This Week in History 10/22/04

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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.

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Issue #359, 10/22/04 Editorial: Twenty Years? | California Initiative to Rein-In Three-Strikes Law Appears Headed for Victory | English Drug Reformers Map Route to Post-Prohibition Drug Policy | In California Senate Race, Judge Jim Gray Gets No Respect from Media, Polls, or Debates, Despite Strong Showing | 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) | A Message from the Executive Director on What DRCNet is Planning After Election Day and Why We Need Your Help | Newsbrief: Kerry Says Feds Should Butt Out of Oregon Laws | Newsbrief: Alaska Marijuana Initiative Backers Sue Lieutenant Governor Over Election Pamphlet | Newsbrief: Bush, Kerry, Nader Respond to HEA Query | Newsbrief: African-American Professional Groups Form Coalition to Change Drug Policies | Newsbrief: Federal Judge Rules Cops Can Lie on the Stand | Newsbrief: End of Opium Cultivation Spells Looming Disaster for Burmese Peasants | Newsbrief: Three Dead in Peru Coca Confrontation -- Cocaleros Occupy Buildings in Provincial City | Newsbrief: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Runs Up Against Law of the Market | Newsbrief: Actress's Marijuana Bust Challenge Causing Waves in South Korea | Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Reintroduce Marijuana Reform Bill, But Adds Driver Drug Testing, Too | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | The DARE Generation Returns to DC: Students for Sensible Drug Policy 2004 National Conference Next Month | Apply Now to Intern at DRCNet! | Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar

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