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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #359, 10/22/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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    A report issued by a British drug policy organization this week predicts that prohibition will be replaced by a system of legal regulation within twenty years. Their optimism is justified.
    Ten years ago, California voters frightened by violent crime and led by politicians who manipulated that fear voted to enact the state's three-strikes-you're-out law. An initiative that would amend the law to ensure it only applies to violent criminals appears headed for victory.
    In a report issued last week, the British drug reform organization the Transform Drug Policy Foundation has produced a road map to guide policymakers from the failed policy of drug prohibition toward an approach emphasizing regulated markets for currently illicit drugs.
    California Superior Court Judge James Gray, an eloquent and powerful critic of prohibition and the drug war, is running on the Libertarian Party ticket. But despite polling stronger than anyone except Boxer and Jones, he has been shut out of debates, campaign polls, and press coverage.
    As a young married working man in New York City, Anthony Papa knew nothing of the severe penalties awaiting those who violated the Rockefeller drug laws, but he found out. Through the development of an artistic talent he never knew he possessed, Papa won fame and clemency granted by Gov. Pataki. Since then he has been deeply involved in trying to repeal the Rockefeller laws. "15 To Life" is his story.
    Two short weeks from now, voters in the United States will make a choice affecting the nation's course for decades to come. Regardless of their political affiliations or views on other issues, DRCNet's diverse supporters all agree on this much: The drug war is a moral and humanitarian crisis harming countless people around the world and which has failed to achieve its goals.
    Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry told a Portland TV station Thursday that the federal government should not interfere with Oregon's assisted suicide and medical marijuana laws.
    Organizers of the initiative that would remove criminal penalties for marijuana in Alaska and regulate its distribution filed suit Tuesday against Alaska Lt. Gov. Loren Leman over the role his office played in drafting a statement of opposition in the Official Election Pamphlet presented to voters.
    The nonpartisan web site New Voters Project has elicited positions from the leading presidential candidates on reform or repeal of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision. All three candidates supported either scaling back the law or eliminating it altogether.
    A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations have come together to urgently seek "alternatives to misguided drug policies" that have led to the mass incarceration of black men in the US.
    We've all heard about the "drug exception" to the Fourth Amendment, but what about the "drug exception" to the laws governing perjury? According to a Sunday report in the Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel-News, that may be okay, too.
    Citing UN officials, ethnic leaders and unnamed foreign assistance workers, the Bangkok Post reported last week that the coming end to opium cultivation in Burma will bring poverty and hunger to thousands of Wa and other peasants dependent on the poppy for economic survival.
    A confrontation between the Peruvian government and coca growers in the town of San Gaban in the state of Puno turned violent Tuesday, the AP and Peruvian media report.
    The Dutch government's pioneering medical marijuana program is in trouble for the darnedest reason -- people can walk into any "coffee shop" and buy marijuana for less.
    Popular Korean actress Kim Pu-Son has challenged a marijuana possession conviction under Korea's 2000 narcotics law, which she argues is unconstitutional. Leading Korean drug experts are supporting her claim.
    The Canadian government will reintroduce its much criticized marijuana decriminalization bill, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler told the news agency Canwest.
    Transparency International this week released its annual corruption perception ratings, placing the US placed 17th among the least corrupt nations. But this week's entries in the corrupt cops sweepstakes demonstrate the Americans' poor placing in corruption is not for lack of trying.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Students and activists from across the country will convene at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Sixth Annual National Conference in College Park, Maryland, outside Washington, DC, next month.
    Make a difference next semester! DRCNet and the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform are seeking motivated and hardworking interns for the Spring 2005 Semester.
    DRCNet is seeking a part-time Administrative Assistant to work with the Executive and Associate Directors and the Member Coordinator. The Administrative Assistant will assist with all manner of clerical and administrative tasks.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's calendar for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!
(last week's issue)

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Twenty Years?

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 10/22/04

David Borden
It's important sometimes in any issue to push the boundaries of the debate. This week the group Transform, a UK-based outfit, did just that. Transform outlines, in a new report, models for how a post-prohibition, regulatory system of drug control could be constructed. Then, they confidently predict that Britain will have something like that in place within twenty years.

Twenty years till legalization? Here in the US that must seem unrealistic, even surreal, to the average observer. In Washington, DC, for example, the nation's capital and my home, I was not allowed to cast a vote for a medical marijuana ballot initiative for which I petitioned. My city's government is forbidden from using our local tax funds to support needle exchange programs. In the Congress that resides a few miles away, legislators dream up new mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. The situation is an extreme one, making an end to drug prohibition a little hard to imagine.

But if the currents of politics and culture are against us, one must not lose sight of the undercurrents, and those are flowing our direction. The degree of support for ending prohibition, the amount of discussion of it by high level political and opinion leaders, while small is markedly less small than before. In 1998, no governors of US states were willing to speak seriously about legalization. By 1999, there were two, Gary Johnson of New Mexico, a Republican, and Minnesota's Jesse Ventura.

As Gov. Johnson once expressed it, support for the drug war is a mile wide but an inch deep. Our arguments are compelling, especially those having to do with the violence, both domestic and global, that is fueled by illicit drug profits that would not exist under a system of regulation. Most people have never heard the real case in all its glory, and I can't feel pessimistic until they have. In my observation, this is an effective time to be working for the purpose of being heard making that case.

So, could Transform be right? Could it actually happen, even in America, the drug war's ideological, diplomatic center? I think that twenty years could quite possibly be long enough. In fact, twenty years is too long -- too many lives will be needlessly ruined or lost during that time. But that is all the more reason for positive thinking. Yes -- prohibition's days are numbered.

2. California Initiative to Rein-In Three-Strikes Law Appears Headed for Victory

Ten years ago, California voters frightened by violent crime and led by politicians who manipulated that fear voted to enact what is popularly known as the three-strikes-you're-out law. Under three-strikes, persons with two previous violent or "serious" felonies can be imprisoned for life, with no opportunity for parole for at least 25 years, if they are convicted of a third felony. Under three-strikes, that third felony need not be violent or "serious."

Orange County FACTS Quilt,
courtesy FACTS
Now, an initiative that would amend the law to ensure it only applies to violent criminals and that would allow for the re-sentencing of those already serving decades-long sentences for nonviolent third offenses appears headed for victory.

While the three-strikes law was ostensibly aimed at violent career criminals, the net it created was cast so wide that it also captured thousands of petty criminals, including drug users who ended up being sentenced to life in prison for a third offense that was often no more than simple drug possession, in many cases of amounts that could be charged as misdemeanors, but were charged as felonies at the discretion of prosecutors.

When Californians envisioned three-strikes, they conjured up images of Charles Manson or Richard Allen Davis, the violent repeat offender whose widely publicized murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas set the political stage for three-strikes. But for every bogeyman like Manson or Davis, there is a Doug Rash or an Edward Parsons. Both men's prior convictions were for burglary, both men were convicted of simple drug possession as their third strike (less than a half-gram of cocaine for Rash, less than a tenth of a gram of methamphetamine for Parsons), and both doing more than 25-to-life under the three strikes law.

More than 7,000 people are doing three-strikes sentences in California prisons, while an additional 35,000 are serving longer sentences as well under the law's two-strike provisions. Of those 7,000 three-strikers, more than 4,000 are, like Rash and Parsons, people whose third strikes were nonviolent, including more than 1,200 sentenced for drug offenses.

This year's initiative to amend the three-strikes law would remove crimes such as burglary from the list of "serious" or violent felonies and would limit the application of three-strikes sentences only to third offenses that were also "serious" or violent felonies -- not offenses such as stealing a pizza or a set of golf clubs or drug possession. It also includes a measure of retroactivity, allowing for re-sentencing hearings for those serving three-strikes sentences for nonviolent crimes.

While opposition to three-strikes had been growing for years, with grassroots family-member groups such as Families to Amend California's Three-Strikes Law ( emerging to seek their loved ones' release, it is the infusion of cold hard cash by some of drug reform's deepest pockets and by a wealthy California businessman with a son who stands to benefit that has propelled the initiative, known as Proposition 66, to what appears to be an election day victory.

Proposition 66 is opposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the California District Attorneys Association and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which kicked in $150,000 to campaign against it, but opponents are being outspent by a margin of roughly ten-to-one by the initiative's backers. Sacramento car-insurance executive Jerry Keenan, whose son figures to get out of prison early if the initiative passes, has kicked in $1.9 million to the campaign, while billionaire financier George Soros, insurance executive Peter Lewis, and University of Phoenix founder John Sperling contributed $150,000 each, according to campaign finance reports.

The money is being funneled through the Yes on 66 Committee (, a group of Sacramento-based campaign pros, while the cleverly-named People Against Violent Crime ( also plays a key role. And it is paying off. Two polls in the last ten days have shown the measure passing easily, with an October 13 Field poll showing 65% in favor with only 18% opposed, while a Los Angeles Times poll Wednesday showed in passing with 62% of the votes.

"We had two previous attempts to get on the ballot, and that helped to educate the public," said People Against Violent Crime vice-chair Jim Benson. "There were marches and media stories over the years about some of the more outrageous cases, but it is the money that made the difference. That is what enabled us to get on the ballot," he told DRCNet. Petitioners handed in some 750,000 signatures, he said. "That takes money."

While Citizens Against Violent Crime is based in suburban Orange County, Families to Amend California's Three-Strikes Law calls south Los Angeles home. "We are trying to coordinate with the other groups," said Families' youth organizer Rob McGowan. "Our people are doing a lot of precinct walks, visiting churches and campuses, all the basic campaign stuff," he told DRCNet. "We are mostly families of prisoners, mostly minority, while People Against Violent Crime can represent people who have been victimized by real criminals, the ones this law should be targeting. This works to our advantage because we now have advocates on both sides of the table," he said.

"This just shows how broad the impact of this law has been," said McGowan. "It is mostly affecting people of color and poor people of all races, but it also affects the middle-class. This law was sold as protecting us from violent criminals, but what it has become is a way to send nonviolent people away for 25 years before they even get a parole hearing!"

Opponents of the measure say it is working as intended. "The short answer against Proposition 66 is that dangerous and violent people will be released from prison who shouldn't be," said Attorney General Lockyer in a prepared statement. "I share the view that as a general matter, putting somebody in prison for life for stealing videotapes sounds like a really bad idea. But there also might have been a very long string of crimes that preceded that conviction, and that pattern justifies a long sentence."

"We believe Proposition 66 is a lie," prison guards' union Vice President Lance Corcoran told the Los Angeles Times. "It's going to put violent criminals back on the street immediately," he added, failing to note that if the measure passes it will certainly put some prison guards in the unemployment line.

The measure would save big bucks, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office. Savings would run from tens of millions of dollars a year early on to hundreds of millions of dollars a year once the measure's impact is truly felt a few years down the road. The office did say that it would also result in increased parole supervision costs, but those would be only a fraction of the savings from freeing thousands of prisoners.

It isn't just advocacy groups or self-interested entrepreneurs who are backing Proposition 66. It has the endorsement of dozens of professional organizations, political groupings, and individuals, including the American Civil Liberties Union and religious, labor, and civil rights groups. Among them is the California Council of Churches, whose political action arm, Church Impact, is supporting the measure.

"There is a principle in progressive Christianity known as restorative justice, said the group's deputy director, Elizabeth Sholes. "You don't throw people away because they have been stupid, but that is what is happening the way the law is applied, and that is not what the law is supposed to be about," she told DRCNet. "If people's first and second offenses have not garnered long sentences in the first place, it seems a complete waste of human life to sentence them like that."

While many criminal justice reformers would prefer that even violent crime sentencing be left to judges' informed discretion on a case by case basis, limiting the three-strikes mandatory minimum to violent offenders would represent a substantial improvement. With the initiative's language carefully crafted to appeal to voters' concerns about violent criminals and an increasing public understanding that sentencing nonviolent offenders to life in prison is not only wrong but expensive, Californians should soon see a three-strikes law that does what it was sold as doing -- not locking up hapless junkies for life.

3. English Drug Reformers Map Route to Post-Prohibition Drug Policy

In a report issued last week, the British drug reform organization the Transform Drug Policy Foundation ( has produced a road map to guide policymakers from the failed policy of drug prohibition toward an approach emphasizing regulated markets for currently illicit drugs. Unveiled with the support of parliamentarians, criminal justice experts, and former police officials, "After the War on Drugs: Options for Control" is a veritable handbook for politicians and activists looking to move the debate and the policy-making forward.

Peering into the future, the report argues that within 15 years, most drug users will not be scoring from street dealers in the black market but will instead obtain their drugs from licensed retailers, "specialist" pharmacists, or, in the case of verified medical conditions, by prescription. "If you are around in 2020, the chances are that will see drugs prohibition replaced with a system of regulated and controlled markets," the report boldly predicts. "If Transform's timeline is right, by 2020 the criminal market will have been forced to relinquish its control of the drug trade and government regulation and control will be the norm once more. Users will no longer 'score' from unregulated dealers. They will buy their drugs from specialist pharmacists or licensed retailers. Or, for those with a clinical need, via a prescription. At its simplest, that is what legalisation, control and regulation will mean -- shopping and visiting the doctor. It is simply a question of transferring the policy paradigm of management and regulation to currently illegal drugs. This report provides the detail behind this simple vision," the report says.

While parts of the report, such as the section on the flaws of prohibition, cover familiar territory, "After the War on Drugs" breaks new ground with its detailed breakdown of what a post-prohibition drug control regime could look like and how to get there from here. It also examines harm reduction and treatment in the context of the criminal justice system, finding both concepts good as far as they go, but emphasizing that they are the last gasp of prohibitionism.

"We are looking at the death throes of prohibition," said Transform executive director Danny Kushlick. "Harm reduction measures and drug treatment within the criminal justice system are the last resort of any rational progressive prohibitionist," he told DRCNet. "But harm reduction and treatment cannot achieve the goals people thought they would. They don't influence crime or the availability of drugs or the distortions of the black market."

The problem is not the inadequacies of harm reduction, but prohibition itself, said Kushlick. "Prohibition contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction," Kushlick said. "It does the opposite of what the label says. As drug use and misuse rises despite prohibition, the cognitive dissonance involved in selling such a policy becomes untenable. And because crime is such a key issue here now, the extent to which prohibition actually causes crime provides an enormous lever for reformers both to critique current policy and to offer an alternative," Kushlick explained.

"Crime has doubled and the government estimates crime costs at $30 billion a year," Kushlick elaborated. "The drugs discourse at the party conferences was stuck in the tough-talking rhetoric. However, there is now a groundswell of interest in looking beyond the drug war, to consider alternative policy options that will be more effective."

And that is where "After the War on Drugs" will be particularly useful. The report thinks through the possibilities in a way that has not been done before, offering up a panoply of suggestions for regulated legal access to drugs ranging from public houses to pharmacists who would specialize in recreational drugs, much like a tobacconist does with tobacco.

"This new report is the first effort to examine these options in any detail, pointing the way forward, as well as discussing the key themes in the reform debate and responding to popular concerns about legalization and government regulation of currently illegal drugs," said Kushlick. "We are approaching the end game."

And Transform is working to end the game as soon as possible. "This report will become a road map for substantive discussion about moving beyond prohibition," said Kushlick. "We are already quite blown away by the reaction, and we can't help but be pleased that tabloids like the Daily Mirror ran stories with headlines like 'Drugs to Be Legal in 20 Years.' Headlines like that suggest to people that it could actually happen and allow people to begin to think about how it might work and how they might play a part."

But even more than public opinion, the report is aimed at policymakers and opinion-shapers, Kushlick said. "We just sent out 400 copies to key government figures, academics, scientific journals, popular magazines, and other media, many of whom are focused on crime. With this report, we can show prohibition's horrendous ability to create crime."

The report is already winning kudos from prominent British reformers. "Transform's report is of enormous significance," said Labor Member of Parliament Paul Flynn at last week's introductory event. "This is the first practical road map for a benign drug policy that must follow the collapse of drug prohibition." Flynn is not just any back-bencher; he is Vice Chairman of the All Party Group on Drug Misuse and will play a key role in moving the debate forward in the months and years to come.

And, if Transform has its way, so will its report. It is designed to be a living document, said Kushlick. It is posted on the web and will be updated on a regular basis to reflect progress and changes. "This is a document that should meet the needs of a vast array of people, from politicians and policymakers to nonprofit organizations and activists," he said.

Read the report, "After the War on Drugs: Options for Control," on the Transform web site, online.

4. In California Senate Race, Judge Jim Gray Gets No Respect from Media, Polls or Debates, Despite Strong Showing

One would think that in an electoral contest as listless and with an outcome as predetermined as that between California Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Bill Jones, there would be room for a forceful, experienced third-party candidate who could articulate alternatives to bipartisan orthodoxy on issues ranging from taxes and immigration to the war in Iraq and the war on drugs. One would be mistaken. California Superior Court Judge James Gray, an eloquent and powerful critic of prohibition and the war on drugs, is running on the Libertarian Party ticket ( But despite polling at unusually high levels for a third-party candidate, Judge Gray is being shut out of televised debates, campaign polls, and press coverage.

Judge Jim Gray
A Los Angeles Time poll this week had Boxer leading Jones by a margin of 55% to 33%, while a Field poll from October 7 had Boxer leading 48% to 32%. The Times poll did not include any other candidates, while the field poll did not name them, lumping them all into "other." Judge Gray polled at 8% in a September Rasmussen poll, and given that he is by far the most serious candidate other than Boxer and Jones, he is probably picking up the 6% going to "other" in the Field poll.

Gray, a Superior Court judge from Orange County who has taken leave to run for the senate, first appeared on the drug reform horizon in 1992, when he appeared at a news conference on the courthouse steps in Santa Ana to proclaim the war on drugs a failure and suggest that drugs perhaps should be legalized. In 2001, he published "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs," securing his reputation as a thoughtful, serious reformer. That same year, Gray, a life-long Republican, left that party, concerned about its authoritarian drift after the passage of the Patriot Act.

After securing the Libertarian Party senatorial nomination earlier this year, Gray has campaigned on a variety of issues, including the drug war. He has put together a $250,000 campaign fund and has a staff of five. "Of course I've been talking about the war on drugs," he told DRCNet, "but I have other big issues, too: health care, education, the Patriot Act, and certainly the war on Iraq. The underlying theme of this campaign is how big a government do you want?" he said. "Every president in my lifetime has left office with a larger federal government than when he went in. It cannot continue to grow, and there are a number of areas of expanded government, like the war on drugs and the Patriot Act, where both parties are reducing our civil liberties without making us more secure."

Gray has taken his message to college campuses and churches, small-town radio stations and street rallies. "A vote for me is a vote for getting the federal government out of marijuana prohibition," he said, reprising his campaign stance. "It is a vote against the Patriot Act and a vote for making sure we declare war before we go to war." As for marijuana, said Gray, "we ought to just go ahead and legalize and tax the stupid stuff."

But a full-bore campaign packed with cross-state trips and numerous appearances notwithstanding, Judge Gray appears unable to crack the glass ceiling separating him from the Democratic and Republican contenders. In an early indication of trouble, Gray was unable to persuade the League of Women Voters to include him in an August 10 candidate debate, a decision that led to street protests by Gray supporters outside the debate at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles when it occurred. While that incident stirred some press interest, the media have been distinctly disinterested in Gray's campaign or his message.

"It's a real catch-22," said Gray Wednesday as he motored between campaign stops in Northern California. "The polls don't include my name because the major newspapers don't cover my campaign, but the newspapers say they'll cover me when I climb in the polls. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters says I couldn't be in the debate because I lacked poll standing, but it was the debate that would have increased my standing. The system is geared so that third party candidacies are almost doomed to fail; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy by the media, the pollsters, and the gatekeepers," he told DRCNet.

"Judge Gray is the Libertarian Party's flagship candidate in California," said his campaign manager, Julia El Haj. "He is the sort of serious, professional candidate the party needs, but he struggles with the obstacles that face any third party candidate," she told DRCNet. "We don't get covered by the papers, so we don't get the numbers in the polls. We don't get the numbers in the polls, so we don't get in the debate. Because we didn't get in the debate, it's not a 'serious' candidacy, so we don't get covered in the papers, and around and around we go," she explained.

Despite the difficulties, Judge Gray isn't going away. "I am running to win," he said. "I know that is unlikely, but I do have a better than zero chance of winning." Still, he conceded that this race wasn't really about Senator Jim Gray. "If I can make a strong showing, Republicans and Democrats alike will see my votes as a winning margin in future race," he said. "I assure you, they will want those votes, but they will have to change their policies to get them. If they do that, I will have won. We are going to make a strong showing," he predicted.

And what would a strong showing be? Five percent would be good, said El Haj, while 10% would be super. "If he can get more than 3% or 4% of the popular vote on election night, we will count that as a success. If we had been able to get him on the debate, I think we could have done 15%."

5. DRCNet Book Review: "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," by Tony Papa with Jennifer Wynn (Feral House Press, $22.95 HB)

Some 17,000 people -- the vast majority black or Latino -- are currently serving decades-long mandatory minimum prison sentences in New York state, the legacy of liberal Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's pioneering effort to suppress drug use by imposing draconian penalties on even low-level drug offenders. When the governor pushed through what are now known as the Rockefeller drug laws -- how's that for a legacy? -- in the early 1970s, he began the push toward mandatory minimum sentencing that swept the country in the years since then. Gov. Rockefeller deserves a large share of the credit, if that is the right word, for beginning the trend that has resulted in the United States -- the land of the free -- becoming the most imprisonment-happy country in the world.

Anthony Papa ( is one of the victims of the Rockefeller drug laws. As a young married working man in New York City, Papa knew nothing of the severe penalties awaiting those who violated the Rockefeller laws. Short on money after a string of losses gambling on bowling, Papa agreed to deliver a package for one of his bowling alley buddies. It was supposed to have been an easy $500; instead, it was the beginning of Papa's extended sojourn in the Dante-esque world of the New York criminal justice and correctional system.

Papa was sentenced to the standard 15-years-to-life and pulled many long years at Sing Sing, one of the most famous, if not the most notorious, of the prisons in the Empire State's ever-growing gulag. But through the development of an artistic talent he never knew he possessed before going in, Papa eventually won a measure of fame, and he was able to parlay that into clemency from Gov. George Pataki. Papa walked out of prison in January 1997, and since then he has been deeply involved in trying to repeal the laws that nearly stole his life and that have kept thousands of others of nonviolent drug offenders locked up for year after year after year.

"15 To Life" is the story of Papa's journey to hell, his desperate fight to regain his freedom, and the continuing effort to repeal the Rockefeller laws and win justice for the thousands of drug offenders still rotting away inside Attica, Clinton, Sing Sing, and all those other places whose names are now synonymous with infamy. With assistance from Jennifer Wynn, Papa treats the reader to a horrible, gripping narrative account of his odyssey in the New York criminal justice system. (After finishing Papa's book, I feel a strong urge to never write that phrase without using quotation marks around the word "justice.")

Prisons have high walls not just to keep the prisoners in but also to keep public knowledge out. As Papa so eloquently reiterates, they are brutal places. They are filled with sadists, thugs, and thieves -- and that's just the guards. The administration of New York's prisons that Papa writes about can only be described as institutional sadism: The guards ominously slapping their batons as new prisoners arrive, the prison goon squads clad in riot gear who so bravely beat the crap out of inmates who dare to protest their mistreatment, and the less violent but equally crazy-making arbitrary infractions handed out by guards on a whim. And we have the nerve to wonder why people come out of prison worse than when they went in?

Sadism and savagery are not, of course, limited to the prison guards. By treating drug offenders as dangerous criminals worthy of decades-long prison sentences, New York in essence throws to the wolves thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. With those long sentences, they are sent to prisons like Attica and Sing Sing that are the home to truly hardened criminals. Clueless dopers become easy prey for the violent men who flourish in prison society. Papa himself relates at least two incidents where he was attacked by other prisoners, one mentally disturbed, the other just plain mean.

Tony Papa was able to paint his way out of prison, and much of "15 To Life" tells the story of how, thanks to inmate mentors, he discovered his talent and was able to produce images so harrowing and horrid that he was able to break through the walls of silence, make allies on the outside, and eventually win his freedom. But Papa was the exception; the governors of New York rarely grant clemency, and thousands upon thousands of other Tony Papas are rotting away behind the walls as you read these words. Since his release, Papa has been very active in the movement to win freedom for the rest.

The final chapters of "15 To Life" are the latest notes on a work in progress: the years-long effort to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws. Papa recounts his frustrations in dealing with politicians who acknowledge the cruelty, inhumanity, and uselessness of the Rockefeller laws, but refuse to change them because of political calculations, and his realization that it would only be with an uprising from the bottom that those laws would be changed. Now, in late 2004, the Rockefeller laws are still in place, but Papa has helped craft a movement that threatens to strike them down. The final chapters of "15 To Life" have yet to be written.

"15 To Life" is a searing indictment of the New York criminal justice system, and by extension the entire law enforcement approach to drug use in this country. But it is an indictment that reads like a page-turner of a novel. This harrowing, first-person account of crime and injustice, imprisonment and redemption, is a guaranteed eye-opener for anyone who wonders about whether our current approach to drugs is the correct one. And more broadly, it is a screaming indictment of a prison culture in this country that threatens to rob the soul of America. Read it. Read it and hope that we can find a better way. But read it and weep for the hundreds of thousands of Americans deprived of their liberty and locked up in brutality factories.

And read it and weep for all us. Thomas Jefferson once famously observed, "When I consider that God is just, I fear for my country." After reading "15 To Life," all I can say is, "Me, too."

6. A Message from the Executive Director on What DRCNet is Planning After Election Day and Why We Need Your Help

Two short weeks from now, voters in the United States will make a choice affecting the nation's course for decades to come. DRCNet readers span a wide range of the political spectrum -- Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, independents, none-of-the-aboves -- but all of us agree on this much: The drug war is a moral and humanitarian crisis harming countless people around the world and which has failed to achieve its goals.

Between now and Election Day, roughly 80,000 people will be arrested for nonviolent drug offenses in that war. And whatever the election's outcome, it is certain that US drug policy will not change for the better on its own. Only continuing efforts by individuals like you, and organizations like DRCNet representing the cause for you in Washington, can make that happen.

That's why I'm asking you to make a generous donation to DRCNet to ensure our ability to continue our programs through the end of the year and to hit the ground running when a new Congress comes to Washington next year. Please visit to support DRCNet and the cause of drug policy reform in 2005!

Some background about our work your donation will support:

  • Your donation will support our acclaimed newsletter, Drug War Chronicle. (Visit to check it out if you're not already a subscriber.) Drug War Chronicle is the leading intellectual publication on the drug war, an in-depth weekly online newsletter covering the full range of drug policy issues and the reform movement. Drug War Chronicle is read by reporters; is used by advocates to empower their speeches and editorials; is a force for bringing new people into the issue and getting them involved in all the good work being done by organizations in the movement, and for forming new organizations.
  • Your donation will support the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reform Campaign, our effort to repeal a law that delays or denies college aid eligibility to students because of drug convictions, our movement's best chance to repeal a federal drug law in more than 30 years. We are currently organizing coalitions in 10 states around the country, and our efforts have garnered recent coverage in the New York Times, National Public Radio, the Boston Herald, the Indianapolis Star, and many other outlets.
  • Your donation will support legislative action alerts, supporting good bills and opposing bad ones, in important areas of policy such as sentencing, medical marijuana, needle exchange, Plan Colombia, more. Your donation will also help us report back to you, on a district-by-district basis, how your elected officials in Congress voted on the most important bills.
  • Your donation will support educational work in conjunction with the John W. Perry Fund, our scholarship program and media/ organizing campaign involving students who have lost financial aid under the HEA drug provision. (We will be posting an announcement early next month about forthcoming work in this area.)
  • Your donation will support our work making the case for an end not only to the drug war but to prohibition itself. (Look for an announcement next month in this area too.)
Donate $30 or more, and you will be eligible to receive our new travel mug. We also continue to offer a range of books, other items like t-shirts and mousepads, and of course the hit video "BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters." Feel free to select any or all with a donation of an appropriate size! Donations made to our 501(c)(3) organization, DRCNet Foundation, are tax-deductible too. (Donations to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not deductible.)

So visit to donate to DRCNet today! You can also donate by mail, at P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. Thank you for your support, and please free to write me with any questions or comments.

7. Newsbrief: Kerry Says Feds Should Butt Out of Oregon Laws

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry told a Portland TV station Thursday that the federal government should not interfere with Oregon's assisted suicide and medical marijuana laws. Bush administration Attorney General John Ashcroft has challenged the state's assisted suicide law, while officials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy have been in the state recently campaigning against the medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot.

"Individual states have the right to make a decision until the federal government has made another one, and we don't have the information to make that, period," Kerry told Northwest NewsChannel 8.

While Kerry endorsed the principle that Oregonians should be able to make up their own minds on issues like medical marijuana and assisted suicide, he did not specifically endorse the Oregon Medical Marijuana Initiative II (, which would deepen the state's existing medical marijuana program by increasing allowable quantities and setting up a system of dispensaries.

Oregon is one of handful of remaining battleground states in the presidential election. Of six polls of Oregon voters conducted in the last two weeks, Kerry led in five, with margins ranging from 1% to 8%.

8. Newsbrief: Alaska Marijuana Initiative Backers Sue Lieutenant Governor Over Election Pamphlet

Organizers of the initiative that would remove criminal penalties for marijuana in Alaska and regulate its distribution filed suit Tuesday against Alaska Lt. Gov. Loren Leman over his office's role in drafting a statement of opposition in the Official Election Pamphlet presented to voters. While it is too late to alter the pamphlet, the lawsuit seeks a court ruling that the role of Leman's office in writing the statement was improper and violated the state constitution. It also seeks a statement from Leman acknowledging that his office acted improperly and asks that he distribute that information to voters.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Leman's chief of staff, Annette Kreitzler, wrote the statement based on information she pulled from the FBI web site. Although it was penned by Kreitzler, the statement appears under the signature of Dr. Charles Herndon, medical director at Providence Breakthrough, a drug and alcohol treatment center. The pamphlet with the statement was sent to 300,000 Alaska voters.

Initiative supporters at Yes on 2 ( cried foul, calling Leman's office's action outrageous. "It's clear to us that he has crossed the line of neutrality, and if he has not directly violated his office, he most certainly has violated the spirit of his elected office," initiative proponent Tim Hinterberger told the Daily News. "The only significant duty of the lieutenant governor is to run impartial elections, and he can't even get that right," Hinterberger said.

Initiative supporters weren't the only ones raking Leman over the coals over his lack of impartiality. A long-time opponent of marijuana law reform, Leman has consistently tried to block such initiatives. "Lt. Gov. Loren Leman just doesn't get it," the Daily News editorialized Wednesday. "He doesn't seem to understand that his only real job under the Alaska Constitution is to oversee state elections with complete integrity. Instead, he keeps using and abusing elections processes like a political hack on the stump."

With little more than 10 days until the election, the battle over marijuana in Alaska is heating up. Last week, deputy drug czar Scott Burns joined a number of high state officials in press conference aimed at defeating the initiative. But that may be too little too late in a state where privacy rights are jealously guarded and the frontier spirit of independence still holds sway.

9. Newsbrief: Bush, Kerry, Nader Respond to HEA Query

The nonpartisan web site New Voters Project has elicited positions from the leading presidential candidates on reform or repeal of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, which bars students with drug convictions, no matter how minor, from receiving federal financial aid for specified periods of time. The HEA question, submitted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( member Margaret Reitler of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was one of 12 selected by the New Voters Project. Other topics included foreign policy, the death penalty, the draft, and social security.

On the HEA, all three candidates supported either scaling back the anti-drug provision or eliminating it altogether:

"Education is perhaps the best way for someone who has been involved with drugs or crime to turn their life around," said Democratic candidate John Kerry. "If a young person has overcome past obstacles and is ready to go to college, I don't think that a nonviolent drug conviction in their past should prevent them from doing so. And the reality is that preventing them from obtaining federal loans means they won't be able to afford to go to college."

President Bush also called for a partial reform of the financial aid ban, saying, "My 2005 Budget proposes to fix the drug provision of the Higher Education Act so that incoming students who have a prior drug-related conviction would be able to receive Federal student aid, and only students convicted while in college would lose their eligibility for student aid."

Bush's position echoes that of HEA anti-drug provision author Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). Although the law he wrote denies financial aid for any drug conviction, he now says he wants to "reform" the law so that it only applies to drug convictions incurred while students are in college.

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader called outright for the repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision. "Repeal the Higher Education Act drug provision as it applies to nonviolent offenders. The drug war has failed -- we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen."

Neither Bush nor Kerry went far enough, according to SSDP. "Scaling back the drug provision would help tens of thousands of students get back into college, but the proposed 'fix' fails to address the fundamental problems with this law," said SSDP executive director Scarlett Swerdlow. "At-risk students will still be pushed away from education and into cycles of failure under Rep. Souder's proposal. We, the students of this country, find it disappointing that the two major candidates for president have failed to explicitly state their support for fully repealing this misguided law."

Visit to see the candidates' full answers.

10. Newsbrief: African-American Professional Groups Form Coalition to Change Drug Policies

A groundbreaking coalition of black professional organizations have come together to form the National African-American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC) to urgently seek "alternatives to misguided drug policies" that have led to the mass incarceration of black men in the US. Founded by Clyde Bailey, the past president of the National Bar Association, the nation's leading African-American attorneys' organization, the umbrella group will be led by Bailey, retired District of Columbia Senior Judge Arthur L. Burnett, and former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, currently dean of the Howard University Law School in Washington, DC.

Making its public debut with a Wednesday Capitol Hill press conference, NAADPC announced a five-year program to address drug policy issues affecting African-Americans. The group will target appropriate treatment for drug addictions, increased use of pretrial diversion, and "therapeutic sentencing," or drug court-style coerced treatment. According to NAADPC, the group is planning pilot programs in seven US cities and will host an international summit on drug policy and African-Americans in February.

NAADPC membership spans black professional organizations, including the National Bar Association; Howard University School of Law; the National Association of Black Sociologists; the National Association of Black Psychologists; the National Association of Black Social Workers; the National Black Nurses Association; the National Dental Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc., and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Support in creating NAADPC came from the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers.

"This coalition is the most broad-based group I have ever seen," said Schmoke. "I hope that it will move drug control policy in a more constructive direction, especially as it relates to people of color. A major effort will focus on therapeutic sentencing, where we will educate and train judges to provide sentences to drug offenders that will make them better people coming out of prison than they were going in."

The nation must move away from punitive drug policies, said Burnett. "Not only have they failed to reduce drug use, these policies are doing irreparable harm to the African American community and do not advance public safety," he said. "Who would have thought 20 years ago that today there would be more African American men serving time than there are pursuing college degrees? We need to confront the futility of fighting a public health problem solely with prison."

"What we hope to do is to shift public resources into education, prevention, treatment and research programs that have proven more effective in reducing drug abuse rather than through the use of expensive criminal sanctions. We are trying to focus on the health issue of these people rather than criminalizing that behavior," said Bailey.

Look for a longer article about NAADPC next issue.

11. Newsbrief: Federal Judge Rules Cops Can Lie on the Stand

We've all heard about the "drug exception" to the Fourth Amendment, but what about the "drug exception" to the laws governing perjury? According to a Sunday report in the Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel-News, that may be okay, too. US District Court Magistrate Bruce Guyton ruled as much in an opinion in a complex undercover drug investigation issued last week, the newspaper reported.

A DEA-led task force had targeted Aaron Brown and his colleagues in a drug conspiracy investigation and concocted a ruse to get him. The task force used a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper who knew all about the conspiracy investigation to pull over Brown's vehicle on the pretext of a traffic violation. The trooper seized a pound of cocaine from Brown.

So far, so good. The trooper's behavior was sleazy, but legal. But then the trooper, Johnny McDonald, appeared in court to testify against Brown and proceeded to perjure himself. The only reason he stopped Brown's vehicle, he told the court, was because Brown had a temporary license tag on the car. McDonald failed to tell the court that the license tag was a ruse and that he was stopping Brown because he was the subject of a DEA investigation.

Because McDonald told the court the only reason for stopping the car was the temporary tag, the presiding sessions court judge ruled the stop was illegal and threw out the cocaine as evidence. But when Brown appeared in federal court on drug conspiracy charges and his attorney asked Magistrate Guyton to follow the sessions court's lead and throw out the evidence, Guyton demurred.

In a mind-boggling interpretation of federal law, Guyton held that it is not what officers say on the stand but what they really know that matters. "The legality of a stop must be judged by the objective facts known to the seizing officers rather than by the justifications articulated by them," Guyton wrote, citing a Sixth US Court of Appeals ruling. Most bizarrely, Magistrate Guyton refused to label McDonald a liar, instead writing that he found the trooper's testimony "credible."

While Guyton did not explicitly address the question of perjury, or "testilying," as it is known in cop-speak, he implicitly gave the practice a judicial thumbs-up by allowing the contested cocaine to be entered into evidence. In theory, Officer McDonald could be prosecuted criminally for perjury, but that is extremely unlikely to happen.

We wouldn't want little technicalities like truth and justice get in the way of the drug war, now, would we?

12. Newsbrief: End of Opium Cultivation Spells Looming Disaster for Burmese Peasants

Citing United Nations officials, ethnic Wa leaders, and unnamed foreign assistance workers, the Bangkok Post reported last week that the coming end to opium cultivation in Burma will bring poverty and hunger to hundreds of thousands of Wa and other peasants traditionally dependent on the poppy for economic survival. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opium production is already down dramatically in Burma and as a consequence peasants are already suffering.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
The UNODC reported last week that poppy production had fallen dramatically this year, in part because of official policy and in part because of drought. UNODC head Jean-Luc Lemahieu told the Post the area under cultivation had shrunk nearly 30%, while overall production was down 54%. Opium production fell nearly 90% in northern Shan state, though less in Wa tribal areas, where most remaining production is suspected to take place.

Still, Wa leaders have committed to eradicating opium production in their areas, with top Wa leader Bau Yuxiang vowing to cut off his own head if the Wa fail to keep their promise. "Opium has been with us for more than 100 years and it has been disastrous for our health and development," the Wa chairman told the Post. "If people plant opium and they smoke it, they don't want to do anything else. If they stay like this, there is no hope and no future for our people. We are very determined to stamp out poppy cultivation in our areas," Bau Yuxiang said.

Some 350,000 Wa and Kokang peasants have already stopping growing poppies, the UNODC head told journalists in Rangoon earlier this year. "This will increase to more than two million people next year," he said.

According to aid experts who spoke to the Post only on condition of anonymity, hundreds of Kokang and Wa peasants have died for lack of food and medicine since they quit growing poppies, the leading cash crop in northern Burma. While neither Burmese nor UN officials would confirm such stories, the Post also reported that a village in Shan was wiped out by malaria for lack of money to buy medicines, with some 300 to 400 people killed.

With more peasants expected to quit growing poppies, Wa and Burmese officials are worried. "It will take three to five years for the farmers to recover from the crisis that will follow the end of poppy cultivation," the Wa's second in command, Shao Min Liang, admitted to the Post earlier this year.

For many of the peasants, not growing poppies means leaving their homelands, said UNODC head Lemahieu. "The lessons of the Kokang region after the opium ban in 2003 are a warning signal for what is going to happen in the Wa areas," he said. "The population fell by 60,000 [from 200,000 to 140,000], with the most people heading inland in search of a better living. Two out of three private Chinese clinics and pharmacies closed their doors and one in three community schools ceased operating. About 6,000 children were forced to leave school, effectively halving the enrolment rate compared to the previous year," Mr Lemahieu recounted.

"We don't know what we are going to do," said former poppy grower Ti Kwan Sum. "We just hope for the best."

But according to the UNODC, crop substitution and alternative development programs will not replace the income generated by the lost poppy crops. Other than emigration, peasants may find income opportunities in working in casinos, the sex trade, or other illegal occupations, and with ethnic Chinese criminal gangs waiting in the wings, the region could become insecure and unstable. Or the peasants could go back to growing opium, the Post suggested.

13. Newsbrief: Three Dead in Peru Coca Confrontation -- Cocaleros Occupy Buildings in Provincial City

A confrontation between the Peruvian government and coca growers turned violent Tuesday in the town of San Gaban in the Peruvian state of Puno, according to Associated Press and Peruvian media reports. Hundreds of peasant demonstrators seized a local electric plant and other buildings in the city to demand an end to the eradication of their coca crops, and police fired on and killed three protestors as the crowd tried to seize the town police station.

In Lima, the government of President Alejandro Toledo met in special session and declared a state of emergency in San Gaban and another nearby district. Prime Minister Carlos Ferrero told reporters in Lima that police reinforcements were being sent into the area at the rate of 50 an hour. "We don't want to become a narcotics state," he said. "We are defending the people."

Protests broke out after authorities launched eradication operations against 7,400 newly discovered acres of coca plants and destroyed 10 jungle labs where coca leaf was being processed into cocaine paste. "Eighty-five police were forced to use tear gas and then, because the mob was overrunning them, to fire shots to prevent the police station from being sacked and weapons stolen," the interior ministry said.

The mayor of San Gaban, Adolfo Huamantica, was much less enthusiastic than the authorities in Lima about repressing the protests. The violence broke out only after the government reneged on a promise to send a group to evaluate the situation with the coca crops, he told CPN Radio. Coca growers are demanding an "immediate end" to eradication and "direct talks" with the government, Huamantica said. Calling in police reinforcements "could bring regrettable consequences," he warned.

Peru was once the world's leading coca producer, but has slashed production some 70% since its heyday in the mid-1990s. Still, coca growers across the country continue to organize to protect their traditional crop and best cash crop. And with an unrelenting coca eradication program underway in recent years in Colombia, coca has been on the increase again in Peru.

14. Newsbrief: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Runs Up Against Law of the Market

The Dutch government's pioneering medical marijuana program, where government-approved pot is sold by prescription in pharmacies, is in trouble for the darnedest reason, the Associated Press reported last week. The government ordered up 450 pounds of prime medipot but has sold only 175 -- because people can walk into any "coffee shop" and buy it for less.

In Amsterdam, where marijuana is technically illegal to sell but where authorities turn a blind eye to pot-selling "coffee shops," government-approved medical marijuana goes for $10 to $12 a gram, while "coffee shop" weed goes for as little as $5 a gram, with only the most potent varieties fetching prices near that of prescription pharmacy pot.

"I think it's a shame that they can't deliver a cannabis product a little bit cheaper than the coffee shops," David Watson told the AP. Watson heads Hortapharm, an Amsterdam-based company licensed to research and develop cannabis for pharmaceutical use. "Why is it that a legal commodity is more expensive than an illegal commodity?"

American marijuana exile James Burton is one of the two licensed growers for the Dutch medical marijuana program. He is not happy and predicts that the program will die soon under the conservative government, which he said is not supporting it. "The program's not working," he told the AP. "They have less than 1,000 patients. The whole country is leaning to the right," he said. "I think a year from now this program's gone."

Ben Kuik, head of the Dutch medical cannabis office, confirmed to the AP that the program is up for review next year.

15. Newsbrief: Actress's Marijuana Bust Challenge Causing Waves in South Korea

Korean police may have made a tactical error when they arrested actress Kim Pu-Son on marijuana possession charges this summer. Kim was quickly sentenced to two years probation under Korea's 2000 narcotics law, but the feisty actress has appealed, arguing that the law is unconstitutional -- and is getting support from leading Korean drug experts, the Korea Times reported Tuesday.

Under Korean law, marijuana is treated as a narcotic drug, but Kim has challenged that law, saying it does not reflect reality. "Current law prescribing marijuana as a narcotic is unconstitutional, and banning marijuana is in violation of the right to pursue happiness," Kim claimed during a media briefing after filing the petition. She vowed to go on to the Constitutional Court if her appeal is rejected by lower courts, she added.

One of Korea's leading drug experts, Jeon Kyoung-soo, president of the Drug-Related Criminology Institute, told the Korea Times Kim was correct. "Scientifically, marijuana is just marijuana, a plant, as ginseng is just ginseng. It is neither a narcotic nor an addictive drug according to international agreements," he said. That makes the law problematic, he said. "Marijuana contains mild hallucinogenic properties, but its side effects are smaller than that of other narcotics such as methamphetamine (sic). The punishment should be different for those smoking marijuana and those taking other narcotics," Jeon said.

The solution, Jeon said, may be to create a separate category within the drug laws to govern hallucinogens, which would include marijuana. "A growing number of scholars claim marijuana should be excluded from the list of narcotics," Jeon said. "They recommend such a move through seminars and hearings with the institution."

The Korea Times article appeared under the headline, "Debates Mount Over Marijuana Ban." Yes, let the debates mount.

16. Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Reintroduce Marijuana Reform Bill, But Adds Driver Drug Testing, Too

The Canadian government will reintroduce its much criticized marijuana decriminalization bill, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler told the news agency Canwest on October 11. A similar bill introduced by then Prime Minister Jean Chretien died last year when Chretien dismissed parliament to call elections resulting in the selection of Paul Martin as his successor.

This time around, Cotler said, the bill will be accompanied by legislation allowing police to force drivers to submit to drug tests. Both bills will be introduced in November, he said. The decrim bill will be essentially unchanged from last year's model, which called for making possession of less than 30 grams a ticketable offense, not a criminal one. "It might get changed in committee but we are basically reintroducing that legislation," Cotler said, referring to the bill introduced under Chretien.

That bill was criticized by marijuana reform advocates as not going far enough, and was ultimately opposed by the pro-reform New Democratic Party (NDP). NDP parliamentarians have vowed to fight this year to make the bill more palatable, but will oppose it if necessary changes are not made.

Cotler's announced plan to simultaneously submit a drugged driver testing bill is sure to excite more opposition from Canadian marijuana activists and raises more questions than it answers at this point. Cotler said that while current law obliges drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if police have cause to believe they are driving under the influence, no such measures exist to fight against marijuana-impaired drivers. "Now a technology has been developed which allows for a parallel process with regard to drug-impaired driving to be investigated and enforced as we have for alcohol-impaired driving," he claimed.

But Cotler did not say if a certain level of marijuana in the blood would be considered prima facie evidence of impairment, as with US drunk driving laws, nor how that level would be determined. Neither did he say whether Canadian authorities were considering a "zero tolerance" approach to cannabis in the bloodstream, as is strongly encouraged by US model drugged driving laws written by the Department of Transportation.

17. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Transparency International ( this week released its annual corruption perception ratings. The US placed 17th among the least corrupt nations, while Haiti, Nigeria, and Burma ranked among the most corrupt. But the Americans' poor placing in corruption is not for lack of trying, as this week's entries in the corrupt cops sweepstakes demonstrate:

  • In Doraville, Georgia, a former police chief has been charged with theft and violating his office. Former Chief Ron Davis, who resigned in 2002, is accused of taking money from drug busts and using it to buy hunting equipment for himself and his buddies, the Associated Press reported Monday. Also indicted was his former assistant chief, Cliff Edwards, who died earlier this year. Edwards reportedly is not overly concerned, but Davis is facing up to 15 years in state prison.
  • In Chicago, the DEA has busted two customs and border protection officers and 16 others as part of a drug ring that smuggling millions in drugs from Mexico to US cities, the Associated Press reported Monday. Customs agents Jaime Garcia, 27, and Alma Teran, 28, were arrested at Chicago's Midway Airport, where they worked. According to law enforcement officials, the pair used law enforcement databases to see if agents were investigating members of the smuggling ring, including themselves. They face 10 years to life in prison if convicted.
  • In Los Angeles, the Rampart scandal continues to reverberate. According to the Los Angeles Times, a former LAPD officer already serving 15 years on drug trafficking and gun charges has admitted that he and other officers went on a robbery spree that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars between 198 and 2001. Ruben Palomares, 34, and his gang of blue-clad goons robbed cash, drugs, guns, and other items in robberies that were staged to look like police raids and sometimes turned violent, Palomares admitted in documents submitted as part of a plea bargain. Palomares and crew dressed in police uniforms, drove police cars, and flashed their badged during the robberies, he said. They shot at least two men with stun guns, beat another man with a billy club, and tortured yet another man by burning him with a cigarette lighter and sticking a gun in his mouth. The robberies netted at least 700 pounds of marijuana and 100 pounds of cocaine, according to the court documents. The robbery crew included at least five LAPD officers, Palomares said. His attorney told the Times Palomares had become a born again Christian and is trying to make amends for his misdeeds, but under the plea agreement, Palomares can win sentence reductions only if he snitches out his fellow thieves.

18. This Week in History

October 22, 1982: The first publicly known case of contra cocaine shipments appeared in government files in a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The cable passed on word that US law enforcement agencies were aware of "links between (a US religious organization) and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups [which] involve an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms." The material in parentheses was inserted by the CIA as part of its declassification of the cable. The name of the religious group remains secret.

October 25, 1997: Regarding Colombia, the New York Times quoted US drug czar General Barry McCaffrey as saying, "Let there be no doubt: We are not taking part in counterguerrilla operations." On July 17, 1999, the Miami Herald reported: "McCaffrey said it was 'silly at this point' to try to differentiate between anti-drug efforts and the war against insurgent groups."

October 26, 1997: The Los Angeles Times reported that twelve years after a US drug agent was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mexico, evidence has emerged that federal prosecutors relied on perjured testimony and false information, casting a cloud over the convictions of three men now serving life sentences. The evidence suggests that the US government, in its zeal to solve the heinous killing of Enrique Camarena, induced corrupt former Mexican police to implicate top officials there in a conspiracy to plan his kidnapping. Their statements not only were critical to winning convictions against the three, including the brother-in-law of a former president, they also tarnished the reputations of Mexican political figures and strained relations between the two nations.

October 26, 2001: On the very afternoon that Congress was approving new restrictions on civil liberties, scores of DEA agents descended on the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, seizing all of the center's computers, files, bank account, plants, and medicine. The DEA cited a recent Supreme Court decision as justification for their action. The patient cannabis garden at a West Hollywood site was seized by DEA agents despite the loud protestations of the West Hollywood Mayor and many local officials and residents.

October 27, 1970: Congress passes the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. This law consolidates previous drug laws and reduces penalties for marijuana possession. It also strengthens law enforcement by allowing police to conduct "no-knock" searches. This act includes the Controlled Substances Act, which establishes five categories ("schedules") for regulating drugs based on their medicinal value and potential for addiction.

October 27, 1986: President Reagan signs The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, an enormous omnibus drug bill which appropriates $1.7 billion to fight the drug crisis. $97 million is allocated to build new prisons, $200 million for drug education, and $241 million for treatment. The bill's most consequential action is the creation of mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses. Possession of at least one kilogram of heroin or five kilograms of cocaine is punishable by at least ten years in prison. In response to the crack epidemic, the sale of five grams of the drug leads to a mandatory five-year sentence. Mandatory minimums become increasingly criticized over the years for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population from the differences in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine.

President Reagan said, in part: "Our goal in this crusade is nothing less than a drug-free generation... In the last few years, we've made much progress on the enforcement end of solving the drug problem. Interdiction is up, drug crops are being destroyed while still in the fields all over the country and overseas, organized crime is being hit and hit hard, cooperation between governments is better than ever before... today marks a major victory in our crusade against drugs -- a victory for safer neighborhoods, a victory for the protection of the American family. The American people want their government to get tough and to go on the offensive. And that's exactly what we intend, with more ferocity than ever before... But as I've said on previous occasions, we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that new money for new government programs alone will solve the problem."

October 27, 1997: Reuters reported that a major US prosecution against two attorneys who represented members of Colombia's Cali drug cartel ended in a near stalemate as jurors failed to reach verdicts on most of the charges against the two lead defendants. After a four-year investigation and a five-month trial, the federal jury returned a not guilty verdict on one racketeering charge against two former US prosecutors who became lawyers for the cartel, but failed to reach verdicts on drug trafficking and other charges against the two lawyers. The jury deliberated for more than 11 days before delivering the partial verdict. "We have spent a lot of time on this, but we are hung," the panel said in a note sent to presiding US District Judge C. Clyde Atkins.

October 28, 1972: In a reelection campaign statement about crime and drug abuse, President Richard Nixon said:

As a result of our total war on drug abuse, the rate of growth in new heroin addiction has declined dramatically since 1969. By next June, we will have created the capacity to treat up to 250,000 heroin addicts annually -- a thirty-fold increase over the amount of federally funded drug treatment which existed when I took office... My goal for the next 4 years is for every American city to begin realizing the kind of victories in the war on crime which we have already achieved in the Nation's Capital -- where the crime rate has been cut in half since my Administration took office, and where heroin overdose deaths have almost disappeared... This kind of progress can and must be made all across America. By winning the war on crime and drugs, we can restore the social climate of order and justice which will assure our society of the freedom it must have to build and grow.
Nixon's full statement can be read at online.

19. The DARE Generation Returns to DC: Students for Sensible Drug Policy 2004 National Conference Next Month

Save the date! Students and activists from across the country will convene at the SSDP Sixth Annual National Conference. The conference runs from the 18th to 21st of November at the University of Maryland, College Park, outside Washington, DC.

In January, SSDP conquered New Hampshire when Democrats such as Howard Dean, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich joined calls to repeal the Higher Education Act Drug Provision. Now, SSDP returns to Washington to lobby Congress, network with students and activists, and learn from drug policy reform experts. Hundreds of SSDPers will be there!

Find conference details and registration at online.

20. Apply Now to Intern at DRCNet!

Make a difference next semester! DRCNet and the Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform (CHEAR) are seeking motivated and hardworking interns for the Spring 2005 Semester. We are especially looking for people interested in the Higher Education Act Reform Campaign, an active, vigorous, visible effort to repeal a federal law that takes college aid away from students because of drug convictions.

Preference will be given to those able to work 20 hours per week or more, though others will be considered. DRCNet needs interns with good people skills, web design skills, superb writing skills, and a desire to end the war on drugs. Office and/or political experience are a plus. Spring internships begin in the second or third week of January and ideally last through April, but the dates are flexible. Internships are unpaid, but travel stipends are available for those who need them.

Apply today by sending a short cover letter and resume to: [email protected].

21. Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet

DRCNet is seeking a part-time Administrative Assistant to work with the Executive and Associate Directors and the Member Coordinator. The Administrative Assistant will assist with all manner of clerical and administrative tasks.

Applicants should be experienced in using e-mail, Microsoft Word and Excel, filing, and other typical office duties, and must have a high level of accuracy and attention to detail. The ability to deal competently on the phone on issues such as billing and ordering of supplies and other items is a plus, as is enthusiasm for the cause of drug policy reform.

Applicants should be able to work in the office 10-20 hours per week, between the hours of 10:00am and 6:00pm, preferably including some hours on all or most weekdays. Within those constraints, we will show flexibility and work with the right applicant to find a mutually workable schedule. College students are encouraged to apply. The job will last from now through the end of the year, and is likely to be renewed in 2005 as well. Starting pay is $10/hour, negotiable for the right candidate.

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume via e-mail, fax, or mail to: David Guard, Associate Director, DRCNet, 1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20009, fax: (202) 293-8344, e-mail: [email protected].

22. The Reformer's Calendar

October 23, 10:00am-2:00pm, New Haven, CT, "The War on Drugs: Changing Policies?" Panel and debate, sponsored by People Against Injustice. At New Haven Public Library, Community Room, 133 Elm Street, contact Barbara Fair at (203) 503-3290 or e-mail [email protected] for further information.

October 23, 11:00am-6:00pm, Columbia, MO, Fourth Annual Statewide Missouri NORML/Missouri Cannabis Coalition Conference. At the Roger Wilson Building, 8th and Ash Streets, visit for further information.

October 23, 2:00-10:00pm, Atlanta, GA, "The 11th Annual Great Atlanta Pot Festival", cannabis reform event sponsored by the Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition. At Piedmont Park, for further information visit or contact (404) 522-2267 or [email protected].

October 24, 8:20pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Howard Has High Hopes," medical marijuana benefit concert. At The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., including comedians Joe Rogan, Bil Dwyer, Ngaio Bealum, Charlie Viracoa and others, as well as the burlesque troupe Green-Eyed Ladies. Admission $20, or $10 for those with a compassion club card or a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana. Visit for further info.

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.

October 29, 2:00-6:00pm, Chicago, IL, Harm Reduction and the Sex Trade, presented by the Chicago Harm Reduction Training Collaborative. Registration $30, discounts available for multiple event signups. At the Bridgeview Bank Building, 4753 N. Broadway, contact Shira Hassan at (773) 728-0127 or visit for further information.

November 5, 9:00am-1:00pm, Chicago, IL, Safer Injection, presented by the Chicago Harm Reduction Training Collaborative. Registration $30, discounts available for multiple event signups. At the Bridgeview Bank Building, 4753 N. Broadway, contact Shira Hassan at (773) 728-0127 or visit for further information.

November 5, 2:00-6:00pm, Chicago, IL, Legal Rights, presented by the Chicago Harm Reduction Training Collaborative. Registration $30, discounts available for multiple event signups. At the Bridgeview Bank Building, 4753 N. Broadway, contact Shira Hassan at (773) 728-0127 or visit for further information.

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

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

November 21-25, Barcelona, Spain, "Psychoactive Botanical Exposition: Magic Plants." At the K.O.L.P. "La Fera," C/ Santa Agata num. 28, contact [email protected] for further information.

November 22-28, Barcelona, Spain, various events celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Lliure Antiprohibitionist Association. At "Casal Antiprohibicionista," c/ dels Salvador num. 20-bajos, contact [email protected] for further information.

November 27, Barcelona, Spain, "Demonstration for the Legalization of All Drugs," sponsored by Lliure Antiprohibitionist Association. Contact [email protected]">[email protected] for further information.

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 or contact (503) 239-6110 or [email protected] for further information.

December 3, full day, Chicago, IL, Opiate Overdose Intervention, presented by the Chicago Harm Reduction Training Collaborative. Registration $30, discounts available for multiple event signups. At the Bridgeview Bank Building, 4753 N. Broadway, contact Shira Hassan at (773) 728-0127 or visit for further information.

March 10-12, 2005, Silver Spring, MD, Families Against Mandatory Minimums National Conference. Details to be announced, visit or contact (202) 822-6700 or [email protected] 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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