are the extent and seriousness of police and prosecutorial misconduct. It's not that most cops are bad or that most prosecutors are bad. But overall such problems occur with a frequency and severity that reflects an astounding lack of effort on the part of the system to police its own ranks. As the former police chief of San Jose and Kansas City, Joseph McNamara, has pointed out, felony perjury by police officers takes place literally hundreds of thousands of times per year in drug cases alone. A study by the Center for Public Integrity found that prosecutorial misconduct occurs frequently, can have terrible consequences for its victims, but is almost never punished.

One such victim is Dr. Frank Fisher, a California physician who specialized in the treatment of severe, chronic pain. As last week's Drug War Chronicle reported, the state's criminal prosecution of Fisher ended "not with a bang, but a whimper," as a campaign that began with three homicide charges ended up being tried as a minor case of fraud involving $150 of Medi-Cal fees, charges of which Fisher was acquitted.

This week's issue of Drug War Chronicle includes an interview with Dr. Fisher, in which among other things he details a lengthy pattern of prosecutorial misconduct that characterized the case against him from the beginning. In short, prosecutors lied over and over to create the appearance that the charges they had brought were anything other than a scurrilous fiction. He also discusses the impact the prosecution had on his patients -- and on pain patients generally nationwide -- all of these are also victims of this and other similar pain doctor prosecutions. Of course, the prosecutors haven't been punished for their crimes against Dr. Fisher and the state, and they probably won't be.

Just as Dr. Fisher's multi-year ordeal in California's criminal courts has now ended, on our end our multi-month standoff with the DC courts is winding to an end as well. Simply, Judge King had more cards to play then we knew about; we only counted on the limited penalties available to him under criminal contempt of court, not the open-ended ongoing coercive measures possible through civil contempt. More about that later. For now suffice it to say that having made our point, and having held out for the greater part of a year, sometime in the reasonably near future David Guard and I will be complying with the court's order to report for jury service.

Unfortunately, our "service" is likely to consist of reporting and getting sent home because of our views. This is one of the reasons we decided to do what we did in the first place. Regardless, until the system begins to hold to account those who abuse their positions and deceive judges and juries to garner convictions, we will continue to judge the system wanting and our service will be provided under duress. The failings of the justice system tarnish the integrity of our nation as a whole. So stand up, judge the system, and demand reform.

2. California Senate Votes to Bar Random Drug Tests in Schools

In a ground-breaking move, the California Senate voted Tuesday to ban the random drug testing of students in the state's public schools. If the bill is passed in the Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California would become the first state in the nation to explicitly bar suspicionless testing of students. Such a move would be a direct rebuke to efforts by President Bush and drug czar John Walters to expand the use of student drug testing as part of their war on drugs. In his State of the Union speech in January, President Bush called for expanded federal spending to support school districts that want to embark on drug testing programs.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), would bar drug testing unless school officials reasonably suspected a student of illegal drug or alcohol use "in the school environment." That suspicion would have to be based on "articulable facts," not gossip, rumor, or social factors, such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or having friends or family members who use drugs.

The bill would also require school authorities to try to obtain written consent from a student's parents before ordering a student to take a drug test. And it would require schools to refer students who test positive to counseling. The bill would not bar school districts from suspending or expelling students who are found to have used drugs.

According to the office of the state's legislative analyst, roughly 15% of California school districts have enacted student drug testing programs. According to a national survey cited by the legislative analysts, 13% of schools nationwide have a drug testing program, with a majority of those limited to testing student athletes or students participating in extracurricular activities.

In separate rulings in recent years, the US Supreme Court has upheld the right of school districts to conduct random, suspicionless drug tests on student athletes and students involved in extracurricular activities. Although the court has not explicitly okayed the random drug testing of all students -- just certain classes of students -- the Bush administration reads those decisions as implying that testing all students would be constitutional.

The bill was largely the brainchild of the Drug Policy Alliance (, said Glenn Backes, the group's Oakland-based health policy director. "We sponsored the bill in sponsorship with the California state PTA," he told DRCNet. "But we made it happen. We know who the good legislators are and how to bring it to them. We salute Sen. Vasconcellos for being out in front on yet another drug policy issue."

And while the bill passed the Senate on a 26-10 vote, it wasn't exactly a cakewalk, said Backes. "There were bumps along the way. This is a new issue for most legislators, but what we found was that a lot of folks in both parties are adamantly opposed to random drug testing," he explained. "The trick was crafting a bill that respects the needs of schools to promote safety and security while at the same time banning this wasteful and insulting product called random drug testing. One big issue was local control. The legislature had to decide if telling school districts they couldn't do this even if they got money from Bush was an appropriate use of legislative power."

Indeed, the issue of local control prodded the California School Board Association to oppose the bill. The association said it feared the bill would tie the hands of districts that wanted to institute random drug testing of students. Other than a group called Responsible Citizens, Inc., a "family values" organization, which warned that if the bill were passed "it will invite large numbers of pupils to abuse illegal drugs, steroids, inhalant and others by lowering the risk of being caught," the school board association was the only organized opposition to the bill.

Along with the California PTA, the bill was also supported by the Mendocino County Office of Education. "I'm not against drug testing per se, but I supported the bill because of the ban on arbitrary random drug testing," said county education office Superintendent Paul Tichinen. "You just can't do random drug testing; the research shows it is neither productive nor beneficial," he told DRCNet. "We need criteria to establish probable cause, so that we are not randomly testing every single athlete or every single student council member."

Under the bill, said Tichinen, positive test results would be shared with parents and the school, but not with police for punitive enforcement purposes. "The question is what can we do to mitigate the substance abuse problem," he said. "With a positive test, the school would need to refer the student and his parents to a student study team, which is where you bring together students and parents and teachers and counselors to try to find out what is going on."

California has a "zero-tolerance" law that demands expulsion for drug sales, weapons possession, or acts of violence within the schools, but that need not conflict with the bill barring random drug tests, said Tichinen. "Individual schools do have zero-tolerance, but many districts will suspend the suspension or expulsion and instead will attempt to work with the student through a student study team."

While the conventional wisdom is that Democrats are more amenable to such bills than Republicans, opposition to random drug testing crossed the partisan divide. During debate on the bill, rock-ribbed conservatives such as Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) stood on principle to support the measure. "How many of you folks in this room would submit to random drug testing if that's what this bill did?" asked Aanestad. "I would not. I can't think of anything that would be more repulsive to the conservative philosophy of the Republican Party."

"We reached out to conservatives as well as liberals," said DPA's Backes. That strategy could lay the groundwork for getting the bill through the Assembly, he said. "Having picked up a majority of Democratic votes and a handful of respected conservatives, we have traction to talk about this issue and to work our strategy of conversing across the ideological spectrum. It has been a process of trial and error," he conceded.

But Backes said time and momentum were on the bill's side. "We think we can get this passed this year. The session is not over until August, so we have some time. And while the Assembly can be more difficult to move a bill in than the Senate, we already have leaders from both parties signed on to this in the Assembly. It feels like the momentum is gathering."

Read the drug testing bill, SB1386, online at:

3. DRCNet Interview: Frank Fisher, MD

With a Harvard medical degree, Dr. Frank Fisher could have set up shop anywhere. He chose Northern California's remote Shasta County, where he founded a clinic to provide medical treatment to a largely poor and rural clientele and developed a reputation as an effective provider of pain management. But Fisher's practice and his life were shattered in February 1999, when his offices were raided and he was hauled off in handcuffs to be charged with murder and drug dealing. Along with a couple, Steven and Madeline Miller, who ran a local pharmacy that filled prescriptions for Fisher, the doctor faced decades in prison.

DRCNet has followed Dr. Fisher's case since the summer of 2000, when he, the Millers, and some loyal patients showed up at the Shadow Convention accompanying the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles seeking help and support ( What can only be called the persecution of Dr. Fisher was a harbinger of what has now become a wave of prosecutions of pain doctors, which has only intensified as the federal government has made prescription drug abuse the drug menace du jour.

Now, more than five years after his encounter with the war on drugs, Fisher was exonerated two weeks ago of the last remaining criminal charges, a handful of measly misdemeanors charging him with defrauding Medi-Cal of some very small change ( The murder charges evaporated into thin air upon closer examination -- one of his supposed victims was a passenger in a fatal traffic accident, another had stolen drugs from the patient to whom Fisher had prescribed them -- and the associated charges of illegally prescribing were similarly thrown out. All that remains now between Fisher and the renewal of his practice is a complaint with the state medical board that basically rehashes the same charges of which he has been cleared.

In part because of his ordeal at the hands of the drug fighters, Fisher has emerged as a strong voice for the right of doctors to treat chronic severe pain and for patients to receive adequate pain relief without interference from law enforcement. DRCNet spoke with Fisher this week.

Drug War Chronicle: You were labeled a murdering drug dealer. You faced life in prison. You've undergone five years of legal battles to clear your name. Now you have been entirely acquitted of the last criminal charges against you. How does it feel?

Dr. Frank Fisher: I feel relieved. I've been under investigation or indictment since the middle of 1996, and finally nobody thinks I'm a criminal anymore. That's a relief.

Chronicle: You have been exonerated of all criminal charges, so we have some idea of how just was the decision to prosecute you. But you are saying it goes beyond that. Are you alleging prosecutorial misconduct?

Frank Fisher
Fisher: There are numerous examples. During the initial investigation of my case, numerous undercover agents were sent into my clinic to try to obtain drugs illegally. None of them ever got anything, but the prosecutors never disclosed this enormously exculpatory information to my defense team. We only found out about it on the last day of my preliminary hearing, when my attorney, Terence Hallinan, uncovered it during the cross-examination of one of the agents. We don't think this was withheld by accident.

The prosecutors also got caught red-handed putting on false testimony during the preliminary hearing. They were eliciting hearsay testimony from an agent who had spoken with an informant. The problem was that the informant had already recanted his statement, and the prosecutors knew it. But they still put it in as sworn testimony. The lead investigator later testified that they had knowingly done this. These were not local prosecutors, but attorneys on the staff of California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
We had another agent who testified that she had conspired with other agents to deliberately violate the Millers' Miranda rights. She testified that she let the Millers believe they were not under arrest so they would feel more comfortable and talk to police. There was also testimony from the preliminary hearing that agents from the attorney general's office threatened the husband of an informant. They not only offered her assistance in a criminal case, but said if she didn't help, her case could go badly. That sounds like a threat to me.

And then there is the fact that they even bothered to try me on the Medical fraud counts, which allegedly amounted to about $150. They don't generally bring those cases for less than $10,000. It was personal. So yes, I think there was a pattern of prosecutorial abuse.

Chronicle: Despite your vindication in the criminal courts, you're not completely out of the woods. You still face a medical board hearing. What is going on with that?

Fisher: We are sorting that out. The medical board complaint echoes the criminal charges of which I have been acquitted and had been held in abeyance pending the conclusion of the criminal cases. The medical board accusations are of negligence and incompetence, based on my treatment of chronic intractable pain. This proceeding raises in my mind that question of how the California's Intractable Pain Act of 1990 might come into play. With that law, the state intended that the medical board not trouble doctors over the treatment of intractable pain, but the law seems to be toothless. Still, I am confident that I will prevail at the medical board just as I have in court. And my attorney Hallinan says it's time to get busy on it. He wants to get me back to work.

Chronicle: You ran a large clinic serving a predominantly poor and rural clientele. What happened to your patients after your practice was shut down?

Fisher: The impact on the patients has been devastating, it's been an unmitigated disaster. Their health has deteriorated, they've been unable to get medical care, some appear to have aged 20 years in five years, others haven't even survived. Some patients have gained enormous amounts of weight, others have their blood pressure out of control. I suspect there has been at least one suicide. Patients are having to travel great distances to get their care; they go to Eugene or Fresno or San Francisco. Of the patients I still talk to, I don't think a single one is being adequately treated.

Chronicle: The majority of your patients were Medi-Cal patients, poor people. Is there a class issue involved in the availability of pain treatment?

Fisher: The availability of pain management for poor people is even worse than for the rest of us. And it's not good for the rest of us. Everyone who develops chronic pain is likely to be killed by it because of medical neglect. It's a malignancy in the sense that if it is not controlled, it will spread and progress. My patients were effectively tossed out on the street to fend for themselves. The local medical clinic saw them as drug addicts who needed to be detoxed.

Chronicle: How did other doctors react?

Fisher: There were some doctors who stood up for me, but there was really no public venue to do so. Others turned on me like mad dogs. One compared me to Dr. Kevorkian. Local doctors were in a panic after I was arrested. As a result, it became very difficult to obtain adequate pain treatment in Shasta County.

And it is not just Shasta County. I've noticed over the last several years that effective pain management for people with severe chronic pain is getting harder and harder to obtain. The problem is that the doctors are too afraid to prescribe enough medicine to control the disease. Doctors have become incredibly jumpy and are throwing patients out of their practices for any kind of perceived transgression, such as running out of medication early or missing an appointment. These are not issues around which the medical profession typically discharges patients, but in pain management the terrain is all disrupted by prohibition.

Currently, prohibitionist laws insert the principle of balance within the doctor-patient relationship. That principle requires the doctor to balance the needs of patients with the potential harm to society at large by his prescribing opioid pain relievers. But that doesn't work for patient care; it's a social policy mistake. It abrogates the doctor-patient relationship, which is to put the interests of patients first rather than balance them against those of a larger group. Balance is not necessarily a bad thing, but it has to occur outside the doctor-patient relationship.

Chronicle: What has your experience led you to conclude about current drug policies?

Fisher: I had misgivings about the drug war for a number of years; it didn't appear to be good social policy. But I had no idea of the extent to which it would ultimately affect my life and my patients, that I would become a casualty of the war on drugs and my patients would be collateral damage. I think the war on drugs has been an unmitigated disaster in every sense of the word.

I suspect that society will have to choose between pain management and the war on drugs. They cannot coexist in balance. That's because the institution of prohibition and the resulting drug war create a social malignancy where it is unacceptably risky for doctors to prescribe opioids in treatment of chronic pain. What prohibition has done is put law enforcement in the position of judging which doctors are prescribing legally and which aren't, but law enforcement is not competent to make those judgments. They need an in-depth understanding of the standards of practice for medicine, and they just don't and can't have it. Even within the field there are disputes and controversies over what is appropriate.

Law enforcement has addressed this problem by formulating standards for the practice of pain management, what they call "red flags." Is the doctor prescribing a large volume of opioids in his practice? What is too large? It is whatever law enforcement thinks it is. Another red flag is if patients are coming from long distances. Law enforcement is noting the remarkable fact that patients will travel considerable distances to get relief from pain. The bottom line is that these red flags rather accurately describe the characteristics of practices where pain management is being effectively practiced. You can see why doctors who understand this would think they were fools to treat chronic pain with opioids. I'm not sure how you resolve this in the context of the ongoing drug war. Prohibition is totally incompatible with the practice of effective pain management.

Chronicle: How has this affected you personally?

Fisher: My practice was shut down on February 18, 1999, the day of my arrest. I can't practice medicine. Since then, I've survived by living with my parents, and I've spent most of my time working with my attorneys preparing and defending my cases. I graduated from Harvard with a medical degree; this was not what I anticipated, spending my forties living in my parents' house as a defendant in a criminal case.

Chronicle: You have had to devote the last five years to defending yourself. Now your ordeal is almost over. What's next?

Fisher: It's essential for me to go back to work, back to the practice of medicine. What I really enjoy is running a community health center, taking care of a broad array of disadvantaged patients, including a high percentage of out-patient pediatrics. Before, I had a rural clinic designation, a cost-based program that allowed me to treat Medi-Cal patients, but I got a letter saying I had voluntarily withdrawn from the program. I didn't do that. I was sitting in jail. I wasn't sitting in jail voluntarily.

But I'm not leaving this issue behind, either. Medically, socially, and politically the treatment of pain and its interaction with prohibition and the drug war is one of the most important issues with which our society must deal. The economic cost of under-treated pain is in the range of $100 billion a year, and the unnecessary suffering of patients and their families isn't measurable. In my own case, around 30 patients whom I had been treating and who had been able to work were forced to go on disability. Multiply that across the country and you start to see what the unavailability of pain management costs us.

And the situation is getting worse. Patients are having to travel further to find someone who will treat them, doctors are tossing them out, and I don't see the prosecutions of pain doctors slowing down. It doesn't take very many of those to keep the medical community aware of the risk of prescribing opioids. The vast majority of doctors don't treat pain with opioids, and there is nothing out there to suggest that it is now safe to do so. There is hardly a week that goes by where we don't see a doctor burned at the stake. The medical profession has underestimated the risks of allowing law enforcement to intrude in the doctor-patient relationship; now they are becoming acutely aware of those risks.

4. Medical Marijuana Minds Gather in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, Virginia, was home to a gathering of some of the best and the brightest doctors, nurses, and researchers studying medical applications of marijuana for three days last weekend. Beginning May 20, more than 120 people from across the country, as well as Canada, the Netherlands, Israel and the United Kingdom, met for the Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, an event cosponsored by the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Patients Out of Time, the Virginia-based medical marijuana research and advocacy group.

The conference theme was "Cannabis Use Across the Life Span," and it certainly lived up to that billing. Presentations ranged from University of Iowa School of Nursing Dean Mary Dreher discussing marijuana use during pregnancy to researcher Dr. Ethan Russo elaborating on the uses of cannabis in pediatric medicine to Juan Sanchez-Ramos, director of Movement Disorders at the University of South Florida explicating the neuroprotective effects of cannabis on neurodegenerative disorders, related to aging, such as Parkinsons disease and Alzheimers disease.

Ethan Russo, MD, Univ. of Montana
"I thought it went very well," said Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, president of Patients Out of Time. "We had more than 120 people, and we had physicians and nurses representing at least 10 different state nursing associations, with plans for them to go back and do something in their respective states," she told DRCNet. "As usual, the information presented was well-grounded -- we bring the science, but we also bring the patients and family members to put a human face on it," she said.

Indeed, it was by no means all men in white lab coats. Prominent patient advocates present included Valerie Corral, founder of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, California, federal marijuana patients George McMahon and Irving Rosenfeld, and Jim Miller, husband of now deceased Multiple Sclerosis sufferer and medical marijuana patient Cheryl Miller.

Mary Lynn Mathre, RN and DC Nurses Association
executive director Herman Brown, Esq.
The conference also managed to draw an elected political figure or two. Wisconsin state Rep. Greg Underheim (R) showed, as did Jake Kurtzer, an aide to Florida state Rep. Roger Wishner (D), said Mathre. "And there were two very, very disappointed people who couldn't get here in time because their legislative sessions ran long, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) and Mississippi state Rep. Eric Fleming," she said. "In both cases, they were set to come, but the session wouldn't end."

But it was the cutting edge science that drew the rave reviews. Arnold Trebach, 76, is one of the founding fathers of drug reform in the United States. "I went down there because I thought it would be nice to see old friends," he told DRCNet, "but I learned something from every encounter. I've been at this for 30 years, and I was stunned to see how much I didn't know."

This year was different, said Patients Out of Time volunteer and long-time international cannabis activist Michael Krawitz. "The first two conferences were getting people caught up on the history, and there was a lot of catching up to be done," he told DRCNet. "This is the first one that puts us on the cutting edge. No matter how much you paid attention in the past, you were learning new things this time," he said. "This is the future: Dr. Raphael Mechoulam coming from Israel to talk about Dexabinol with its neuroprotective effects, GW Pharmaceutical's Sativex, the Dutch medical cannabis pharmacy sales program a year old and no controversy."

In fact, complained Mathre, the new science was so compelling it cut into the typical schmoozing in the corridors. "Usually we have people meeting and chatting out in the hallways," she said, "but there was so much new going on that people stayed inside, and this time they were very attentive."

And the new science raised hopes of advances in treating a number of chronic illnesses, with presenter after presenter bringing news of exciting research findings.

"Cannabinoids are useful therapeutic agents for movement disorders and have potential as neuroprotective agents to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases," such as Parkinson's disease and Tourette's syndrome, said Sanchez-Ramos, discussing clinical findings.

Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, Hebrew University
Both Geoffrey Guy, chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals and Denis Petro, chief of neurology at the Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Andrews Air Force Base, reported on findings suggesting that cannabis may not only ease the symptoms of MS but actually limit the progression of the disease. Petro told the conference that other clinical trials found "evidence of inhibition of disease progression" in MS patients given oral THC, according to an account of the conference provided by Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

If the conference attendees were impressed by the presenters, the feeling was mutual. But presenters and organizers alike realize that they still have a ways to go in terms of public interest and acceptance. "We are right in the backyard of the University of Virginia and its medical school, but hardly anyone came to the conference," Mathre said. "There is a lack of interest, but there is also still a certain fear or uneasiness about the whole subject."

"The audience was very savvy and accepting," said Dr. Russo. "The public-at-large and greater medical community are other matters. Clinical cannabis has a huge hurdle to surpass in the form of ignorance and prejudice against it. This will require greater familiarity with positive results from clinical trials with cannabis based medicines, such as the extract Sativex and its demonstrated efficacy and safety."

Go to the Patients Out of Time home page -- -- for information about the availability of conference videos.

For the conference program and list of presenters, visit:

5. Federal Appeals Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law -- DEA Threats to Prosecute Hindered Pain Control

A three-judge federal appeals court panel Wednesday upheld an Oregon law allowing doctors to help terminally ill patients commit suicide. The decision said that Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department did not have the authority to punish Oregon doctors involved in assisted suicides. In its opinion, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had some unusually harsh words for Ashcroft, who, the court said, overstepped his bounds by trying to block the law.

But while the decision is being cheered by right-to-die advocates, it is also being hailed by people involved in the fight to ensure adequate pain management for patients and protection from the drug warriors for the doctors who prescribe for them. And some of the same people are involved. Eli Stutsman, the Portland attorney who helped argue the case, is also representing South Carolina pain management physician Dr. Deborah Bordeaux appeal the criminal conviction resulting from her pain practice, and is a major player in the development of a legal strategy promulgated by the Pain Relief Network ( to reverse the onslaught of federal prosecutions of pain doctors nationwide.

Though views within the pain advocacy community on assisted suicide in principle are not uniform, the two issues are linked functionally through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the law which enshrines criminal prohibition of drugs at the federal level. Just as police attempts to keep opioid drugs (also known as "narcotics") away from addicts and recreational users end up discouraging prescription of those drugs to patients who need them for pain control, threats to enforce the CSA against physicians prescribing opioids (or other) drugs for assisted suicide have had the same effect.

But there is also a more visceral link: Threats to Oregon's assisted suicide law, now in place for seven years, appear to be tied to reports of greater suffering by dying Oregon patients. At the end of 1997, after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) threatened to punish Oregon doctors who helped patients commit suicide, a statewide study found a sharp increase in the level of pain reported by terminal patients. While the study's lead investigator, Susan Tolle, an expert in end-of-life care at Oregon Health Sciences University, was careful in drawing conclusions, she suggested to the Associated Press at the time that publicity over the DEA threats was the cause in the upsurge of suffering.

The connection between anti-assisted suicide enforcement and under-treatment of pain has wide recognition within the medical community. For example, in 1997, a bill entitled the "Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act," sponsored by Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), would have authorized the DEA to revoke or suspend the federal prescription license of a physician who "intentionally dispensed or distributed a controlled substance with a purpose of causing or assisting in causing" suicide. The bill was defeated by a coalition of more than 50 medical and patient groups, who successfully argued that more DEA scrutiny and evaluation of medical decisions would even further discourage physicians from being willing to treat pain. Nickles and Hyde tried again in 1999, including language that would have asserted the supremacy of the CSA over Oregon state law in a larger Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999. While the introduction of that bill was initially met with hopeful reactions by some pain patient advocates, the motives of the Republican pair were suspect, and it died, due in some part to opposition to the attack on Oregon's right to choose to have physician-assisted suicide.

Under the Oregon law, first passed as a voter initiative in 1994 and reaffirmed in 1997, adults whose terminal diseases are likely to kill them within six months may obtain lethal drugs from doctors in order to kill themselves. The law allows Oregon doctors to prescribe, but not to administer the lethal dosages. About 30 Oregonians have availed themselves of the law to end their suffering each year since it took effect, according to state health department records.

Ashcroft, who assumed the attorney general post in 2001 amidst controversy, and whose opposition to assisted suicide stems from his interpretation of fundamentalist Christian doctrine, opposed the Oregon law from the beginning. In 1997, while still a US senator from Missouri, Ashcroft asked then Attorney General Janet Reno to rule that doctor-assisted suicide violated federal law and that doctors who prescribed lethal drugs should face federal reprisals and prosecution under the CSA. Reno refused, arguing that the states should be able to regulate their own doctors. (Inconsistently, Reno attempted to use the same CSA club against doctors who recommended medical marijuana to patients in states where it is legal. In that case, Conant v. McCaffrey, the 9th Circuit also shot down the DC overreaching.)

After becoming attorney general, Ashcroft issued a directive threatening to prosecute doctors under the CSA. But that directive was in force for only a few months before it was put on hold by a preliminary injunction issued by a federal district court at the behest of the state of Oregon, a doctor, a pharmacist, and several terminally ill patients. Now, barring an appeal to the full 9th Circuit or the US Supreme Court, the Ashcroft directive is dead. The Justice Department has not yet announced if or where it will appeal.

The 9th Circuit certainly doesn't appear too friendly to the attorney general. In addition to blocking the effort to punish doctors who recommend medical marijuana, the 9th Circuit also ruled against him in Raich v. Ashcroft, the case brought by California medical marijuana patients seeking relief from federal persecution. In that ruling, the court held that the CSA was unconstitutional when applied to medical marijuana patients not engaged in the sale or interstate distribution of marijuana.

And the court laid into Ashcroft again on Wednesday. "The attorney general's unilateral attempt to regulate general medical practices historically entrusted to state lawmakers interferes with the democratic debate about physician-assisted suicide and far exceeds the scope of his authority under federal law," Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority. "The principle that state governments bear the primary responsibility for evaluating physician-assisted suicide follows from our concept of federalism, which requires that state lawmakers, not the federal government, are the primary regulators of professional medical conduct," Judge Tallman wrote.

Oregon officials cheered the ruling. It was "a slam-dunk victory for the state of Oregon," said Kevin Neely, a spokesman for Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers. "Decisions regarding medical practice are decisions for the state and the state alone to make," he told the New York Times. "Attorney General Ashcroft simply abused his authority in this matter."

"It's a wonderful decision, of course," said Eli Stutsman, the Portland attorney who helped argue the case. "This is a huge setback for the attorney general and, I suspect, a huge disappointment as well. I am very pleased with the narrowness of the opinion," he told DRCNet. "It doesn't push the envelope on constitutional issues, but is based almost entirely on statutory interpretation, which makes the opinion stronger and more resistant to further review. The essence of the opinion is that the attorney general exceeded the language of the statute, the intent of Congress, and his own statutory authority."

Elation over the ruling was not limited to persons interested in physician-assisted suicide. "This is a big win," said Dr. Frank Fisher, the California physician who just weeks ago was exonerated in a five-year legal battle to defend himself from charges he improperly prescribed opioid pain relievers (see interview this issue). "While not directly concerning the pain issue, this decision represents a victory in keeping law enforcement out of the regulation of the practice of medicine, specifically around the issue of controlled substances."

"This is a huge win for the state regulation of medical practice," said Siobhan Reynolds of the Pain Relief Network. "I wonder if Ashcroft is trying to regulate medical practice through the application of the CSA in any other way?" she asked rhetorically.

The Ninth Circuit encompasses the nine western states of Alaska,
Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon,
Washington, and Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. (Photo and
info from

Attorney Stutsman, activist Reynolds, and Dr. Fisher are part of a growing movement to defend doctors and patients from overweening federal interference in the practice of medicine. In recent years, dozens of physicians have been criminally charged as drug dealers for their cutting edge methods of pain treatment using opioids, such as Oxycontin. "In the last five to seven years, we have seen a new effort to regulate and enforce the standard of medical care," said Stutsman, who is representing convicted South Carolina physician Dr. Deborah Bordeaux in the appeal of her conviction. "The DEA introduces standard of care evidence that is very subjective and cites very recent cases that have not yet been challenged. It's a new dynamic."

And it's a departure from the past, he added. "Traditionally, if you go back 10 or 20 or 30 years, you find that enforcement of the drug laws in medicine targeted drug diversion and drug traffic-king, but what has happened recently is that those prosecutions have been subsumed by what are essentially civil medical negligence claims parading as a criminal prosecution. A physician could have been negligent, but that is not necessarily a crime."

The problem here is not bad medicine but bad law and bad law enforcement, said Stutsman. "If these guys were held to older precedent, they would hardly be able to get their evidence in court," he said. "While the feds could rely on unchallenged recent opinions, I have 90 years of jurisprudence to rely on. I think we can turn this back, but it'll be a lot of work. Their case is weak, but with all the power and resources they have, even a weak case is not that weak."

The Justice Department's efforts to use expansive interpretations of the CSA to thwart state's rights -- be it for medical marijuana, pain control or assisted suicide -- has been dealt another blow.

6. Newsbrief: Camden Opens Second Front in New Jersey Needle Exchange Rebellion

Camden on Tuesday became the second New Jersey city to announce plans to conduct a needle exchange program (NEP) in defiance of law enforcement officials. As DRCNet reported last week, Atlantic City recently announced its intention to operate such a program, prompting opinions from local prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz and New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey that state law does not allow municipalities to engage in NEPs.

Camden waterfront
Needle exchange has been shown to reduce the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infections in injection drug users. Although New Jersey has the nation's fifth-highest rate of HIV infection, with more than half of new infections associated with shooting dope, it is one of only five states that requires a prescription to purchase a needle and, along with neighboring Delaware, one of two that has not passed laws allowing NEPs.

But Roseanne Scotti of the Drug Policy Alliance ( found an obscure provision of a 1999 criminal code revision that included government entities (such as municipalities) among those groups exempted from the laws regulating the distribution and possession of syringes. While Scotti's reading of the law has been backed up by city attorneys in Atlantic City and Camden, as well as needle exchange law experts, Atlantic County Prosecutor Blitz and Attorney General Harvey disagree.

Camden isn't waiting for the lawyers. At a city council meeting Tuesday, the council voted to approve a first reading of an ordinance that would establish a NEP in Camden. Introduced by Councilman Ali Sloan-El, the ordinance would place the program under the city Department of Health and Human Services. The department would supervise two programs, one at a facility run by the AIDS Coalition of South Jersey, the other a mobile program operated by the Camden Area Health Education Center.

Sloan-El told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Camden suffered from an epidemic of HIV and and Hepatitis C due to the sharing of contaminated needles and that providing clean ones was necessary. "We feel it is a human service," he said. "We're trying to cut the spread of AIDS."

While officials in both Atlantic City and Camden have expressed a willingness to go to court over the issue, state Sen. Nia Gill has provided one possible alternative. In response to Attorney General Harvey's opinion that city-operated NEPs were illegal, Gill has filed a bill that would make their legality explicit.

After years in the cold with Republican Gov. Christine Whitman, a passionate opponent of needle exchange, drug reformers hoped Democratic Gov. James McGreevey would be more amenable to the idea of NEPS. But while McGreevey has said he supports NEPS, he qualified that by adding only in hospital-based drug-rehab programs. There are none in New Jersey. Relief could come through the courts or through the legislature via the Gill bill. In the meantime, more than 30,000 needle-sharing New Jerseyites are getting HIV each year.

7. Newsbrief: Needle Exchange Comes to Paraguay

A small Paraguayan city on the border with Brazil is poised to operate the first needle exchange program in that landlocked South American nation. The city council of Ypejhú has approved a municipal ordinance dealing with injection drug users that embraces the principles of harm reduction and explicitly calls for the creation of a needle exchange program.

According to Paulo Paes of Mescla Latina, a harm reduction group operating in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay, municipal authorities responded to both harm reductionists and government officials in approving the measure. "The law was approved by means of an intervention by harm reductionists from [the bordering Brazilian state of] Paraná, and secondly by representatives of the Paraguayan Health Ministry, and is the first in the nation that calls for resources to be made available for syringe exchange," he said.

The ordinance is designed to reduce rates of HIV infection among drug users in the area. Article 8 of the municipal ordinance notes that "the free distribution of syringes to injection drug users shall have total priority within the program."

Maybe the Paraguayans need to send a delegation to New Jersey to explain to officials there how a civilized society deals with the dirty needle problem.

8. Newsbrief: Ohio Man Deported for Minor Marijuana Conviction Found Murdered in Brazil

Joao Herbert, adopted by a Wadworth, Ohio, couple from a Brazilian orphanage when he was eight, then deported back to a land he barely remembered after being arrested for a small-time marijuana sale, was found shot to death Tuesday in his native country, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

Herbert's body was found in the slums of Campinas, north of Sao Paulo, where he scraped by teaching English. His adopted mother, Nancy Saunders, told the Beacon Journal she had received reports her son was killed by police.

Herbert was deported after being convicted of selling marijuana to an undercover agent two months after he graduated from high school in 1997. Although he received only a probation sentence from the local court, he was ordered deported under a 1996 amendment to the immigration laws that made all but the most trivial crimes deportable offenses. And while Herbert had been adopted into an American family, US citizenship was not automatic, and he never obtained it.

Saunders and her ex-husband Jim Herbert, Joao's adoptive father, spent two years trying to block their son's deportation, ultimately winning a unanimous recommendation for clemency from the Ohio Parole Board. Republican Gov. Bob Taft denied that recommendation, and Herbert was deported in November 2000.

According to Saunders, a few days before his killing, Herbert had a run-in with Brazilian police, who shook him down for a bribe after finding a gun in his car. Saunders said Herbert told her that police demanded "$3,000 within 24 hours or they would arrest him and send him to jail for 15 years." Jim Herbert sent half that sum. On Tuesday, said Saunders, Herbert was returning home from teaching English when confronted by police, who shot him six times. He was buried in Campinas Thursday.

If the accounts blaming police for Herbert's murder are true, it would be little surprise. Brazilian police are notorious for death squad-style killings. In fact, in a report issued Wednesday, Amnesty International found that "thousands of people, predominantly young, poor, black or mixed-race males, were killed in confrontations with the police, often in situations described officially as 'resistance followed by death.' Few if any of these were fully investigated."

The Brazilian police may have murdered Joao Herbert, but there is also blood on the hands of Gov. Bob Taft and the rest of those drug war zealots who craft laws such as the one that threw a man out of the only country he knew because he sold a bag of pot.

9. Newsbrief: Life for Meth

A Pekin, Illinois, man was sentenced to life in prison on federal methamphetamine manufacture conspiracy charges in Peoria on May 14, the Peoria Journal Star reported.

US District Judge Joe McDade sentenced 25-year-old Kenneth Zimmerman under federal sentencing guidelines that mandate the harsh sentence.

Judge McDade took no pleasure in the sentence and criticized federal sentencing practices in comments to the Journal Star after sentencing. "The (federal) guidelines really impose too much (of a strict sentence)," McDade said. "Young people involved in drugs have to understand if you are involved in distributing drugs such as crack and meth, you're facing long periods of imprisonment."

Zimmerman and codefendant Chad Davis, 26, were found guilty of conspiring to manufacture and distribute almost 15 pounds of meth between 1999 and 2002. Davis received a lesser 24-year sentence because he was not a "ringleader," according to prosecutors. Davis will have to serve 85% of that time, or 20 years, before he is eligible for release.

The Journal Star noted that while Zimmerman is the first Tazewell County (Peoria-Pekin) resident to be sentenced to life in prison for meth manufacture, he is not the first in the state. At least 22 more people face federal indictments in the same operation that netted Zimmerman and Davis.

"I stand before you begging and pleading for my life so some day I can return to my family," Zimmerman said shortly before being sentenced. "I'm a drug addict."

Sorry, kid. Federal law says rot in hell.

10. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

Greedy, greedy, greedy. The allure of easy riches continues to prove too much for some of our men in blue. There have been two corrupt cop cases in the news this week. Based solely on the weights of the dope involved, runner-up honors go to Malden, Massachusetts, police detective David Jordan, who was one of four men arrested May 20 for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Jordan and Jon Minotti, Anthony Bucci, and Francis Muolo were also charged with conspiracy to possess more than 500 grams with the intent to distribute. According to a statement issued by US Attorney Michael Sullivan, Jordan and his trio of buddies had hatched a scheme to disguise a drug deal rip-off as a bust.

According to an affidavit filed with the court, "On December 24, 2003, Minotti, Bucci, Muolo, and Jordan conspired to steal three kilograms of cocaine from a scheduled drug deal. It is alleged that Minotti made arrangements for a supplier to bring three kilograms of cocaine to a meeting at the Malden Medical Center parking lot where Bucci was to purchase the cocaine. It is alleged that shortly after the supplier arrived with the cocaine, Jordan, a detective with the Malden Police Department, arrived on the scene, blocking the supplier's vehicle with his own."

The affidavit continued: "Jordan identified himself as a police officer and then Minotti fled into nearby woods with the three kilograms of cocaine. It is alleged that Jordan then allowed the supplier and Bucci to leave the scene. It is alleged that, as had been previously arranged, Muolo, who had been waiting in his car on the other side of the nearby woods, picked up Minotti after he had run through the woods with the cocaine."

A pretty nifty scheme, indeed. But there was a problem, according to the affidavit. "At the time, DEA agents were involved in a drug investigation and had a wiretap on the drug supplier's telephone. As part of the separate investigation, the DEA agents were surveilling the supplier and observed the incident."

A DEA investigation ensued, and now, Jordan and his buddies are in jail facing mandatory minimum five-year prison sentences and a maximum of 40 years.

But Detective Jordan's exploit doesn't compare with the efforts of former Chicago police officer Mario Morales, who this week was sentenced to 24 years in prison for stealing more than 200 pounds of marijuana from one dealer, attempting to rip-off three other dealers, and abusing a baby in the process.

Morales pleaded guilty in January to racketeering conspiracy and brandishing a firearm charges for the series of incidents. In one of them, Morales stole more than 220 pounds of pot and $10,000 in cash from a Latin Kings gang leader in May 2001. A month later, Morales and a codefendant tried to steal more drugs and money from the man's girlfriend, only to leave her handcuffed with her baby on her lap when they didn't find anything.

In a third robbery attempt, Morales and another codefendant tried to kidnap another drug dealer, but the man struggled and fled. Morales admitted that he flashed his police badge and brandished his weapon during that incident, automatically adding another eight years to his sentence.

Morales' attorney pleaded for mercy, saying his client had been an alcoholic, steroid abuser, and was strung out on pain pills.

11. Newsbrief: Kentucky Prosecutor Offers to Drop Charges in Return for Sex -- X-Rated Romp Caught on Video

A Hardin County (Elizabethtown) prosecutor was suspended Monday after a local defense attorney produced a videotape showing him having sex with a defendant who had agreed to testify in a drug case as part of a plea bargain. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Stevens now faces investigations by the state attorney general's office and the Kentucky Bar Association into his relations with defendant Erica French, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

According to French's lawyer, Kenneth Daniels, who informed authorities of the videotape's existence Monday, French had complained that Stevens made inappropriate advances to her during talks about her testifying against other defendants. French said that Stevens told her he could and would withdraw her guilty plea and drop drug charges against her if she had sex with him. When Stevens told French he needed to come to her house to discuss the cases, French and Daniels decided to record the encounter, Daniels said.

French made the 5½-hour tape last Wednesday beginning at 9:00am, after Stevens came to her home on the pretext that he needed to watch videos relevant to the cases in which French was supposed to be a state's witness. And then they got it on. Daniels said he revealed the tape's existence to Stevens the next day. Stevens offered to use his influence to get the charges against French dropped if Daniels kept the tape secret, Daniels said.

But Daniels said his conscience would not allow that. Instead, Monday morning he reported what he knew to the court and the state bar association. He did not turn over copies of the tape, but did show enough of it to a Courier-Journal reporter to convince the newspaper it was for real.

Daniels said that he had advised French not to have sex with Stevens, and that even if all he did was proposition her or touch her, that would be evidence of misconduct on Stevens' part. "It surprised me quite a bit, but I treat adults as adults," Daniels told the Courier-Journal. "I had advised her against having sex."

Commonwealth's Attorney Christopher G. Shaw, Stevens' supervisor, said he suspended Stevens after a Monday meeting. Shaw declined to discuss specifics, citing ongoing investigations, but said he learned enough to suspend Stevens. "I did gain enough information that I felt I needed to put him on leave," Shaw said.

French had pleaded guilty April 8 to five drug charges involving marijuana and possession of ingredients needed to make methamphetamine. The plea agreement required her to testify against codefendants Billie Joe Strader and Earl Wieman in a case being prosecuted by Stevens.

Daniels will seek to undo the plea agreement and have the charges against French dismissed, he said. Steven's behavior had "tainted" the case, Daniels said.

Commonwealth Attorney Shaw told the Courier-Journal part of the reason French was offered a plea bargain was that she had no criminal record. Or was it because she was a hotter babe than Billie Joe or Earl?

12. Newsbrief: Supreme Court Expands Police Search Powers Again -- Cops Can Now Search Parked Cars Incident to Arrest

In another contraction of Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches and seizures, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can search a parked car for drugs, guns, or other criminal evidence while arresting "recent occupants." The court had previously upheld searches of vehicle interiors incident to the arrest of a driver or passenger, but now extends police search powers to include searches when the arrestee recently left the vehicle.

The case, Thornton v. US, arose when a Norfolk, Virginia, police officer began following Marcus Thornton in traffic. The officer grew suspicious because the license plate registration did not match the vehicle, but Thornton parked his car and left the vehicle before the officer could pull him over. When confronted, Thornton consented to a pat-down search, and the officer found drugs in his pants pocket. After arresting Thornton and placing him in the police car, the officer then searched Thornton's vehicle and found a weapon. Thornton was tried and convicted on federal drug and gun charges.

Thornton appealed, arguing that the reasons the court has allowed police officers to make vehicle searches incident to arrest -- for the safety of the officer and to prevent the destruction of evidence -- did not apply because Thornton was already safely in custody.

But the Supreme Court wasn't buying that argument. In a 7-2 decision, the court held that "recent" occupants of a vehicle were essentially the same as current occupants of a vehicle. "In all relevant aspects, the arrest of a suspect who is next to a vehicle presents identical concerns regarding officer safety and the destruction of evidence as the arrest of one who is inside the vehicle," Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority. An arrested suspect could still lunge inside the vehicle for a weapon, he wrote (although without explaining how a handcuffed arrestee in the back seat of a locked police car might pull that off). "It would make little sense to apply two different rules to what is, at bottom, the same situation," Rehnquist wrote.

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the court's only real justification for allowing searches of parked vehicles incident to the arrest of "recent occupants" was to enable officers to search for evidence of crimes. "In my opinion, that goal must give way to the citizen's constitutionally-protected interest in privacy when there is already in place a well-defined rule limiting the permissible scope of a search of an arrested pedestrian," wrote Stevens. "The [Supreme Court] should provide the same protection to the 'recent occupant' of an automobile as it does to the recent occupant of a house."

Writing for the majority, Rehnquist argued that the court needed to set a clear rule for police, but Stevens wrote that the Monday decision did nothing of the kind. Instead, Stevens predicted continuing litigation over what is a "recent occupant," and warned that the decision further eroded the Fourth Amendment. "I fear that today's decision will contribute to the massive broadening of 'the automobile exception,' where officers have the probable cause to arrest the person but not to search his car."

Read the decision in Thornton v. United States online at

13. This Week in History

June 1, 1996: Noted actor and hemp activist Woody Harrelson was arrested and charged with cultivation of less than five marijuana plants after he planted four industrial hemp seeds in full view of Lee County Sheriff William Kilburn in Lexington, KY.

June 3, 1876: At the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, America's first 100-year birthday bash, fairgoers visit the Turkish Hashish Exposition and toke up in order to enhance their fair experience.

14. Media Scan -- Too Many to List in the Headline This Time!

Jennifer Gonnerman tells the story of Rockefeller Drug Law prisoner Ashley O'Donoghue and his mother Cheri in "The Reluctant Activist," Village Voice, May 25:

Bill Piper of Drug Policy Alliance opines on the fate of DC's Measure 62, in "A Model Measure vs. the Mayor," Washington Post, May 21:

Reason's Nick Gillespie reviews Martin Torgoff's "Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age" for The Washington Post, May 23:

Marsha Rosenbaum expounds on "Fallback Strategy for Teens Who Say Yes to Drugs" in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 21:

Matthew Briggs of Drug Policy Alliance publishes "From Abu Ghraib to Your Local Prison: Phony Stories, Real War," May 20 in

"The User's Voice," a harm reduction newsletter published by UK-based John Mordaunt Trust, goes online:

Harm Reduction Journal, an online, peer-reviewed international journal of original research and scholarship on drug use and its consequences for individuals, communities, and larger populations, edited by Dr. Ernest Drucker:

LA Times covers Judge Gray's bid for the US Senate:,1,3451493.story?coll=la-home-local

DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports on prison and jail inmates in 2003:

Paula Simon writes on "War on Our Community: The Education Battlefront," San Francisco Bay View, May 19

New York Times Magazine's "The Ethicist" on federal prosecutor's second thoughts about drug laws:

The Lancet on "Cannabis Induced Political Syndrome":

Video footage from the Vancouver "Beyond Prohibition" conference:

15. 3rd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival and Contest

The 3rd Annual Drug War Vigil Film Festival will take place in a Vancouver theater (to be announced) on September 24-25, 2004. The Drug War Vigil Memorial Group, which was founded in the fall of 2000, will again sponsor a film contest affiliated with the festival, and is calling for submissions.

To enter, send the Group your films or 30 minutes or less on any topic related to cannabis, drugs and the drug war or harm reduction, in VHS tape or Hi-8 or digital-8 format. The films will be screened and judged by participants in the Festival as well as by viewed of Pot-TV ( Grand prize award is $2,000 US, 2nd place award $1,000, 3rd place $500, new special $500 prize for best short.

To entry, you must register your film for entry. To do so, send an e-mail ASAP to [email protected] to let the Group know your intention to enter the contest. Include the projected length of your work. Registration is free. The Group must receive your finished film by September 10. Send it to: D.W.V. c/o BCMP Bookshop, 307 W. Hastings, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H6, CANADA.

16. Job Opportunities at MPP

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring a full-time executive assistant and a part-time bookkeeper for their Washington, DC office. Applications are due by June 6. Visit and for complete information.

17. Job Opportunity: Campaign Coordinator for Marijuana Policy Reform, ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project

Founded in 1998, the Drug Policy Litigation Project is a special division of the American Civil Liberties Union. The Project goal is to end punitive drug policies that have caused an unprecedented level of incarceration and have resulted in widespread violation of constitutional rights. Beginning this summer, the Project is expanding to create a new program that challenges the punishment of nonviolent marijuana users. This program will be led by an experienced strategist who will design a national campaign involving ACLU affiliates and other organizations, with the goal of repealing punitive marijuana laws.

The Project brings "impact" lawsuits throughout the country. The Projects' legal strategies are built on the idea that fighting for civil rights means not just persuading judges but ultimately changing the way people think. As we litigate for change, we use targeted media and online and outreach campaigns to change public attitudes through education and to give people on the frontlines the tools they need to act.

The Project has an unparalleled history of litigating cases on issues ranging from racial profiling in drug enforcement to restrictions on speech advocating drug policy reform. This new program aims to continue that tradition of success, harnessing litigation, in combination with coordinated public education and organizing, as a tool of drug policy reform. For more information, please visit online.

The Campaign Coordinator will be responsible for conceiving, designing, and executing a multi-year national advocacy campaign. With the aim of ultimately changing state and federal laws on marijuana, the position will require a sophisticated and visionary ability to influence public views on marijuana policy. Working closely with a staff attorney, the Campaign Coordinator will make significant use of litigation in state and federal courts. The position will require close coordination with the national ACLU, its 53 state affiliates, private attorneys and allied organizations, both in litigation efforts and in efforts to secure reform in state legislatures and Congress. Significant attention will also be devoted to media and popular culture representations of marijuana and laws that criminalize its use.

The Project is currently located in New Haven, Connecticut, but will be moving to Santa Cruz, California on July 1, 2004, where this position will be located.

Applicants must have experience directing a national or state campaign for significant policy reform. The ability to design and implement complex programmatic initiatives is essential, as is familiarity with public opinion research tools, media relations, and other communications strategies. Familiarity with the relationship between litigation and broader advocacy campaigns, as well as background with drug policy issues, is preferable though not essential to this position. Applicants must have exceptional oral, written and interpersonal communication skills, proven success in managing staff and creativity. Applicants must also demonstrate ability and/or experience in working with the media and in coalitions to achieve legislative goals.

Salary will be determined in accordance with the ACLU salary scale. Excellent benefits package provided. Applications will be accepted by mail, until the position is filled. Please submit a letter describing your qualifications and interest in the position, a current resume, and the names and phone numbers of two references to: Graham Boyd, ACLU Drug Law Project, 85 Willow St., New Haven, CT 06511. The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, lesbians and gay men to apply.

18. The Reformer's Calendar

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

May 30, 11:00am, Oakland, CA, Memorial Day Signature Drive for the Oakland Cannabis Initiative, with motivational speaker city councilwoman Desley Brooks. At 1601 Telegraph Ave., contact Sunshine at (510) 967-3948 or visit for further information.

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 for further information.

June 4-5, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Legalize! street rave against the drug war. Visit for further information.

June 5, noon-dark, Jacksonville Beach, FL, "7th Annual Jacksonville Hemp Fest," sponsored by the Florida Cannabis Action Network Jacksonville chapter. At Sea Walk Pavilion, visit for further information.

June 5, noon-midnight, Columbus, OH, Ohio Hempfest, visit for further information.

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

June 18, 6:00-8:30pm, Washington, DC, fundraiser for the Prevention Works! needle exchange program. At Ellington's on 8th, 424 8th Street, SE, minimum donation $25 tax-deductible. Visit http:// or contact (202) 588-5580 or [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 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 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 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 online.

September 18, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 15th Annual Freedom Rally, visit for further information.

September 20, Shrewsbury, MA, "Help or Hurt: Responding to the Criminalization of Mental Illness and Addiction," forum sponsored by the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. At Hoagland Pincus Center, registration opens June 15, 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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