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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #342, 6/18/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Editorial: Which Cops Would You Pick for Your Town?
  2. Major Religious Denominations Increase Pressure on Congress for Medical Marijuana
  3. Atlantic City Challenges Attorney General, Passes Needle Exchange Ordinance
  4. Swiss Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization
  5. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Oaksterdam Disappearing... for Now
  6. Newsbrief: Federal Judge Whitman Knapp Dead at 95 -- Exposed Police Corruption, Opposed Drug War Excess
  7. Newsbrief: Canadian Marijuana Party in Unique Campaign Finance Scheme
  8. Newsbrief: Philippine Travel Advisory
  9. Newsbrief: Coca Tea Drinker Fired After Drug Test Wins Job Back
  10. Newsbrief: ACLU Sues Detroit Over School Drug Raids
  11. Newsbrief: Portugal Uses Reefer to Calm Soccer Hooligans
  12. This Week in History
  13. Web Scan: Richard Paey in Weekly Planet, Conference Photographs
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

David Borden
1. Editorial: Which Cops Would You Pick for Your Town?

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 6/18/04

One of the strange aspects of the drug debate in America is the disconnect between the people at large and those involved in legislating or executing the war on drugs. An annual survey of police chiefs and sheriffs, for example, recently found that only 40% of them favor legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, as opposed to the 70-80% of public support shown by recent polls ( Advocates are disappointed that a solid majority of America's law enforcement leaders favor the criminalization, and resulting arrests and prosecutions, of patients for medical marijuana use.

Another disappointing attitude is that of New Jersey's top law enforcement office. After Atlantic City officials announced plans to open a city-run needle exchange program, citing state law allowing them to do so, NJ attorney general Peter Harvey came out with a statement that law does not allow it -- but not explaining why the law cited in support of the proposal did not apply. This week a spokesman for Harvey revealed an ideological preference rather than the previous legal interpretation, saying "Our office has serious concerns about any policy or practice which facilitates or encourages drug use." This despite overwhelming evidence that needle exchange does not have that effect and that laws prohibiting syringe distribution and possession, and enforcement of those law, have cost the lives of massive numbers of New Jerseyans and others.

The contrast with police of some nations in Europe is very striking. Preparing for an influx of soccer fans from around the continent, and knowing the reputation of some (mainly British) fans to be rowdy, police in Lisbon, Portugal, have promised to turn a blind eye to open marijuana use. The nation has already decriminalized drug use and possession, but smoking in public is still illegal. For purely pragmatic reasons, they have decided to use their discretion to allow it. As a police spokeswoman told the British newspaper The Guardian (perhaps hoping to get the message to the infamous soccer hooligans in advance), "If you are quietly smoking and a police officer is 10 meters away, what's the big risk in your behavior? I'm not going to tap you on the shoulder and ask 'What are you smoking?' if you are posing no menace to others. Our priority is alcohol."

In Switzerland, the police aren't satisfied with discretion and decriminalization. Following a narrow vote by the Swiss Parliament to pass a bill, already approved by the Senate, to legalize marijuana outright, police officials were among the voices publicly expressing their disappointment.

Which police would you rather have for your state and community? Though we are frequently critical in this newsletter of police practices, I'm not someone who claims that cops as a rule are bad; and I recognize the risks to life and limb to which police officers subject themselves on a regular basis to protect members of the public, and which sometimes cost them their lives. We need to remember that. Still, I have no reason to believe that police in Portugal or Switzerland are any less willing to step into harm's way when situations call for them to do so. No disrespect is intended here for America's men and women in blue. But given the more enlightened attitudes toward drug policy of police in parts of Western Europe -- which in my opinion make their countries not only more just but also more safe -- I guess that overall I would pick their cops over our cops if I had the choice.

The news is not all bad. Though it is disappointing that 60% of chiefs and sheriffs oppose medical marijuana, 40% is a large number and an encouraging sign among a notably enforcement-oriented group of people. And the same survey also found that nearly 70% of them recognize that decriminalization of possession would free up resources to fight serious crime. So I haven't given up on them yet, either. Perhaps our friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( will help America's cops catch up with their counterparts across the ocean.

2. Major Religious Denominations Increase Pressure on Congress for Medical Marijuana

Six major religious denominations have joined the fray over medical marijuana in the US Congress. In letters sent out to targeted congressmen and women this week by the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (, the churches are calling on Congress to end the Bush administration's persecution of medical marijuana patients. The letters target representatives belonging to the six denominations, and while they delineate the positions adopted by each of the denominations, each letter leads with the position of the targeted representative's own church.

The United Methodist Church's General Board of Church and Society, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the Unitarian Universalist Association have all signed on to a statement proclaiming that "seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patient's physician has told the patient that such use is likely to be beneficial," IDPI reported. The Union for Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ have all adopted similar position statements. Two other major denominations, the Evangelical Lutherans and the Presbyterians, while not adopting specific statements on medical marijuana, have signed a 2002 statement calling for a broad array of drug policy reforms consistent with support for medical marijuana.

"The politicians who oppose medical marijuana often make 'morality' arguments," said Charles Thomas, IDPI's executive director. "Yet six major denominations advocate legal medical marijuana, and no denominations have taken a position against it. Where did these politicians get their concepts of morality?"

Not from the holy writings, suggested Rabbi Peter Schaktman, president of the Greater New York Council of Reform Synagogues, which is in turn part of the Union of Reform Judaism, one of the denominations that has pronounced in favor of medical marijuana. "We are in the morality business," he told DRCNet. "At least in Jewish tradition, the duty to heal the sick and alleviate suffering is very much a moral issue. We've come to realize that when medical marijuana can be used in an appropriate fashion, it is probably immoral not to allow it to be so used," he said. "The relief of suffering and alleviation of pain is a very high value; our duty is to do whatever we can to comfort and cure the sick."

According to IDPI, one thing that Congress can do is pass a bill that would prohibit the use of federal funds to arrest and prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in those states where it is legal under state law. Last year, a similar bill, the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, named after its initial sponsors, Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), failed to pass. This year, the bill is likely to be introduced as an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill.

"Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy," said Thomas. "Being seriously ill is stressful enough already. Patients who follow their doctors' advice to use marijuana shouldn't have to live in constant fear of arrest and jail. It is the duty of religious denominations to stand up for vulnerable people who are being wronged. We pray that Congress will have the compassion to stop the Bush Administration's War on Patients."

"The facts show that the plant has medicinal uses," said the Rev. Greg Stewart of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada, "especially for people with HIV/AIDS, as well as other diseases. There is real relief for people who cannot find relief any other way, and that ought to be the government's priority. It is certainly the church's priority, and we need to take the lead instead of supporting the current regime," he told DRCNet. "If the church does not stand up for people unable to stand up for themselves, who will? As we have seen, certainly not the government."

Rev. Stewart's position is grounded in a deeper critique of drug policy. "This war on drugs has been dragging on for years and it hasn't been effective and it may even stimulate drug use, particularly among teens and young adults," he argued. "Personally, I would rather see a system of legalization, where there could be some accountability about how it is distributed. There are many of us looking for very intentional and wide-reaching reforms of these laws."

The letter to members of Congress is notable for the presence of the nation's largest African American denomination. "We got the Progressive National Baptist Convention to sign on," Thomas said. "This is the denomination Martin Luther King belonged to, this is Jesse Jackson's church, and the convention is still one of the main social justice-oriented denominations in the country," he pointed out.

And with it, they got the powerful rhetoric of the Rev. Dr. Arnold W. Howard of the Enon Baptist Church in Baltimore. In remarks prepared for a Baltimore press conference, the reverend constructed an elaborate metaphor of society addicted to the war on drugs, then drove it home: "Just like an addict can spiral out of control and begin to exhibit bizarre behavior, the federal government, in a despicable show of bravado to maintain this drug war addiction, is even arresting legitimate seriously ill patients who use medical marijuana with the approval of their doctor," he said. "The drug war mongers are in denial. They come out every year with a drug war battle plan that is basically the same as the year before. My brothers and sisters, it is time for an intervention," Rev. Howard declaimed.

"It's time to intervene in this war and share a compelling vision of policies that abstain from the addictive and damaging habits of punishment and coercion," Rev. Howard continued. "I understand that total abstinence from punitive approaches to drugs is not ready to be fully embraced by the powers that be." Still, he said, the church has "a moral imperative" to fight the "unconscionable excesses" of the drug war, first among them the attacks on medical marijuana. "If we are going to have a war on drugs, can we at least remove the sick and dying from the battlefield? Marijuana provides symptom relief for people suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, AIDS Wasting syndrome, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia and other serious illnesses. If a doctor and a patient decide that marijuana is the best medicine for them, let's have some mercy on these people."

Some 180 legislators are receiving the lobbying letters, Thomas said. "Building support for medical marijuana among religious denominations and channeling it into specific federal legislative efforts already underway by different reform groups is one of our top priorities," he added. The group is also working on Higher Education Act and federal mandatory minimum sentence reform this summer, Thomas said. In the fall, IDPI will turn its focus to the states.

"Ultimately," said Thomas, "medical marijuana is an issue of mercy. It is the duty of religious denominations to stand up for people who are seriously ill and already suffering enough without having to live with the constant fear of being arrested. In Christianity, Jesus broke the law of his day by healing people on the Sabbath," Thomas said. "And as Martin Luther King said, when the law is unjust, it is no law at all."

3. Atlantic City Challenges Attorney General, Passes Needle Exchange Ordinance

The Atlantic City, New Jersey, City Council voted Wednesday night to give the go-ahead to what will be the state's first government-run needle exchange program (NEP). The move comes despite an opinion from state Attorney General Peter Harvey that such a program would violate state law, and appears to set the stage for a legal showdown.

Sen. Nia Gill is Championing
Needle Exchange in the
New Jersey Senate
And while state Sen. Nia Gill (D) has introduced a bill seeking to clarify that municipalities indeed can operate NEPs, Atlantic City, which boasts one of the highest drug-related HIV/AIDS infection rates in a state where drug-related HIV/AIDS cases occur at rate almost twice the national average, is unwilling to wait (

The City Council vote was 7-1 in favor of going ahead with the NEP after a hearing dominated by supporters of the move. No one spoke against the measure, but Councilman Dennis Mason, a former police officer who cast the sole vote against, vowed to challenge the vote in Superior Court. "I don't think this municipality has the authority to supercede state law," he said.

But that was a minority opinion. Ten people spoke in favor of NEPs, including AIDS activists, a Lutheran Church representative, a former city health officer, and the spokesman for the city's largest labor union. "A person does not become addicted to a needle, he becomes addicted to a drug," said HERE Local 54 spokesman Michael Conley. "Obviously the time has come to change the way we think about addiction."

The City Council shared those sentiments, and some members had harsh words for Gov. Jim McGreevey, who has said he supported NEPs, but only on an inpatient basis. "He's not the one who's going to have to console family members in the community who have lost loved ones," Councilman Marty Small said. "We're the ones who have to deal with that."

New Jersey is one of only five states that require a prescription to possess a needle and, along with neighboring Delaware, one of only two that have not passed laws allowing NEPs. "It's a pathetic situation we have here in this state where saving lives is viewed as a crime," said Frank Fulbrook, a Camden AIDS activist. "Saving lives trumps all the other arguments. If Atlantic City and Camden take the lead, other cities will follow quickly."

Camden could indeed be next in the revolt of the municipalities. According to the Press of Atlantic City, the Camden City Council could vote to follow in Atlantic City's footsteps within weeks.

Atlantic City Health and Human Services Director Ron Cash was rearing to go. He told the council he would get an NEP underway "one way or another." The vote was a "personal home-rule situation," said an elated Cash afterward. "We hope the governor and the attorney general appreciate the fact that we're just trying to save lives," Cash said. "We're going to challenge the system."

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office was not amused. "Our office has serious concerns about any policy or practice which facilitates or encourages drug use, particularly heroin or cocaine," said spokesman Paul Loriquet. "We should be focused upon extracting men and women from drug addiction and making resources available for regional drug-treatment programs, particularly for people who don't have health insurance."

Atlantic City's needle-exchange program would be "reviewed" by the Attorney General's office, he added ominously.

But the pressure for needle-exchange as a life-saving harm reduction measure in a state ravaged by injection drug-related AIDS is mounting.

4. Swiss Parliament Rejects Marijuana Legalization

The Swiss House of Representatives Tuesday rejected a bill that would have amended the country's drug laws to allow for the legal personal use and production of marijuana and some domestic sales of the weed. By a vote of 102-92, the House for the second time rejected the proposal, which has twice been approved by the Swiss Senate.

The Swiss government has tried four times since December 2001 to win a vote to legalize personal pot use and production, to no avail. The effort was part of a larger drug law reform package pushed by the government. The vote Tuesday means that Switzerland's current drug laws, in place for nearly 30 years, will remain in place.

But the laws do not reflect Swiss social reality. According to the Federal Health Office, about 500,000 Swiss use marijuana, which is widely available and sold with a wink and a nod as "potpourri" at shops across the country.

"The opponents of reform lobbied hard against the new law, while reformers and the Federal Health Office did not do much lobbying," said Judith Laws of DroLeg, the Swiss Initiative for Responsible Drug Policy ( "Remember, this was a law that would amend all the drug laws, so people attacked it by saying that only a small percentage of people got off heroin and that drug policy has to be abstinence-based," she told DRCNet. "On marijuana in particular, they said we have to prohibit consumption to save the youth, and decriminalizing marijuana consumption would send the wrong message."

The Swiss government and its Federal Health Office pronounced themselves disappointed in the vote. "Rejection of the bill leads to fears that certain cantons will be tempted to make their own laws, which will create inequality in the country," Thomas Zeltner, director of the Federal Health Office, told Swiss Info. "We can continue to live with the law, but it does pose problems," he added.

The center-left Social Democrats, led by Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, noted in a press statement that the bill was defeated the same day parliament agreed to end a century-long ban on absinthe, a wormwood-based alcohol product notorious for its mind-bending qualities. Parliament's refusal to revise the country's drug law was a "denial of reality which raises doubts about whether we have a pragmatic and efficient public health policy," said the Social Democrats.

Politicians cannot ignore the country's substantial pot-smoking population, Couchepin said. "One cannot act as if they do not exist in the name of an unattainable ideal of abstinence," he said during the debate.

Police officers and educators also condemned the vote. Michel Graf from the Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug Addiction told Swiss Info the vote signaled a "lack of courage by politicians" and the "missed opportunity for a real debate."

The Swiss vote was also decried by European drug reformers. "It is a pity that the Swiss parliament has not taken this unique opportunity to write history, but it is only a question of time before they will," said Joep Oomen of ENCOD, the European NGO Council on Drugs ( "It is clear that there exists broad support for the proposal to legalize the cannabis market," he told DRCNet. "For us in Europe, Switzerland remains an island of hope and an excellent reference of what is possible in a country that is not especially known for its progressive policies on other matters, but has been relatively independent in elaborating drug policies, because it has not signed the 1988 UN Convention."

And while Swiss officials expressed concern about differential enforcement of the marijuana laws in different cantons, Oomen saw the chance for progress as well as the danger of moving backwards. "The present outcome will probably lead to more diversity in the country itself, with some local or regional authorities applying their own policies to regulate production, trade and distribution, while others may remain on the repressive side," he explained.

But despite broad support for reform, the right-wing Swiss People's Party, along with parliamentarians from the right-leaning Christian Democrats, was able to block any revision of the law. "The People's Party and the Christian Democrats and other religious groups that voted with them may have been able to defeat the bill, said DroLeg's Laws, "but they do not share a common vision of how to move forward. The religious groups at least mention the problem of alcohol and the general problem of addiction. Given the divisions in the opposition, all is not lost," she predicted.

While this vote to reform Swiss drug laws has been lost, the issue is not going away. The Christian Democrats have announced plans for a parliamentary initiative to revise the law according the "four pillars" strategy of prevention, therapy, repression and harm reduction, but without the full legalization of marijuana. The Christian Democrats will propose making pot-smoking a ticketable offense, with a small fine as the only punishment, but cultivation and sales would remain criminal offenses.

Also, Swiss Info reported, young Social Democrats and Greens have formed the Committee for the Protection of Young People Against the Criminalization of Drugs, which plans to launch a youth-based popular initiative. The committee seeks a "reasonable cannabis policy and efficient protection of young people."

And last but not least, reformers and marijuana activists will now get to work on their "hemp" initiative, which has been on hold while the government tried to legalize pot through parliamentary means. "The hemp initiative would decriminalize possession and home grows," said Laws. "We will start gathering signatures as soon as it is printed in the official bulletin, probably by the end of this month."

5. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: Oaksterdam Disappearing... for Now

Under the gun from city regulators, Oaksterdam is disappearing, at least for now. The area of inner city Oakland near the 19th St. BART stop underwent a dramatic renaissance in the last few years, driven by medical marijuana distributors who set up shop in what had been a decaying former downtown entertainment district. At the end of last month, at least a half-dozen medical marijuana "cannabis cafes" dotted the area, but since a city ordinance designed to recognize and regulate the dispensaries went into effect on June 1, Oaksterdam has begun to disappear.

Under the ordinance, passed in February, the city limited the number of medical marijuana clubs to four and barred the location of any club within 1,000 feet of another. Some clubs have simply closed their doors, while others will attempt to survive as normal cafes. But while local marijuana activists bemoan the closings, they do not view them as the end but as the beginning.

"Oaksterdam isn't dead, this is just a setback," said Richard Lee, owner of the Bulldog Coffeeshop, one of the oldest and most well-known of the Oaksterdam pot shops. In a surprise move, city officials did not grant a permit to the Bulldog, which Lee said will attempt to remain open as a café. But while the Bulldog didn't make the cut, the SR71 Cafe, another dispensary owned by Lee, will be allowed to stay open.

"What surprised everyone was that they closed so many in the heart of Oaksterdam -- the 19th Street BART station made the area the most mass transit-accessible in the city, and it doesn't seem like they took the accessibility needs of patients into account, said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML ( "But the closure of the Bulldog was the most surprising thing about this. They had been there longer than anybody, everybody liked them, they have a nice sidewalk café where patients and non-patients alike could hang out. It was really the only place like that in Oaksterdam, so we're really upset that they want to close the Bulldog," Gieringer told DRCNet. "Hopefully we can get the city to see the light on this. We have some friends on the council, but this is going to be a period of painful readjustment."

The Bulldog isn't the only major operation to have to shut down for lack of a permit. The Third Floor Compassion Club on Telegraph Avenue is also closing its doors. Third Floor supplied so many people that its owners hired buses this week to transport patients to clubs outside the city limits in nearby Berkeley, Hayward, and other suburban locations to buy their medicine, both Lee and Gieringer reported.

But activities surrounding the Third Floor club and some other clubs may have contributed to the city's decision to undo Oaksterdam, Gieringer said. "There was a real scene developing on Telegraph Avenue," he said. "A local TV station did an expose showing people reselling pot on the street near the clubs, and two clubs, Third Floor and the Dragonfly, got out of hand. The scene was too rambunctious, not discreet enough for the city authorities, and they decided they wanted to clear all that out," he said.

"This is not the end of the world," said Jeff Jones, head of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Co-op (, which, since it was enjoined in federal court from dispensing medical marijuana, now serves as a medical marijuana referral center on Telegraph Avenue. "This is a step back, but it is also a step forward," he told DRCNet. "The city is recognizing and regulating our community, which is a step forward, but it is also overstepping with some draconian measures that are having a negative impact on our community."

The unfazed attitudes displayed by medical marijuana supporters stem from the fact that the city will revisit the ordinance in six months, leaving open the possibility that it would revisit its decisions on number and location of the dispensaries. "This could help us with getting more permits," said Jones. "If these places behave, we will go back to the city and ask for four more permits."

"Nothing is set in stone at this point," concurred Gieringer. "There will be a reevaluation of what's going on in a few months. If it stays this way, Oaksterdam could be history, but Oaksterdam is popular and people see how it has benefited the community. I suspect that within six months or so, things will be back."

Proponents of the dispensaries are working on two fronts with city officials, Gieringer said. "Right now, the decision-making process is pretty opaque. The ordinance gives city officials a lot of discretion. We will attempt to amend the ordinance. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our friends in the city government to ensure that their decisions take into account the needs of patients."

"We have a couple of council members who are already saying it was a mistake to limit this to four clubs," said the Bulldog's Richard Lee, "and that the regulations are too restrictive. There is a six-month review, so we are hoping to get more club permits and loosen the regulations."

But if Oaksterdam is under attack now, it could well come roaring back stronger and more open than ever, Lee said. "There is a lot of support for doing an Amsterdam-style red light district in Uptown, which is what this neighborhood used to be called. There are powerful real estate developers who are supportive of opening up adult use cannabis shops, and if we can get the Oakland cannabis initiative on the ballot this November, we could have a green light for adult use and not just medical use," he explained. "That's our master plan -- medical marijuana was good in 1996; that was a way to establish the industry. Now, you already have marijuana distribution in the clubs; you just have to change the criteria for who can buy it."

The Oakland initiative would direct city law enforcement authorities to make marijuana offenses their lowest priority. It would also direct city officials to urge the state legislature to pass laws legalizing marijuana use and sales. City officials will announce next week whether organizers gathered enough signatures in time to make the November ballot.

In the meantime, Bay area medical marijuana consumers aren't waiting. "New clubs are popping up like mushrooms all over Northern California," Gieringer said.

6. Newsbrief: Federal Judge Whitman Knapp Dead at 95 -- Exposed Police Corruption, Opposed Drug War Excess

US Senior District Court Judge Whitman Knapp died Monday at age 95 in Manhattan, where he resided. While Knapp is most widely known for leading a two-year investigation into New York City police corruption in the early 1970s, he also made a mark as a jurist fed up with drug war excess by refusing to hear drug cases after 1993.

Appointed to head the Knapp Commission investigation in 1970, Knapp uncovered a pattern a corruption that tarnished not only the brass of the NYPD but the political career of the man who appointed him, Mayor John V. Lindsay (D). The scandals uncovered by the Knapp Commission were memorialized in popular culture through the movie "Serpico," based on the NYPD detective who first blew the whistle.

After completing his work with the Knapp Commission, Knapp was appointed to a federal judgeship in the Southern District of New York by President Richard Nixon. In 1993, Judge Knapp broke publicly and dramatically with the war on drugs he had seen daily in his courtroom. Along with Judge Jack B. Weinstein of New York's Eastern District, Knapp declared he would no longer preside over drug trials. In so doing Knapp and Weinstein declared they were protesting "failed drug policies" that emphasized arrests and harsh, inflexible sentences over prevention and drug treatment.

A year later, Judge Knapp would go even further, writing a New York Times op-ed piece strongly suggesting that decriminalization of drug use and possession could be the answer. Ever judicious, Knapp averred that he did not know if decriminalization was the right answer, but of one thing he was sure: "I have concluded that Federal drug laws are a disaster," he wrote. "It is time to get the Government out of drug enforcement. As long as we indulged the fantasy that the problem could be solved by making America drug free, it was appropriate that the Government assume the burden. But that ambition has been shown to be absurd."

While Knapp's public pronouncements on drug policy were increasingly scarce after the mid-1990s, a 1999 interview on WNBC-TV found that his views had remained essentially unchanged. When asked if he thought decriminalization was still the path to follow, he said, "I used to be sure that decriminalizing would cure the ills, but I am not sure of that. I don't know exactly what should be done. I know that what's being done now is wrong. The statutes on drug offenses are ridiculous."

In that interview, Judge Knapp was clear on where the blame should lie: "The culprit was the Congress. The government itself, and the ridiculous laws the politicians have spewed because it's great to be considered tough on drugs."

While there are no concise, easily extractable phrases, interested readers can get a bit of the flavor of Judge Knapp's judicial tone in an opinion of his available online at the valuable new compendium of judicial disgust with the drug war:

7. Newsbrief: Canadian Marijuana Party in Unique Campaign Finance Scheme

The Marijuana Party of Canada (, which at last count was running candidates in at least 70 ridings (legislative districts) for the rapidly approaching June 28 national elections, has found a novel fundraising strategy: Selling pot seeds.

"We're going to do it to fund the campaign and the movement in general," party leader Marc-Boris St-Maurice told Canada Press Tuesday. And not just as a campaign fundraiser, he added. "We're going to be doing this for the remainder of our existence until pot is legal."

The party obtains its seeds from Canadian suppliers like Willy Jack, as well as foreign concerns, such as the Amsterdam-based Sensi Seeds. Varieties range from non-viable "decorative" seeds to "thoroughbred, Cannabis Cup-winning" strains, and are priced accordingly, said St.-Maurice. Some of the most famous varieties will sell for as much as US $300 for a pack of ten, he added.

The scheme hasn't exactly filled the party's coffers yet, St.-Maurice said, putting total sales so far at a handful of packs. "It's by no means a gold mine yet, but it will come. It's a very political action."

While marijuana possession and trafficking is against Canadian law, seed sales are not prosecuted. British Columbia Marijuana Party ( leader Marc Emery has made a fortune and funded his political activities with profits from marijuana seed sales.

"It appears not to be illegal in that people who are doing it are not being charged for doing it," said Neil Boyd, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University and author of "High Society," a book about marijuana in Canada. Seeds contain so little THC that the courts could favorably receive an argument that the seeds are not a drug, he told Canada Press.

8. Newsbrief: Philippine Travel Advisory

With Filipino politicians competing with each other to come up with ever more severe measures to combat drug use and trafficking, the Philippines is deep in the throes of a full-blown anti-drug hysteria. Motivated primarily by an effort to stamp out methamphetamine, or "shabu," as it is known locally, the Philippine drug war also targets other illicit drugs, including marijuana, and has led to mass arrests, massive drug testing, and death squad-style executions of suspected drug offenders ( Now, according to a report in the Manila People's Journal, Philippine drug fighters are turning a jaundiced eye toward foreign tourists and resorts popular with young Westerners.

The newspaper quoted Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency undersecretary Anselmo Avenido Jr. as saying his agency, styled after its US name-sake, has stepped up efforts to find and arrest tourists bringing even personal recreational amounts of illicit drugs along with them on vacation. "We're regularly conducting 'profiling of individuals' who might be carriers of dangerous drugs even in small quantities," he said.

According to Avenido, police have arrested "a number" of foreign tourists for smuggling small amounts of drugs into the country in the last two years. Police had reports of shabu, marijuana, and ecstasy sales on Boracay Island, he added. Boracay, home of decadent nightlife as well as stunning beaches, is a popular destination among travelers on the Southeast Asian leg of the hippie trail. But while the Philippines, like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, remains in the grip of harsh prohibitionist drug policies, travelers might want to think twice.

9. Newsbrief: Coca Tea Drinker Fired After Drug Test Wins Job Back

The Illinois Court of Appeals ruled last week that a woman fired from her job as an investigator with the Cook County Sheriff's Department after testing positive for cocaine should be reinstated. Charmaine Garrido was using coca tea, not cocaine, the court found.

Garrido, the wife of a Chicago narcotics officer, testified that she drank "a significant amount" of coca tea just before being randomly drug tested. Garrido and her husband obtained the tea in Peru, where they had gone to adopt a child.

Garrido testified that a Peruvian doctor gave her the tea -- mate de coca -- and assured her it had been "decocainized." At the doctor's suggestion, she gave it to soothe her adopted child's upset stomach. "If I knew it had cocaine in it, I never would have given it to my daughter," she told the Associated Press June 14. Garrido said she and her husband had brought the tea through US Customs without problem and ordered more on the Internet, and she used it to treat flu symptoms just before she was tested. "Want some?" she asked. "I've still got two boxes here."

Garrido was fired after testing positive. On appeal, the sheriff's department argued that its zero-tolerance policy for drug use must apply even to those who ingested drugs unknowingly, but the court rejected that argument. "While it is true that an employee may lie about how an illegal drug got into his system, that does not mean it is unnecessary to address the question of what he knew or did not know or the circumstances surrounding the ingestion," the appellate judges wrote.

Cook County sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham, who also heads employee drug testing, said they are reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.

10. Newsbrief: ACLU Sues Detroit Over School Drug Raids

The Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the city of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools last week, charging that police and security guards on drugs and weapons sweeps unjustly frisked students, lined them up against walls, and searched their bags. The lawsuit claims that the district and the city subjected the students to unannounced, unreasonable and unwarranted searches.

In its filing, the ACLU pointed to searches conducted this year at Mumford High School, where no weapons or drugs were found. Searches were also conducted at Pershing and Murray-Wright high schools, the lawsuit said.

Michigan ACLU director Kary Moss told the Detroit Free Press the suit was filed "reluctantly and only after [we] tried without success to persuade the school district to abandon its policy of conducting sweeps -- mass, indiscriminate searches that are unconstitutional in Detroit public schools."

The school district remained firm in support of its mass search policy. "That would be totally ridiculous for the court to ban us from having the opportunity to conduct weapons sweeps in our buildings," said the district's general counsel, Anthony Adams. "We have an obligation to make sure our kids are safe." Besides, he added, the district tells the kids to expect random searches.

11. Newsbrief: Portugal Uses Reefer to Calm Soccer Hooligans

It is once again time for the European Cup, the European soccer tournament held every four years. Last time, host government Holland used an innovative strategy to attempt to reduce violence among rowdy fans, or hooligans as they are called: reduce alcohol availability while increasing the availability of marijuana ( Last week, police authorities in Portugal, this year's host country, announced a similar approach. They will not arrest British soccer fans spotted pot-smoking because the drug reduces violent urges, they told the British newspaper the Guardian.

Under Portuguese law, drug possession is not a criminal offense, but public consumption is. Lisbon police, however, said they would turn a blind eye to marijuana use and instead focus their enforcement efforts on reducing alcohol consumption, which has been directly and repeatedly implicated in the violence that has plagued European soccer for the past two decades.

"If you are quietly smoking and a police officer is 10 meters away, what's the big risk in your behavior?" a police spokeswoman told the Guardian. "I'm not going to tap you on the shoulder and ask 'What are you smoking?' if you are posing no menace to others. Our priority is alcohol."

"If people are drinking they lose control," said Alan Buffry, national coordinator of Britain's Legalise Cannabis Alliance ( "If they smoke cannabis they don't. Alcohol makes fans fight. But cannabis smokers will be shaking hands and singing along together."

It seemed to be working Sunday afternoon, as an estimated 15,000 people partied peacefully in the Rossio, Lisbon's town square, before the match between England and France, where authorities feared trouble could break out. But not all was stoned bliss. Authorities reported Thursday that 34 hooligans -- one Dutchman and 33 Brits -- had agreed to be deported after being arrested for fighting with police in the southern town of Albufeira. Maybe the Portuguese police should ensure that more of the heavily narcotizing indica strains hit the street.

12. This Week in History

June 18, 1986: Boston Celtics draft choice Len Bias, a student at the University of Maryland, dies from heart failure from cocaine poisoning, leading to a media frenzy and enactment without hearings of the infamous federal mandatory minimum sentences.

June 19, 1812: The United States goes to war with Great Britain after being cut off from 80% of its Russian hemp supply. Napoleon invades Russia to sever Britain's illegal trade in Russian hemp.

June 19, 1991: In a secret vote, the Colombian Assembly votes 51-13 to amend the nation's Constitution effective July 5 to ban extradition. Infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar immediately surrenders to Colombian police.

June 20, 1995: Former CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite called the drug war a failure on a Discovery Channel installment of The Cronkite Report, saying, "We cannot go into tomorrow with the same formulas that are failing today."

June 24, 1982: In remarks about Executive Order 12368 made from the White House's Rose Garden, President Ronald Reagan says, "We're taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts. We're running up a battle flag."

June 25, 1923: In a speech in Denver, Senator Morris Shepard, a principal architect of Alcohol Prohibition, says, "There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail."

June 25, 1987: The Supreme Court of Colombia annuls the nation's extradition treaty with the US.

13. Web Scan: Richard Paey in Weekly Planet, Conference Photographs

"Mandatory Madness," cover story by Eric Snider on pain patient Richard Paey in Tampa's Weekly Planet:

Photos and quotes from the Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics:

Photos from the 2004 NORML Conference and Lobby Day:

14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 21, 6:00-8:00pm, New York, NY, An Evening with Dr. Sasha Shulgin and Ann Shulgin. At John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 899 10th Ave. (between 58th & 59th), Room 203, contact Julie Ruckel (212) 613-8053 to RSVP or for information, or visit online.

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 3, 1:00-10:00pm, Biloxi, MS, "A Tribute to the Constitution," featuring Bill Shaw of LEAP, blues and alternative music, other activities. At Point Cadet Plaza, for further information contact Jim at (228) 392-3204 or [email protected].

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].

July 13, 7:30pm, Boulder, CO, "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War," discussion with contributing authors. At the Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl Street, contact (303) 447-2074 or [email protected] for directions or visit for further information.

July 18, noon-6:00pm, New York, NY, 5th Annual Isidro Aviles Memorial Picnic, teach-in with Teresa Aviles of the November Coalition, contact isidro© for further information.

July 29-31, Colville, WA, "Once in a Blue Moon," November Coalition National Workshop. For further information, visit or contact (509) 684-1550 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 7-10, Vienna, Austria, "Ethnicity & Addiction: 16th International Congress on Addiction. For further information, visit or contact [email protected] or +43(0)1-585 69 69-0.

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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