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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #345, 7/9/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to "thank or spank" your US Representative for voting yes or no on the Hinchey medical marijuana amendment!

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real
  2. In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond
  3. House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited
  4. International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs
  5. Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot
  6. ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote
  7. Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House
  8. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing
  9. Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences
  10. Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison
  11. Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop
  12. Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction
  13. Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired
  14. Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal
  15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  16. Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes
  17. Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace
  18. Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh
  19. This Week in History
  20. Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants
  21. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Editorial: Time for Congress to Get Real

David Borden
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 7/9/04

Two pieces of news this week serve to highlight the extraordinary stupidity inherent in aspects of US anti-drug policy:

  • On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected, for a second time, an amendment originally offered last year by Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that would have forbid the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using its resources to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
  • On Thursday, the Bush administration announced that Bin Laden is organizing to attack the United States again, this year.

I'm not in a position to evaluate the Bin Laden claim, but it is certainly plausible. So why would Congress vote down the Hinchey amendment? If they're serious about protecting the nation, they should be shifting as many of their agents to that task as they possibly can. As drug reform elder statesman Arnold Trebach pointed out in an interview given to this newsletter last month, "It is absolutely obscene to think we are wasting one second of law enforcement time on drugs" while there are dangerous people in the world who are determined to kill Americans on our own soil and who have a track record for doing so.

Not that all conventional law enforcement can be scrapped, of course. But the drug fight was lost before it began. Seventy-three years ago this Tuesday, governments of the world convened the "Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs," purportedly attempting to stop the non-medical use and abuse of drugs through global prohibition. Yet three score and thirteen years later, estimates for the annual flow of money through the illicit global drug trade range from $150-$400 billion per year.

Those who allow themselves to think outside the box on this issue understand that these vast funds fuel the criminal underground because of prohibition, not in spite of it or for lack of enough of it. How much crime and violence, how much disorder, how much corruption flows from this warping of the global economy? Though the government's "drugs fund terrorism" ads are fundamentally flawed, they do point to a scary truth: The unregulated profits generated by drug prohibition provide an easy source of revenue for terrorist organizations, some experts think perhaps as much as a third of their money -- another reason that the terrorism problem cries out for a move to some form of legalization of drugs as one part of a strategy to address it.

How much more extremely do these reasons apply to medical marijuana patients and their providers, in states that consider medical marijuana legal under their own laws no less? And with at least one court just one step under the Supreme Court's level, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, considering federal prohibition of medical marijuana to be unconstitutional and therefore illegal?

Such concerns didn't stop DOJ from sending numerous personnel to raid one of California's well-known medical marijuana coops less than two weeks after September 11th. Nice timing! Congress did nothing to address that bizarre and offensive misallocation of resources. So it's not surprising, even in the face of overwhelming public support for medical marijuana, that they would again opt to allow the feds to waste resources attacking sick people who need to use it and disrupting their supply systems.

Any member of Congress who voted against the Hinchey amendment must not be truly serious about security or public safety -- or the Constitution.


2. In the Wake of Blakely: Federal Sentencing Chaos as Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, Lawmakers Ponder How to Respond

Last week's US Supreme Court decision finding Washington State's sentencing guidelines unconstitutional continues to wreak havoc in the federal criminal justice system. While the court's ruling in Blakely v. Washington did not directly throw out the federal sentencing system in place since 1987, nearly everyone involved in the matter is working under the assumption that the federal sentencing guidelines as we know them are headed for the ash heap of history. The question now is what comes next?

In Blakely, the court held that judges cannot increase prison sentences beyond the statutory maximum based on facts that were never proven before a jury. Such a practice is a linchpin of the federal sentencing system, where judges routinely add years to prison sentences based on facts, such as quantities of drugs involved, which are determined by a judge at sentencing using a lesser standard of proof than that required to win convictions in front of a jury.

While the long-term ramifications of Blakely are unclear at this point, the immediate impact has been dramatic and devastating for the federal criminal justice system. Before the week was out, a federal judge in Utah had declared the federal guidelines unconstitutional, based on Blakely. Earlier this week, a federal judge in West Virginia came to the same conclusion.

Other judges have either meted out dramatically more lenient sentences or postponed sentencing hearings until they can figure out what is going on. In Washington, US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson cut the sentence of tobacco farmer Dwight Ware, who engaged in a standoff with police on the National Mall, from six years to 16 months, allowing Ware to walk free on time served. Other judges have made similar cuts in sentences recently imposed. In a West Virginia case, the judge reduced a methamphetamine sentence from 20 years to one year.

After being rocked back on its heels, the Justice Department responded late last week with a memo instructing prosecutors how to deal with a post-Blakely world. While that memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General James Comey, argued that Blakely didn't apply to federal sentencing, it also advised prosecutors to try such tricks as convincing defendants to waive their right to appeal their sentences. It also counseled prosecutors to add any facts that could increase sentences to their indictments and prove them before a jury.

Congress is also bestirring itself. A hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue is set for Tuesday. Blakely also came up this week in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Rep. James Sensenbrenner's new mandatory minimum drug sales bill. There, Justice Department representatives warned Congress that it should be careful with any adjustments to sentencing policy until Blakely shakes out. The key point is that Blakely has unequivocally broken the federal sentencing system, though the shape of the fix is not yet known.

"This is the closest thing to legal anarchy I've seen in my lifetime," said Douglas Berman, professor of law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and publisher of the Sentencing Law and Policy web log (blog). "This represents a fundamental shift in power, at least for now. Before this, all the levers of power were disproportionately in the hands of prosecutors. That's all been scrambled by Blakely, but who gets the bigger clubs now remains to be seen," he told DRCNet.

That opinion was shared by Frank Bowman III, a law professor at the Indiana University School of Law, who told the House Judiciary subcommittee this week it needed to be cautious about adding anything to federal sentencing law right now. "It is not an exaggeration to say that the federal criminal justice system is in chaos," he said.

"Blakely was a blockbuster, concurred Jack King, communications director for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (http://www.nacdl.org). "Things are really in a state of flux. Some people are pushing at the extremes declaring the whole system unconstitutional, but that contradicts Congress' intent. Congress wanted to limit judicial discretion. This is the best thing that could have happened because the system had fossilized. Maybe now we can start over, but if in the meantime defendants are getting lesser sentences, who is to say that's a bad thing?"

Not the people at Families Against Mandatory Minimums (http://www.famm.org), who advocate against the draconian sentences incurred by tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of prisoners under mandatory minimum laws, mainly for drug offenses. But, as a group advocating for those prisoners, FAMM is cautious. "There is no definitive answer as to how this will shake out," said Mary Price, lead counsel for the group. "There are a number of proposals being floated, ranging from making the guidelines advisory to increasing federal statutory maximum sentences to fixing the guidelines as Kansas did so the relevant facts will have to be pled or proven before a jury," she told DRCNet. "The Senate will be holding hearings on this next week, and that indicates to me that the Congress will go forward with one of these proposals."

There is an immediate challenge and a longer-term one, said Price. "If we are faced with a hasty legislative remedy, we need to ensure that whatever is adopted has a sunset provision, so we have a chance to revisit laws made in haste," she said. "In the long run, we have to take a careful look and build a system that ensures sufficient judicial discretion while protecting people's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial."

As an organization representing numerous federal prisoners, FAMM must be careful not to raise hopes only to see them dashed, Price said. "We are telling our people what the decision said, and we have to tell those who have been incarcerated for a long time that this doesn't affect their cases, at least for the time being. We are telling people to hold on. We don't want to get people's hopes up just yet because we don't know how this will play out. The future is being shaped right now," she said.

Fearing a fix that could be worse than the current system, NACDL is calling for a national commission to resolve the issue. "We don't think the guidelines are dead," said King after conferring with NACDL leaders at mid-week. "What we see here is an opportunity not seen since 1984 to create a truly just and rational federal guidelines scheme," he told DRCNet. "What we need now is a neutral analysis of the sentencing guideline systems at both the state and the federal level. We think a special commission of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys should be empanelled to find the best way of reconciling the guidelines with the Sixth Amendment," King said.

"We have sent a letter to the Attorney General and the Administrative Office of the Courts urging them to form a study commission to reconcile the guidelines with Blakely," said King. "What we don't want to see is some sort of stupid legislative quick fix that would lead to some extremely harsh and unjust sentences in many cases. One case is too many, of course, but a quick fix would do that in a whole lot of cases."

Berman also worried about a fix that turns out to be even more severe than the system undermined by Blakely. "From what I've heard," he said, "the most prosecutor-friendly fix is to adjust the maximum sentences. Instead of 18-to-24 months, it could become 18-to-120 months. Judges would have the discretion to go up on sentences, but not down. This would make sentences much more harsh. Still, even that is shaky because even Congress might balk at such a draconian fix. But the murmurs that the Department of Justice will go to Congress make sense. They have lost in the courts in various ways, and they have to think that Congress will be friendlier than the courts."

And so things stand 10 days after the Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into the machinery of the federal courts. Many, many questions remain: What about retroactivity? Is there a way of making the guidelines compatible with Blakely? What, if anything, will Congress do? But one thing appears certain at this point: The federal sentencing system as it has existed for the past twenty years is doomed. The big question, and the looming fight, is over what comes next.

For serious Blakely decision aficionados, check out the following web sites:

Berman's Sentencing Law and Policy blog:
http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/

Columbia University law student Jason Hernandez' Blakely Blog:
http://blakelyblog.blogspot.com

The Blakely archives at the progressive criminal justice web site TalkLeft:
http://www.talkleft.com


3. House Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill -- Election Year Politics, Organized Opposition Cited

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday night to continue to fund Justice Department raids against medical marijuana patients and providers in states that have voted to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons. The House voted 268-148 against an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have barred the use of federal funds for such purposes. Last year, a similar amendment garnered four more "yes" votes than this year. Backers of the measure point to election year political pressures and the mobilization of an organized opposition as reasons why support for the measure appears to have hit a ceiling.

The vote fell mainly along partisan lines. Republicans voted against the measure by a margin of more than ten to one, while roughly two out three Democrats supported the measure.

Known last year as the Hinchey Amendment for its sponsor, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), the bipartisan measure this year was known as the Farr-Rohrabacher Amendment for its sponsors Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Inspired by the aggressive medical marijuana raids dictated by the John Ashcroft Justice Department, the measure has won the support of a growing number of health, medical and religious organizations.

"The outcome is not as bad as it looks," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org), which lobbied for the amendment. "Given the intense opposition we faced and the fact that our opponents were accusing of us killing kids and given the fact that it is an election year, I think we did pretty well," he told DRCNet. "We lost two Republicans who were with us last year, but we picked up six new Republican votes. Similarly, we lost six Democrats, but picked up eight new ones. But we also had 10 Democrats who had voted with us last year who were absent this year."

"It is shocking how out of touch with voters Congress remains on this issue," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org). "State and national polling consistently shows overwhelming public support for protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest," Fox added, citing national polls showing support for medical marijuana in the 70-80% range. "Members who mistakenly believe that they cast the politically safe vote by allowing the continuing persecution of cancer and AIDS patients may be in for a surprise."

This year, proponents of reform brought the power of religion to bear. "We managed to get a number of religious denominations to sign a sign-on statement saying patients should not be arrested, and various other denominations have taken different supportive positions in the past," said Charles Thomas, head of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (http://www.idpi.us). "We are very pleased about that. The United Methodists alone, the country's third largest denomination, count 63 members of Congress," he told DRCNet.

"We did some direct lobbying, we faxed every member's office to let them know about religious support for medical marijuana, and we tailored those faxes to members based on their denominations. We made calls to offices that MPP and DPA had identified as prime targets," Thomas said. "While it is difficult to say what impact we had -- there are so many variables -- we can point to six representatives who voted against last time but for this time who are members of these denominations. And," he pointed out, "of the 14 new yes votes, we lobbied five of those offices." (Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/324/idpi.shtml to read our interview with Thomas.)

But even the power of the divine could not compete with an opposition that at times verged on Reefer Madness-style arguments. "This is a bad amendment," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). "It will be bad for the country. The amendment does not address the problem of marijuana abuse and possibly, perhaps probably, makes it worse by sending a message to young people that there can be health benefits from smoking marijuana. The message that this sends to the young people is absolutely wrong," Wolf said, managing not to mention the medical uses of marijuana at all.

It was Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) who trumped everyone for sheer political theater. Holding up a poster of a teenage girl who had died after using ecstasy, Souder sought to blame medical marijuana for her death. "When we as Members use phrases like 'medical marijuana' and responsible officials imply that drugs like marijuana are medical, tragedies like this happen," claimed Souder, one of Congress' leading drug warriors. After the girl, Irma Perez, "overdosed" on ecstasy, said Souder, "her friends had heard that marijuana was medical, and instead of getting her to a doctor, where they said she would have been saved, they gave her marijuana on top of her ecstasy and she died."

Souder also entered into the record a letter from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (http://www.cadca.org), the anti-drug group sponsored in part by Pharmatech and Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin. CADCA urged defeat of the amendment "not only because marijuana is an illegal, addictive Schedule I drug, with no medicinal value, but also because this sends the entirely wrong message to the youth of America... The efforts of the drug legalization movement, to promote the myth of 'medical' marijuana and to stifle the efforts of law enforcement agencies to enforce federal law severely dilutes the prevention efforts that community anti-drug coalitions across America are undertaking to communicate marijuana is dangerous, it has serious consequences, and is illegal," wrote CADCA director Gen. Arthur T. Dean. "The amendment is offered under the guise of compassion towards seriously ill patients, when in reality it is a 'Trojan horse' to legalize marijuana," Dean warned.

The amendment's sponsors tried to counteract such arguments, but to little avail. "The purpose of this amendment is very straightforward," said Rep. Farr. "In simple terms, the amendment prohibits the use of funds in the bill from preventing States that have medical marijuana laws from implementing them," he explained. "This amendment does not stop law enforcement officials from prosecuting illegal use of marijuana. This amendment does not encourage the use of marijuana. This amendment does not encourage the use of drugs in children. This amendment does not legalize any drugs. This amendment does not change the classification of marijuana," he pointed out.

But such logic could not prevail in the face of an organized opposition and the looming elections. "The opposition was effective in trying to make this into a controversial vote," said DPA's Piper. "Last year, we operated under the radar until the last minute, and groups like CADCA, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the Fraternal Order of Police, the drug czar, and the Justice Department were caught off guard. This year, the cat was already out of the bag, and all these groups organized against us," he explained.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that we didn't do better, but we are optimistic because even though the opposition was organized and threw everything it had at us in an election year, we still came out about the same as last year," said Piper. "We tried to show people that voting yes was nothing to worry about, but there is still a gut feeling among members that the issue is politically risky. Our goal is to turn that around and send a message to members that if they vote in favor of sending cancer patients to jail, they won't be getting a free pass. And that will put us in a better position for next year, which is not an election year. If we do a good enough job, people may be afraid to vote against it instead of afraid to vote for it."

"As a movement, we need to figure out how to do much better next time," said IDPI's Thomas. "Despite outstanding lobbying efforts from MPP and DPA and others, we still ended up with a lower vote total. We are happy that we and the broader movement organized groups and got our information out to Congress, but we need to figure out how to have a more significant impact."

Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ for the Rep. by Rep. vote results and other information and resources.


4. International AIDS Conference Puts Focus on Thai War on Drugs

"They will be put behind bars or even vanish without a trace. Who cares? They are destroying our country."
-- Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha, referring to drug dealers, January 2003

"There is nothing under the sun which the Thai police cannot do. Because drug traders are ruthless to our children, so being ruthless back to them is not a bad thing... It may be necessary to have casualties... If there are deaths among traders, it's normal."
-- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a speech at Ratchapat Suandusit Hall, Bangkok, January 14, 2003

"Late on January 31, 2003, Boonchuay Unthong and Yupin Unthong were shot and killed as they returned home with their son, Jirasak, eight years old, from a local fair... Witnesses described seeing a man on the back of a motorcycle, wearing a ski mask, shoot Yupin, who was riding on the back of the family motorcycle. Boonchuay exhorted Jirasak to run away. Jirasak hid behind a fence and watched as the gunmen walked up to Boonchuay and executed him with a shot to the head. Convicted for a drug offense, Boonchuay had recently been released after 18 months in prison. It was subsequently discovered that Yupin and he had been placed on a government blacklist"
-- Human Rights Watch, "Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights," released July 8, 2004

For nearly the past year-and-a-half, the Thai government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has engaged in a self-styled "war against drugs" that, according to national and international human rights groups, has left at least 3,000 dead and tens of thousands imprisoned (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/314/sortofdrugfree.shtml). Now, with the XV International AIDS Conference (http://www.aids2004.org) set to get underway Sunday in Bangkok, Thaksin and his drug war are getting some unwelcome scrutiny.

In a report issued Thursday, the internationally respected human right organization Human Rights Watch released a scathing denunciation of the Thai government, accusing it of tarnishing both its human rights and its AIDS prevention records as it prosecutes its war on drug users and sellers. The report cites fresh evidence of human rights abuses ranging from murder to beatings to intimidation to forced confessions and arbitrary arrests.

With an estimated 200,000 heroin users and hundreds of thousands of methamphetamine ("ya ba" or "crazy medicine") users, hard drug use contributes to both the AIDS epidemic and myriad other social problems in Thailand. The country's response under Prime Minister Thaksin has been repression and forced "treatment," which consists largely of being subjected to military-style boot camps.

"It's a scandal that Thailand is hosting the International AIDS Conference while it persecutes people at high risk of HIV," said Jonathan Cohen, a researcher with Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS Program and one of the report's authors. "There are proven methods of addressing drug addiction and HIV/AIDS, and murder is not one of them."

The criticism is aimed not at the AIDS conference but at the Thai government, Cohen was quick to point out. "We are not asking that the conference be moved, but that the host government not commit rampant human rights abuses against people with AIDS," he told DRCNet. "We are after the Thai government, and local activists can use this conference to raise issues with the government."

It is working, at least to a limited degree. "We met with Prime Minister Thaksin in a hour-long meeting today," said Karyn Kaplan, an advocacy volunteer for the Thai Drug Users' Network and International Advocacy Coordinator for the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group. "The government has recently made a commitment to human rights and says it is now looking at drug users as patients, not criminals. But all that means is that their alternative to incarceration is compulsory treatment and, unfortunately, here that means not treatment but a military boot camp," she told DRCNet.

"Isn't it ironic that it takes an international AIDS conference for the prime minister to agree to meet with us?" asked Kaplan. "He has been in office for three years, but as chairman of the National AIDS Commission, he has never been to a meeting. Perhaps we can use this conference and the government's concern about its image to turn up the heat and turn his political statements into action."

Action is needed, said Cohen. "The Thai drug policy has very seriously tarnished Thailand's reputation for AIDS prevention," he said. "What is striking is the way the government is unable to apply the logic of condom distribution to injection drug use. Both are essentially harm reduction strategies. The government needs to recognize that just as there is illegal prostitution, so there is illegal drug use, and both need to be addressed. The Thai government showed courage and leadership in the AIDS pandemic of the 1990s, but that was a different administration, and that success has long since been overshadowed by Thailand's harsh drug policies. Drug users are one of the most important sources of new AIDS infections in Thailand; by 2005, 30% of new infections will be among injection drug users."

Although violence has receded from its peak levels of last year, Thai drug users are still marked people. "The environment remains one of fear and insecurity," said Kaplan.

"People are not coming out for services, but that's because the services aren't safe spaces for them either. There is also a lot of discrimination inside the methadone clinics, and a lot of drugs and risk in prison. Drug users have no human rights here."

Cohen, whose report provides excruciating detail on the abuses, agreed. "The government says drug dealers need to be punished, not drug users, but in practice, drug users are targeted for routine abuses of their human rights," he said. "In fact, we are very suspicious of that distinction between users and dealers in the first place, because it justifies grave human rights violations against people suspected of dealing drugs, up to and including extrajudicial executions."

Reliable numbers are hard to come by, said Cohen. "There are no good estimates for the number of people killed during last year's drug war," he said. "Because estimates from the government vary widely and because at one point the government banned the release of statistics on these deaths, we are not in a position to provide a precise estimate. The figure of 2,275 was widely reported for the first three months of the drug war, but because of the lack of investigations we don't know how many were drug war-related. We do know that the figure is substantially higher than from the same period the previous year."

But Cohen and Human Rights Watch stop short of directly accusing the Thai government of murder -- for now. "Very few forensic experts, human rights organizations, or independent organizations believe the government's denial that they are killing large numbers of people, but we will never know until it is transparently and independently investigated," said Cohen. "We are careful not to say that the government is directly responsible, but in fact the government is blocking investigations, and given the extraordinarily high number of killings that began in February 2003, there is more than enough reason to justify an investigation."

The abuses range from the life-ending to the mundane, Cohen said. "Drug users are very easy targets for police to fill arrest quotas. Police routinely target them for arrest based on the appearance of being high, track marks, or knowledge of previous run-ins," the human rights researcher continued. "They profile drug users, plant evidence on them, force them into signing false confessions and give them beatings. Drug users are then incarcerated in detention facilities where information about HIV is severely lacking and needle sharing is widespread. Methadone maintenance programs are severely limited and needle exchange programs are not available, violating drug users' rights. Despite the government's rhetorical commitment to treating drug users as patients, not criminals, these are the kind of everyday human rights violations suffered by drug users in Thailand."

Thai drug users, AIDS victims and their allies will use the opening day of the XV International AIDS Conference to stage a protest march demanding "action and accountability" in the fight against the disease. While many of the demands are global, march organizers the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) and the community of Thai AIDS Activists are driving home local concerns.

"Access for all in Thailand is still not equitable; undocumented migrants, ethnic minorities denied citizenship, injecting drug users, prisoners and others still face non-medical exclusion criteria and social and economic barriers including health-care setting-based discrimination, which prevent them from accessing ARV," the groups said in a statement announcing the protest. "Activists in Thailand are demanding drug users worldwide get access to comprehensive prevention and treatment, not the threat of government sanctioned killing and unlawful detention."

The Human Rights Watch report, "Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights," is available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/thailand0704/ online.

Visit http://www.globaltreatmentaccess.org for more information on AIDS activism at the Bangkok conference.


5. Making it Official: More Initiatives Move Toward November Ballot

The number of marijuana-related voter initiatives headed for the ballot in November continues to increase as Oakland made it official this week and statewide initiative organizers in Arkansas and Oregon marked signature hand-ins that should ensure voters in those states have the chance to vote on medical marijuana this fall. Two weeks ago, DRCNet reported on initiatives making the ballot in Ann Arbor, MI, Berkeley, CA, and a signature hand-in in Montana that should mean Big Sky voters will be grappling with medical marijuana, too (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/343/onthemove.shtml).

More medical marijuana initiative votes are already set for Detroit (in August) and Columbia, Missouri. The Missouri college town will also host a "lowest priority" initiative. In Alaska, an initiative to regulate and legalize marijuana possession by adults is on the ballot, and in Nevada, organizers of that state's high-rolling regulation initiative are on tenterhooks waiting to see if they have enough valid signatures.

In Oakland, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified on June 28 the 20,000 valid signatures needed for the Oakland Cannabis Initiative (http://www.taxandregulate.org) to go on the November 2 ballot. The Oakland initiative is a two-parter: One section would direct the city to support changes in public policy that move toward a regulated marijuana market while the second section would direct the city to make the enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest law enforcement priority.

According to campaign organizer the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, the initiative would:

  • Establish a system to license, tax and regulate cannabis for adult use as soon as possible consistent with California law, with regulations to prevent access by minors, require good business practices and health and safety standards, prohibit sales near schools, limit public advertising, and license on-site consumption.
  • Make investigation, arrest, prosecution and imprisonment for private, adult cannabis offenses lowest law enforcement priority, while continuing to enforce violations involving distribution to children, street sales and use, operation of motor vehicles, etc.
  • Create a community oversight committee to monitor implementation of the ordinance and to oversee disbursement of funds raised through cannabis fees and taxes to ensure that they are being spent properly.
  • Lobby the state and federal government for changes in law to allow Oakland and other communities to tax and license cannabis.
In Arkansas four days later, proponents of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act turned in some 67,000 signatures to qualify that voter initiative for the November ballot. But with the number of required valid signatures set at 64,456, the margin for error is razor-thin. Still, according to Arkansas law, if some signatures are invalidated, the petitioning group is allowed to submit more signatures to clear the hurdle. Chloe Crater, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana (http://www.arkansasalliance.org), told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the group would continue canvassing signatures for the next few weeks just in case.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow patients with cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious diseases to use marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. The act would create a registry system where patients are their caregivers are issued cards allowing them to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana for medical use.

According to the language of the act, patients and designated caregivers "shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege... for possessing, acquiring, cultivating, or transporting up to one ounce of usable marijuana and six marijuana plants."

In Arkansas, an organized opposition has begun to form, according to the Democrat Gazette. Larry Page, the executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council (http://www.afec.org), which offers "Biblical perspectives" on issues such as abortion, alcohol, gambling, homosexuality, and pornography, attacked the initiative for being funded by Marijuana Policy Project bankroller Peter Lewis, whom the Arkansas Alliance readily admits kicked in $366,000 for the effort.

Page announced this week that he was forming a ballot committee, the Coalition Against Legalized Marijuana, to oppose the initiative. Forming such a committee and filing papers with the state Ethics Commission allows Page to raise and spend money to defeat the measure.

The sailing appears a little smoother in Oregon, where organizers of OMMA2, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act II (http://www.voterpower.org) piled on with signatures. The measure needs 75,360 valid signatures to make the November ballot. Organizers submitted more than 95,000 signatures in May, but went back to the hustings after some were deemed invalid. Just to be safe, they handed in another 28,000 signatures on July 2, virtually ensuring that Oregon voters will have a chance to expand and deepen the medical marijuana initiative they approved in 1999.

Oregon currently has about 9,000 medical marijuana patients registered under the state's existing program, but OMMA2 would not only lower fees and loosen restrictions in various ways, it would also direct the Oregon Department of Health to set up a system of regulated medical marijuana dispensaries. Among its other features, it would:

  • Lower the annual $150 application fee to $20.
  • Include nurse practitioners and naturopaths in the definition of "attending physician." (In Oregon, both are currently allowed to prescribe the same drugs as MDs, including morphine.)
  • Increase the amount of cannabis patients can grow and keep, to 10 plants and as much as six pounds, eliminating the distinction between mature and immature plants. Seedlings and cuttings would no longer be counted as plants.
  • Allow physicians to recommend cannabis for any illness or condition they think appropriate.
  • Allow caregivers to charge for their labor and to grow for more than one patient at one location.
  • Require Oregon to honor other states' medical marijuana laws and not prosecute out-of-state patients.
  • Prohibit employers from firing employees merely for being registered medical marijuana patients.
And so the November election picture for drug policy initiatives begins to come clear. Medical marijuana and "lowest priority" initiatives continue to be popular, but the Alaska and, one hopes, the Nevada "regulation" initiatives have the potential to really break new ground. As for any other drug policy initiatives, there are no signs of life this year.


6. ALERT: "Thank or Spank" Your Congressman for This Week's Medical Marijuana Vote

It's important sometimes in grassroots politics to let our elected leaders know that we know what they are doing. Last Wednesday, 268 members of the US House of Representatives voted against medical marijuana -- they need to hear from their constituents that that was a bad vote that isn't appreciated. 148 members of the House voted for medical marijuana -- they need to hear from constituents that that was a good vote that is appreciated.

Yesterday, DRCNet used our online grassroots lobbying system to send a "thank your Rep." e-mail to our supporters who are known to live in the districts of those 148 members of Congress who voted yes, and a "spank your Rep." e-mail to those in the districts of those 268. The e-mail linked to appropriate prewritten, editable letters that supporters could send to their own US Representatives by entering their names and addresses and clicking the send button, or by replying to the alert e-mail and entering a confirmation code in the subject line. The e-mail also included the name and the direct phone number of each recipient's own Rep., encouraging them to take the further action of making a phone call. Last but not least, we posted the results of Wednesday's vote online, in HTML, PDF, Excel and tab-delimited text formats.

If you haven't responded to that alert yet, or if you're just curious about the details of the outcome, please visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ to view the roll call and find out how your Rep. voted, and to send a "thank" e-mail, or a "spank" e-mail, whichever is appropriate.

If you didn't receive the alert, that probably means that you haven't used one of our write-to-Congress forms before, or that the e-mail address you used at the time has gone bad. If you received the e-mail but we didn't have the right member of Congress listed, that probably means that you haven't used the site to write to Congress since your last move. So in addition to writing to your member of Congress about this week's vote, there is another reason to use our medical marijuana lobbying site: We will then have a record of your current location and hence your congressional district (and state legislative district), and will be able to send you similar targeted bulletins on legislation related to drug policy in the future.

So visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/medicalmarijuana/ and sign up! Thank you for your participation and support.


7. Newsbrief: Rep. Ron Paul Brings Pain Doctor Prosecution Issue to House

For the first time, if only briefly, members of the US Congress on Wednesday dealt with the issue of the overzealous prosecution of pain management physicians by the Justice Department. The occasion was an effort by libertarian Republican Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a physician himself, to amend the Justice Department appropriations bill to forbid expenditures for targeting doctors who are merely doing their jobs.

Rep. Ron Paul
Rep. Paul, long a foe of drug war excess, was inspired by a wave of federal prosecutions of pain doctors, including some of the nation's most prominent pain management physicians, such as Dr. William Hurwitz, currently under indictment in northern Virginia, and Dr. Cecil Knox, currently facing a second trial in southwestern Virginia after a federal jury failed to convict on any charges the first time around.

Paul's amendment would protect doctors who prescribe anything other than a Schedule I controlled substance. Since Schedule I drugs (marijuana, heroin, ecstasy) are by definition without any accepted medical use in the US, that leaves the whole opioid pharmacopeia available to physicians.

"What this amendment does is it denies funding to the Department of Justice to prosecute doctors for prescribing legal drugs," Rep. Paul told the committee. "The reason I bring this up is to call attention to the Members of a growing and difficult problem developing in this country, and that is that more and more doctors now are being prosecuted by the Justice Department under the laws that were designated for going after drug kingpins, for illegal drug dealers; but they are using the same laws to go after doctors."

Paul cited some 400 prosecutions of doctors and railed against a system that abrogates physician's decision-making power to a DEA employee. "We have now created a system where a federal bureaucrat makes the medical decision about whether or not a doctor has prescribed too many pain pills," Paul continued. The result, he said, is inadequate pain treatment. "What this is doing is making everybody fearful," he said. "The other doctors are frightened. Nurses are too frightened to give adequate pain medications even in the hospitals because of this atmosphere."

Responses came from Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), who spoke of how southwest Virginia had been "devastated" by prescription drug abuse. For that reason, said Wolf, he opposed Paul's amendment.

The amendment was ruled out of order by the committee chair the same day on the grounds that it would amend law, something beyond the scope of an appropriations bill. But the pain crisis has entered the nation's capitol.


8. Newsbrief: US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Rejects DEA Motion for New Hemp Hearing

The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on June 28 denied a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) petition seeking a rehearing on the court's February decision blocking the agency from attempting to ban hemp foods. That decision was made by a three-judge panel. The DEA asked for a hearing before the full court, but the court refused.

That decision now gives the DEA and the Justice Department until September 26 to decide to appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court. If the administration fails to act, the sale of hemp foods in the US will be permanently protected.

Hemp food manufacturers are confident of victory in either case, said David Bronner, Chair of the Hemp Industry Association's Food and Oil Committee and President of Alpsnack/Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "The three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that the DEA ignored the specific Congressional exemption in the Controlled Substances Act hat excludes hemp fiber, seed and oil from control along with poppy seeds. The Court reasonably viewed as insignificant and irrelevant harmless trace amounts of THC in hemp seed, just like harmless trace amounts of opiates in poppy seeds," said Bronner.

Hemp companies and the HIA have spent over $200,000 in the two-and-a-half year legal struggle with the DEA, and they are prepared to go the distance. "The public and the media should question the DEA's waste of tax dollars in trying to crush the legitimate hemp food industry," said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp (http://www.votehemp.org). "A Bush administration appeal will fail and only further embarrass the DEA. Appealing the decision is a last-ditch effort to save face at the expense of taxpayers and limited law enforcement resources."

The clock is ticking.


9. Newsbrief: Kansas Supreme Court Says Cut Methamphetamine Sentences

In January, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that the state's sentencing guidelines for people who manufacture methamphetamine were unlawfully harsh. The court held that anyone convicting of cooking meth should be resentenced to much lower prison terms. In a ruling June 25, the state Supreme Court expanded and clarified that ruling to say that it also included people who been sentenced after pleading guilty. As a result of the two rulings, the Kansas City Star reported, "hundreds" of Sunflower State meth cooks will serve drastically shorter sentences.

In its January decision in the case of Brian McAdam, the court found that that the state had two different laws addressing penalties for meth cooks. Kansas prosecutors had been using the most recent law, passed in 1990 and aimed specifically at methamphetamine, to send cooks to prison on double-digit sentences. But the court held that when two laws cover the same criminal activity, defendants can only be sentenced under the law containing the lesser sentence.

The impact was dramatic. Meth cooks sentenced to 11 ½ to 17 years in prison before the ruling are being resentenced to between one and four years now. The question the court addressed in its most recent ruling was whether to extend that same right to seek a new sentence to people who had not been convicted but had instead pled guilty. According to state corrections officials, some 440 people are eligible to seek new, reduced sentences under the rulings.

Prosecutors are grumbling. "Unfortunately, this just adds to the fallout from the McAdam decision," Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison told the Star.

The Kansas legislature this year passed a bill correcting the wording of the methamphetamine statutes so that those convicted in the future will face the more serious sentences. But in the June 25 ruling in the case of Theresa Barnes, the Supreme Court blocked the legislature's effort to have the law applied retroactively. Thus, the court's ruling will aid only those persons convicted under the old law, not those who get caught now or in the future.

The Kansas Supreme Court opinion in the January case, Kansas v. McAdam, is available online at:
http://www.kscourts.org/kscases/supct/2004/20040130/88139.htm

The ruling in the June 25 case, Kansas v. Barnes, is available online at:
http://www.kscourts.org/kscases/supct/2004/20040625/89628.htm


10. Newsbrief: Tommy Chong Walks Out of Prison

Counterculture icon Tommy Chong walked out of federal prison Tuesday after serving a nine-month sentence as part of the Justice Department's crackdown on bongs, known as Operation Pipedream. Chong was released from the federal Bureau of Prisons Taft Correctional Facility in California.

Tommy Chong went to prison because his company, Chong Glass, made the mistake of selling bongs to head shops in Western Pennsylvania, home to one of two US Attorneys who build careers on bong busts. (The other is in Des Moines.) But he also went to prison in part because of his history as an actor, along with Cheech Marin, in a series of pro-marijuana films in the 1970s and early 1980s. At his sentencing, prosecutors urged that his prior conduct be taken into account.

Attorney General John Ashcroft crowed at the time of Chong's arrest. "Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge," he claimed. "This illegal, billion-dollar industry will no longer be ignored by law enforcement."

It largely had been before. But for Ashcroft the bong-makers of America apparently were a threat worthy of the Justice Department's limited resources, and Tommy Chong the perfect symbolic victim. So what if the federal prosecutors, in all too familiar fashion, had to threaten his wife and children to get him to accept a plea deal. That's the American prosecutors' way.

Welcome back to the land of the living, Tommy Chong.


11. Newsbrief: Iranians Protest US, UK Blind Eye to Afghan Opium Crop

In belated news of an International Anti-Drug Day action, Reuters reported that Iranian anti-drug police held a public drug burning in Tehran June 26. The pile of cremated dope was topped with a picture of a bat-like monster with blood-red eyes, representing, one supposes, drugs.

Crowds at the event chanted "Death to America" as the drugs burned.

International Anti-Drugs Day activity in Tehran, Iran, 2001
Why? The Iranians are upset that opium production has exploded in neighboring Afghanistan since it became a US protectorate in late 2001. The year before, the then ruling Taliban had barred opium production, sending the size of the crop plummeting toward zero, but since then the crop has expanded dramatically, with the country now responsible to three-quarters of the world's opium production according to United Nations figures. While British troops put up a token effort at suppressing the trade, US troops have ignored opium and the links between it and key members of the provisional government opium is supporting. Much of that opium and the heroin obtained from it transits Iran on its way to markets in the West, and some of it is falling off the truck en route. As a result, complain the Iranians, the traditional opium-smoking habit has been supplanted by heroin addiction, with 4% of the Iranian population now strung out on Afghani smack.

"We hold America and Britain responsible for this situation... Americans are in charge of Afghanistan's security and Britons are responsible for fighting fight drugs there," said anti-narcotics commander Mehdi Abuee.

Despite interdiction efforts that have included building chains of walls and fortresses across the remote, rugged border and that have cost the lives of more than 3,000 Iranian law enforcement personnel since the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iranian officials can stop only a small percentage of the cross-border traffick, said Abuee. "Only 10 per cent of poppy farms have been destroyed and of what remains, 4,100 tons of opium will be produced this season," Abuee added.

Ali Hashemi, head of the presidential anti-drug office, agreed, saying that the three tons of refined heroin and 111 tons of opium seized last year was probably only about 10% of the total. Iranians are asking why Afghanistan and its Western sponsors don't do more to suppress the trade, he said.

"Apart from the 4% of Iran's population who are addicts, the rest ask why the Western powers are not using the new opportunity in Afghanistan to put an end to the drugs problem in the world," Hashemi said.


12. Newsbrief: United Arab Emirates Ponders First Step Toward Harm Reduction

A top official in the Persian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi has said the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is considering shifting its drug policy to one treating drug users as patients, not criminals. In informal remarks made at a United Nations' International Day Against Drugs event in Abu Dhabi, Lt. Col. Abdul Rahman Al Shamsi, head of the Anti-Narcotics Department of the General Directorate of the Abu Dhabi Police, told the local newspaper the Khaleej Times that the UAE Ministry of Interior was looking at "the new science-based approach" as part of its war on drugs.

In the UAE, the war on drugs is aimed primarily at hashish, with opium and its derivatives a secondary target. According to UAE figures from 2002, that year the Emirates saw 275 drug arrests while seizing slightly more than a ton of hash, eight pounds of opium, a half-pound of heroin, 20,000 "narcotic capsules" and 18 grams of marijuana.

While it may seem like just a bunch of sleepy smoke to some, the UAE takes its drug war seriously. Here's what the British Embassy says to travelers thinking about partying down in the Emirates: "Penalties for drugs trafficking, smuggling and possession are severe in the Gulf States. If you have used drugs prior to arrival in the UAE and a blood test on you for illegal drug usage proves positive, you can still be charged with a criminal offense. In general the sentence for taking drugs is a minimum of four years in prison and a minimum of seven years for anyone found dealing in drugs. It can take up to six months or more for trials involving drug offenses to be completed. During this time the accused remains in custody on the basis that the eventual sentence will be longer than time already served."

But now, the first glimmers of change. "We will be treating drug users like patients, not criminals," said Shamsi. "They are victims and we will be helping them out to give up the habit through rehabilitation and reintroduction into the society."

Shamsi was apparently referring to a proposed new drug law. The UAE federal cabinet submitted a draft bill to the National Council in February, where it is still undergoing consideration.


13. Newsbrief: Head of National Drug Intelligence Center Fired

In May, DRCNet reported on widespread allegations of mismanagement, favoritism and sexism at the National Drug Intelligence Center (http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/). A rising chorus of complaints from the center's 400 employees led the Justice Department to send a team to investigate (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/336/ndic.shtml). NDIC, located in Johnstown, PA, tracks drug trends, issues intelligence reports ("threat assessments"), and provides counter-drug intelligence to other favorite agencies.

At the time Justice said it was responding to complaints made in a letter by NDIC employees charging that director Michael Horn created an intimidating atmosphere, overplayed the agency's role in counter-terrorism efforts, treated most women in a hostile manner, and traveled excessively with one woman, his assistant Mary Lou Rodgers. Although NDIC's mandate is for domestic drug intelligence, Horn and Rodgers racked up $164,000 in travel expenses for trips to such non-domestic locations as Jamaica, Barbados, Paris, London, Romania, and Hong Kong.

Now, according to the Associated Press, Justice has finished its investigation and Horn is out of a job. He was fired June 28. The Justice Department said the complaints from employees at the center were warranted. "We listened to what they said and we acted on it," said department spokesman Mark Corallo.

Horn will be replaced temporarily by Drug Enforcement Administration international operations chief Martin Pracht while a permanent replacement is found, the AP reported.


14. Newsbrief: Prohibition as a Marketing Tool -- Camel Ad Campaign Touts "Forbidden Fruit" Appeal

RJ Reynolds, the tobacco conglomerate that manufactures Camel cigarettes, is embarking on an ad campaign that seeks to infuse its smokes with the glamour of the forbidden. In a campaign that will culminate in November with Camel Mansion Speakeasy parties on both coasts, RJ Reynolds is harkening back to the days of alcohol Prohibition. The campaign will seek to convince smokers feeling downtrodden by the anti-smoking legislation of today that they should instead revel in their status as "outlaws," just as millions of Americans did in defying Prohibition in the 1920s.

Yes, smoke Camels and you, too, can be as cool as Roaring '20s flapper by rebelling against repressive orthodoxy. And if you're not sure that you're really as hip as those scofflaws of yore, Camel is helpfully offering a special tie-in flavor called Back Alley Blend to give you that added fillip of semi-criminality.

The campaign got underway with a full-page ad in the June/July issue of Details magazine. "Not since the '20s has it been so easy to live so large," said the ad text above a photo of a flapper smoking a Camel through a cigarette holder. The metal lid on Camel's Back Alley Blend drives home the deviant point. Ad copy on the inside of the lid describes Back Alley Blend's flavor as "enjoyed by bootleggers and socialites."

Not so long ago, the tobacco companies used Prohibition as the boogeyman. Anti-smoking forces are "seeking a return to Prohibition in America," then RJ Reynolds chairman James Johnston warned a congressional committee in 1994. "The American public overwhelmingly opposes prohibition, regardless of whether it comes through the front door or sneaks in through the back door," Johnston said. "So let's be clear that back-door prohibition is prohibition nonetheless."

Big tobacco has gone from attacking Prohibition as anti-American to using it as a marketing ploy. RJ Reynolds, you've come a long way, baby.

Visit http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/07/business/media/07adco.html for further information and pictures.


15. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

Two nominees this one, and since it is difficult to measure their respective offenses on the odiousness meter, we present them in no particular order.

First up is former Washington, DC, police officer Shawn Verbeke. He has been indicted by a Washington grand jury on charges he shook down dealers at nightclubs, stole their drugs, and sold them, splitting the profits with an informant. Sadly for Verbeke, his informant buddy behaved as informants do and snitched him out to avoid trouble for himself.

Verbeke, a former Marine and former member of the US Capitol Police, served on the DC Metro Police force from 1999 to 2002. He is being held without bond until trial in September, according to a report from local TV station NBC4.

Next in this week's spotlight is former Charlotte, North Carolina, police detective Wyatt Henderson. He remains free despite having been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for pistol-whipping a teenage suspect during an alleged marijuana buy in 2002 and then lying to his superiors about it.

He remains free because US District Court Judge Anne Conway is unhappy with the federal Bureau of Prisons' decision to send him to a medium security prison. The judge is concerned about the safety of the 6'5", 250-pound ex-cop, the Charlotte Sun Herald reported. Conway wants Henderson sent to the minimum security prison camp at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, but federal prosecutors object, saying it would not be appropriate to place a violent felon at a prison "where there are high-ranking military officers." (Prosecutors did not elaborate on why it was wrong to subject incarcerated military officers, who are professionally trained for combat, to the presence of a common thug.)

Although prosecutors noted that the federal Bail Reform Act requires that those convicted of "crimes of violence" should be jailed during appeals, Judge Conway has freed him indefinitely. At this writing, it is unclear if, when, or where Henderson will serve his time.

Henderson resigned his position just in time to avoid additional charges relating to a fake college diploma and the $1,300 in education incentive funds he improperly took for "earning" the degree. Actually, Henderson is a serial credential faker. After being caught once in degree fraud, he did it again, purchasing two more degrees from "St. Regis University," whose campus is in an unnamed African nation. "I wanted to prove to myself I could get a real college degree," he said in a non sequitur during cross-examination in court.

Now, let's see if he gets the prison sentence he really earned.


16. Newsbrief: California Prisons "Dysfunctional," State Report Concludes

The California prison system, exceeded in size by only the federal system, is "dysfunctional" and plagued by abuses, according to a report commissioned by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and authored by former Gov. George Deukmejian (R). As governor from 1983 to 1991, Deukmejian oversaw much of the expansion that has turned the California Department of Corrections into a $6 billion a year, 32-prison gulag holding 163,000 prisoners at last count.

Despite the passage of the "treatment not jail" Proposition 36 initiative in 2002, more than 33,000 drug offenders continue to fill prison cells -- 21% of all California inmates. Among those tens of thousands of victims of prohibition are some 1,250 doing time for marijuana crime. Additionally, more than a full third of California's 114,000 parolees are drug offenders.

And they, like all the other inhabitants of the walled world of the California prison system, have suffered from a system that has "too much political interference, too much union control and too little management courage, accountability and transparency," as the authors of the 350-page report, "Reforming Corrections," gently put it.

What the commission was obliquely referring to was an avalanche of scandals including sadistic treatment of prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay "supermax" prison, the staging of fights between inmates by guards, guards putting known prison rapists into cells with prisoners who had somehow offended them, and on and on in a cavalcade of ugliness foreshadowing the international scandal surrounding prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. And the guards typically walked, as their comrades in the politically powerful state prison guard union closed ranks around them as administrators quailed.

The commission has a whole raft of recommendations, starting with a call for the dismantling of the California Youth and Adult Correctional Agency and its replacement by a new Department of Corrections headed by a 10-member appointed commission. The commission would hold public meetings every two months and open up prison operations to public scrutiny, a marked contrast from current practice. "Management in corrections has been deficient and dysfunctional," said Deukmejian, who made a political career as a "tough on crime" conservative. "It's extremely important that we have an independent commission to lead the way and monitor what's going on."

Gov. Schwarzenegger has already rejected this central recommendation, the Los Angeles Times reported. A Scharzenegger spokeswoman told the Times giving oversight to a civilian commission "would reduce accountability for the governor and grant it to a politically appointed board."

The report contains another 238 recommendations ranging from toughening standards for guards to returning to the notion, derided by tough guys in recent decades, of rehabilitation. In order to cut the state's recidividism rate -- more than half the state's parolees return to prison -- the report recommended, the state needs to spend resources for more education, drug treatment and job-training programs. It could also cut the time spent on parole.

And the Correctional Peace Officers Association -- the prison guards' union -- must be reined in, the report said. Management passive in the face of an aggressive union "has resulted in an unfair and unworkable tilt toward union influence" in how prisons are run, the panel said. It also criticized institutional rules, such as the one that requires managers to give prison guards details of any allegations against them before they meet with investigators. "This practice encourages 'the code of silence' afflicting the state correctional system and could contribute to retaliation against 'whistleblowers,'" the report said.

The report, "Reforming Corrections," is available online at http://www.report.cpr.ca.gov/irp/.


17. Movie Opening: Maria Full of Grace

Maria Full of Grace (aka "Maria Llena Eres de Gracia") is the riveting story of a 17-year-old Colombian girl who loses her job de-thorning roses at a flower plantation outside of Bogota and agrees to travel to the US as a drug "mule" -- swallowing a half-kilo of heroin in thumb-sized rubber pellets. The film is a tense examination of a rarely glimpsed corner of the drug trade as well as an affecting exploration of one young woman's search for her place in the world.

"Maria Full of Grace" was the first Spanish language film to be accepted into Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award this past January. It then went on to the Berlin Film Festival where lead actress Catalina Sandino won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and the film won Best First Feature. It continued to the Los Angeles Film Festival (Audience Award), Cartagena Film Festival (six awards), Seattle Film Festival (Best Actress), Newport Film Festival (Best Actress and Best Dramatic Film), the Provincetown Film Festival, the Nantucket Film Festival, the Guadalajara Film Festival, the Maui Film Festival, the Moscow Film Festival and the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. It will be released in theaters July 16 in New York and LA; and on July 30 in Washington DC, Miami, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, Denver, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.

Visit http://www.mariafullofgrace.com or http://www.mariallenaeresdegracia.com to learn more about the film. Next week's issue of Drug War Chronicle will include a review of Maria Full of Grace -- contributed by someone whom long-time Drug War Chronicle readers will remember.


18. Media Scan: New CSDP Ad -- Richard Paey and Rush Limbaugh

Common Sense for Drug Policy highlights the disparity between pain patient Richard Paey, sentenced to decades for seeking pain medication to treat severe, chronic pain, and Rush Limbaugh, whose illegal seeking and use of much larger quantities of the same types of drugs earned him only rehab.

http://www.csdp.org/ads/just4all.htm


19. This Week in History

July 10, 1992: Manuel Noriega is convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in federal prison.

July 11, 1979: A deadly shootout between Colombian traffickers in broad daylight at Miami's Dadeland Mall brings the savagery of the Colombian cocaine lords to the attention of US law enforcement.

July 13, 1931: The International Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs is convened in Geneva.

July 13, 1995: The New York Times reports the FDA has concluded for the first time that nicotine is an addictive drug that should be regulated.

July 13, 1998: The Associated Press reported that Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey asserted that drug abuse problems in The Netherlands are "enormous" and, as reported by Reuters, said, "The murder rate in Holland is double that in the United States... That's drugs." McCaffrey's comments are subsequently condemned and ridiculed by Dutch officials and media, who point out that the murder rate in the Netherlands is actually less than one fourth the US rate (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/050/footinmouth.shtml).


20. Psilocybin Cancer Research Study Still Seeking Participants

Last February we posted a notice in this newsletter reporting that a study being conducted by Dr. Charles S. Grob at Harbor-UCLA in Torrance, California is recruiting stage IV cancer patients with anxiety to participate in an FDA approved study with psilocybin.

The Cancer Anxiety Study is still underway and is seeking more volunteers at this time. Visit http://www.canceranxietystudy.org for further information, or contact Marycie Hagerty, RN study coordinator, at [email protected] or (310) 222-3175.


21. The Reformer's Calendar

(Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [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 http://www.aidslaw.ca/bangkok2004/e-bangkok2004.htm 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 http://www.coloradofreedom.org 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 isidroŠnovember.org for further information.

July 23-25, Boston, MA, drug policy reform groups participating in the Boston Social Forum. For further information, visit http://www.bostonsocialforum.org/e107_plugins/survey/view.php?1 and follow the criminal justice and domestic repression links.

July 29-31, Colville, WA, "Once in a Blue Moon," November Coalition National Workshop. For further information, visit http://www.november.org/bluemoon/ or contact (509) 684-1550 or [email protected].

August 4, Toronto, Canada, "Oh, Cannabis: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show Extravaganja," benefit for the Toronto Compassion Centre, featuring Mike Wilmot and others. At Yuk Yuk's, 224 Richmond St. W., contact Howard Dover at (323) 253-3472 or [email protected] or visit http://www.greentherapy.com for further information.

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

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

September 7-10, Vienna, Austria, "Ethnicity & Addiction: 16th International Congress on Addiction. For further information, visit http://www.ethnicity-addiction.com or contact [email protected] or +43(0)1-585 69 69-0.

September 18, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 15th Annual Freedom Rally, visit http://www.masscann.org 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 http://www.cjpc.org for further information.

November 11-14, New Orleans, LA, "Working Under Fire: Drug User Health and Justice 2004," 5th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, at the New Orleans Astor Crowne Plaza, contact Paula Santiago at (212) 213-6376 x15 or visit http://www.harmreduction.org/conference/5thnatlconf.pdf for further information.

November 18-21, College Park, MD, Students for Sensible Drug Policy national conference. Details to be announced, visit http://www.ssdp.org to check for updates.


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