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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #349, 8/6/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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  1. Medical Marijuana Victory in Detroit
  2. Supreme Court to Fast Track Effort to End Federal Sentencing Chaos
  3. Massachusetts Needle Exchange Activists Hold Day of Protest, Demand Action from Legislature
  4. Newsbrief: Defendant Can Post Pictures of Narcotics Agents in Info Search, Federal Court Says
  5. Newsbrief: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Wins Legal Victory, Still Alive
  6. Newsbrief: Justice Department Backs Off on Plan to Destroy Library Asset Forfeiture Pamphlets
  7. Newsbrief: Israeli Soldiers to Get Cannabis Therapy for Stress?
  8. Newsbrief: Marijuana Charges Down 30% in Canada
  9. Newsbrief: California Narc Indicted in Rudy Cardenas Killing
  10. Newsbrief: Federal Prosecutors in Seattle Use Patriot Act in Marijuana Case
  11. Newsbrief: Bolivian Coca Growers Call for Referendum on Legal Coca
  12. Newsbrief: Highway Travel Advisory -- South Dakota/Sturgis Rally
  13. Press Release: Students for Sensible Drug Policy Activists to Take "Skate for Justice" Through New York State Tomorrow (8/7)
  14. Media Scan: Peter Moskos in the Baltimore Sun
  15. This Week in History
  16. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Medical Marijuana Victory in Detroit

Detroit residents approved a medical marijuana initiative Tuesday by a vote of 59% to 41%, making the Motor City the first large Midwestern city to do so. Similar votes are scheduled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Columbia, Missouri, in November. With a Detroit victory in hand, medical marijuana advocates in those cities and elsewhere have a running start in this election season.

The measure in Detroit changes the city code to create an exception on the ban against marijuana and paraphernalia for people who use it medicinally with a doctor's recommendation. The measure will not stop county sheriffs, state police, or federal law enforcement agents from arresting Detroit medical marijuana patients if they choose to, but the Detroit Police Department has announced it will no longer arrest them.

Detroit Councilwoman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi led the charge against the measure. While she did not return a call from DRCNet this week, she told the Detroit Free Press last month passage of the measure would have "horrible" results. "I feel there would be horrible unintended consequences if it went through under the guise of medical marijuana," she was quoted as saying. "I think it would be hell for the city."

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick also opposed the measure, although belatedly. Kilpatrick's director of communications, Dave Manning, told DRCNet Thursday the city is still digesting the results. "We're still trying to figure out what it all means, how it would be applied, how are police supposed to handle it," he said. "Our law department is now digging into this and trying to figure it out." Manning did not rule out a possible legal challenge. "It is being reviewed by the law department, and some of the questions we have may end up being answered in court," he said.

But in the meantime, organizers are savoring their victory. "This has been incredible," said Tim Beck, chairman of the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care (, the group that organized the measure. "We're ecstatic. My biggest nightmare was being the first medical marijuana initiative to lose," he laughed. "This is going to give some nice momentum to a lot of other folks who have been toiling in the vineyards, it's a nice little lead-in to the November initiatives," he told DRCNet.

The victory was the result of a joint effort by local and national reform organizations, Beck said. "We got a big boost from the Marijuana Policy Project (, which kicked in $30,000 that we really needed. We also raised about $9,000 from smaller donations, and spent about $70,000 altogether," he said. The difference came out of his own pocket, Beck added.

MPP also made itself useful by drawing in big name endorsers, Beck said. "MPP was basically responsible for getting Montel Williams and former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders," he explained. "That was very big."

Others pitched in for the effort as well. Members of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( were out beating the bushes for signatures early on, said Beck. "George Sherfield, the Michigan NORML head, was very helpful, and we also had some big players who, at least on paper, supported this measure, such as Rep. John Conyers, a former police chief, some councilwomen, and the Detroit ACLU," Beck explained. And Dan Solano, president of Police Officers for Drug Law Reform ( "Dan ran the street campaign and he filled in for me in TV debates and did really well," said Beck.

"For the last year and a half, I went where Tim needed me," said Solano, a retired Detroit police officer. "I've been building community support, getting out and speaking to different groups, or filling in for Tim when necessary," he told DRCNet. One of the groups Solano worked was law enforcement. "I worked on the police here in my city," he said, "and you didn't see any police involvement against this campaign. Cops might be a little different in Detroit," Solano suggested. "Most of us grew up here and live here and actually care about our citizens, so when I was able to give police the truth about medical marijuana they could say 'yeah, that makes sense,' and stay out of it. They did not get involved, and we won."

Solano resorted to some old-style campaigning, too. "One of the things I did that I think was very effective was to hit the streets in my 1980 minivan. I covered it with 'end the war on medical marijuana patients' posters, and the back had a big sign saying to vote for the initiative, and I had a loudspeaker. I drove around the city all day long getting the word out. This was really cost-effective, and it helped get the word out to the community. Some of these neighborhoods had no clue the election was going on."

Organizers understand full well that medical marijuana in Detroit is not the end but the beginning. "We want to change the law statewide," said Beck. "Between this and the vote in Ann Arbor in November, we should be well-placed to go to the legislature and show them there is popular support for this." But the vote does have immediate consequences, he said. "Now, at least, you are safe from being manhandled by the Detroit Police Department. This takes them out of the mix. It is only one layer, of course -- there is still the DEA or the state police -- but most of these cases are handled locally by local police."

2. Supreme Court to Fast Track Effort to End Federal Sentencing Chaos

The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to accept an urgent appeal for a quick hearing on the constitutionality of current federal sentencing guidelines. In a decision in late June in Blakely v. Washington, the court threw out Washington state's guidelines, and while a footnote in that opinion attempted to forestall the storm by declaring that the court was not addressing federal guidelines, the decision has since created absolute chaos in the federal courts as federal judges either declare the guidelines unconstitutional or find them still constitutional, impose much lesser sentences, postpone sentencing, or, in at least one case, sentence defendants twice, once with the guidelines, once without.

In one federal court house in Salt Lake City, four different judges have ruled four different ways on how Blakely applies. In the latest of nearly three dozen Blakely decisions since June, a federal judge in Boston, Nancy Gertner, held that Blakely "has effected nothing less than a sea change" in federal criminal sentencing.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who dissented in the 5-4 Blakely decision, told federal judges last month that the decision "looks like a No. 10 earthquake to me." Now it is up to the Supreme Court to try to damp down the aftershocks once and for all.

In Blakely, the Supreme Court held that any factor that increases a defendant's sentence beyond the statutory maximum sentence must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury. But in Washington state and the federal system, judges had been entrusted with the power to increase sentences based on findings presented at sentencing and subject to a much lower standard of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt. Of greatest interest to drug reformers, sentences for drug offenses are typically computed according to the weight of the drug involved -- a finding that is made by the judge at sentencing, not by the jury using the higher standard of proof.

The Blakely ruling was grounded in a 2000 Supreme Court decision, Apprendi v. New Jersey, in which the court threw out a sentence enhanced because the trial judge found Apprendi had committed a hate crime. The consequences of the Supreme Court review of its Blakely decision are stupendous: More than 200,000 have been sentenced in the federal courts since Apprendi and many of those sentences could be appealed, legal experts have told DRCNet. (See and for our earlier coverage.)

In recognition of appeals from the Congress and the Justice Department, as well as the sentencing chaos spreading through the federal courts, the Supreme Court took the highly unusual step of announcing it will hear two cases about the sentencing quandary on its first day back at work in October. Although it did not address the urgency of the sentencing issue, the fact that it accepted the cases on an expedited basis speaks for itself.

Federal judges are handing out about 1,200 criminal sentences each week, noted Solicitor General Paul Clement in a filing he made with the court. "The number of federal cases affected by the questions presented in these cases will increase daily until this court resolves those questions," he said in asking the court for a quick review.

In his filing, Clement asked the court to review two issues: First, whether Blakely means the 6th Amendment limits on judges increasing sentences applies to the federal guidelines, and second, if it does, whether the entire federal guideline system is unconstitutional because Congress created the system giving judges unconstitutional powers.

Defense attorneys had urged the court to broaden its review beyond those two issues, but the justices instead bought Clement's argument that examining those two issues would allow for a broad-ranging review of the guideline's constitutionality.

The federal sentencing guidelines system was set up by Congress in 1987 in an effort to ensure more fairness and uniformity in sentencing, and has previously been held constitutional by the Supreme Court. But for reformers, the guidelines have come to be viewed as part and parcel of a federal imprisonment juggernaut where real power is in the hands of prosecutors, not judges.

The cases the justices will hear are those of Freddie Booker and Ducan Fanfan. Booker, 50, of Racine, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for crack cocaine possession and distribution. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned that sentence in the wake of Blakely and ordered a new sentencing hearing. Fanfan, 30, of Somerville, Massachusetts, would have been sentenced to 15 to 19 years under the guidelines, but in the wake of Blakely, his judge only gave him six.

Oral hearings are set for October 4. The fates of hundreds of thousands of current and future criminal defendants are at stake. Stay tuned.

3. Massachusetts Needle Exchange Activists Hold Day of Protest, Demand Action from Legislature

Advocates of needle exchange programs (NEPs) to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C set up illegal NEPs and information booths at locations across Massachusetts Monday. The activists are attempting to put pressure on Bay State lawmakers to enact legislation pending for years that would allow NEPs statewide and the sale of needles without a prescription. The action was coordinated by the New England Prevention Alliance (NEPA), which, along with other groups, set up NEPs in New Bedford, Lawrence, and Worcester and informational tables in Springfield and Lynn.

Massachusetts is one of only five states to require a prescription to obtain needles, and while state law allows municipalities to operate NEPS, few do. As has been the case for year after year, bills that would have enacted the desired reforms died in the legislature despite the support of health care professionals, law enforcement officials, and a long list of other organizations.

Activists point the finger at Massachusetts Speaker of the House Rep. Tom Finneran (D), whom they say used his influence to bottle-up reform bills. Finneran did not return DRCNet calls requesting a response.

"We had good syringe availability legislation this year," said Whitney Taylor, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (, one of the groups that participated in Monday's action. "We actually had a bill requested by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino that made it out of the joint health care committee, but it was bottled-up in the House Ways and Means committee, where it died again," she told DRCNet. "House speaker Finneran is a major stumbling block. He's a Democrat, but very conservative, and he kills any drug reform bill -- NEPs, medical marijuana, sentencing reform, nothing makes out of the legislature."

NEPs are a proven means of reducing the spread of HIV and Hep C among injection drug users. A stark assessment of their efficacy is available in Massachusetts. According to the state Department of Public Health, in the four localities that have NEPs, the percentage of new HIV cases related to injection drug use range from 7% in Provincetown to 24% in Cambridge, 28% in Boston, and 44% in Northampton. But in cities without NEPs, the rates are much higher. In Springfield and Lawrence, 51% of HIV cases are injection drug use-related; in Lynn and Worcester, 60%; and in New Bedford, a stunning 69%.

In most locations, the NEP civil disobedience actions went off without problems and succeeded in generating extensive local media coverage of the issue. One activist, however, was arrested in New Bedford after she exchanged a clean needle for a used one. Kelli Dorsey, 28, was arrested despite being registered with the Boston NEP program. Authorities in New Bedford argued that being a program registrant allowed Dorsey only to possess needles, not to distribute them, but NEP activists disagree.

"This was a day of action with civil disobedience," said Taylor. "It was a planned reaction to the legislature's failure to act. We planned ahead and were very specific on who would get arrested. We were prepared for it," she said.

Actually, said Taylor, activists were prepared for more arrests, but the police refused to play along. "In Worcester and Lawrence, the police circled and watched. In Lawrence, the police were actually coming to arrest our people when we could hear the radio call from the chief of police to leave them alone. The cynical part of me says there were no arrests because they didn't want the publicity."

But the day of activism got plenty of publicity anyway. Newspaper articles appeared in outlets across the state, and the story was picked up by the Associated Press. It also appeared on local TV and radio news outlets.

"We wanted to get word out that something has to change in this state," said Holly Bradford, a member of the New England Prevention Alliance (NEPA), which has been handing out syringes without waiting for the laws to change. "Every year, we have a bill in the House; every year it gets stalled, and meanwhile, people are getting sick and dying," she told DRCNet.

Bradford said activists welcomed the arrest in New Bedford. "What we want to be able to do is go out and set up storefronts and do secondary exchanges, where people who have registration cards can help those people in outlying marginalized areas. We don't see what's wrong with that. We think if you're a registered participant, you're allowed to possess and distribute syringes, but when we go to these towns and help people get access to clean equipment, that seems to be a problem. We'll have to go to court and pound this out," Bradford said.

There is a race and class component to the problem, both Bradford and Taylor agreed. "What we are trying to do is reach those populations that no one is serving," said Bradford, "and that means mostly people of color in oppressed areas."

"The cities that are hardest hit are mostly majority people of color," said Taylor. "They don't have any syringe exchange except for what happens illegally. This is a very moralistic issue, and there is an element of paternalism as well. The politicians say they will take care of the people, but they don't."

Police not only arrest people for needle possession, said Bradford, they also harass people who are registered members of NEPs. "They take people's cards away and throw them down the sewer and say their cards are no good," she said. "We've tried to work with the police, but we haven't had much success.

Despite the recalcitrance of some police and legislators, Taylor is optimistic. "We got a lot of local press, and now maybe we can reintroduce and pass these bills at the local level, as well as looking toward the 2005-2006 state legislative session," she said. "We had a state representative from Lawrence come down and talk to the protestors and say he would sign on. When you have more and more legislators coming on board and a growing coalition emerging, it makes the political nature of the killing of this bill all the more evident. We are starting to build a nice coalition of people to move forward."

And the protests were morale boosters for the communities involved, Taylor said. "People who work in HIV prevention in Massachusetts get kicked around all the time," she said. "They need the hope this kind of action provides."

4. Newsbrief: Defendant Can Post Pictures of Narcotics Agents in Info Search, Federal Court Says

A US District Court judge has ruled that an Alabama man charged with money laundering and drug trafficking offenses can keep a web site that posted the names and photos of informants and DEA agents involved in his case. The man, Leon Carmichael, told the court that the web page, done in the style of a "WANTED" poster and which asked for information about the informants and DEA agents, was part of his defense effort.

Federal prosecutors had sought a protective order to remove the web site. They argued that it was an attempt to intimidate witnesses to scare them away from testifying at trial, a violation of federal law. They also argued that it might taint the jury pool and that it might scare DEA agents away from undercover work and discourage citizens from becoming informants.

But US District Court Judge Judge Myron H. Thompson wasn't buying. The government's position constituted impermissible "prior restraint" of Carmichael's First Amendment right to freedom of expression, he wrote. Despite prosecutor's assertions, Thompson wrote, the web site neither constituted a "true threat" no was it "incitement."

And if people are uncomfortable with being outed as narcs, well, that goes with the territory, Thompson noted. "It is true that the term 'informant' by which the site refers to four government witnesses in this case generally carries a negative connotation... The First Amendment, however, does not prohibit name-calling. Indeed it seems likely in any big drug-conspiracy case like this that witnesses would be anxious and possibly afraid," Thompson wrote.

And what are those DEA guys afraid of, anyway? Thompson wondered. "There is insufficient evidence to conclude that the web site poses a serious and imminent risk to the safety of government agents or to their future work as undercover officers... [T]he DEA agents who testified all did so in person in open court as they have done in other cases. This fact alone calls into question the extent to which their names and faces must be jealously guarded to protect their safety," the court said.

Thompson also upheld the web site on Fifth and Sixth Amendment grounds, noting that defendants have the right to seek information to bolster their cases. He compared the web site to "time-tested investigative techniques" such as going door to door with a photograph, and found no essential difference.

Stephen Glassroth, a Montgomery defense attorney who represents Carmichael, told Lawyers Weekly USA the ruling provided "another tool to help us try to level the playing field" and that it was already paying off. He has already received phone calls with "potential impeachment information" against the informants, he said.

Other defense attorneys also hailed the ruling. "Often [informants] are life-long liars, and you would have no way of knowing this; they're not going to tell the government, noted New York criminal defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt told the weekly.

5. Newsbrief: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Wins Legal Victory, Still Alive

A federal court judge in Nevada has blocked the state from taking any further action that might disqualify an initiative that would create a regulated adult market for marijuana. The initiative, sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project ( and its local affiliate, the Campaign to Regulate and Control Marijuana (, failed to make the ballot after Secretary of State Dean Heller threw out thousands of signatures citing various technicalities.

MPP, CRCM, and the ACLU of Nevada sued in federal court on July 27 seeking to overturn Heller's decision to throw out the signatures ( In the Monday ruling, US Disrict Court Judge James Mahan issued a temporary restraining order barring the state from taking any action pending a final decision in the case. Mahan set oral arguments for August 13.

MPP, CRCM, and the Nevada ACLU had sought an earlier hearing, citing worries that too much delay in the proceedings would leave the issue unresolved by the time ballots must be printed, thus effectively killing the initiative. But Judge Mahan didn't budge on the schedule.

Still, campaign spokesperson Jennifer Knight told the Las Vegas Review-Journal the temporary restraining order was a positive decision. "This is a really good sign," said Knight. "The fact that this judge issued a temporary restraining order in our case means that it has merit. We're planning for success."

MPP and CRCM are continuing to campaign, Knight added. The groups are continuing to run television ads and hold meetings with community groups to gain support for the measure. A similar MPP-sponsored measure won only 39% of the vote in 2002.

6. Newsbrief: Justice Department Backs Off on Plan to Destroy Library Asset Forfeiture Pamphlets

Last week, DRCNet noted that the Government Printing Office (GPO), acting at the behest of the Justice Department, had ordered the nation's depository libraries to destroy five Justice pamphlets related to asset forfeiture law and practice ( The order had generated outrage from librarians, civil libertarians, and asset forfeiture abuse opponents alike.

Now, in the face of threatened legal action, the GPO has reversed itself. The action came on July 29. According to GPO sources contacted by the Boston Globe, GPO acted after the Justice Department asked that the request to remove the information be rescinded. According to a letter from Justice to GPO cited by the Globe, the department suddenly decided the pamphlets were "not sufficiently sensitive to require removal."

The American Library Association had been a particularly strident critic of the move to censor the pamphlets. After learning of the Justice Department's decision to reconsider, the organization wrote a letter to members of the US House and Senate judiciary committees saying, "We are gratified that [the government] has realized that information that is legally available to the public should remain so."

7. Newsbrief: Israeli Soldiers to Get Cannabis Therapy for Stress?

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reported Wednesday that members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) suffering stress after tours of duty in the Palestinian Occupied Territories may soon be given marijuana to relieve their symptoms. According to the report, the mental health department of the IDF's Medical Corps is set to begin trials "in the next few days."

IDF soldiers are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from mandatory service in the Occupied Territories, and "hundreds" of them have been treated for stress after returning, Ma'ariv reported. Fatal casualties in the ongoing conflict are reported at roughly 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, civilian and military.

8. Newsbrief: Marijuana Charges Down 30% in Canada

In a report released July 28, Statistics Canada announced that the number of marijuana possession charges brought last year was down 30% from the year before. The decline in pot possession cases contributed mightily to an 8% overall decrease in drug prosecutions, the first decline since 1993, the government reporting agency said.

Statistics Canada suggested the decline in marijuana arrests even as marijuana use is increasing in Canada ( may be partially explained by the unsettled politics of marijuana in the country. Last year, the period in question, saw a "summer of legal weed" in Ontario as the courts grappled with the very constitutionality of marijuana prohibition, as well as lots of talk about the Liberal government's "decriminalization" bill, which Prime Minister Martin has promised to reintroduce this year.

The decline, said Statistics Canada, "may have been, in part, a result of a climate of uncertainty among police, given recent court rulings questioning the constitutionality of current laws regarding cannabis possession. In addition, legislation was introduced in 2003 in the House of Commons to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis."

In a seeming paradox, British Columbia, with its reputation as a marijuana user's paradise as well as a thriving Vancouver hard drug scene, was the only province to report an increase in drug arrests last year. In BC, drug arrests were up 6%, including a 3% increase in marijuana arrests. But, as Statistics Canada pointed out, BC has reported the highest rate of drug crimes of any province for the past two decades.

Across Canada, more than 41,000 were arrested for marijuana possession alone in 2003, nearly half of all drug arrests. An additional 8,000 were arrested for growing pot and 10,000 more were arrested for trafficking.

Read the Statistics Canada report at online.

9. Newsbrief: California Narc Indicted in Rudy Cardenas Killing

DRCNet reported in February on the death of Rodolfo "Rudy" Cardenas, the San Jose man killed by a California state narcotics officer looking for a parole violator ( Cardenas, who just happened by the scene, was shot in the back as he fled accosting officers. Now the officer who killed Cardenas faces criminal charges.

For the first time in the history of the California Department of Justice, one of its officers will go on trial for an on-duty killing. As we have documented (, even in the most egregious cases, grand juries rarely indict police shooters. But Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agent Michael Walker was indicted last week by a Santa Clara county grand jury on one count of voluntary manslaughter in Cardenas' death. Walker faces up to 11 years in prison.

The indictment came after a week's worth of testimony in a rare public grand jury session. That the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office opened the grand jury to the public was a sign of the intense outrage the killing has stirred up in the Bay Area Hispanic community. Cardenas family members and supporters in black t-shirts demanding justice were a fixture at the hearing, according to the San Jose Mercury News, which covered the trial.

"Victoria!" shouted a family member as relatives gathered to celebrate on the courthouse steps. "Justice has been served in Santa Clara County today," said Raul Cardenas, Rodolfo Cardenas' brother. "At least now they can see you better be careful when you pull the trigger."

Walker's shooting of Cardenas, a 43-year-old father of five, could be described as a comedy of errors, were it not for the tragic result. State narcs trying to bring in a man described as a dangerous felon (found peacefully sitting at home later that same day) mistook Cardenas for their actual prey, then chased him through the unfamiliar streets of downtown San Jose, losing contact with local police as they did. When Walker finally cornered Cardenas in an alley, he claimed he felt threatened and shot the innocent man in the back.

"I fired just as soon as I perceived an imminent threat," Walker said during the hearing.

That wasn't good enough for the grand jury. By indicting Walker for voluntary manslaughter, the grand jury concluded that he did not have a reasonable belief he was in danger. But it's not like the grand jury threw the book at him. It could have charged him with second-degree murder, which carries a 15-to-life sentence, but under the stewardship of Deputy District Attorney Lane Liroff, it declined to do so.

10. Newsbrief: Federal Prosecutors in Seattle Use Patriot Act in Marijuana Case

Legislative Mission Creep Alert: Federal prosecutors in Seattle have charged 15 people involved in a marijuana smuggling operation with violations of the Patriot Act, the bill hastily passed by Congress in the wake of the 9-11 attacks to protect the US from foreign terror attacks. That's a first, at least for the Seattle office, one government lawyer told the Seattle Times.

And no, clarified Assistant US Attorney Todd Greenberg, the Canadians and Americans under arrest were not sending their proceeds to Al Qaeda. They were indicted for conspiring with a Canadian marijuana-smuggling operation to deliver $3.4 million in profits from Washington state back to British Columbia.

Still, all 15 were charged with one count of "bulk-cash smuggling," a Patriot Act offense. For years, federal law has made it a criminal offense to take more than $10,000 out of the country without reporting it, but the Patriot Act changed that from a mere reporting violation to a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and the forfeiture of the cash in question.

And although there was no terror connection, invoking the Patriot Act was still appropriate, said Greenberg. "They're trying to get money from here to support crime somewhere else, so it's a way to crack down on that," he remarked cryptically.

11. Newsbrief: Bolivian Coca Growers Call for Referendum on Legal Coca

In the wake of a referendum last month on natural gas that was widely praised as an example of functioning democracy in action, some Bolivian coca growers are calling for a similar referendum to legalize coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived. According to the Cochabamba newspaper Los Tiempos, the Special Federation of Peasant Workers of the Tropico of Cochabamba, the local coca growers' union, called for a referendum on legalizing the plant "to restore dignity to the ancient leaf."

Delegates meeting at the federation's eighteenth annual conference also once again named Evo Morales, head of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), as leader of their movement.

"As we have already begun to utilize the referendum process, now we want to use this mechanism for coca because the North American embassy and the government of our country don't want us to have our coca," said Silvia Lazarte, the coca grower who led the congress. "Our coca production is legal, and thus, the delegates have indicated very clearly that there should be a referendum and that the people decide about coca.

Lazarte added that federation members were confident such a measure would pass if put directly to the voters. "Long live the coca leaf!" she exclaimed. "Long live the referendum process!"

Among other actions taken by the more than 2,000 delegates, the federation called on the government to hand over resources dedicated to alternative development directly to the communities involved and for the demilitarization of the region. The federation also called for a series of "coca fairs" to promote the traditional indigenous crop.

12. Newsbrief: Highway Travel Advisory -- South Dakota/Sturgis Rally

The annual motorcycle rally at Sturgis, South Dakota, is set to get underway Monday, and South Dakota law enforcement agencies have already begun their annual predatory policing spree. Each summer, as tens of thousands of bikers head for the Black Hills, the state's main east-west corridor, Interstate 90, as well as Interstate 29 running north into eastern South Dakota, become a virtual gauntlet for travelers as state Highway Patrol officers and sheriff's deputies use any number of ploys, including pretextual stops, drug dogs galore, and even fake "drug checkpoints" to bust travelers.

In a news release from the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the agency boasted that "drug busts are up so far this week," with 23 felony drug arrests and 124 misdemeanor drug arrests as of Thursday morning. During the same week last year, troopers had only scored 13 felony and 92 misdemeanor drug arrests.

Not included in that number were two university students traveling north from Vermillion Wednesday on I-29 who encountered signs on the roadside proclaiming "Drug Checkpoint Ahead." The driver left the interstate at the next exit, where he was pulled over on a pretext by a sheriff's deputy. Having viewed the Flex Your Rights video, "BUSTED: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" (, the driver initially refused to consent to the officer's request to search the vehicle. But when the officer threatened to call in the drug dog, the driver, thinking he was clean, gave his consent. The officer found an empty baggie with three red hairs in it. The two students were charged with marijuana possession. At the jail, the arresting officers crowed to their fellow cops about getting the first bust of the day, one of the students told DRCNet.

Defensive drivers can learn some lessons from the bust above: First, any time you see a "Drug Checkpoint Ahead" sign on a highway, it is a sting. The Supreme Court has ruled that police may not conduct such checkpoints for law enforcement purposes. What law enforcement agencies sometimes do is place a "checkpoint" sign on the highway, then watch for people to either throw items from their vehicles or commit traffic violations as they seek to avoid the supposed checkpoint. Then they arrest them.

Second, be aware of what is in your car! The driver in the bust above consented to the search because he thought his car was clean. Big mistake in this case. And last but certainly not least, do not waive your rights! If the driver had not consented to a search, one of two things would have happened. The officer would see that his bluff had been called and bid the travelers on their way, or the officer really would have handy access to a drug dog, the dog would search for and find the baggie, and the two would be arrested for marijuana possession. In this second case, the end result is no worse than what actually happened, and the student would have the leverage of a possible appeal because he had not waived his rights.

It's summer time, and the police are trolling and the penalties are high. Drive safe out there. Drive sober. Drive smart. And not just in South Dakota.

13. Press Release: Students for Sensible Drug Policy Activists to Take "Skate for Justice" Through New York State Tomorrow (8/7)

Activists from across the Northeast will skate in the 3rd annual Skate for Justice on August 7th. This rigorous test of physical skill and dedication is held to raise awareness and voice dissent over current state and federal drug polices. Organizers also want Skate for Justice to destroy the belief that advocates for drug policy reform are "a bunch of lazy, unmotivated, pot smokers."

"We chose a 48.9 mile segment of a nation ravaged by a failed policy of prohibition," says Justin Holmes, who has organized the event for the past three years. "We have a serious budget responsibility problem in New York State, and I dare say it is inexorably tied to our drug policy problem. I think it's time we recognize that drug prohibition is making our communities more dangerous, just as alcohol prohibition did in the 1920s."

WHO: Students for Sensible Drug Policy

WHAT: 3rd Annual Skate for Justice -- 48.9 miles of active, peaceful protest

WHEN: Saturday August 7, 2004, 8:00am-6:00pm

WHERE: Starts at Upper Front Street, Binghamton, Ends at Ithaca Commons, Aurora Street

Visit or for further information. The event will be broadcast (audio) live on the web. There is an after-event in the Ithaca Commons from 6:00-10:00pm.

14. Media Scan

Former Baltimore police officer Peter Moskos opines on "Take the Violence Out of the Drug Trade" in the August 3rd Baltimore Sun:,1,7539194.story?coll=bal-oped-headlines

15. This Week in History

August 9, 1990: 200 National Guardsmen and Bureau of Land Management rangers conduct a marijuana raid dubbed Operation Green Sweep on a Federal conservation area in California known as King Ridge. Local residents file a $100 million lawsuit, claiming that Federal agents illegally invaded their property, wrongfully arrested them, and harassed them with their low-flying helicopters and loaded guns.

August 12, 1997: The US Justice Department announced that there would be no indictments issued to any of the Marines responsible for killing Ezequiel Hernandez, Jr. Despite the fact that Hernandez was facing away from the Marines at the time he was shot, an internal military review found that the soldiers had "acted in self-defense" and done nothing wrong. The review was supervised by Lt. General Carlton W. Fulford, who said that the killing might not have happened at all had civilian law enforcement agencies been patrolling the border.

16. The Reformer's Calendar

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

August 7, from Binghamton to Ithaca, NY, for information visit or e-mail [email protected].

August 15, Buenos Aires, Argentina, concert and rally for drug reform and harm reduction at the "Festival Against Intolerance." Sponsored by the Argentine Harm Reduction Association, contact Silvia Inchaurraga at (54-341) 420-1291 or [email protected] or Gustavo Hurtado at (54-11)15-5389-0266 or [email protected] for further information.

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 for further info.

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

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

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

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

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

October 1-3, London, England, London Hemp Fair, visit for further information.

October 26, 7:00pm, Burlington, VT, Forum with the Vermont Cannabis Coalition, with Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. At the Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, 162 Pearl St., visit or call (802) 496-2387 for further information.

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

November 18-21, College Park, MD, Students for Sensible Drug Policy national conference. Details to be announced, visit to check for updates.

April 30, 2005 (date tentative), 11:00am-3:00pm, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!" 2nd Annual National Pain Rally. At the US Capitol Reflecting Pool, visit for further information.

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