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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #351, 8/27/04

"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: Prohibition Itself Must Go
  2. Timely Intervention Helps Block Student Drug Testing: The Case of Oregon's Lebanon Community School District
  3. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Hands in More Signatures, Drive to Make Ballot Still Alive
  4. Two Web Sites Now Online Are Naming Names and Seeking Info on Narcs and Snitches
  5. Newsbrief: No Criminal Charges Against Cops in Goose Creek High School Raid
  6. Newsbrief: Baltimore Needle Exchange Hailed on Tenth Anniversary
  7. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story
  8. Newsbrief: Virginia Judge Jails Woman for Taking Prescription Methadone
  9. Newsbrief: Minneapolis City Council Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative
  10. Newsbrief: Seattle Hempfest Endorses Kerry
  11. Newsbrief: DPA Reaches Out to GOP Conventioneers
  12. Newsbrief: Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Pulls Out of NYC GOP Anti-Drug War March, Broader Event Will Go On Instead
  13. Online Petition on Marc Emery and Canadian Marijuana Law Reform
  14. Keith Cylar Activist Fund
  15. Media Scan: Kunstler Rockefeller Video, Counterpunch
  16. This Week in History
  17. The Reformer's Calendar
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)


1. Editorial: Prohibition Itself Must Go

David Borden
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 8/27/04

One of the slogans floating around during DRCNet's early days was a clever rearrangement of a popular phrase used in law enforcement situations or at least in enforcement-oriented media: "Ignorance is no excuse for the law." The drug war, and prohibition itself, are sustained by ignorance; getting accurate information out, which the Internet makes more feasible (DRCNet's original claim to fame), will bring the drug war to an end, or so we hope.

I wish I could say that Virginia District Court Judge Henry Vanover took such ignorance to a new low when he sentenced Kimberly Bucklin, a 29-year old recovering addict, to three years in prison for using prescription methadone to fight her addiction. Judge Vanover -- ignorantly -- had ordered her to limit the duration of her methadone treatment to only six months. That didn't work -- of course, that's not the way methadone treatment is supposed to work -- and Bucklin's doctor had advised her not to stop the treatment.

Unfortunately, it's not a new low, only a continued low. Though numerous judges around the country and the Office of National Drug Control Policy vaunt drug courts as the approach for the future, Judge Vanover's approach to Kimberly Bucklin's case illustrates one of the fundamental problems with them. Whether this was technically a "drug court" in name it's the same idea. Judges are not trained in medicine, yet many second guess the doctors and drug treatment professionals who are. That methadone is largely not recognized by drug courts -- Bucklin was lucky to be allowed to use it for even six months -- is a testament to the profound incompetence of the judiciary in the area of drug addiction. Methadone is just not controversial from the medical and scientific standpoint; in fact it's one of the few issues on which I agree with the current and previous drug czars. Yet as the local prosecutor told the Roanoke Times, it is common in that area for judges to forbid probationers from attending methadone clinics.

Perhaps this is an area in which simply providing accurate information to the judges around the country making these decisions will solve the problem. I doubt it will be so simple -- total abstinence is an ideology, and ideology is designed to resist logic and reason. Obviously it must be attempted, and leading lights in addiction treatment, such as Bob Newman of New York's Beth Israel Medical Center, went to Virginia to testify before Judge Vanover to try and change his mind. Some would say we should assume Judge Vanover is a reasonable man and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt that he was merely misinformed.

I agree with the approach, but I only partially agree with the sentiment. I don't think Judge Vanover deserves to be considered reasonable, having been arrogant enough to totally ignore the firmly backed-up views of medical professionals and lock a woman up for three years. The most charitable view I could endorse is that he may be generally reasonable but that his decision-making in this area has been influenced by the general ideological climate in ways he does not realize. But that meager possibility should not be misinterpreted as a vote of confidence.

We've seen in the pain treatment issue the devastating consequences of allowing police agencies like the DEA to regulate medicine. It's also a mistake to give that power to judges, at least in this setting. Drug courts may in many cases keep people away from prison. In other cases, they may sweep others into the enforcement net for whom the system could otherwise not afford the full process of criminal prosecution. Coercive or mandated treatment raises serious issues for psychology, identity, medicine, civil liberties and cognitive freedom, issues the drug court movement prefers not to discuss. And there are troubling, unresolved abuse problems within the drug treatment world itself.

Overall, treatment over incarceration is probably an improvement over the status quo, perhaps a vast one. But it is not the ultimate goal. If a drug user has not physically harmed other people, has not destroyed others' property, has not neglected his or her children, then it's not a judge's business. And that means that lowering the sentences and offering treatment are not enough. Prohibition itself must go.


2. Timely Intervention Helps Block Student Drug Testing: The Case of Oregon's Lebanon Community School District

With the Labor Day weekend almost upon us, millions of American kids are heading back to school. A small percentage of them will face drug testing programs at their schools, part of an ongoing youth anti-drug effort reenergized by the Bush administration with its call this year for more funding for schools to implement those programs. While the school board in Lebanon, Oregon, was poised to have its local schools join the ranks of those testing students for drugs, it ultimately decided against that course of action. A timely intervention by a staff member of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org) national office played a critical role in that decision.

The US Supreme Court has twice approved limited drug testing of students, okaying it for athletes in 1995 and expanding its scope to include students involved in extracurricular activities last year. While those rulings opened the way for drug testing in the schools, it is local school boards who must ultimately approve drug testing programs or not. The battle over forcing high school kids to urinate in a cup if they want to play football or join the debate society is thus one that will be fought locally, school board by school board.

With an eye toward replicating the positive outcome in Lebanon in other school districts that may consider implementing a drug testing program for students, DRCNet decided to take a closer look at what happened with the Lebanon Community School District. The board began considering implementing a drug testing policy over the summer, but the battle heated up this month. In early August, the board was considering two policies, one to test athletes and the other to test students involved in extracurricular activities at the beginning of the year, but there was also sentiment on the board to push for a policy of random drug testing of those students year round.

The drug testing program would have been based on a model program drafted by the Oregon School Boards Association. The association creates model policies to guide local school boards on any number of education-related issues, said spokeswoman Shannon Priem. "Our policy department keeps sample policies so boards can consider adopting them," she told DRCNet. The drug testing model policy was updated after last year's Supreme Court decision to let districts know that testing could now include students involved in extracurricular activities, she said.

But that doesn't mean the association endorses drug testing, Priem said. "We are merely helping boards stay abreast of the law. All the decisions are made locally, and we just help them know what the law is," she said. While Priem said that the association did not track the number of districts in the state with drug testing programs, it is believed to be small. (The Monitoring the Future annual surveys of student drug use last year estimated that only 5% of school districts nationwide have suspicionless drug testing programs.)

"Each student wishing to participate in athletics [and/or extracurricular activities] and the student's parent(s) shall consent in writing to drug testing. No student shall be allowed to participate in athletics [and/or extracurricular activities] without that consent," says the model policy. Under the model policy, students testing positive for drugs for the first time will be given the option of attending a drug treatment program or being barred from extracurricular activities. Subsequent offenses under the model policy earn an automatic ineligibility for extracurricular activities. In all cases, the student and his parents must meet with the principal. The model policy does not mention law enforcement.

One board member, Dr. William Barish, criticized the proposed policies early on, telling a local newspaper drug tests were really idiot tests -- only an idiot would take drugs when he knew he was going to be tested, said Barish. When that local press report came across the desk of SSDP legislative director Ross Wilson at the national office in Washington, Wilson sprang into action.

Ross Wilson in action during the primaries, Manchester, New Hampshire, January 2004
(photo courtesy SSDP)
"I've been monitoring the news for the past month or so," Wilson told DRCNet. "As school comes back into session, school boards all over the country are considering drug testing. I saw a newspaper article saying that the district there was considering a drug testing plan, but that there was some hesitance on the part of board members," he explained. "The newspaper article mentioned board member Dr. William Barish, who told the newspaper it was an asinine idea. So I called him and explained who I was and what SSDP was and told him I thought he was right and that we wanted to send him some information."

And thus a crucial connection was made. "I provided arguments about why drug testing doesn't work and how it could actually exacerbate existing drug problems," said Wilson. "But it was the Monitoring the Future study that found drug testing did not deter drug use that really got him interested."

That study reported: "Drug testing of students in schools does not deter drug use. The research findings challenge the premise that has been central to the rationale for schools adopting a drug testing policy." According to the researchers, investigators found "virtually identical" drug use rates at schools that tested and schools that don't. The finding hold true across grade levels, the research found.

"We think that one reason so few schools test their students is that it is an expensive undertaking," said lead Monitoring the Future researcher Lloyd Johnston. "Schools are very pressed for funds, and I would say the results of our investigation raise a serious question about whether drug testing is a wise investment of their scarce resources. It's also very controversial with parents and students," he pointed out. "The way that drug testing has been carried out in the schools looks very unpromising. I have no doubt that one could design a drug testing program that would deter teen drug use, but at what monetary cost and at what cost in terms of intrusion into the privacy of our young people?"

"We managed to open a dialogue with Barish," Wilson continued. "He asked for more information, saying he needed more ammunition for his arguments at the board. With our help, Barish went from someone with doubts about drug testing to almost an activist against it."

Unfortunately, Barish was away on vacation this week and unavailable for comment, but school board chair Tom McHill confirmed to DRCNet that Barish played the key role in mobilizing opposition to a district drug testing program. "Dr. Barish was very important in questioning the cost and effectiveness of a drug testing program," McHill said. Those concerns eventually killed the plan, at least for now, he added.

And while the Oregon School Boards Association says it is not advocating drug testing, McHill told DRCNet it was the association's model policy that first stirred the board's interest. "We have a longstanding policy of using the summer months to consider policies generated by the Oregon School Boards Association, so we were considering enacting drug testing for athletes or students participating in extracurricular activities."

But with the help of SSDP, Barish raised enough doubts to kill the proposal -- at least for this year. "Our administration has been fairly aggressive in ensuring that kids violating school policies get appropriate punishments, but when it comes to drug testing, the board decided that we need to find out where we are and what our problems really are, so we've instructed the administration to come back and tell us what is currently being done district-wide," said McHill. "I personally wasn't sure drug testing was the best way to deal with this, and Dr. Barish was questioning not only the cost of the policy, but what we are really trying to achieve here. Are we trying to discourage drug use or just catch kids in a way that is not helpful?"

Given all those concerns, the board voted not to adopt a drug testing policy at this time, McHill said. "We want to make sure we're doing the best job we can, and we're not ready to take that step right now."

Lebanon, Oregon, students will be drug test-free for at least another year, and SSDP's Wilson is looking for more school boards to influence. "School board members I've talked to are not ideologues; they have their hearts in the right place and just want their students to stay away from drugs and drug addiction. It has been my experience that they are open to new ideas, and they want to hear why it's a bad idea even if they support it," he said. "School board members sometimes tell me that even if drug testing doesn't work, they implement it to be able to say they were doing something about the problem. I respond by telling them there are smart, productive things you can do that actually work, like taking that money and hiring a substance abuse counselor, training parents how to talk about drugs with their kids, or even working with the PTA."

Kudos to the Lebanon Community School District for taking a level-headed approach to the issue -- and to SSDP's Wilson, not only for helping one school district make the right decision, but also for reminding us all what a little direct communication can achieve.


3. Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Hands in More Signatures, Drive to Make Ballot Still Alive

The Arkansas medical marijuana initiative lives -- at least for now. The years long effort to get the issue before Arkansas voters was nearly derailed in late July after the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org) decided to pull out (https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/346/arkansas.shtml). But while MPP folded up shop, local activists in the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana (http://www.ardpark.org) decided to keep on trying.

The initiative would create a registry system under the Arkansas Department of Health for qualified medical marijuana patients and providers. Patients and providers registered under the system "shall not be arrested, prosecuted, punished, or penalized in any manner under state law," provided the amount of marijuana encountered is less than one ounce of smokeable pot or no more than six plants.

On Wednesday, Arkansas medical marijuana supporters handed in 30,000 new signatures after canvassing statewide. Under Arkansas law, petitioners whose original signature petitions did not come up with enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot are granted a 30-day grace period to attempt to find more. With these additional signatures, the Arkansas initiative may make it to the ballot in November, but it is going to be a real nail-biter.

The measure needs 64,456 valid signatures to make the ballot. In the first round of signature-gathering, conducted by the MPP contractor The Southwest Group, organizers came up with 66,000 signatures, of which 17,371 were not counted because of notary errors. Of the remaining 48,629 signatures that were checked, only 29,947, or 62%, were found valid, leaving the initiative less than halfway to its goal with only a month to get more.

But initiative organizers think they can still get there. "We were able to locate key notaries to correct some of the problems among that first rejected group of 17,371," said Denele Campbell, executive director for the Alliance. "We feel that batch will yield at least an additional 10,000 valid names to our tally."

If Campbell is correct, that would get the signature count up to about 40,000 signatures, still 25,000 short of the magic number. She is counting on very high validity rates in the signatures gathered in the last few weeks, she said. "If we achieve around 80% validity, our petitions will qualify. Our canvassers worked very hard in an extremely difficult situation, with limited funds and a short period of time to gather these signatures. We're proud of all the people who helped, not only the paid canvassers but also the many volunteers who gathered names in their communities. It's been a real grassroots effort."

And Arkansas activists have managed to do their second phase signature-gathering on a shoestring budget. Campbell reported to DRCNet late last month that the Alliance had raised $10,000 for the second phase, half of it from one donor.

If the Arkansas initiative makes it to the ballot in November, it will join a number of other marijuana and medical marijuana measures facing voters in various states and cities. State officials have certified initiatives for the ballot in Alaska (regulation of adult use), Montana (medical marijuana), and Oregon (medical marijuana, again), while the fate of an MPP-sponsored regulation initiative in Nevada awaits results of a signature recount following a judge's ruling in their favor. Medical marijuana issues are also on local ballots in Ann Arbor and Berkeley, while Detroit passed its medical marijuana initiative earlier this month. Oakland voters will vote on a "lowest priority" initiative, while voters in Columbia, Missouri, will vote on two initiatives intended to minimize marijuana prosecutions and their consequences.

Seven states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- have passed workable medical marijuana laws through the initiative process, while voters in Arizona in 1996 passed a measure that has been unworkable. In Hawaii and Vermont, medical marijuana has come though legislative action, while Maryland legislators passed a lesser bill allowing medicinal use to be used as a defense in marijuana possession cases.


4. Two Web Sites Now Online Are Naming Names and Seeking Info on Narcs and Snitches

Within the last few weeks, two separate and unrelated web sites -- http://www.whosarat.com and http://www.carmichaelcase.com -- have appeared on the Internet. Both web sites provide information, including photographs, about undercover law enforcement officers and "confidential informants," or snitches. And while law enforcement sources have pronounced themselves outraged, it all appears perfectly legal.

As DRCNet reported early in August, Leon Carmichael, an Alabama man charged with money laundering and drug trafficking offenses, won a federal court case where prosecutors had sought to order his carmichaelcase.com web site dismantled (https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/349/pictures.shtml). The site contains the names and photos of four informants and one DEA agent involved in the case against Carmichael, under the heading, "WANTED: Information on These Informants and Agent." The web site then lists contact information for Carmichael's attorneys and the disclaimer that the web site "is definitely not an attempt to harass or intimidate any informants or agents, but is simply an attempt to seek information."

Despite the disclaimer, federal prosecutors argued that the web site "threatened" or "intimidated" undercover police officers and informants. But US District Court Judge Myron Thompson was having none of it. Blocking Carmichael's web site violated his First Amendment rights by seeking "prior restraint" on free speech, as well as his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to defend himself. The web site was essentially no different than "time-tested investigative techniques" such as canvassing a neighborhood, the judge held.

The web site has worked, said Carmichael attorney Steven Glasscock. "We've been getting calls with information relating to witnesses whose names and pictures we posted. That is what my client wanted: information that may prove useful in the case," he told DRCNet.

"This is like going door-to-door in a neighborhood looking for information," said Glasscock, "but now people can do it at their convenience." The informants set Carmichael up, said Glasscock, who added that there was no physical evidence against him, only the word of informants, and a tremendous asset forfeiture potential. "This is the most pernicious of cases," he said.

Then, last week, Boston resident Sean Bucci debuted his "Who's A Rat" web site. Unlike the Carmichael case web site, which is for a single case, Who's A Rat is designed to be a searchable online database allowing users around the country to post local, state and federal agents' and informants' names, pictures and related information.

Relying on the same case law that supported the Carmichael web site, Who's A Rat also makes clear that its goal is not to target law enforcement officers and their informants, but to assist attorneys and defendants with few resources as they prepare to stand trial. To that end, each listing includes the informant's or officer's full name, age, location, race and occupation; agencies he or she works for; facts that bring the subject's credibility into question; known illegal activity and criminal record, if applicable; and picture, if available. Users are also required to supply their own contact information or that of their lawyers.

"Every month, nearly 100,000 Americans are arrested on drug charges," explained Bucci in a statement this week. "What's more, there are over two million people in jail in this country because the government dedicates most of its resources to the 'drug war' -- yet drugs are more readily available and cheaper than ever. Although Who's A Rat was created to assist individuals involved in any criminal matter, we expect it will be particularly helpful to those with drug charges against them.

"Until today, many defendants had no reliable way to get information about the agents that arrested them or the informants that all too often tell outright lies in an effort to get their own criminal charges or sentences reduced," said Bucci. "Our site's extensive database will solve that problem for those who are having a hard time proving the officers or informants set to testify against them are not credible. Who's A Rat is an important resource in finding that proof."

Bucci, 31, has a personal interest in such matters. According to court documents in Boston, he faces federal marijuana distribution conspiracy charges himself in an investigation that began after he was named by a DEA informant. Bucci declined a DRCNet interview request on Wednesday on his attorney's advice, saying little more than he needed to keep a lower profile. Meanwhile, he added, his web site had 25,000 hits Tuesday and he expected 45,000 Wednesday.

The DEA is not amused. "This creates a lot of concerns for safety," said DEA spokesman Bill Grant. "If you're posting the names of DEA agents working undercover, that creates a lot of problems for their safety," he told DRCNet. "They can find themselves in very dangerous situations if their cover is blown." The DEA's chief counsel is considering a response to the Carmichael case ruling, he added.

Tough cookies for the snitches and narcs, said Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (http://www.norml.org), an attorney, who limited his concerns to the posting of inaccurate information. "If someone posted that someone was a narc and he wasn't one, now there's a definite ethical problem. And if someone were injured on the basis of that false information, you could end up as a defendant in a civil lawsuit as well," he warned.

"But if someone is serving as a snitch or an undercover agent, there is a good bit of risk involved in that kind of work, and I think they know that going in. If a person puts up a web site looking for information, it's not fair to saddle them with responsibility for that person's career choice. So I don't see an ethical problem with that. These people are worried about their ability to cross-examine the snitch, and if you don't know your snitch has been caught in lies before, for instance, that weakens your case."

One multi-narc contributor to Who's A Rat is not a defendant in a criminal case, but a Texas libertarian from The Woodlands named Brian Drake who has posted the names and personal information of dozens of law enforcement officers. "If the state is going to have databases on us," he told DRCNet, "it seems only fair that we can have a database of agents and informers as a tool for defense attorneys and defendants. I don't have a particular negative law enforcement experience, in fact I've done ride-alongs with some of these guys, but if I can open a file on them maybe people will look out for them."

"The Woodlands is a pretty quiet place, but you'd be horrified at how many drug busts there are -- it's pretty much all they have to do," said Drake, who after getting 9% of the vote in the 2002 race for local state representative as a Libertarian, has forsaken politics for a career as a mediator. "I know some of these guys, they are doing what they think is right, but they're apt to do some wrong things. If somebody moves to The Woodlands, they deserve to know whether their neighbor is out there looking to arrest them. This is a resource for people looking to stay out of trouble, not just for criminal defendants and defense attorneys."

That's just good harm reduction, said NORML's Stroup. "If someone is posting information like that for the purpose of getting facts out on the table, I think that's ethically justifiable, too," said Stroup. "People might well want to post a list of narcs so people don't get entrapped. As for risk to the narcs, well, we all know the black market is risky, so I can't imagine them not knowing the risk involved."

Information is power.


5. Newsbrief: No Criminal Charges Against Cops in Goose Creek High School Raid

The US Justice Department announced August 20 that it has ended its investigation of Goose Creek, South Carolina, police officers involved in a raid on the town's Stratford High School last November without finding any federal civil rights violations. Combined with last month's decision by South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster that he will not file state criminal charges against the police, the Justice Department decision effectively means the officers involved will face no criminal charges.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy's Dan Goldman and a Stratford High parent
The Stratford High School raid electrified the country last November, when televised images of police storming into a school hallway with weapons drawn and threatening students with them and menacing drug dogs were beamed nationwide. Some students were handcuffed for complying too slowly with shouted police commands (https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/311/stratford.shtml).

The raid was called by Stratford principal George McCrackin (since reassigned to defending the school district in civil lawsuits arising from the raid) because he thought he had espied an increase in "drug activity" as he monitored the school's 70 video surveillance cameras. No drugs or weapons were found.

Attorney General McMaster said that while police created "a dangerous tinderbox situation" with their Ramboesque raid, such tactics were not illegal.

The Justice Department agreed. In a letter to Goose Creek Police Chief Harvey Becker, the department wrote that "the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation" of federal civil rights laws, and that "accordingly, we have closed our investigation."

The city of Goose Creek, the police department, individual officers, and the Goose Creek school district still face at least two separate civil lawsuits. According to the Charleston Post-Courier, negotiations in those lawsuits have broken down.

Visit https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/312/incident.shtml and https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/322/goosecreek.shtml for earlier DRCNet coverage of the Goose Creek incident.


6. Newsbrief: Baltimore Needle Exchange Hailed on Tenth Anniversary

Baltimore's city-run needle exchange program (NEP) has weathered initial controversy to become the nation's largest, Baltimore Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson said August 21 as he marked the 10th anniversary of the program. The program has taken more than six million needles off the streets, he told the Associated Press.

Baltimore is one of the nation's cities hardest hit by heroin, with an estimated 50-55,000 addicts, or 7% of the city's population. The NEP has enrolled more than 14,000 injection drug users, Beilenson said.

Designed to reduce the rate of new HIV infection, the NEP has worked. More than 2,800 people have been tested for HIV. And according to the Maryland AIDS Commission, in the decade since the Baltimore NEP began, drug-related HIV cases have dropped from about 360 in 1994 to about 50 in 2002. Drug-related HIV cases have also dropped as a percentage of all new cases, from 61% in 1994 to 39% in 2002.

"Is it perfect? No," Beilenson said. "Do people still share needles sometimes? Sure. But the fact that six million fewer needles have been shared clearly has had an impact." And the controversy has died down as the NEP has proven effective at reducing disease. "I think it's very safe to say that there's no controversy at all that our results have been excellent over the past 10 years," he said.

Now, if only officials from New Jersey and Delaware, the only two states that neither allow non-prescription syringe sales nor NEPs, would hop on I-95 and check in with their colleagues in Baltimore.


7. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story

At least one reader had an issue with one of last week's corrupt cop stories, Buffalo, New York, police officer Ronnie Funderburk, who faces felony charges for advising his drug dealer brother-in-law how to avoid arrest. The reader suggested that Funderburk was essentially doing nothing more than a little harm reduction for his in-law. That is true. What in our opinion makes Funderburk corrupt is that he was doing it only for family members. Because Funderburk was a cop, brother-in-law got special favors unavailable to the general public. If police officers wish to issue pamphlets on how drug offenders can avoid arrest, and they make them generally available, we're all for it.

This week's corrupt cops story is a bit more straightforward. The Newark Star-Ledger reported Tuesday that the Newark Police Department and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice have been investigating allegations that up to a half-dozen "rogue cops" have been shaking down drug dealers and prostitutes, then peddling the guns and drugs seized from their victims. The evidence is about to be presented to a statewide grand jury, law enforcement officials told the Star-Ledger.

Police trotted out familiar platitudes about bad apples. "There is an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice targeting corruption in the ranks of the Newark Police Department," said Newark Police Director Anthony Ambrose. "The vast majority of the Newark Police Department are good, hardworking officers," Ambrose said of the 1,900-person police department. "But like anywhere else, there may be a few rotten apples in the bunch. These are the ones who can blemish the good people who come to work every day and do their jobs."

But there may be more than a few bad apples. According to Newark police union leader Jack McEntee, more than 80 police officers have received letters from the Division of Criminal Justice saying they are either potential witnesses or subjects of the investigation. And it could be more than shakedowns and dope-dealing cops. "Officials familiar with the probe" told the Star-Ledger the investigation is also checking out allegations Newark police conducted illegal searches, planted drugs on suspects or failed to turn in all of the funds seized during drug raids. "Pure and simple, this is about bad cops doing bad things on the street," one of the officials said.

One official told the Star-Ledger the bad cops "did not hesitate resorting to violence" and that the haul from their robberies of drug dealers was in the thousands of dollars. That same official added that the rogue officers did not appear to be working together. Oh, great! We have groups of Newark cops independently arriving at the same corrupt and vicious course of action. Could there be a structural problem here?


8. Newsbrief: Virginia Judge Jails Woman for Taking Prescription Methadone

When Tazewell, Virginia, resident Kimberly Bucklin, 29, was arrested on child abuse and drug possession charges last year, she was addicted to Oxycontin, the powerful, popular opioid pain reliever. Following her arrest, the Roanoke Times reported, Bucklin enrolled in a methadone treatment program to help her kick the Oxycontin habit. Now the judge who sentenced her to probation has thrown her in jail and sentenced her to serve three years in prison for her efforts. Her offense? Taking the very drug prescribed to her by doctors to kick the Oxycontin habit. That violated the condition of her probation, the judge ruled.

In an August 20 hearing, Bucklin's attorney, Tom Scott, the American Civil Liberties Union, and drug treatment advocates asked District Court Judge Henry Vanover to reconsider his ruling. Another hearing has yet to be set, but will not happen before October, Tazewell County Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Lee said. In the meantime, Bucklin sits in jail.

The case illustrates in stark terms the conflict between law enforcement imperatives and the medical needs of recovering drug users. "It really, really is a medical decision and not a legal decision," said Scott, of Bucklin's need for methadone.

From a medical perspective, the methadone maintenance was working just as it should, testified Dr. Robert Newman, director of the Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. "I would say her response was dramatic, positive and very rapid," he said. Methadone is an effective treatment for opiate dependence, Newman testified. Ordering Bucklin to get off methadone is illustrative of a "terrible conflict" between the law and medicine, he added.

Although Bucklin had been on methadone for months, Vanover ordered her to quit using it within six months. Against the advice of her physician, Bucklin began gradually cutting back, but after she suffered cravings and withdrawal symptoms, the Galax Life Center methadone clinic restored her to the higher dose and extended her treatment past the six-month deadline. She was charged with violating her probation in February and has been at the county jail ever since -- except when she had to be hospitalized for severe methadone withdrawal shortly after being locked up.

Commonwealth's Attorney Lee said judges in the area routinely bar probationers from taking methadone at a clinic. Bucklin is the first person to be sent to prison for violating such an order, but with more clinics opening in the region, she may not be the last unless the judges are educated about the treatment's efficacy in dealing with opiate addiction.

"Despite the fact that the federal government has spent millions in research to determine that methadone is the gold standard for treating opioid dependence, you still have what I would call unenlightened and misinformed representatives of the law enforcement community," said Mark Parrino, president of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence.

Can Judge Vanover be enlightened and informed? Stay tuned.


9. Newsbrief: Minneapolis City Council Rejects Medical Marijuana Initiative

The Minneapolis City Council refused on an 8-4 vote August 20 to put a medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot, despite receiving signatures from more than 7,000 registered voters and 5,000 other local residents. The initiative would have amended the city charter to create a medical marijuana distribution system. The amendment would only take effect when medical marijuana became legal under both state and federal law.

The initiative campaign was the creation of Citizens Organized for Harm Reduction (http://www.cohr.org), with help from the Washington, DC-based Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org), and MPP has already threatened legal action if the council refused to allow the issue to go to the voters. According to COHR, the amendment would:

"Require that the City Council shall authorize, license, and regulate a reasonable number of medicinal marijuana distribution centers in the city of Minneapolis as is necessary to provide services to patients who have been recommended medicinal marijuana by a medical or osteopathic doctor licensed to practice in the state of Minnesota to the extent permitted by state and federal law."

The city's Charter Commission recommended against placing the measure on the ballot, claiming that it violated both state and federal law and was "contrary to the public policy of Minnesota." Similar arguments were heard in the council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which voted 5-0 against the measure on August 17, and at the full Council meeting three days later.

But Council Member Dean Zimmerman, a supporter of the measure, said those arguments weren't good enough to ignore the will of voters. "For us to act and say what the citizens say has no value is a slap in the face of democracy," Zimmermann said.

MPP wasn't too happy, either. "The reasons given by the Charter Commission and members of the council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee for keeping this proposal off the ballot are transparently phony," said Neal Levine, a former Minneapolis resident who now serves as MPP director of state policies. "We are fully prepared to go to court, and to spend whatever it takes to prevent the city's voters from being disenfranchised."

Minneapolis elected officials "simply ignored the plain language of the measure, which specifically states that medical marijuana distribution will be permitted only to the extent allowed by state and federal law," Levine said. "Setting that aside, however, the council is not considering whether they should change the charter, but simply whether they will allow the citizens of Minneapolis to vote to change the charter. They are considering disenfranchising 12,000 Minneapolis residents who signed a legal petition to place a charter amendment on this November's ballot. That is grossly undemocratic, and if they vote to knock this off the ballot on Friday, we will see them in court on Monday."

It hasn't happened yet, but stay tuned.


10. Newsbrief: Seattle Hempfest Endorses Kerry

Organizers of the Seattle Hempfest (http://www.hempfest.org), the country's largest annual pro-marijuana event, broke with tradition by calling on pot people to help elect Democratic Sen. John Kerry president in November. Before this year, the Hempfest had held to a scrupulously nonpartisan position.

photo courtesy Hempfest
But this year, as more than 150,000 people gathered in Seattle's waterfront Myrtle Edwards Park to hear bands, check out the multitudinous array of glass pipes, and smoke the substance being honored, they heard an explicitly anti-George Bush message. On its web site, Hempfest notes that this "proves to be a pivotal year in American politics as the nation chooses whether to stay with the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, or bring in someone with a greater ability to understand our message... that we are Americans seeking freedom, not a criminal underclass threatening society."

It was a message elaborated on by Hempfest spokesman Dominic Holden to the Boston Globe before the festival began last week. The marijuana vote is powerful, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, Holden said, and even getting a few thousand people registered could make the difference in a tight election. "It is essential for our crowd to understand that there is nothing more important they can do for drug policy reform than to go out and cast their ballots in the Democratic box in November," said Holden.

The Bush administration's aggressive anti-medical marijuana prosecutions prompted the Hempfest to break with tradition, Holden said. "When you look at what's happening on the front lines of the drug war under the Bush administration, the federal government has waged war against sick and dying people who use medical marijuana and those compassionate enough to help them," Holden said. "We need to unite and get George Bush out of office. We need to vote for John Kerry."

Leading drug reformers contacted by the Globe, including Hempfest speakers Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org), and Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (http://www.norml.org), were also critical of Bush, but worried about relying overly on the Democrats to push for drug reform. "When it comes to the drug war, the Bush administration is a disaster," said Nadelmann, but while Kerry seems more sympathetic on some issues, "we know going in he will disappoint us," Nadelmann said.

"All of us recognize that there is no question that marijuana reform policies would be better served with someone else in office other than George Bush," said Stroup, but he added that marijuana reform should not be seen as a partisan issue. "It would be a terrible mistake to let the [marijuana reform] issue be perceived as a Democratic issue," he said.


11. Newsbrief: DPA Reaches Out to GOP Conventioneers

Last weekend in Seattle, Hempfest organizers urged attendees to vote for Sen. John Kerry for president, but next week, the Drug Policy Alliance (http://www.drugpolicy.org) will be reaching out to Republicans attending the party's convention in New York, the New York Times reported Monday.

DPA is raising money to take out ads in the conservative New York Sun to welcome Republican delegates to the city. The ads will cite remarks by prominent Republicans, including economist Milton Friedman, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger indicating support for reforming the drug laws.

"I think there were a few people who were a little weirded out that we were making this kind of pitch and welcoming the Republicans," DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann told the Times. "But there are many other people who think we'll get a major breakthrough on drugs by a 'Nixon goes to China' initiative from a Republican."

Some may have been weirded out, but the idea had appeal for DPA supporters, Nadelmann said. "When we do an e-mail blast, sometimes we're lucky to get $1,000," Mr. Nadelmann said. "In this case we got $10,000 in 48 hours."


12. Newsbrief: Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Pulls Out of NYC GOP Anti-Drug War March, Broader Event Will Go On Instead

The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (http://www.hsan.org) announced Wednesday that it was pulling out of a march to the site of the Republican Convention on Monday to demand reform of New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws and an end to mandatory minimum sentences nationwide. Although the group, led by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and veteran civil rights activist Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, had announced plans for the march four months ago, it said Wednesday that the mass march it had planned is "not now feasible."

The group, which has been active registering voters at Hip-Hop Summits across the country, most recently in St. Louis, cited security concerns and the repressive atmosphere in New York, as well as scheduling conflicts. "Regrettably, due to increased security measures and safety concerns around the Republican National Convention and the timing of the MTV Video Music Awards in Miami where a number of the leading hip-hop artists will be, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network has decided not to participate in the March on New York," HSAN said Wednesday.

But a march incorporating drug reform themes will go on at the place and time scheduled for HSAN's march and rally. Before pulling out of the march completely, HSAN had found out that another coalition, Still We Rise (http://www.stillwerise.org), wanted the same day and location for its march, and had decided to work with that coalition. Still We Rise represents a variety of organizations of the downtrodden -- "people living in poverty, living with HIV/AIDS, at risk of infection, the unhoused and homeless, immigrants, individuals and families receiving public assistance, and those who have a history of incarceration" -- and is calling for an end to "ill-conceived" social and economic policies that "devastate our families and communities," including the war on drugs.

The march, which after arduous negotiations has obtained the necessary police permits, begins Monday at noon at Union Square, proceeds to the Republican Convention at Madison Square Garden for a 2:00pm rally, then decamps to St. Marks Church for a "post-rally party."


13. Online Petition on Marc Emery and Canadian Marijuana Law Reform

Last week DRCNet reported that prominent Canadian entrepreneur and marijuana reformer Marc Emery had been sentenced to 90 days in a Saskatchewan, jail for trafficking -- which in this case consisted of passing a joint at a protest to another attendee.

A petition calling the sentence a miscarriage of justice and calling for legalization and other reforms to Canadian marijuana law has been posted at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ccd443/ online. The author of the petition can be reached at [email protected].


14. Keith Cylar Activist Fund

Many of our readers knew Keith Cylar, cofounder of Housing Works, a leading light on the AIDS movement, stalwart of harm reduction and drug policy reform, and a member of DRCNet's board of directors, who passed away in April due to complications from AIDS (https://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/332/keith.shtml). Housing Works has now announced the Keith Cylar Activist Fund, to "create a permanent endowment to support advocacy and activism by people living with AIDS and HIV in America and around the world."

Those interested in supporting the Keith Cylar Activist Fund or learning about Housing Works and the issues they support can do so at http://www.housingworks.org online. Those in or near New York can also attend the Housing Works annual meeting and dance party on the evening of September 13.


15. Media Scan: Kunstler Rockefeller Video, Counterpunch

New video on Rockefeller drug law victim Darryl Best, serving 15 years to life for accepting a fedex package, by Emily & Sarah Kunstler of Off Center Productions, for the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice:
http://www.kunstler.org/darryl_best.html

Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. Clair on "The Bi-Partisan Origins of the Total War on Drugs," Counterpunch, 8/21/04:
http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn08212004.html


16. This Week in History

August 29, 2001: The Dallas Morning News reports that Ernesto Samper, former president of Colombia, said, "The problem is the law of the marketplace is overtaking the law of the state. We have to ask, is legalization the way out of this? We cannot continue to fight this war alone. If the consuming nations do nothing to curb demand, to control money-laundering, to halt the flow of chemicals that supply the drug-production labs, then in a few short years the world is going to see legalization as the answer."


17. The Reformer's Calendar

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

August 1-November 1, VT, "Green Mountain State" tour by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition board member Peter Christ. Contact Mike Smithson at (315) 243-5844 or [email protected] for details or to add your organization to the tour.

August 25-29, Manderson, SD, "2nd Annual Lakota Hemp Days," sponsored by Alex White Plume and family, Hemphasis Magazine, the South Dakota Industrial Hemp Council, and others involved with the Lakota Hemp Project. At Kiza Park, contact Bob Newland at [email protected] or (605) 255-4032 or visit http://www.hemphasis.net for further information.

August 28, 5:00-7:00pm, Robbinsville, NJ, "Sean McGrath Medicinal Marijuana Awareness Event," featuring Assemblyman Reed Gusciora announcing a state medical marijuana bill, Ken Wolski of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, Jim Miller and a screening of the short film "The Case for Cheryl Miller." At 900 Route 526 (just east of the Allentown/Robbinsville exit off Route 195), contact (609) 208-2806 or [email protected] to RSVP or for further information.

August 28, 6:00-10:00pm, Portland, OR, YES ON 33 "We're on the ballot celebration Pot Luck," with Voter Power and MPP executive director Rob Kampia, discussion of the OMMA2 campaign with awards ceremony for campaign heroes. At 4315 SE Division St., $25 requested, no one turned away, bring a dessert if possible, e-mail [email protected] for further information.

August 28, 8:00pm, New York, NY, "The People's Party/Benefit," event supporting the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. At the Brecht Forum, 122 W. 27th St., 10th Floor, donations of $10-$20 appreciated, e-mail [email protected] or call (212) 924-6980 for further information.

August 29, 5:00-8:00pm, Portland, OR, Meet & Greet with MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia, reception for OMMA2 donors. Admission $100, RSVP to (503) 224-3051 for directions.

September 5, 10:00am-5:00pm, Santa Cruz, CA, 2nd Annual Santa Cruz WAMMfest, benefit for the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medial Marijuana. At San Lorenzo Park Benchlands, visit http://www.wamm.org or call (831) 425-0416 for further information.

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 13, 6:00pm, New York, NY, Housing Works Annual Meeting & Dance Party. At Ruby Falls, 609 W. 29th St., admission to meeting free, $5 donation requested for party. For further information visit http://www.housingworks.org/events/ or contact [email protected] or (212) 967-1500 x141.

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.

September 23, Kalamazoo, MI, Drug Policy Symposium, featuring representatives of Sheriff Bill Masters of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Rev. Edwin Sanders of Religious Leaders for a More Just and Compassionate Drug Policy, Nora Callahan of The November Coalition and many others. At Western Michigan University, contact Ben Lando at (269) 760-5107 or [email protected] for further information.

September 25, 8:00am, Asheville, NC, "The Adverse Effects of Drug War Prohibition: Our Families, Our Children and Our Communities." Saturday morning conference sponsored by the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform and cosponsored by the UNC-Asheville Women's Studies Dept. At UNC-Asheville, visit for further information.

October 1, 5:00-8:00pm, Madison, WI, Medical Marijuana Benefit. At Cardinal Bar, 418 E. Wilson, $10 requested donation. Hosted by IMMLY and Wisconsin NORML, contact [email protected] or [email protected] for further information.

October 1, 6:30pm, New York, NY, "The Body Electric," benefit for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, at Alex Grey's Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, 520 W. 27th St. 4th Floor. Full admission to dinner and dance party $100 requested donation, join MAPS at any membership level for admission to dance party only. Visit http://www.maps.org/announce/thebodyelectric.html or e-mail [email protected] for further information, visit http://www.maps.org/donate/ to RSVP.

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

October 2, noon, Madison, WI, "33rd Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival," Library Mall at 700 State St., 3:40pm parade to rally at State Capitol. Contact [email protected] for further information.

October 4-5, Washington, DC, two days of medical marijuana events sponsored by Americans for Safe Access, including a Rally for Rescheduling Marijuana as Medicine at the Dept. of Health & Human Services at 10:00am on October 5. For further information visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org or contact (510) 486-8083 or [email protected].

October 19, 6:30-9:30pm, Washington, DC, PreventionWorks! 6th Anniversary Celebration/Fundraiser supporting harm reduction in the capital. At HR57, 1610 14th St. NW, contact (202) 588-5580 or [email protected] or visit http://www.preventionworksdc.org 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 http://www.VtCannabisCoalition.org 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 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.

November 27, Portland, OR, "Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards 2004," Seminar & Trade Show 10:00am-4:00pm, Awards Banquet & Entertainment 6:30-10:00pm. At the Red Lion Hotel, Portland Convention Center, sponsored by Oregon NORML, visit http://www.ornorml.org or contact (503) 239-6110 or [email protected] for further information.

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 http://www.AmericanPainInstitute.org for further information.


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