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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #362, 11/12/04

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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US prison population hits 1.5 million
Table of Contents
    That which is lawless in its essence is not made truly lawful through the passage of mere laws.
    The number of people in prison in the United States increased again last year, according to a report released Sunday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics
    Drug War Chronicle this week spoke with a number of national drug reform leaders to see how the new Congress and reinvigorated Bush presidency will affect the prospects for reform in Washington. While the overall prognosis was decidedly grim, some bravely sought silver linings in the election results nevertheless.
    Efforts by the Syracuse, NY, based reform organization ReconsiDer are beginning to bear fruit.
    With the Canadian government once again considering a bill that would make marijuana possession a ticketable offense, a leading American drug warrior is again blustering against any such move.
    The conservative Thai government's "social order" campaign is now reaching into the pants of Bangkok nightclub goers.
    Only a week after voters in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, voted by a whopping margin to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons, the city's police chief announced his department would ignore the new law.
    In a 4-3 ruling, Georgia's Supreme Court threw out evidence of cocaine use by Americus attorney Scott Fitz Randolph, who was arrested after his wife called police to their home and showed them what she said was proof of his drug habit.
    Another police officer has died enforcing prohibition, this time during an especially pointless incident.
    The US Supreme Court Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case that could bring the practice of using drug dogs to sniff vehicles during routine traffic stops to a screeching halt.
    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.
  14. DRUGWARMARKET.COM SEEKING INFORMATION, AFFILIATIONS, LINK EXCHANGES, a web site that follows the economy of the drug war, is seeking affiliations, link exchanges, information.
    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: The Spirit of Lawfulness

David Borden
David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 11/12/04

One of the concepts often lost in the debate on law is the more natural concept of lawfulness: the respect by authorities for the intended spirit of a law; consistent treatment under the law for all; erring on the side of rights, at least when urgent matters of safety are not immediately on hand; giving primacy in lawmaking and enforcement to the fundamental ideals lying at the root of the idea of law itself -- the protection of life, liberty, and property from their violation by others.

Law and order types tend, perhaps not universally but typically, to apply these standards one-dimensionally and in a lopsided fashion. The law is the law, break it and you should be punished and it's your fault -- but when enforcers of the law break the law in the process of ostensibly enforcing it, that's okay. At least it's okay for them to stretch the law and let the courts sort it out later. And if the letter of the law allows a law enforcement official to violate a law's spirit, that's okay too.

As usual, this week's news offers multiple examples of such rationalized lawlessness by enforcers. In Georgia, police were shot down by the state Supreme Court on a search for cocaine unlawfully conducted over the objections of one home owner; the home's other owner had consented. In Illinois, that state's Supreme Court objected to drug dog searches incident to a mere traffic stop; the US Supreme Court heard arguments on the case this week. Ann Arbor's police chief plans to ignore the city's new law passed by the people's direct vote, because a loophole in the law allows him do so. On the other side of the globe, police officers in Thailand hundreds of young club-goers to undergo drug tests over a three hour time period and threaten the club owner with extra-legal restrictions on club activity -- almost trivial next to the thousands of murders of drug suspects committed by police in the government's drug war, but a violation nonetheless.

A right does not completely exist in practice if the owner of that right is forced to undergo years of time and expense fighting for it in court -- all the way to Supreme Court, in some of these cases after winning in lower courts. Only when society's institutions proactively seek to respect our rights, do they have their intended protective effects on the lives of the citizenry. While one might afford some slack to an officer who makes the wrong judgment call in response to a hurried and pressured situation, the deliberate testing of the boundaries of constitutional protections by our officials is morally repugnant. And the deliberate violation of them, a daily occurrence in cities around the country, why is this not punished as a crime? After all, isn't it one? Most law and order types don't like that kind of logic. But it is merely a consequence of the all important standard of equal justice under the law.

Ultimately, lawfulness is about more than the boundaries of when a person is protected from search and seizure by government forces. True lawfulness is based on the idea that the individual has the right to live in freedom. Freedom should not be taken away by individuals (e.g. violence, kidnapping, theft or vandalism); freedom should not be taken away except for exceptionally strong reasons by governments (e.g. prison and prohibition laws). It is a travesty, and a massive perpetration of lawlessness, that hundreds of thousands of Americans, people who have in no way violated the safety or property of others, are living large portions of their lives locked inside cages. Though legislation exists which purports to justify it, the unjustifiable cannot be justified. That which is lawless in its essence is not made truly lawful through the passage of mere laws.

Every day these hundreds of thousands languish behind bars, each of the four thousand or so times a day one more unlucky one is arrested for a drug offense, is a crime unto itself. Every act of perjury by a law enforcer, each deliberate decision by an officer to test the limits of constitutional rights to the detriment of the individual upon whom the test is conducted, degrades the morality of our society. The totality of all of this makes up an historic evil. Our cause is to replace the institutionalization of injustice with an enlightened spirit of respect for individual lives, one at a time, and for human life as a whole.

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2. Ever Upward: At Nearly 1.5 Million, US Prison Population at New High

The number of people in prison in the United States increased again last year, according to a report released Sunday by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). According to the annual report, American prisons held 1,470,045 inmates as of December 31, 2003, an increase of 2.1% over the previous year. (For those wondering about the oft-cited figure of 2.2 million prisoners in the US, the discrepancy lies in the fact that Sunday's report does not count people imprisoned in jails.)

Southern Correctional Institution, Troy, NC
The drug war continues to play a significant role in the expansion of the prison population. According to BJS, 20% of all prison inmates are serving time for drug charges. "Drug-related" crimes, such as property theft by addicts or violent conflict-resolution in unregulated drug markets, and to a much lesser degree, drug-induced violence, create an unknown number of additional drug war-related inmates.

Despite sentencing reforms that began taking hold in various states beginning in the late 1990s, the number of state prisoners continues to increase, rising by 1.6% last year. In California, for instance, where voters passed the "treatment not prison" Proposition 36 in 2002, the state prison population increased by more than 3,000 people last year. Similarly, in Texas, where authorities have moved to ease parole revocations in a move to keep inmate numbers down, the inmate population actually increased by nearly 5,000.

But once again, the federal prison system and the federal war on drugs are the prime factor pushing the numbers higher. The federal prison population grew by 5.8%, nearly four times the rate of growth in the states. While only slightly more than one-tenth the size of the combined state prison systems, federal prisons accounted for fully one-third of the growth in prisoners, accounting for 9,500 of the nearly 30,000-prisoner increase in the overall prison population last year. With drug offenders making up 55% of all federal prisoners (only 13% are doing time for violent crimes), the federal drug war is the driving force not only in the increase in federal prisoners but in the overall increase in prisoners nationwide.

Given the long-term decrease in overall crime rates since 1991, BJS noted that the government's version of "sentencing reform," as the report called it, had actually increased both prison admissions and average sentence length in the period since 1995, with annual admissions jumping from 522,000 that year to 615,000 in 2003. Similar, sentence lengths increased from an average of 23 months to 30 months during the same period.

"This increase is largely due to policy changes that have increased the amount of time offenders are serving in prison," said the sentencing reform group The Sentencing Project in a statement greeting the BJS report. "These include such measures as 'three-strikes,' mandatory sentencing, and 'truth in sentencing,'" the group noted.

In one landmark, again largely a function of the drug war, the number of women prison inmates has passed the 100,000 mark for the first time. As The Sentencing Project noted, "The rapid growth in the rate of women's incarceration -- at nearly double the rate for men over the past two decades -- is disproportionately due to the war on drugs. Women in prison are more likely than men (30% vs. 20%) to be serving a sentence for a drug charge."

The US also retains its status as the world's greatest jailer nation. With an imprisonment rate of 714 per 100,000 population, the US easily outpaced second-place Russia with its rate of 584 per 100,000. The US imprisonment rate is nearly four times that of neighboring Mexico (169) and more than five times that of Great Britain (141).

As a result of the imprisonment binge, American prisons are stuffed past capacity, with all that implies for the quality of life behind bars. According to BJS, state prisons were operating at as much as 116% of capacity, while the federal prison system is operating at 39% above capacity.

Last but not least, blacks continued to be the largest group of prisoners, making up 44% of all inmates, compared to 35% white and 19% Hispanic, with 2% "other." These proportions have gone almost unchanged in the past decade, BJS noted.

Read the BJS report, "Prisoners in 2003," at online.

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3. In an Hour of Conservative Ascendancy: Prospects for Drug Reform at the Federal Level During the Next Four Years

Election Day has come and gone. President Bush, whose victory in 2000 was clouded by controversy, won 51% of the popular vote, creating, at least in the eyes of some, a mandate to pursue socially conservative domestic policies and an aggressive foreign policy. The conservative tide also broke over the Senate, and to a lesser degree, the House of Representatives, with the Republicans picking up four seats in each chamber. With majorities of 55-44 in the Senate and 231-200 in the House (with one independent in each chamber), the Republicans have strengthened their vise-grip on the Congress.

Why the Republicans won so convincingly is open to debate, but conventional wisdom holds that part of the reason, at least, was that turnout by socially conservative voters opposed to gay marriage and abortion was strong enough to exceed the massive voter mobilization efforts carried out by the Democratic Party, Democrat-aligned 527 groups and independent organizations targeting youth, minorities and other sectors presumed to lean Democratic. While conservative strength does not in all cases imply an electorate wholly opposed to drug reform -- Montana, for example, a state which voted heavily for George Bush and even more heavily against same sex marriage, also handily passed a medical marijuana initiative -- conventional wisdom also tends to see overall social conservatism as being correlated with repressive views on drug policy.

From foreign affairs (the coca and opium wars in Colombia and Afghanistan) to sentencing policies to setting law enforcement priorities to funding the drug war, Congress and the executive branch set the tone for drug policy nationwide. Drug War Chronicle this week spoke with a number of national drug reform leaders to see how the new Congress and the reinvigorated Bush presidency will affect the prospects for reform in Washington. While the overall prognosis was decidedly grim, some bravely sought silver linings in the election results nevertheless.

While there may be possibilities to appeal to different wings of the majority party on different issues, perhaps splitting off fiscal conservatives on budgetary issues or states' rights conservatives on issues such as medical marijuana, prospects for progress on drug reform issues are not as good as before the election, said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance ( "Yes, it is going to be more difficult," he told DRCNet.

"Progress will be more difficult," agreed Eric Sterling, executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation ( But for Sterling, while last week's election makes the prospects for reform marginally dimmer, it is not so much the makeup of the new Congress but the relative immaturity of the drug reform movement that blocks progress on Capitol Hill. "The Congress is not going to move on our issues until key constituencies in both parties start telling it it is time for change," he told DRCNet. "The Republicans need to hear from the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers that they cannot afford our current drug policies. Likewise, the Democrats need to hear from their bases -- from labor, from minorities, from the women's movement -- that they want change. Until then, I don't see us making much progress."

It is the rise of the "moral values" vote that is stirring most discussion. "This election has demonstrated once again the influence that organized religious people can have in the political arena," said Charles Thomas, executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (, which has been working to bring mainstream denominations into the drug policy fight. "This is a real wake-up call, not just for our movement, but for the mainstream denominations and faith-based advocacy groups. Now people increasingly recognize the importance of organizing faith-based groups that are not on the extreme right wing," he told DRCNet. "We've been organizing around this for a year, and we think we are in a good position to be able to contribute to that," Thomas said.

But there are also potential points of convergence with the religious right, Thomas said. "A lot of fundamentalist Christian groups have done missionary work in the prisons, and as a result, they are actually aware of how bad the situation is in the prisons," he argued. "They recognize alternatives to incarceration and are focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment for punishment's sake. Yes, there is a possibility of working even with the religious right."

Drug reformers ignore the religious right at their peril, said Nora Callahan, executive director of the prisoner-oriented drug reform organization the November Coalition ( "These people are increasingly powerful," she told DRCNet, "and there are possibilities for working with them." Like Thomas, Callahan pointed to the prison missionary work done by evangelicals. "People like Chuck Colson and his Prison Fellowship are in the prisons, and they can see for themselves what is going on," she said. "We can also talk to them about proportionality in sentencing. When the Bible talks about an eye for an eye, it is talking about a punishment that fits the crime. It is clear to anyone who goes into the prisons that sentencing people to decades behind bars for nonviolent drug crimes is hardly proportional punishment. We can ask the evangelicals, who would Jesus put in prison?"

Conservative Christian morality may provide an opening to combat some of the drug war's worst excesses, agreed DRCNet executive director Dave Borden, pointing to the case of self-confessed evangelical Christian and drug war hard-liner Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), author of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision. "Mark Souder says he wants to scale back this law because as an evangelical he doesn't believe people's pasts should be held against them," said Borden. "Will Souder apply that logic to other areas of drug policy, mandatory minimum sentencing, for example? Given the totality of his record, I have to consider that extremely unlikely. But it does point to a possible opening to begin the discussion with religious-minded conservatives."

While some see prospects for being able to reach points of agreement with the religious right, others are not so sure. "The evangelicals are simply not going to listen to us," scoffed Sterling.

But while attempting to work with the religious right may be desirable and even necessary, said Thomas, mainstream denominations are also arousing themselves. "The so-called religious left wants to be more active," he said. "Mainstream people who go to church, but who have not made any explicit connection between their religion and their politics, are now seeing what is going on, and the recent victory on the right may help to mobilize an effective opposition. And since these religious groups and individuals already support drug reform to some degree, as the mainstream gets more active in response to other issues, the fact that they are already on board with drug reform will help us have a more powerful advocacy," he said.

Cultural conservatives are already threatening what could be one relative bright spot, said Sanho Tree, drug policy fellow for the Institute for Policy Studies ( With conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) being forced by term limits from his position as chair of the critical Senate Judiciary Committee, the relatively liberal Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter is in line to take over. But Specter has enraged conservatives by suggesting that President Bush will have trouble getting anti-choice judicial appointments through the Senate confirmation process.

"Senators normally don't want to mess with the seniority system because it could be used against them someday, but the right wing is mounting a furious campaign against Specter," Tree told DRCNet. "If they succeed, the drug reform movement will lose a major moderating voice in a key Senate committee."

Prospects for progress on marijuana policy appear equally dim. "Our hope had been that if Kerry had been elected as president that the raids on medical marijuana patients and providers would have ended and medical marijuana research could have moved forward in a more productive manner," said Marijuana Policy Project director of government relations Steve Fox. Kerry sent a letter last year supporting a research effort at the University of Massachusetts, he noted. "Still, I'm not sure what our prospects would have been in either case, given a Republican Congress.

But, said Fox, Republican control of the Congress may perversely improve the prospects for passage of an amendment to de-fund federal medical marijuana raids in states where voters have approved its use. "This could make passage of the amendment more likely," he said. "Much depends on what Bush and his new attorney general decide to do with respect to medical marijuana. If they decide to pull back on the raids, people may see less of a need for it, but if they decide they have a mandate and want to spend their political capital going after medical marijuana patients, there could be a backlash and we might get enough momentum to pass Hinchey-Rohrabacher in the House."

That amendment is probably the only shot for a victory in Congress on marijuana issues, Fox said. "There was some hope of getting some sort of states' rights bill going in terms of marijuana policy," he told DRCNet, "but that would not pass in the current Congress."

The election results are also likely to give the administration an ever freer hand in pursuing its war on drugs worldwide. Even before the election, Congress had voted to approve doubling the number of US troops and mercenaries operating in Colombia, and this week, administration officials vowed to wage war on the opium trade in Afghanistan. But that free hand may be partially counterbalanced by the overextension of US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Congress has approved sending more troops to Colombia," said IPS's Tree, who has been leading delegations to the South American country for several years now. "The problem is, the troops they need to send are Special Forces to train the Colombian military, and those Special Forces are busy elsewhere," he said.

If there is one area where drug policy progress is likely, it is reform of the HEA anti-drug provision. Faced with withering criticism, provision author Rep. Souder is calling for revamping the HEA to specify that the anti-drug provision would only apply to students who committed their drug offenses while they were in school receiving federal aid.

"The good news is that a partial reform is being supported by most conservatives and the administration," said DRCNet's Borden. "So that much at least is likely to happen, and I find that encouraging, though only slightly."

But while a rollback would be a partial victory for the coalition that has formed to defeat the provision, it is not their ultimate goal. "We want full repeal," said Borden. "A Kerry victory might have opened up a new set of possibilities, on this and other issues. But any election result short of returning Congress to the Democrats would still have left the repeal fight in essentially similar circumstances," he argued. "There are a number of Republicans who have privately said they favor outright repeal of the law, but none so far have been willing to take the lead in offering legislation, and that's a big challenge. At the same time, if a few Republicans would vote the right way, which seems possible even now, this can be won. I wish I could say I think we'll win this in the short term, but drug reform is an uphill fight and HEA is no exception. Still, I'm optimistic that the drug provision will eventually be repealed."

Borden was determinedly optimistic about broader drug reform issues as well. "Not all the reins of power are in the hands of drug warriors," he said. "And there are signs that we may see progress on some fronts. There is a growing movement to deal with prisoners' reentry into society, and that is not just a liberal movement. President Bush talked about it in his State of the Union address. From our standpoint, movement in this direction is small, but if people like the Bush administration and Rep. Souder are talking about it, that's a start, and it's more than lip service -- though again, only slightly more. Everything starts with one step," Borden said, "even if two or more steps backwards may also be likely at this moment."

In the wake of November 2nd, it is an understatement, perhaps, to say that drug policy reformers are not feeling over-optimistic about short-term prospects for improvements at the federal level. But then again, they weren't before -- nor are they giving up.

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4. Syracuse ReconsiDers Drug Policy

In his eponymous autobiography, 20th Century Salvadoran trade unionist and revolutionary Miguel Marmol wrote of "trabajo de hormiga," or ant work, the tedious but essential process of slowly putting together the building blocks for a successful social movement. It is careful, patient work, not glamorous and perhaps not noticed -- at first. But if enough ants work long enough, suddenly, breakthroughs arrive as if out of nowhere.

The upstate New York city of Syracuse is no San Salvador and Nick Eyle is no Central American Communist, but Eyle and the organization he represents, ReconsiDer (, have been doing ant work on drug policy for years, and this year those efforts are beginning to pay off. In January, Drug War Chronicle detailed outgoing Syracuse city auditor Minch Lewis' groundbreaking report on the impact of the drug war on local police budgets, and his call for the city government to discuss alternatives to what he bluntly called a prohibitionist policy that is "not working" (

Lewis came to his interest in transforming the city's approach to drug policy through discussions with Eyle, both men told DRCNet, and he sits on the group's board of advisors. "He came to a meeting and liked what he heard and decided to stick around," Eyle said. Lewis' January report was a result of the collaboration between the auditor and the drug reformers. And last month, ReconsiDer's ant work and the Lewis report's call for hearings on the issue bore fruit as the Syracuse Common Council brought in drug reform advocates from the US and Canada for two sets of hearings on the failures of prohibition and the prospects for implementing alternatives at the local level.

In the hearings on October 14 and 28, council members and interested citizens heard from a cavalcade of drug reformers. Appearing at the first session were Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( head Jack Cole, a former New Jersey narcotics officer, and Boston University economist Jeffrey Miron, author of a book on the costs of drug prohibition to state governments.

The economic logic of prohibition ensures that the drug war will fail, said Cole. "There is such an obscene profit motive that we believe an army of police officers will never arrest our way out of it. Every arrest is a job opening." But the economic benefits of prohibition are not limited to drug dealers, he added. Police, prosecutors, and prison guards, as well as the economic interests that benefit from prohibition, all have a vested interest in maintaining it, he said. "There's something in the war on drugs for everyone -- not just the dealer," Cole said.

Economist Miron told the forum that if Syracuse police treated marijuana like alcohol, the city could save $500,000 a year, while those savings would double if that policy were broadened to include all drugs. "The answer is to legalize it," Miron said. "Then you don't have to go to some dealer to buy it. You can buy it at the corner drug or hemp store."

Two weeks later, the council and interested citizens gathered again, this time to hear from Roger Goodman, director of the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project ( in Seattle, who has helped create and lead a coalition of Washington state professional and community organizations interested in reforming drug policy. Also on hand were Canadians Eugene Oscapella, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation ( and Sen. Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of the Canadian Senate's committee on illegal drugs, which in September 2002 issued a report calling for the legalization of marijuana.

"We need to control drugs, rather than control people," Goodman told a rapt audience. "This cries out for regulation." Goodman hammered on the theme heard two weeks earlier -- that prohibition is a damaging approach to dealing with drugs. Not only does prohibition create an overloaded criminal justice system, it diverts police from serious crimes. "Law enforcement isn't really focusing on rape, murder, or assaults -- they're spending all their time on drugs," Goodman said.

Sen. Nolin, a member of Canada's Conservative Party, said policymakers should concentrate on reducing the harms of drug abuse, not seek to eliminate drug use. "The real objective is not to limit or prohibit all use -- it's to limit harmful use," Nolin said. "When prohibition is the main driving tool of public policy, it never influences the rate of use." Nolin also stretched American brainpans by suggesting -- gasp -- that drug users should be included in setting drug policy. "You have to involve everybody -- the stakeholders need to be part of your strategy," Nolin said.

"Syracuse was very impressive," said the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation's Oscapella, who also addressed the forum. "There were several council members present, and they and they audience gave us a very respectful hearing," he told DRCNet. "They asked good questions. It is clear they are really searching for what can be done, not just some rhetoric to use, but what they can actually do to change things. We talked to them about some of their alternatives: shifting law enforcement priorities, sending nonbinding resolutions to the state and federal governments, as well as honest public education and addressing the citizens. That's where you make things happen," he said.

The King County Bar Association's Goodman was equally impressed, both with the sophistication of the Syracuse crowd and with the preparations made over the years by ReconsiDer. "Syracuse is not a liberal city like San Francisco or Seattle -- people there are sophisticated, but with a sort of salt of the earth quality -- but it benefits now from a public conversation about drug policy that has really matured, and that is thanks to the work of Nicky Eyle and the folks at ReconsiDer," said Goodman. "Their work has borne fruit. You can see the difference. I went to Rochester the next day, and the audience there was nowhere near as advanced, there wasn't nearly the comprehensive understanding of the issue."

Still, even Syracuse was a bit taken aback by some of the cutting-edge measures Goodman discussed. "When I started talking about safe consumption rooms and heroin maintenance, there was some jaw-dropping, but when I described all the benefits, the reduced crime and disease, the improved health and education, I could see they were beginning to think about it some more."

Despite all the positive energy in Syracuse, the city's options are limited. Drug prohibition is based on state and federal law, not municipal ordinance. Still, there are things that can be done at the local level. "There is this ongoing frustration about the limits of reform at the local level," said Goodman. "But there are things you can do. We made a lot of practical suggestions about making operational changes on the street like we did in Seattle, which has made a tangible difference there. There has got to be a better policy than one of automatic arrests. The other thing is to intervene when people are seriously involved in drugs on the street."

Syracuse is ready to try something new, said former auditor Lewis, who spent eight years talking to people in the community. "People in Syracuse are in general agreement that Plan A is a catastrophe, and they are looking for Plan B. The more we wage this war on drugs, the farther behind we get. Our neighborhoods are being destroyed, our families are broken," he said.

"I think these hearings were very important and effective in raising these sorts of basic questions about what the drug war is all about and what people really want. I applaud the Common Council and Finance Committee chair Stephanie Miner for recognizing the importance of this issue," Lewis added.

And he agreed with Goodman that the city could take some steps toward a better policy. "The panelists made suggestions about the way the drug laws are enforced. We have a lot of discretion in terms of enforcement, and the priorities we set determine where the police are going to focus their efforts. In the hearings I held in the community, what I found was that people were concerned not so much about drug use as street-level drug sales, the black market and the associated crime and violence, and the root cause of that is prohibition."

Now that the Common Council is paying attention, said Lewis, the next step is to translate that awareness into reshaped budget priorities. "They will review the budget at the beginning of the year and they will look at all the statistics that show exactly what the police force is focusing on," he said. "They will have the chance to change priorities so, for instance, instead of funding a major police department task force that spends all its time tracking down drug sales they could fund community policing."

While the drug experts have come and gone, Lewis and Eyle and ReconsiDer remain. And so does the work. "Now, we continue," said Eyle. "We'll work on making marijuana a lowest priority, we'll look at what else the city can do to reduce harm and save money. We are limited -- a city can't end prohibition -- but we all understand this is driven by prohibition. There is no denying that we are talking about legalizing drugs." ReconsiDer does not deny that it is an anti-prohibitionist group, and being up front about it does not appear to have damaged the group's efficacy. To the contrary, Eyle reported, "Our guests were amazed at the level of discussion and the ease with which legalization talk was received."

While many drug reformers shy from talking about ending prohibition, they are being too shy, Eyle argued. "We are not ashamed to say we believe legalization is the solution to all of these problems, and we've been at it for years, writing letters to the editor, publishing op-eds, talking to the Rotary Clubs," he said. "Those people who heard us at the Rotary remember, and they come back. The new auditor, the guy who replaced Minch Lewis is a subscriber to our newsletter. He heard us at the Rotary Club three years ago, and he agrees with us. This is the result of speaking the truth year after year. We're not trying to trick anybody. If anyone asks if we want to legalize drugs, we say yes, of course."

That straightforwardness pays off, said Eyle. "We're seen as honest, and that's a big plus. If the rest of the drug reform movement had been talking for the last ten or 15 years about ending prohibition instead of hiding behind issues like hemp and medical marijuana, we would be having politicians coming to us now for proposals on how to implement changes. They can be liberal, they can be conservative. We don't care. All you have to do is agree our drug policy sucks and needs to be reconsidered."

Some observers feel that ReconsiDer doesn't receive enough support from national drug reform circles. "People like Nick Eyle and ReconsiDer, as well as people like Cliff Thornton and his group Efficacy (, who are doing similar things, are doing some of the most important work in the drug reform movement," said Eric Sterling, head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (, a Washington-based advocacy group. "And they're not getting much attention."

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5. Newsbrief: Congressional Drug Warrior Threatens Canada Over Marijuana Legislation

With the Canadian government once again considering a bill that would make marijuana possession a ticketable offense, a leading American drug warrior is once again blustering against any such move. In an interview Sunday on the Canadian network CTV's Question Period, Indiana Republican US Rep. Mark Souder warned that any move toward softening Canada's marijuana laws could affect the million-dollar-a-minute trade between the two North American allies. Presumably emboldened by last week's election results, the self-confessed evangelical Christian congressman also warned Canada it could suffer the "consequences" of its liberal approach to gay marriage and marijuana.

"Canada has the right to make its own decisions, just as we do in the United States," Souder graciously conceded. But Canadians "need to think through the consequences" of those decisions. "Some of the drug policies and clearly some of the marriage policies, we have difficulty about," he told his Canadian audience.

Souder expressed particular concern about any softening of Canada's marijuana laws, warning that passage of the Liberal government's "decriminalization" bill could lead to delays in cross-border traffic. "I believe there'll be more searches at the border both coming and going from Canada, which hurts our trade," he said. "I've been very worried about the drift on marijuana policy and what that means."

Under the Liberal proposal, possession of less than 15 grams, or about half an ounce, of marijuana would punishable only by a fine. Curiously, Souder has never expressed any interest in setting up roadblocks at the border with the neighboring state of Ohio, where people can possess more than six times the amount proposed in Ottawa -- 100 grams or nearly four ounces -- and pay only a maximum $100 fine.

The link between marijuana decriminalization and marijuana trafficking is also unclear in cases of the at least 13 US states that have decriminalized marijuana possession.

Rep. Souder, who is perhaps best known in drug reform circles for authoring the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision, has used his position as chair of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources to unquestioningly support drug prohibition and attack drug reform.

He also tied the threat of minor marijuana law reform in Canada to the war on terror through the border security issue. Softening Canada's drug laws "won't change our longstanding trade policies, our friendships with Canada," Souder said. "But those kind of things make it difficult to think of ourselves as a North American perimeter when we don't know whether narcotics -- which increasingly funds terrorists -- are going to be more common along the border."

Souder won reelection with 71% of the vote in his conservative northeast Indiana district. But his bluster about messing with the cross-border trade may provide an opening -- according to CTV, Canada is Indiana's largest foreign trading partner.

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6. Newsbrief: In New Twist in Thai Drug War, Police Detain and Drug Test Club Goers

The conservative Thai government's three-year-old "social order" campaign is now reaching into the pants of Bangkok nightclub goers. While the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is most notorious for its lethal prosecution of its drug war with some 2,300 suspected drug users and sellers reported murdered in a frenzy of state-sponsored killing last year, the war is also being fought on the battleground of Bangkok's thriving nightlife scene.

According to the Associated Press, police have begun raiding nightclubs, detaining the patrons, and forcing them to submit to on-the-spot drug tests. The raids are part of Thaksin's campaign to restore "traditional values."

In one raid described by the AP, the chic Q Club was besieged by 50 police officers for three hours as customers, many cursing the police, crammed into restrooms to produce urine samples. Each customer had to provide a sample, but no procedures were in place to ensure the sample provided came from that customer, and the AP reported several clients saying they'd provided clean samples for friends. Only two of 373 people tested positive for drugs, but they were later cleared because the tests could not differentiate between illicit drugs and legal medications, police said.

While the raids are based on no particular suspicion and are seemingly ineffective, they provide great publicity for Thai moral entrepreneurs, such as former interior minister Purachai Piemsomboon, who specialized in leading TV crews into the gaudy clubs for high-profile busts. He has since been replaced by former TV and entertainment mogul and current deputy interior minister Pracha Maleenont, who continues the moral showboating.

"The rules are there and so easy to follow," Pracha, 57, said after taking office as deputy interior minister in late 2002. "Don't do anything illegal, and I'll leave you alone."

But that isn't necessarily the case. At the Q Bar, for instance, police threatened to shut the place down even though they discovered no drugs and no underage people on premises. Earlier, they had tried to ban dancing at the club, the owner complained.

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7. Newsbrief: Ann Arbor Officials to Ignore Voters' Will on Medical Marijuana

Last week, voters in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, voted by a whopping 74% margin to approve an amendment decriminalizing the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Within days Ann Arbor Police Chief Dan Oates announced that his department would ignore the new law. In a written statement issued two days after the election, Oates said he had directed officers to continue enforcing all marijuana laws as they had prior to the vote.

Ann Arbor's medical marijuana amendment would not prevent state or federal officials from making arrests under state or federal law. But since, according to the Michigan Daily, 99% of Ann Arbor pot arrests are made by local police, the amendment, if enforced, would significantly reduce the likelihood that a medical marijuana user in the city would run into legal hassles.

Chief Oates cited the opinion of City Attorney Postema, who told the Michigan Daily News that although the initiative was legally placed on the ballot, case law in Michigan dictates that when city ordinances mandate softer penalties than state law, law enforcement officials can prosecute people under the harsher state law anyway. Based on that case law, Postema said, his office is not bound to observe the will of the voters.

What Postema neglected to say is that officials could also choose to obey the ordinance, but have decided not to. And that is not sitting well with Scio Township Trustee Chuck Ream, who led the petition drive. Yes, Michigan law allows officials to ignore such charter amendments, he told the Daily. "But the citizens of Ann Arbor have spoken just as clearly," he said. "And people who would like to be employed by the city should either listen to the voice of the people when they vote or they should seek employment... in another community. If the people of Ann Arbor didn't speak clearly [on Election Day], then I don't know what it takes."

If officials refuse to enforce the law, said Ream, the county could be hit with a costly lawsuit.

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8. Newsbrief: Georgia Supreme Court Says Wife Can't Consent to Search of Home Against Husband's Will

In a Monday ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court held that police may not conduct a warrantless search of a home based on the consent of one spouse over the objection of the other. In a 4-3 ruling, the court threw out evidence of cocaine use by Americus attorney Scott Fitz Randolph, who was arrested after his wife called police to their home and showed them what she said was proof of his drug habit.

In the opinion, Justice Robert Benham said the home of two people who "have equal use and control of the premises" cannot be the subject of a warrantless search if one occupant gives consent "in the face of the refusal of another occupant who is physically present at the scene."

Randolph was charged with cocaine possession in July 2001, after his wife called police during a domestic disturbance. She told arriving officers Randolph was using large amounts of cocaine and gave them permission to search the house. Over her husband's repeated objections, she took officers to an upstairs bedroom where they found a straw with cocaine residue on it. In a pre-trial appeal, Randolph and his attorneys attempted to have the evidence suppressed, arguing it was the fruit of an unlawful search.

They lost at the trial court level, but won in the court of appeals last December. This week's state Supreme Court decision upholds that ruling. "One person can't trump another person's rights," Randolph's lawyer, W.T. Gamble III, told the Associated Press. "It's different if only one person is home and consents. But when you're both there and one of them objects, that's another story."

Read the decision in Randolph v. State at online.

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9. Newsbrief: Austin, Texas, Cop Killed Enforcing Marijuana Possession Law

Early this year, DRCNet reported on the toll of police officers who are killed each year enforcing the drug laws. Last year, we found, they were dying for the drug war at a rate of slightly more than one a month ( Now, another officer has died for prohibition, this time in Austin, Texas -- this time in an especially pointless incident -- a bust for simple marijuana possession.

As Austin-based crime and drug policy watcher Scott Henson noted in his blog, Grits for Breakfast (, Officer Amy Donovan died October 31 trying to chase down a pot-smoker in East Austin. The 37-year-old rookie cop was killed by her partner, fellow rookie Adrian Valdovino, who accidentally hit her with their patrol car, pinning her between the car and a light pole.

The predominantly black East Austin neighborhood where Donovan died is a favorite trolling ground for Austin police, and police initially told the Austin American-Statesman Donovan and Valdovino were on the lookout for "drug dealers and prostitutes" when they observed someone "acting suspiciously." It was later reported that the suspicious activity was people standing around a car smoking a joint. One of them took off on foot, Donovan followed, and now she's dead.

The crime Donovan died to prevent is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 180 days in jail, but, as Henson noted, the Travis County Jail is so overcrowded it can't afford to keep low-level drug offenders locked up -- unless Austin taxpayers want to kick in about $100 million for a new jail.

Meanwhile, the guy who just wanted to share a peaceful toke with friends now stands to see his life ruined because a cop died trying to enforce the marijuana laws. Nicholas Jarmon is now charged with evading arrest, which in Texas becomes a second degree felony worth 2-to-20 years in prison. And because Officer Amy Donovan is dead, Jarmon will probably pay the price.

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10. Newsbrief: Supreme Court to Look at Drug Dogs in Traffic Stops

The use of drug dogs to sniff vehicles during routine traffic stops has become increasingly common. Wednesday, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could bring the practice to a screeching halt. In Illinois v. Caballes, the court will decide "whether the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify using a drug-detection dog to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop."

The case arose in November 1998, when an Illinois State Police trooper pulled over Roy Caballes for going six miles per hour over the speed limit on Interstate 80. As the trooper ticketed Caballes for speeding, and after Cabelles refused the officer's request to consent to a search of his vehicle, another trooper with a drug dog arrived, and the dog alerted to the scent of drugs before the ticket was issued. The troopers then searched Caballes' vehicle and found marijuana in the trunk. Caballes, who had two previous marijuana distribution arrests, was found guilty of trafficking and sentenced to 12 years in prison and a $256,000 fine -- equal to the value of the seized pot.

His conviction was upheld on appeal, but then overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court. On a 4-3 vote, that court held it was unreasonable for the trooper to authorize a sniff by the drug dog because he had no reasonable suspicion a crime was being committed. The drug dog search was based on "nothing more than a vague hunch" and did not meet the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment, the Illinois court ruled.

"While dog sniffs are not physically invasive, they do intrude on reasonable privacy interests," wrote Caballes' attorney Ralph Meczyk in his brief to the court. "Using a drug dog during an otherwise routine stop can be intimidating, accusatory, and humiliating."

The Rehnquist Court has generally been a friend of police searches, especially in the context of the war on drugs. In a 1983 case, the court ruled that drug dog sniffs did not constitute a search. On the other hand, the court in 2000 refused to allow random roadblocks to search for drugs. In that case, police used drug dogs to check vehicles at roadblocks in poor Indianapolis neighborhoods, but the court held that the roadblocks were unconstitutional suspicionless searches of passing drivers.

Illinois Solicitor General Gary Feinarman, who is arguing the case for the state, hoped the Supreme Court would follow its 1983 ruling. In his brief, Feinarman argued that drug dog searches are not really searches, as the Supreme Court had done in 1983. "Police officers need no individualized suspicion that illegal drugs are present to justify conducting an external canine sniff of a vehicle at a lawful traffic stop," he wrote.

A decision in the case is expected next June.

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11. This Week in History

November 12, 1970: Keith Stroup forms the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

November 14, 1999: In an editorial, the Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, says, "On the medical evidence available, moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill effect on health."

November 15, 1984: Spanish police arrest Jorge Ochoa on a US warrant, and the US and Colombia both apply for his extradition. The Medellin cartel publicly threatens to murder five Americans for every Colombian extradition. Spanish courts ultimately rule in favor of Colombia's request and Ochoa is deported. He serves a month in jail on charges of bull-smuggling before he is paroled.

November 15, 2001: Asa Hutchinson, administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Republican Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico debate the war on drugs in front of about 150 people at Yale Law School. Johnson says, "[The war on drugs is] the biggest head-in-the-sand issue that is with us today... Drug prohibition is what is killing us, not drug use. A minority of the crowd sides with Hutchinson in what turned out to be a heated debate.

November 15, 2002: NFL star and NORML advisory board member Mark Stepnoski is interviewed on the Fox's The O'Reilly Factor. (The transcript can be read at online.)

November 17, 1993: At an International Network of Cities on Drug Policy conference in Baltimore, Maryland, former Colombian high court judge Gomez Hurtado tells the Americans present, "Forget about drug deaths, and acquisitive crime, and addiction, and AIDS. All this pales into insignificance before the prospect facing the liberal societies of the West. The income of the drug barons is greater than the American defense budget. With this financial power they can suborn the institutions of the State and, if the State resists... they can purchase the firepower to outgun it. We are threatened with a return to the Dark Ages."

November 18, 1986: A US federal grand jury in Miami releases the indictment of the Ochoas, Pablo Escobar, Carlos Lehder, and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha under the RICO statute. The indictment names the Medellin cartel as the largest cocaine smuggling organization in the world.

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12. 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.

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13. 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].

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14. Seeking Information, Affiliations, Link Exchanges, a web site that follows the economy of the drug war, is seeking web sites for affiliations and link exchanges. The site will launch in December. is also seeking information on local drug economies -- if you have information on local law enforcement spending in relationship to the drug war, would like to know about it! Additionally, is also interested in information on the cost of drugs, including product, weight and price -- be sure to include the location you are writing about in your e-mail.

Contact at [email protected].

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15. The Reformer's Calendar

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 13, 10:00am-3:00pm, Phoenix, AZ, Sentencing Reform Mobilization Conference, preparing for efforts to pass sentencing reform bills in the upcoming legislative session. Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Arizona Coalition for Effective Government (AzCEG). At Arizona State University Downtown Center, 502 E. Monroe St., Building A, rooms A225-228, $10 per person donation requested. RSVP ASAP to (520) 623-9141 or [email protected], or contact AzCEG at (602) 234-9004 or [email protected] or visit for information.

November 13, 2:00pm, Bethesda, MD, "The Future of Punishment in the Criminal Justice System: Voices from Philosophy, Religion, and Hip Hop," lecture on the Morality of Punishment by George Washington University law professor Paul Butler. Adult admission $10, students free, reception follows. At Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, 9601 Cedar Lane (north of NIH), for further information call (301) 493-8300.

November 15, 6:00-8:00pm, Washington, DC, symposium on the Ashcroft v. Raich medical marijuana Supreme Court case. Sponsored by Georgetown Law SSDP and American Constitutional Society, 12th floor of Gewirz Hall, 120 F St. NW, reception to follow panel. For further information e-mail [email protected].

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] 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.

December 11, Annapolis, MD, The Exonerated: a play recounting the true stories of six death row inmates who were found innocent. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Road, reception and panel discussion featuring criminal justice experts following performance. Tickets $20 or $15 for students and seniors, benefiting a fund for the exonerated, for reservations call (410) 266-8044 ext. 127.

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.

April 5-8, 2006, Santa Barbara, CA, Fourth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Sponsored by Patients Out of Time, details to be announced, visit for updates.

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PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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