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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #348, 7/30/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Editorial: Too Many Questions
  2. An All-Time High: Nearly 7 Million Behind Bars or on Probation or Parole
  3. MPP, ACLU Sue Nevada to Gain Ballot Access for Marijuana Initiative
  4. DRCNet Book Review: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War," edited by Sheriff Bill Masters (Accurate Press, $14.95 PB)
  5. Newsbrief: British Drug Panel Considering Anti-Drug Vaccinations for Schoolchildren
  6. Newsbrief: Border Guard Charged in Beating of Suspected Marijuana Smuggler
  7. Newsbrief: Justice Department Orders Libraries to Return Asset Forfeiture Documents
  8. Newsbrief: Despite High Court Ruling, Old Drug Conviction Keeps Man from His Kids
  9. Newsbrief: West Australia Quietly Shifts From Drug Arrests to Diversion
  10. Newsbrief: British Marijuana Arrests Plummet Following Legal Reclassification
  11. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  12. This Week in History
  13. Media Scan: Canada, Canada, Canada, Kerry
  14. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Editorial: Too Many Questions

David Borden
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 7/30/04

One of the scarier ideas to come out of the drug war was reported this week by the British paper The Independent on Sunday. A government-convened panel of scientists in the UK is considering what the Independent properly termed "a radical scheme" -- a proposal to use vaccines, currently under development by pharmaceutical corporations, to immunize children against "euphoria" from drugs such as heroin, cocaine and nicotine. Panel members say the plan would target children who are at risk of becoming drug users in the future. They have not said how it would be determined who is at risk.

As a US activist and commentator it's not for me to decide what the British government will do or not do. But this is an internationally read newsletter, and in any case it's only a matter of time until some of our own drug war zealots or anti-drug mad scientists take the idea up here in the US, if they're not already. So I will speak. I believe that an anti-drug vaccine is a proposal that is both dangerous and immoral.

An anti-drug vaccine differs fundamentally from vaccines designed to protect individuals from diseases like measles, the example a committee member raised to the Independent's reporter. Measles is a disease that no one, or virtually no one, wants to catch, and which is communicable and could therefore spread to large numbers of people if unchecked. Perhaps measles vaccinations should not be compulsory, if we believe in freedom of choice. But the wisdom of such vaccinations is clear, and it's legitimate for society to encourage them and make them widely available.

An anti-drug vaccine, on the other hand, is designed to produce a permanent chemical alteration to an individual's brain chemistry to disable one's ability to experience certain mind states that humans are designed to be able to experience -- and which despite their downsides many people desire to experience. Though heroin and cocaine are illegal, that might not always be the case, and nicotine is legal. Legal or not, it is the individual's human right to seek such experiences. But even if one disagrees with that last statement, to alter a human being's brain and body to make the experience impossible, forever, is an extremist approach.

The "side effects" of such an alteration are hard to predict. Heroin is an opiate drug that was developed for pain control, which is still used for pain control in some countries, and which is derived from morphine and hence fundamentally similar to many other pain medicines. Would a heroin vaccine interfere with the ability of a pain patient to gain relief through heroin or other opiate medications? Cocaine is also used as a medicine, not for such a large number of patients as the opiates, but important for the ones for whom it is used. Would a cocaine vaccine interfere with a patient's ability to gain those medical benefits? Would it interfere with the potency of similar drugs like novocaine? Does nicotine have current or potential medical uses that would be stymied by a vaccine?

Not necessarily -- the physiological processes occurring in pain relief are not identical to those involved in opiate use to produce, euphoria, for example, or for relieving the cravings of an addiction. Nor, however, are they entirely dissimilar -- it's the same substance, after all. How can we determine in advance, with surety, that no such problems will arise? Through experimentation? On children? It's true that experimental drug trials are an accepted part of medical research, and some may even by necessity involve children as test subjects.

But the anti-drug vaccine is a fundamentally different proposition in this respect as well, for at least two reasons. One is that it is not necessary, as effective alternatives for reducing or avoiding the harms that sometimes from drug addiction are already available -- moderation, harm reduction, and abstinence. The other reason is the sheer scale, in time and in numbers of people, that would be needed to thoroughly assess an anti-drug vaccine's risks and effects. It's not something that can be accomplished in one or even ten years, with any reasonable number of people, because it's not sufficient to inject a test set of children with the vaccine and then feed them addictive drugs years later to see what happens.

Take the number of people needed for a proper drug trial. Then divide that by the fraction of them who statistically are likely to suffer from serious medical conditions in the future that require with opiates (a larger number) or cocaine (a smaller number). That much larger number of test subjects is the minimum number needed to ensure that the subset of the test subjects who will develop severe chronic pain and other serious conditions in the future will be available and still part of the study. There would need to be an ample number of them requiring heavy use of opiates. And the time scale is a lifetime, as the subjects would receive the vaccinations as children while the drugs are most often needed as medicines late in life.

We're not talking thousands of test subjects, nor tens of thousands. We are talking about at least hundreds of thousands and probably millions or more -- a substantial chunk of a generation -- with statistically significant results not possible for the better part of a century, to determine with any degree of confidence that such vaccines will not interfere with important medical treatments later in life.

Last but not least -- as millionaire Bruce Wayne told the future Riddler about his proposed brain experiment in the 1995 Batman movie -- there are too many questions. Don't go there!

If informed, consenting adults want to take an anti-drug vaccine, and if it could work on adults, maybe they should have that right. But the government should play no role in sponsoring, nor even encouraging, such a practice. In my opinion, an anti-drug vaccine for children is such a bad idea that it isn't even worth considering.


2. An All-Time High: Nearly 7 Million Behind Bars or on Probation or Parole

In its latest annual report on the US "correctional population," the number of people under the control of the criminal justice system, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has found that almost 6.9 million Americans are in jail or prison or on probation or parole as of December 31, 2003. That number marks an increase of 130,700 from the previous year and represents 3.2% of the adult population of the US. In other words, one out of every 32 adults in the US is under some form of correctional supervision.

Some 691,000 people were in city or county jails, while nearly 1.4 million were in state or federal prisons, making a total of 2,078,570 people behind bars in the US, also an all-time high. Those figures represent a 3.9% increase in the jail population and a 2.3% increase in the prison population. Nearly half a million, or almost one-quarter, of these prisoners are doing time for drug crimes, according to earlier BJS reports.

In addition to the nearly 2.1 million prisoners, BJS found that slightly more than four million people were on probation and nearly 775,000 on parole. The number of probationers increased 1.2% over the previous year, while the number of parolees climbed by 3.1% Generally, parolees have served prison time and are on parole for further supervision, while probationers have been sentenced to criminal justice system supervision in lieu of a prison sentence.

The number of probationers increased by more than 49,000, 1.4% over the previous year but slightly less than half the annual average increase since 1995, BJS reported. Drug offenders constituted 25% of all probationers. The number of parolees increased by more than 24,000, an increase of 3.1% over 2002. And unlike the probation numbers, this year's rate of increase in parolees exceeds the average of 1.7% annually since 1995.

A staggering number of parolees are sent back to prison before finishing their supervision periods, BJS found. Of those people discharged from parole, 38% were sent back to prison, either for technical violations such as failing a drug test or missing an appointment, or for committing new crimes. Another 9% have simply vanished. But it is also worth noting that nearly half of all parolees completed their supervisory periods without committing a new crime or violating the terms of parole.

The continuing growth in the correctional population comes despite a decade of lower crime rates and the introduction of sentencing reforms in a number of states. Sentencing experts point to a number of factors in explaining the apparent contradiction.

"What we are seeing here is the long-term effect of longer sentences," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project (http://www.sentencingproject.org), a Washington, DC-based nonprofit which seeks alternatives to the heavy reliance on incarceration in the US. "Even though the number of people being convicted of crimes has not increased that much, the amount of time people are doing in prison has," he told DRCNet. "With policies like California's three-strikes law people are doing decades-long sentences. We recently did a report showing there are 127,000 people now serving life sentences (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/338/life.shtml). While there have been some positive developments, such as the drug offender diversion initiatives, those have been offset by these punitive sentencing policies."

"There is no reason for this increase," said Eric Lotke, research director for the Justice Policy Institute (http://www.justicepolicy.org), another nonprofit dedicated to seeking more just alternatives to massive incarceration. "This is going along on auto-pilot, on bureaucratic inertia," he told DRCNet. "Until someone makes an effort to rein this in and says we need to restrain these costs and these intrusions on our civil liberties, it will be as it has been."

The Sentencing Project's Mauer also cited the impact of parole revocations. "The percentage of people returning to prison for parole violations has doubled in the last 20 years," he said. "Often that is a function of inadequate services for parolees. They are drug tested and get revoked if they're using drugs, even though there is insufficient drug treatment. Community-based supervision agencies don't have the resources to help these people, and that leads to high failure rates. It's a vicious cycle," he said.

"We are sending too many parolees back to prison," JPI's Lotke said flatly. "BJS does not disaggregate its statistics on this, but a large number of people are going back to prison for technical violation like a dirty drug test, not for committing new crimes. California especially is returning large numbers of people to prison on technical violations. And because it is California, if half of the parolees returning to prison are for technical violations, we're talking about thousands of people and millions of dollars."

Lotke agreed that parole services are inadequate. "You have to look at parole in two parts. The first is a discretionary decision: Should this person be released? The second part is to actually be on parole and out in the community," he said. "What has happened is that people have cut back on parole releases because they are politically unpopular, but at the same time, they unthinkingly cut back on supervision as well. We need supervision and we need more it," he said, "but with a different emphasis. We need good quality supervision trying to help people succeed as opposed to busting them when they fail."

The Sentencing Project's Mauer also pointed to continuing high arrest rates. "The crime is down, but arrest rates are not, especially with drugs, where the arrests are really more discretionary," he said. "It seems like an endless number of people are going to be arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses. There are some signs of change, but so far there is no letting up."

Mauer also suggested that the rise of drug courts and other diversion programs could be contributing to the numbers. "Some of these programs are diverting people from prison, and some are bringing people into the system who probably would not have been arrested if there was not a drug court option," he said, "so there is a net-widening effect."

Still, both Mauer and Lotke agreed that because of restrictions on people who can use the drug courts, their impact is limited. "The drug courts aren't handling major traffic," said Lotke. "The number of people going through drug courts is in the thousands or tens of thousands, while the number of drug arrests is more than a million each year."

Policy decisions, not crime rates, play a decisive role, said Lotke. BJS reported that two states, California and Texas, accounted for more than one million of the nearly five million on probation or parole, he noted. "Those numbers are too big," he said. "All you have to do is contrast California and Texas with New York, another large, urbanized state. If you look at the numbers, and especially the growth in recent year, it is much smaller in New York. It is not because there is less crime in New York, it is because of policy choices."

To read the report, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2003" and associated documents, visit http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/ppus03.htm online.


3. MPP, ACLU Sue Nevada to Gain Ballot Access for Marijuana Initiative

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday seeking to force Nevada officials to count signatures they had excluded for various reasons from the valid signature count. MPP and its local affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (http://www.regulatemarijuana.org), had gathered some 66,000 signatures for their initiative to make marijuana a regulated, non-criminalized commodity for adults. They needed 51,337 valid signatures representing at least 10% of voters in 13 of the state's 17 counties. Secretary of State Scott Heller announced two weeks ago that the signature-gathering effort had failed.

The lawsuit includes an emergency motion for a court order to force Secretary of State Heller to certify the initiative for the November ballot. The motion accuses Nevada officials of using "a raft of unreasonable, purposeless and unconstitutional restrictions" to prevent the measure from getting on the ballot.

"We are beginning to feel this is not all just a coincidence," said Bruce Mirken, MPP's director of communications. "Many thousands of voters have been effectively disenfranchised," he told DRCNet. "However you feel about marijuana, that should not happen."

A spokesman for Heller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the secretary of state's office needed to study the lawsuit. "I'm quite sure that we will put together a very good argument against the lawsuit, but I can't speak to the merits of it at this time," the spokesman said Tuesday.

"There are three major issues at play in this suit," said Mirken. "One of them has to do with the 13 counties rule. It has already been thrown out by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We are astonished that Nevada has not attempted to adapt itself to that ruling," he told DRCNet. "The way the rule is written, a signature from Clark County (Las Vegas) carries only a third of the weight of one from Washoe County (Reno) and one-eighteenth of the weight of a signature from Carson County. Voters are being discriminated against based on their county of residence," Mirken argued.

"Our argument on the 13 counties rule is primarily an equal protection argument, explained attorney Sarah Netburn of the New York firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady, which, along with the Nevada ACLU, is representing MPP. "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has already affirmed a lower court decision challenging a similar statute in Idaho, so we hope that the court here will feel bound by the precedent," she told DRCNet. "We are arguing that the one person one vote rule bars state laws that give different weights to voters. With the 13 counties rule, where petitioners must get 10% of the number of voters who voted in the last election in 13 of the state's 17 counties, an unequal weight is given to your signature based on the county you live in," she said.

"The second issue is the rule requiring a second affidavit on each petition booklet," said Mirken. "This is nothing more than a backdoor way for the state of Nevada to try to enforce a rule that has already been thrown out by the courts in another initiative this year. We lost 20,000 signatures because of this rule," Mirken said.

"This is primarily a First Amendment issue," said Netburn, "and it has to do with burdening your right to participate in elections. The US Supreme Court held in a 1999 case that you can't require circulators to be registered voters in the country where they are circulating petitions. The Nevada constitution had a similar provision, which everyone expected to be struck after that ruling, but instead the secretary of state decided to require two affidavits on each petition. If the circulator was registered in that county, he can sign the second affidavit, but if not, someone who signed the petition must instead sign the second affidavit. We have cases where the circulator signed one affidavit, but not the other, and as a result, the secretary of state disqualified entire booklets of signatures," she explained.

"Finally, and most egregiously in terms of showing bias, Clark County threw out the signatures of thousands of voters who signed registration forms at the same time they signed the petitions," said Mirken. "This is not unusual at all. You always register new voters and get them to sign your petitions. Our people worked closely with Clark County officials and were repeatedly reassured that those signatures would be fine, but because of administrative delays in adding those new voters to the rolls, the state has concluded they were not registered voters," he explained. "I'm sorry, but that's just crazy."

"This is also a First Amendment claim," said Netburn. "You just can't burden fundamental rights that way. These are plainly registered voters, now and when the signatures were counted. There is also a due process claim because we repeatedly consulted with Clark County authorities and they verified they would accept the new voter signatures."

The Nevada ACLU has joined in both because it has been involved in litigation on ballot initiative questions and because it supports this initiative, said Gary Peck, executive director of the ACLU of Nevada. "Our prior involvement has included the support of people whose petitions we both agree and disagree with," Peck told the Review-Journal. "What is paramount for us is the integrity of the process. We want to make sure that the rights of the voting public are properly respected and no one is unlawfully is enfranchised. In this case, we actually support the legalization of small amounts of marijuana."

The litigants are seeking a quick ruling, said Netburn. "The judge set a hearing date for August 13, but we filed a motion Thursday requesting an earlier date. If we win, and we believe we will, the state needs time to get the ballots printed, so we need a ruling right away. If the court doesn't rule until October, all this will be moot."


4. DRCNet Book Review: "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War," edited by Sheriff Bill Masters (Accurate Press, $14.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Editor, [email protected], 7/30/04

"The New Prohibition" is a rousing attack on prohibitionist orthodoxy from a strong line-up of lawmen, elected officials, academics, and activists. In 21 easily digestible chapters organized into five sections (voices from law enforcement, elected officials, drug war harms, responding to prohibitionists, and strategies for reform), "The New Prohibition" provides a wide-ranging, generally libertarian-leaning refutation of the moral, philosophical, and pragmatic justifications for a policy that has cost half a trillion dollars in the past three decades while failing to achieve its avowed goals and sowing all sorts of unintended consequences.


The voices of law enforcement are particularly powerful. Given the almost universal police cheerleading for ever harsher drug policies, any voice of dissent from the ranks would be powerful. But San Miguel County, Colorado, Sheriff Bill Masters, former Kansas City and San Jose chief of police Joe McNamara, former Graham County, Arizona, Sheriff Richard Mack, and former New Jersey undercover narc and current leader of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (http://www.leap.cc) Jack Cole make contributions that are both cogent and sometimes surprisingly radical.

Cole, for instance, says straight out that all drugs should be legalized, that the government should distribute them, and that maintenance doses should be given away free to addicts. McNamara, meanwhile, scathingly portrays a police culture riven with abuses and corruption by the drug war, while Masters, in his folksy way, demolishes the rationale for prohibition in a handful of pages.

Chapter after chapter in "The New Prohibition" is informed with a searing sense of the injustices done in the name of prohibition, much of it based on the libertarian notion that people should have control over their own bodies. It is a sad commentary on the times that mentioning limited government or the Constitution will undoubtedly be seen by some as crankish ravings of the lunatic right. In a fascinating piece, Colorado libertarian Ari Armstrong portrays the efforts by the Bush administration to spiff up its tired "war on drugs" by connecting it with the shiny, new "war on terror," most famously in the much ridiculed Superbowl 2003 "smoke a joint, help terrorists" ads. In short order, Armstrong demolishes the logic behind such ads.

Mike Krause and Dave Kopel of the libertarian Independence Institute analyze the effects of US drug policy in Latin America, correctly observing that prohibition fills the coffers of various armed movements, these days in Columbia, but also in Peru in the 1980s. In what is apparently an attempt to appeal to the dominance of "terror" in our political discussions, Krause and Kopel refer to the leftist FARC guerrillas and the rightist paramilitaries in Columbia as "narco-terrorists" -- an ill-chosen term, despite the occasional atrocities of the FARC and the rampant atrocities of the paramilitary groups, and the reliance to some extent of both on drug trade revenues. In particular, Colombian and US officials use the "terrorist" label against the FARC to make it easier to dismiss the myriad calls from within and without Colombia for peace negotiations and ending the drug war.

That quibble aside, Krause and Kopel are correct in their basic point: Drug prohibition helps finance political violence. And as is the case in Columbia, drug money knows no ideology. Something similar is going on right now in Afghanistan, where profits from the country's massive opium crop help finance both the Taliban-Al Qaeda alliance and the warlords they are fighting.

At least two contributors, the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts' Fatema Gunja and University of Colorado philosopher Michael Huemer, attempt to address what in this reviewer's opinion is the primary obstacle to drug reform: the widely held, often religiously based, notion that drug use is somehow immoral or just plain wrong. Gunja identifies a "discourse of righteousness" that has guided drug policy for generations, though she spends less time confronting the moral objection to drug use than she does outlining some of the ways that discourse has led to great social harms.

Neither is Huemer's effort completely satisfying. While his essay shreds the philosophical underpinnings of prohibition and while he cites moralist criminologist James Q. Wilson, he does not directly confront Wilson's claims that drug use is immoral, destroys one's humanity, alters one's soul, and corrodes one's sense of sympathy and duty. Instead, Huemer retorts only that Wilson's claims are unproven. The issue of the immorality of drug use is central to both the maintenance of prohibition and the fear and loathing with which vast portions of the population view any effort at reform. This is a challenge the reform community must face head-on. Still, both Gunja and Huemer are to be congratulated with at least confronting this critical issue.

There is not room in a book review to mention all the contributors, let only discuss the merits of their work. But let me mention a few more. The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation's Eric Sterling's address to businessmen about how prohibition hurts them is a marvel of pragmatism with not a word about social justice or natural rights, but with a keen-eyed emphasis on what for the businessman is the ultimate bottom line -- the bottom line. Boston University economist Jeffrey Miron provides a fascinating comparison of libertarian and liberal (I would have preferred "progressive") drug reform positions and where the twain might meet.

Similarly outstanding are contributions from former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Colorado US Senior District Court Judge John Kane, and libertarian Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), preceded by an introduction by none other than former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. The chapter by Ron Crickenberger, the former policy director for the Libertarian Party who died last fall, is yet another testimonial to his life's work of ending the drug war. Among other things, he describes his civil disobedience arrest at the Justice Department in June 2002 to protest Attorney General John Ashcroft's medieval medical marijuana policy. I was at the corner of 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW that day. That's how I like to remember Ron, and thank to "The New Prohibition," that's how readers will remember him. The book, in fact, is dedicated to Ron's memory.

The astute reader may have noticed a Rocky Mountain flavor to this compendium. That's not such a surprise in a volume edited by the sheriff in Telluride with assistance from Colorado libertarian stalwart Ari Armstrong. With at least six contributors from Colorado alone and one each from neighboring Utah and Arizona, some may suggest the focus on regional talent weakens the book, but after reading their contributions I would beg to differ. Instead, it makes me think that if our movement can produce such talented voices in a small-population state like Colorado, there must be other, equally talented voices in states across the land.

For veteran reformers, the arguments in "The New Prohibition" are not, for the most part, new, but they are freshly and eloquently stated. The book provides argument after argument against prohibition and is chock full of handy facts for winning your own arguments or, better yet, winning over that cop or teacher or politician. "The New Prohibition" is a worthy addition to the reformer's bookshelf.

I cannot end this review with mentioning the contribution of DRCNet executive director Dave Borden. In his essay, Borden describes the range of organizations and positions within the drug reform movement, tells about how the frankly anti-prohibitionist DRCNet is able to work with other groups on select mainstream issues despite being "legalizers," and urges the rest of the reform movement to rethink the conventional wisdom that has caused "not quite legalization" to become a default approach many organizations and individuals involved with drug reform feel they must take. You tell 'em, Brother Dave.

DRCNet continues to offer New Prohibition along with a range of other member premiums for people contributing $25 or more to our organization. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and order your copy of New Prohibition and/or additional items from our selection of books, videos, and StoptheDrugWar.org merchandise.


5. Newsbrief: British Drug Panel Considering Anti-Drug Vaccinations for Schoolchildren

The British newspaper the Independent on Sunday reported this week that "a radical scheme to vaccinate children against future drug addiction is being considered by ministers." Actually, the proposal is being considered by a committee of scientists empaneled by the government earlier this year, the Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs project.

Under the scheme, physicians would immunize children against drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine. The plan would target children "at risk" of becoming smokers or drug users, but at this stage there is no clue as to how it will be decided who is "at risk."

Such an immunization would "provide adults with protection from the euphoria that is experienced by drug users," the Independent reported. According to the newspaper, such concoctions are being developed by pharmaceutical companies and could be on the market within two years.

"People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as you are against measles," said David Nutt, a committee member as well as a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. "You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles, for example. It is important that there is a debate on this issue. This is a huge topic -- addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death."

The proposal is raising caution flags in Britain and beyond. Members of Parliament warned that while such a program could be beneficial, it must be done with public consultation and with a close look at ethical questions.

The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, a California-based organization, is warning that anti-drug immunizations are a prime example of what it refers to as "coercive pharmacotherapy" and is sounding the alarm against the proposal. Earlier this month, the Center published a 50-page report on the topic. The report, "Pharmacotherapy and the Future of the Drug War," is available at http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/issues/pharmacotherapy.html online.


6. Newsbrief: Border Guard Charged in Beating of Suspected Marijuana Smuggler

A US Homeland Security border guard faces charges after beating up a Chinese woman tourist he suspected was involved in a small-time marijuana smuggling incident. Officer Robert Rhodes was charged July 21 with violating the tourist's civil rights. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The July 19 incident took place at the US-Canada border crossing at Niagara Falls, New York. Customs officers had seized a small quantity of marijuana from a male pedestrian crossing into the US. A small group of Chinese women tourists was standing nearby. Rhodes, believing the woman he assaulted was involved, allegedly sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her into a wall, kneed her head as she knelt on the ground, and hit her on the head while pulling her hair, according to witness accounts collected by the Associated Press.

The woman was treated at a local hospital and released, but not before being interviewed by a Homeland Security agent. In an affidavit, the agent noted that the woman's eyes were nearly swollen shut and that her head was covered with bumps and bruises.

In an incident report, Rhodes wrote that the Chinese woman and two others ran when he asked them to come inside the inspection station. He also claimed that he pepper-sprayed her after she attacked him.

The Chinese woman tourist was not involved in the pot smuggling incident.

Welcome to America, eh? The one question left hanging, of course, is whether Rhodes would have been charged had his victim actually had a joint in her pocket.


7. Newsbrief: Justice Department Orders Libraries to Return Asset Forfeiture Documents

The federal Government Printing Office (GPO), acting at the behest of the Justice Department, has ordered libraries nationwide to destroy a series of Justice Department pamphlets that are a prosecutor's manual for asset forfeiture cases. The pamphlets were sent to some 1,300 "depository libraries," which are libraries designated by Congress to receive and make available to the public nearly all documents the federal government publishes. Each congressional district contains at least two depository libraries.

In a one-paragraph memo, GPO listed the pamphlets, which included such scintillating reading as "Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Procedure" and "Select Federal Assets Forfeiture Statutes," and instructed librarians to "withdraw these materials immediately and destroy all copies by any means to prevent disclosure of their content." The directive ended by saying "the Department of Justice has determined that these materials are for internal use only."

The pamphlets, which date from 2000 to 2004, are a step-by-step guide for prosecutors from "the drafting of the forfeiture allegation... to post-trial phases of a criminal forfeiture case." They contain detailed legal research on asset forfeiture law, including statutes and case histories of how to go about legally seizing cash, cars, houses, and other property of alleged drug dealers and other criminals.

The pamphlets contain detailed legal research on asset forfeiture law, including statutes and case histories on the legal means of seizing cash, cars, houses, boats, and other property of convicted drug dealers and other criminals.

"As you can see, these materials would be of use to forfeiture victims in their fight to get their property back," said attorney Brenda Grantland, board president of Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (http://www.fear.org). "Because they had been released into the library system for some time, they were all public documents. Many of the publications are comprised of statutes and court opinions which are in the public domain."

FEAR is not the only group concerned. The American Library Association (ALA) has said it does not know why the pamphlets were ordered destroyed and has vowed to challenge the order as infringing the guarantee of public access to unclassified documents published by the federal government each year.

Patrice McDermott, ALA deputy director of governmental affairs, told the Boston Globe that only 20 or 30 times in the past century has the federal government ordered documents pulled, and most of those cases were for materials that were found to be outdated or contain factual errors.

"We are going to push the Department of Justice on this," she said. "This material is already out there. Some of these documents are merely compilations of federal statutes. You can find this stuff in law offices and law libraries across the country. We just don't know the rationale for this."

The Justice Department provided one rationale. Casey Stavropoulos, a spokeswoman for the department, said the pamphlets were written by Justice Department attorneys who intended them to be law enforcement tools for federal prosecutors. She told the Globe the pamphlets "were never intended for public distribution. They were developed for internal use."

Bernard A. Margolis, president of the Boston Public Library, told the Globe the order to destroy the pamphlets "came out of the blue." Margolis added that he sought an explanation from an official in the Office of Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering. That official told him information in the pamphlets could disclose legal strategy, but he also conceded that much of the information had been available for several years, Margolis said.

Margolis said he was keeping the pamphlets available as the library challenged the order. A challenge was necessary, he said. "There is a precedent danger that if a handful of documents that appear innocuous -- the forfeiture statutes -- if these become subject to a casual or cavalier yanking, then what is next? Maybe it's things that are really critical and primary to people's livelihood, to their safety, or to their health," he said. "I think at a minimum we are entitled to know the process, how these determinations are made, and whether excluding something is truly in the public interest," he said. "The public should get its day in court."

FEAR is urging concerned citizens to fight the pamphlet removal order by writing their representatives. (Visiting http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov is one way to find out who represents you in Congress and how to reach them.) The group also suggests calling depositary libraries and asking them not to destroy the materials. A list of such libraries is available at the US GPO web site, http://www.gpo.gov online.


8. Newsbrief: Despite High Court Ruling, Old Drug Conviction Keeps Man from His Kids

In 1998, Springfield, Oregon, resident Dan Stillman had his parental rights terminated by a circuit court after he was convicted on a federal drug charge. Stillman did his time, got straight, took parenting classes, and in a court battle that ended in 2001, convinced the Oregon Supreme Court to reverse the decision terminating his parental rights. But three years later, the Springfield News reported, the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) still refuses to return his son, 11, and daughter, 13. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Stillman's children remain wards of the state. While he is allowed to visit them, they are not allowed to live with their father.

The child protection agency refuses to explain why it will not comply with the Supreme Court decision. DHS employees refused to talk to reporters, citing confidentiality issues. Louise Vanderford, the court appointed special advocate worker who is supposed to protect the children's interests, did tell the News that she was "advocating for the children and trying to get the most positive outcome for the kids -- what's in their best interest."

"Why doesn't the Supreme Court mean anything? DHS is acting above the law. They don't have to be accountable to anybody," Stillman told the news.

In reviewing his case, the Supreme Court found that Stillman could be a fit parent and that DHS had provided "very little psychological evidence" about the children. DHS produced no written mental health evaluation of either child and showed no ill effects they may have suffered from their father's drug use.

Bizarrely enough, it appears that DHS will prevail, at least for now. Frustrated and desperate, Stillman sent a letter to the Supreme Court in May complaining that its decision was being ignored. But Supreme Court senior staff attorney Keith Garza wrote back in June. "The court has no authority to act absent the filing of a petition," Garza wrote. "There is no action that either I or the justices properly may take in response to the matters that your letters raise."

Instead, after winning in the appeals court and the Supreme Court, Stillman finds himself back in circuit court and still without his kids. A review hearing has been set for August.

"What else can I do?" Stillman said. "I've done it the right way. I went through the legal process -- farther than anybody -- and I've gotten nowhere. Their method is to wear you down until you fall," Stillman said. "I feel like I'm being prosecuted for a crime I committed 10 years ago. My kids are paying for it too."


9. Newsbrief: West Australia Quietly Shifts From Drug Arrests to Diversion

The government of the Australian state of West Australia has quietly begun allowing people caught with personal amounts of drugs to avoid arrest and prosecution by agreeing to undergo counseling instead, the newspaper the West Australian reported Monday. The policy has been in effect since January, the newspaper said, but was never publicly announced.

Under the change, people caught with up to half a gram of amphetamine or heroin or up to two ecstasy tablets can avoid court by going to counseling. They must also admit to their crime, be first-time offenders, and not have been involved in other crimes to be considered for diversion from the criminal justice system to the health system.

The program is an extension of an experimental program begun in December 2000 that operated in Perth, Geraldton, and Mirrabooka. The trial ended last year, and the diversion program became official policy state-wide on January 1. No legislative action was required, the West Australian reported.

The program does not apply to marijuana. Under a new West Australia law that took effect in March, people caught with small amounts of pot or growing fewer than three plants must either pay a fine or attend an education session (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/239/westernaustralia.shtml).

So far, the program is small. Since January 1, only 32 people caught with drugs have been diverted under the program. Of those, 19 completed counseling. All of them were caught with amphetamines or ecstasy.


10. Newsbrief: British Marijuana Arrests Plummet Following Legal Reclassification

The British Home Office reported Wednesday that arrests for marijuana possession have dropped by one-third since marijuana was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in January. With reclassification, British police officers typically issue warnings and confiscate the weed rather than make arrests.

Britain arrested nearly 97,000 people for marijuana possession last year, according to official figures. The Home Office said it did not have actual national arrest figures for this year, but based its estimate on initial reports from 26 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales showing arrest trends between February and June compared to the previous year.

The Home Office told the Guardian newspaper that reclassifying marijuana as a less serious drug will save 180,000 hours of police officer time in a year. "The police are spending less time arresting people for possession of cannabis and filling in the paperwork that goes along with it," said a ministry spokesman. "This enables them to concentrate on class A drugs which cause most harm to society."


11. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

Just one case this week, unlike last week, when a veritable feast of corrupt practices presented itself. The Rocky Mountain News reported Thursday that former Adams County sheriff's deputy Jose Gutierrez has pleaded guilty to one count of selling cocaine to a jail inmate. The plea comes days before the start of his trial, which was slated for Monday. Under the plea, Adams County District Attorney Robert Grant dropped other felony counts of accepting bribes, drug possession, and introducing contraband into a jail.

Gutierrez, a three-year veteran of the department, was fired in December after an internal affairs investigation into drugs getting into the county jail. He became a focus of investigators after his name was mentioned to anti-gang deputies investigating drug trafficking in the county.

In October, an undercover officer gave Gutierrez $300 to deliver a check and a letter to one inmate, according to the arrest affidavit. Once Gutierrez proved himself by delivering the goods, the undercover officer then gave Gutierrez $500 to deliver cocaine to an inmate. He did. Now he faces prison. Sentencing will be in October.


12. This Week in History

August 2, 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed as the first major piece of legislation intended to combat marijuana use. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger told the Congressmen at the hearings, "Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."

August 2, 1977: In a speech to Congress, President Jimmy Carter addresses the harm done by prohibition, saying, "Penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana for personal use. The National Commission on Marijuana... concluded years ago that marijuana should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations."

August 4, 1996: State narcotics agents, at the direction of California Attorney General Dan Lungren, raid the Cannabis Buyers' Club of San Francisco, just three months before Prop. 215 hits the voters' ballot and despite a clear majority of Californians supporting access to medical marijuana.


13. Media Scan: Canada, Canada, Canada, Kerry

Dan Gardner opines on "Prohibitive Justice" in the Ottawa Citizen, July 28:
http://www.canada.com/ottawa/ottawacitizen/news/archives/story.html?id=4373371a-ab9b-433f-a397-3780818a2705

More Dan Gardner, this time on "The Fraud of Pot Decriminalization," a critique in The National Post of the government's proposed decriminalization bill, with revelations about the process by which it was written:
http://www.canada.com/search/story.html?id=d5d0669d-dacd-40bf-b991-7927674b6e8e

Examine of Canada's decriminalization bill, on Pot TV's "The Hilary Black Show":
http://www.pot-tv.net/archive/shows/pottvshowse-2855.html

John Berlau examines John Kerry's civil liberties record in Reason magazine:
http://www.reason.com/hod/jb072604.shtml


14. The Reformer's Calendar

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

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 5, Dallas, TX, screening of "Hempsters: Plant the Seed," a documentary about the struggle to legalize industrial hemp. With Students for Sensible Drug Policy and director Michael Henning, at Fallout Lounge, 835 Exposition Ave., contact Bindu Nair at [email protected] or (817) 874-3909 for further information.

August 7, from Binghamton to Ithaca, NY, for information visit http://www.skateforjustice.org or e-mail [email protected].

August 17, 7:00pm, New York, NY, "The Marijuana-Logues" three-man comedy show. Benefit performance for NORML, at The Actors' Playhouse, 100 Seventh Ave. South, admission $50. Visit http://www.norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=6170 for further info.

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.

October 1-3, London, England, London Hemp Fair, visit http://www.londonhempfair.com for further information.

October 26, Burlington, VT, The Vermont Cannabis Coalition presents Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Forum at the Unitarian Church, call (802) 496-2387 or visit http://www.VtCannabisCoalition.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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