(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)
Issue #363 , 11/19/04
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
This week the news contained a development that was not surprising but which should be distressing to anyone concerned with peace and security. After giving mere lip service to the idea of acting to suppress Afghanistan's opium trade, flourishing since the US-led overthrow of the Taliban, US officials are now, at least they say, preparing to ramp up the effort to a serious one.
Breaking the back of Afghanistan's opium trade is probably an implausible goal. Afghanistan is a large country, and opium accounts for perhaps half of its economy -- the UN has estimated 264,000 Afghan families are involved in it. Viable alternatives to opium cultivation are few. The nation's fragile, fledgling democracy depends on the buy-in of chieftains and warlords, not to mention ordinary Afghans, for survival. If the central government can live off international dollars for its paychecks, ordinary Afghans cannot, nor perhaps some of their leaders and local institutions. Afghan society is not going to simply say no its primary source of livelihood because Uncle Sam says to, and that is how it will (correctly) be perceived by Afghans.
We at DRCNet are not blind to the harms wrought by the illicit drug trade, nor are we hostile to legitimate security objectives for the US or legitimate humanitarian objectives for the Afghans. On the latter count our record is more consistent than the establishment's -- we condemned the Taliban in 1997, in this newsletter, when the administration and UN anti-drug bureaucrats wanted to fund them. We are also Americans, and most of us live or work in Washington, DC, a target of the September 11, 2001 attacks and a potential future target. As an American I am troubled by the apparent coming escalation of a drug war in Afghanistan that risks alienating countless Afghans whom we need as allies while diverting resources from our most pressing and important objectives.
It is true that some drug profits help sustain and fuel political violence. John Thompson, a terrorism and organized crime expert at Toronto's Mackenzie Institute, stated in an interview for this newsletter three years ago that he estimates Islamic radical groups derive perhaps 25-30% of their funding from the drug trade. But the way to address this, Thompson continued, is legalization. As Thompson pointed out, the Mafia has never regained the level of influence it attained during alcohol prohibition. Drug legalization would likewise damage the operational ability of today's illicit groups -- of whatever variety -- to the apparently significant extent to which they now benefit from drug monies.
Estimates of the size of the global illicit drug trade range from $150 billion (by the RAND Corporation) to $400 billion per year (by the UN). This is a staggering amount of money, and the range and depth of the social pathologies this underground stream produces is probably beyond the fathomable. So why aren't security and crime experts speaking out in greater numbers as Thompson has?
In my opinion, the silence about drug prohibition on the part of most scholars and analysts reflects a shortfall of vision, courage, or both. As an American, I strongly urge them to find such vision and courage, and to do so sooner rather than later.
Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/363/afghanistan.shtml to learn more about the administration's Afghan opium plans. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/205/johnthompson.shtml to read our October 2001 interview with John Thompson.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, 4TH DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, US CONGRESS
THE JOHN W. PERRY FUND
On Thursday, December 9, 2004, 6:00-8:00pm, Omni Parker House, King Room, 60 School Street (corner of Tremont), Boston. RSVP to [email protected], (202) 362-0030 or (617) 426-7979. Light refreshments will be served. Suggested minimum donation $25, sliding scale or free admission available on request. (No one will be turned away.)
Supporting speakers to include representatives of DRCNet, DPFMA, the Massachusetts Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, the ACLU of Massachusetts, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Change the Climate and others to be announced.
Barney Frank has been in Congress since 1981. He is the Senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and is also a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security. Previously he was a Massachusetts State Representative and an assistant to the Mayor of Boston. He has also taught at several Boston area universities. Rep. Frank has been a vigorous champion of reforms to draconian US drug policy, including medical marijuana, asset forfeiture reform, a "safety-valve" exemption to mandatory minimum sentencing, and repeal of a 1998 law that has delayed or denied financial aid eligibility to more than 150,000 would-be students.
BACKGROUND ON THE PERRY FUND:
DRCNet (Drug Reform Coordination Network) Foundation, in partnership with Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and other friends of civil liberties, has created the John W. Perry Fund to help students affected by the law stay in school. Though we can directly assist only a fraction of the 34,000 would-be students who've lost aid this year alone, we hope through this program to make a powerful statement that will build opposition to the law among the public and in Congress, and to let thousands of young people around the country know about the campaign to repeal it and the movement against the drug war as a whole.
Please join us on December 9 in Boston to thank Rep. Frank for his important work on this issue while raising money to help students stay in school! If you can't make it, you can also help by making a generous contribution to the DRCNet Foundation for the John W. Perry Fund. Checks should be made payable to DRCNet Foundation, with "scholarship fund" or "John W. Perry Fund" written in the memo or accompanying letter, and sent to: DRCNet Foundation, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. DRCNet Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity, and your contribution will be tax-deductible as provided by law. Please let us know if we may include your name in the list of contributors accompanying future publicity efforts.
ABOUT JOHN PERRY
John William Perry was a New York City police officer and Libertarian Party and ACLU activist who spoke out against the "war on drugs." He was also a lawyer, athlete, actor, linguist and humanitarian. On the morning of September 11, 2001, John Perry was at One Police Plaza in lower Manhattan filing retirement papers when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Without hesitation he went to help, losing his life rescuing others. We decided to dedicate this scholarship program, which addresses a drug war injustice, to his memory. John Perry's academic achievements are an inspiring example for students: He was fluent in several languages, graduated from NYU Law School and prosecuted NYPD misconduct cases for the department. His web site is http://www.johnwperry.com.
Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org for further information on DRCNet. Visit http://www.dpfma.org for further information on the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts. Contact the Perry Fund at [email protected] or (202) 362-0030 to request a scholarship application, get involved in the HEA Campaign or with other inquiries, or visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com and http://www.SSDP.org online.
In the three years since the US overthrew Afghanistan's Taliban regime in the wake of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Afghanistan has reemerged as the world's leading opium producer. Last year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the country was responsible for 73% of global opium production, and in new estimates released this week, the UNODC is predicting a 64% increase in production over last year.
But the Washington Post reported this week that after a summer-long review of the Afghan situation, the Bush administration has decided to try to break the back of the Afghan opium trade. According to the Post, the plan calls for greater eradication of poppy fields, alternative crops development, and increased law enforcement. While US troops will support the anti-drug effort, at the Pentagon's insistence they will not be directly involved in eradication, instead limiting their role to intelligence gathering, air support, and tightening security on the country's porous borders.
According to "officials" cited by the Post, the plan calls for shifting $700 million from other programs into Afghan anti-drug efforts next year. That compares with $123 million spent on similar efforts this year by the Pentagon and the State Department. That money will go to a special Afghan interdiction force to be trained by the British, as well as for other anti-drug police units. It will also help pay for a special task force of judges and prosecutors to handle drug prosecutions -- a task force that the Post reported will be set up inside the Pol-e-Charki prison on the outskirts of Kabul.
While US troop levels are not expected to increase (at least because of the anti-opium campaign), Doug Wankel, coordinator for anti-drug activity at the US Embassy in Kabul, told the Post the Drug Enforcement Administration plans to increase the number of its agents in country from eight to as many as 30.
Despite its drug war rhetoric, the Bush administration's primary concern is not the welfare of English or Russian junkies, but the prospect that money from Afghanistan's massive opium trade is finding its way into the pockets on anti-US insurgents and renegade warlords. The US military should go in aggressively, said one congressional drug warrior. "Short-term, in order to eradicate the poppy and eliminate the income for those shooting at American soldiers, the US military is going to have to provide protection to those doing eradication," Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who chairs a Government Reform subcommittee on drug policy told the Post. "There is no other option."
But while congressional drug warriors want the US military to be deeply involved in the effort, the military is not thrilled at the idea. Instead, they worry that going after the opium crop will only alienate Afghan peasants. "The last thing we want to do is have US forces running around the countryside doing this sort of thing," said Col. David Lamm, chief of staff for the US military command in Afghanistan. "That would change our relationship with the Afghan people, which right now is very positive," Lamm told the Post.
While the exact nature of the US military's relationship with the Afghan people may be open to debate, going after the Afghan drug trade now would indeed alter the relationship between them, according to experts consulted by DRCNet. "The problem is if we want to finish off Al Qaeda and the Taliban, we can't afford to antagonize those elements of Afghan society involved in growing drug crops or other aspects of the drug trade," said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian leaning Cato Institute (http://www.cato.org). "To do so would drive a significant portion of the population into the armies of the Islamic radicals because we are jeopardizing their livelihood," Carpenter told DRCNet.
"The UN has estimated that 264,000 Afghan families are involved in opium growing," Carpenter pointed out, "and if you consider the extended family and clan structure there, about six percent of the population is directly involved in opium growing. When you take into account the downstream activities of the Afghan drug trade, somewhere between 20% and 30% of the Afghan population is directly or indirectly involved. Asking the Afghan government to eradicate that trade is akin to asking the Japanese government to shut down its auto and steel industries. It would have a similar economic impact. No rational government would do that, yet that is what we are asking the Afghans to do."
Efforts to disrupt the Afghan drug trade will run up against market forces, said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project for the progressive Institute for Policy Studies (http://www.ips-dc.org). "Cultivation has increased markedly over last year," he told DRCNet, "and as a result, prices have fallen by two-thirds. Farmers who made about $600 last year -- doing quite well by Afghan standards -- this year will make only about $260. There is a glut on the market, prices are dropping, and now the US wants to start eradicating. What will happen? The supply will shrink, prices will go up, and guess what crop people will be planting more of?" said Tree.
American and Afghan authorities are damned if they do and damned if they don't, said Dr. Tom Goutierre, director of the Institute for Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, one of the leading Afghan studies programs in the US. "Clearly, embarking on a program like this will have an impact on the national economy, as well as individuals, families, and regions," he told DRCNet. "But to not do something now will be tantamount to encouraging the continuing expansion of the opium economy, and much of the challenge to the Karzai government is funded through this trade. If we want to assist the Karzai government in re-creating the Afghan state, we must recognize that the opium trade is at the root of the problem."
For Goutierre, the solution lies in alternative development. "There are alternatives to the opium economy," he said, "and I don't just mean alternative crops. I don't know if there is any crop that can create as much revenue as the opium poppy, but we can look at basic skills training programs so people can be weaned from the drug economy and the militias. And if we can get reconstruction going, people who have those basic skills will be able to find alternative employment," he suggested.
But, he warned, if not done right, the assault on opium could be a disaster. "This requires a kind of blitzkrieg approach," Goutierre said, "not just in suppression, but in the provision of alternatives. We must measure the needs for alternative development and begin that process rather quickly, rather than just destroying the plants. If we are not careful, we could end up creating a self-fulfilling doomsday prophecy."
That's precisely what Cato's Carpenter is worried about. "In this case, even if you support drug prohibition in general, the war on drugs is not something we can pursue if we want a rational, effective policy in Afghanistan," he said. "It will undermine everything else we're trying to achieve. The international supply side drug war is complete folly no matter where it is applied, but even if you don't accept that analysis, one ought to be aware that our top priority needs to be going after radical Islamic terrorists, not Afghan farmers," said Carpenter, who coincidentally published this week a Cato foreign policy paper called "How the Drug War in Afghanistan Undermines America's War on Terror" (http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=2607).
"This is not a good way to win hearts and minds," warned Tree, who has long experience monitoring the US effort to wipe out the Colombian coca and cocaine trade. There are many similarities between the two efforts, he said. But there is also one big difference: "In Colombia, it is primarily Colombian soldiers who take the heat. In Afghanistan, you have these well-fed, light-skinned soldiers from the US and Britain identified with destroying the livelihoods of these impoverished farmers. There are a lot of American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, and they will be targets."
There are not many people who can say they have the federal government's permission to smoke marijuana -- seven, to be precise -- but Florida stockbroker Irv Rosenfeld is one of them. This weekend will mark the 22nd anniversary of Rosenfeld's acceptance into the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Investigational New Drug (IND) program.
Like most people living with the disease, Rosenfeld originally treated it with a raft of opioid pain relievers and muscle relaxants. Never a social marijuana user, Rosenfeld tried pot in college in an effort to win friends, but what he found was that it worked wonders for his pain.
"I moved to Miami to go to college and moved into a complex with lots of students," Rosenfeld told DRCNet. "They always wanted to drink wine and smoke pot, but I always said no. I realized I wasn't making any friends and gave in to peer pressure and starting trying it. I smoked it and didn't notice anything, but about the tenth time I tried it, I noticed that I had been sitting and playing chess for half an hour. That was the first time in years I had been able to maintain a position for that long."
Somewhat skeptical of what he had experienced, Rosenfeld asked his doctor if there was any medical benefit. Like most medical professionals, Rosenfeld's doctor had no idea, but encouraged Rosenfeld, who comes from a medical family, to research it himself. From that point, Rosenfeld embarked on the years-long journey that eventually led to his becoming an official US government medical marijuana patient.
It wasn't an easy road, said Rosenfeld. "I found that prior to 1937, marijuana had a long history of medicinal use in the United States and, through trial and error, I found that it really was marijuana and not something else that was working for me. I wanted to be sure; after all, you don't want to believe an illegal drug is helping you. I called my doctor and said I wanted a prescription," the Florida stockbroker related. "He said he couldn't do that because it was illegal and I would have to win permission from the federal government."
Rosenfeld quit college and devoted himself full-time to getting federal approval for using medical marijuana. "It took me 10 years to get accepted," he said. "For the first five years, I wrote up my own scientific projects, but the FDA stonewalled me. But then I met Bob Randall, the first federally approved medical marijuana patient, and he convinced me to keep at it. We got the University of Virginia law school and medical school behind the effort, and after the law school threatened to sue the FDA, they gave me a 15-minute hearing."
Rosenfeld went in with no illusions that he would win FDA approval, but he was in for a surprise. "We were taping everything because we figured they would turn me down and we would go to court and sue. I gave my speech, I told them about how when I smoked marijuana it enhanced the effects of my opioid pain-reliever, and when I mentioned that, a visiting Venezuelan oncologist got up and said if marijuana might enhance the efficacy of opioids, that should be studied. At that point, everything changed. You could feel it in the room, you could see it on people's faces. My program was approved."
And ever since, Rosenfeld has been smoking as many as 12 joints a day of government-grade marijuana. "I feel great," he enthused. "I'm very fortunate," said Rosenfeld. I can take my medicine without having to worry about breaking the law. "Because of this medicine, I am a working member of society and a taxpayer," Rosenfeld said.
He is also in good health. At least, that's what a 2001 study of medical marijuana patients in the IND program found. Four of the seven official patients participated in the "Chronic Cannabis Use in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program Study" conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo in Missoula, Montana, that year. That study showed "very few adverse effects in the patients," said Russo in an interview last year. None showed signs of brain damage, immune system problems or hormone problems, Russo said. "The truth is cannabis is very effective for a wide variety of medical conditions including pain, spasms, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma," said Russo, who has been practicing for 20 years. "Irv's functioning has gotten better over time, not worse, as what you might expect in someone with his condition."
"Although Irv has had to smoke this stuff all these years, his lungs are just fine, or at least they were through 2001, when we studied him in Missoula" said Al Byrne of Patients Out of Time (http://www.medicalcannabis.org), a group with which Rosenfeld has worked for years and on whose board of directors he currently sits. "And the government propaganda mill says that if you smoke too much too long your brain shrivels up. All you have to do is look at Irv and the work he does and you can see that's bullshit," he told DRCNet. "These supposed adverse impacts of marijuana use are a longstanding claim of the government," said Byrne. "One of the reasons we formed Patients Out of Time in 1995 was to refute that government propaganda, one point at a time. That's why we entered into the Missoula study as well."
While Rosenfeld is one of the fortunate few who were accepted into the IND program before it was shut down by President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992, he remains committed to making medical marijuana available to whoever might benefit from it. "If we can change the law, marijuana could be used medicinally," he said. "The problem is that the government has not done any studies. The other side always says we need more research. My response is that they haven't wanted to research me for 22 years, but if they really want research, they need patients. Let's set up some compassionate care protocols in different medical centers, let each center have 50 patients each, and study it for three years. Then, if it is shown to be detrimental, we'll discontinue it. But if it is shown to be beneficial, the studies would not only continue but be enhanced and expanded."
It all sounds reasonable enough, but there is a problem. "The government really doesn't care about these sick people and it doesn't want to know if marijuana will help them," said Rosenfeld. "That's the problem."
special to Drug War Chronicle by Steve Beitler as part of an occasional series on sports and drugs
High school football coaches don't typically show much interest in the work of H. Lee Sweeney, who heads the department of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. But when Dr. Sweeney announced in 2003 that he and his colleagues had increased the muscle size of mice by up to 30 percent through genetic engineering, one coach contacted Sweeney. According to a Los Angeles Times report, the coach wanted to know if Sweeney could inject his entire team with the gene that had turned the rodents into "Schwarzenegger mice."
Welcome to the new frontier of better performance through biochemistry. While the sports world has been riveted by news of steroid users and innuendo about those who might be, the next wave of performance enhancement has been forming. "Gene doping" is shorthand for the growing ability of scientists to alter the genes and genetic activity of adults so that their cells behave differently from how they were programmed to at birth. This ability could have breathtaking implications for the treatment and prevention of disease as well as for the alteration of humanity's physical capabilities. "We're trying to work with muscular dystrophy," says Dr. Sweeney. "But we're drawing a road map for how the athlete of the future could obtain tremendous performance enhancement. We need to be aware of what's possible so people can start to look for it."
Like most aspects of genetic research, the science is at an extremely early stage, with hype outpacing results and many tough technical problems unresolved. But there is already awareness of how gene doping could transform the controversy over drugs in sports. This is because many forms of gene doping would bypass the bloodstream and urine and work their magic directly in muscles. This would make current drug tests irrelevant -- a nightmare for sports officials and organizations, who almost to a person are relying on testing as the solution to the problem of performance-enhancing drugs.
One example of how genetic enhancement could work involves a hormone produced by the body called insulin-like growth-factor 1, or IGF-1. This hormone stimulates the production of satellite cells, a type of stem cell found in muscles. When satellite cells join with normal muscle fiber, they help heal injuries or make the muscle larger. Sweeney and other researchers have demonstrated these effects in mice and rats; the San Diego Union Tribune reported that in one experiment, scientists injected the IGF-1 gene into one leg of middle-aged mice but not the other. When the mice reached their age that is equivalent to people in their 80's, their untreated legs had lost 25 percent of their strength, but the injected legs were as strong as ever. The potential implications for athletes, as well as 74 million baby boomers bent on defying the ravages of age, are enormous.
Genetic enhancement by athletes is "a challenge we take seriously," says Farnaz Khadem, director of communications for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The International Olympic Committee set up WADA in 1999 as an independent group chartered with ridding the Olympics, and the global circuit of elite track and field, cycling and other Olympic sports, of performance-enhancing drugs. WADA has organized conferences on gene doping, set up an advisory panel of experts, added gene doping to its list of banned activities and "has made education of athletes in general about doping one of the Agency's top priorities," Khadem reports.
These actions reflect current orthodoxy: Gene doping in sports is cheating, it has to be eradicated and the testing system that WADA oversees is the best hope for doing that. Some scientists and scholars are challenging this view. Dr. Andy Miah is lecturer in media, bioethics and cyberculture at the University of Paisely in the UK and the author of numerous papers and a new book on genetic modification and sports. He told Jonathan Thompson of the Independent (UK) that genetic modification "could be very positive for sport. The idea of a naturally perfect athlete is romantic nonsense. An athlete achieves what he or she achieves through all sorts of means -- technology, sponsorship, support and so on. Utilizing genetic modification is merely a continuation of the way sport works." Dr. Norman Fost, who directs the medical ethics program at the University of Wisconsin, told Bill Stiegerwald of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that "the problem with doping in sports is that it is illegal... it seems to me that they (steroids) are enhancing (baseball). I don't know if Barry Bonds is a steroid user. But if he is, he's the biggest draw in all of sports today. How is that ruining the game?" When asked if drug use undermines fair competition and the spirit of sport, Fost said, "Absolutely not. What destroys fair competition is unequal access to things that affect performance."
As these scholars and others understand, genetic enhancement raises difficult questions about the nature of human nature and the meaning of competitive sports. If history is any guide, the potential dangers and many unknowns of genetic enhancement won't deter elite athletes or weekend warriors from doping their genes to gain an edge. The guardians of purity in sport, burned by decades of abject failure, are marshaling their forces in an attempt to get out in front of what promises to be a daunting challenge. That challenge, and how it is met or not met, will help shape the climate in which the fight for broader drug policy reform takes place for years to come.
Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/354/sports.shtml to read Beitler's first "drugs and sports" installment for Drug War Chronicle.
One of Massachusetts' leading jurists spoke out Monday against the state's "drug free zone" law, saying that the two-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug possession near a school does not work, is discriminatory, and corrodes faith in the fairness of the criminal justice system. Judge Robert A. Mulligan, the chief justice for administration and management in the state's courts, told the Associated Press the "drug free zone" law overwhelmingly affected ethnic minorities.
The "drug free zone" law was passed with bipartisan support in 1989 at the behest of then Gov. Michael Dukakis (D). A state sentencing commission, of which Mulligan is a former long-time chair, has proposed eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, but so far no effort to enact the proposal has moved forward in the legislature.
The "drug free zone" law goes far beyond its stated purpose of protecting children, said Mulligan. "The purpose behind school zones is to keep drugs away from schools and that's a legitimate purpose," the jurist explained. "But school doesn't have to be in session, it can be at night, it can be during the summer. So it doesn't really achieve its goals."
Between the disproportionate impact on minorities and the harsh sentencing scheme embodied in the "drug free zone" laws, said Mulligan, the net effect is that "it really increases skepticism in the fairness of the system."
Mulligan's view won support from Leslie Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which represents prisoners. Mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders are a prime factor in rising prison costs, she said.
"It places nonviolent offenders in prison, causing further overcrowding," Walker said. "Those prisoners are ineligible for parole. They complete their entire sentence behind the wall, then they're released to the street without any support or supervision, causing a public safety crisis."
But the "drug free zone" laws still have their defenders. Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Gerry Stewart said the law was written broadly for a reason. "The law has a wide scope in its intent to protect children of all ages," he said.
A federal judge in Salt Lake City Tuesday sentenced budding rap music entrepreneur Weldon Angelos, 25, to 55 years in prison for minor marijuana sales to a police informant while armed, then complained that federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws made him do it. Earlier that day, the same judge in the same courtroom sentenced a man who had beaten an elderly women to death with a log to 22 years in prison.
Angelos would not have gotten such a stiff sentence if not for federal mandatory minimum laws. The marijuana retailer carried a pistol in an ankle holster while conducting his business, and although he was not accused of brandishing the weapon or threatening anyone with it, he was charged with three counts of possession of a firearm while engaged in drug trafficking. The first count carries a mandatory minimum five-year sentence, while each additional count carries a 25-year mandatory minimum.
"I have no choice," US District Court Judge Paul Cassell told Angelos, adding that he imposed the sentence "reluctantly." Angelos' attorneys should not only appeal his ruling, but should also appeal to President Bush for clemency, Cassell continued. Sending Angelos to prison until he is 70 is "unjust, cruel, and even irrational," Cassell added.
It was a case that weighed on Cassell, who in a September hearing, asked the opposing legal teams in the case: "Is there a rational basis for giving Mr. Angelos more time than the hijacker, the murderer, the rapist?"
Assistant US Attorney Robert Lund had no problem with the stiff sentence. Pot seller Angelos was "a purveyor of poison," Lund said, adding that the fact Angelos carried a gun meant he was "prepared to kill other human beings." Lund neglected to point out that Angelos had not killed other human beings or wounded them or threatened them. He also elided the fact that Angelos most probably carried a weapon not to kill other human beings but to protect himself while working in a profession where the law offers no protection.
"He might as well have killed someone," Angelos' wife Zandrah said bitterly as she sat in the courtroom with their two boys, aged five and seven. "He should have done worse than he did if he was going to get 55 years."
Judge Cassell should, one supposes, be given credit for speaking out against the insane cruelty of mandatory minimums in this particular case. But frankly, these judges who complain their hands are tied by mandatory minimums need to resist more effectively. Their "I was just following orders" judicial Nuremburg defense is beginning to wear thin.
Visit http://www.famm.org for much more information about mandatory minimum sentencing.
For the first time, the US Senate will consider a bill designed to protect medical marijuana patients. Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Jim Jeffords (I-VT) have introduced the "Truth in Trials Act," which would protect patients in states that have recognized medical marijuana from federal prosecution if they are in compliance with state law.
The bill, S. 2989, is similar to H.R. 1717, the "Truth in Trials Act," that was introduced by a bipartisan coalition in the House last year. That bill was inspired in part by the prosecution of Ed Rosenthal, who was found guilty in federal court of marijuana cultivation after jurors were not allowed to hear evidence that he was working with local authorities and that the marijuana was for medical use.
Notably, two of the Senate bill's three sponsors are from Vermont, which in May became the ninth state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/338/vt.shtml). Since then, one more state, Montana, has joined the roster.
"This is a narrowly-tailored bill," said Sen. Durbin in a statement introducing the measure. "Under this legislation, defendants in the ten states with medicinal marijuana laws could be found not guilty of violating federal law if their actions are done in compliance with state law."
Currently, medical marijuana growers or users charged under federal law are barred from raising the issue in their defense. This bill would change that by allowing defendants to present evidence their involvement with marijuana was for medical reasons and in accord with state laws.
"As it stands today, federal law denies medical marijuana defendants a basic right that every other defendant has, the right to explain what they did to the jury," said Robert Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (http://www.mpp.org), in a statement greeting the bill's introduction. "If you shoot someone, you are allowed to explain why you did it, but if you're a disabled patient growing marijuana to relieve your pain and suffering, you can't. Jurors who could imprison someone for decades have a right to hear the whole truth, not a censored version that is stripped of facts the federal government doesn't like."
Read the bill, S. 2989, online by going to http://thomas.loc.gov and typing in the bill number.
In a unanimous decision, the Missouri court threw out the conviction of Jose Granado, who was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation in Pemiscot County. The trooper issued a warning ticket and told Granado he was free to go, but then asked for permission to search the vehicle. When Granado refused to waive his constitutional rights, the trooper detained him until a drug dog could arrive. Anecdotal evidence suggests this practice is increasingly common. The drug dog alerted, and troopers found 26 pounds of marijuana. Based on the seized pot, Granado was charged and convicted of possession with intent to distribute.
But the Missouri Supreme Court said that the trooper violated the Fourth Amendment by engaging in an unwarranted detention and search. "The fact that police may detain a person for a routine traffic stop does not justify indefinite detention," the unsigned opinion said. "The detention may only last for the time necessary for the officer to conduct a reasonable investigation of the traffic violation."
Click here to tead the opinion in Missouri v. Granado online.
A study authored by one of Kentucky's most respected and influential law professors finds the state's prison population has exploded by 600% since 1970 and says the growth will continue unless the legislature changes "irrational" penalties enacted by earlier lawmakers. The study points at drug sentences and a tough habitual offender law as the primary culprits.
The study, "Difficult Times in Kentucky Corrections -- Aftershocks of a 'Tough on Crime' Philosophy," is not yet published, but a copy was made available to the Associated Press. It was authored by University of Kentucky law professor Robert Lawson, who not only wrote the state's current penal code in 1975 and drafted its rules of criminal evidence, but also instructed many members of the current Kentucky legislature in their law school days.
"If they don't listen to him, they are not going to listen to anybody," state Parole Board Chairman John Coy told the AP.
According to the study, which is based on statistics compiled by state agencies, the Kentucky's corrections budget has increased from $7 million to more than $300 million in that period. The trend not only threatens to bankrupt the state, the report said, but also threatens to create a permanent underclass.
In 1970, Kentucky held 2,838 prisoners; by last year, that number had risen to 17,330. The number of people serving sentences as "persistent offenders," or those sentenced under two- and three-strikes laws, increased from 79 in 1980 to 4,187 last year.
"We have demonized criminals en masse, lost sight of the importance of distinguishing between dangerous... and non-dangerous offenders, and laid a foundation for a new citizen underclass made up of parolees, ex-convicts and their families," the report said.
Under Kentucky law, people can be charged as "persistent offenders" even for nonviolent felonies, such as drug possession. State law also increases the felony level for a second drug offense. In his report, Lawson called both measures "brutally harsh" and recommended reforming them if the state wants to get a handle on its prison population.
The laws are not only costly and ineffective, wrote Lawson, they are immoral. "The three strikes law permits and sometimes even requires punishment that is morally indefensible... and that works to warehouse for extended periods offenders who are unlikely to inflict serious harm on the public," the report said.
The Lawson report will only add momentum to efforts to reform the state's sentencing laws. In August, the Kentucky Drug Summit report, the end of a months-long effort to achieve a more rational drug policy, called for a reduced emphasis on incarceration of drug offenders. That report was embraced by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and his Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, the state's justice secretary (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/352/kentucky.shtml). Pence this week told the AP he agreed with much of Lawson's report. "We cannot incarcerate our way out of the drug problem; we need to sentence drug offenders in a smart way," said Pence.
But despite calls for reform, significant political opposition remains. "The way you get elected is by being tougher on crime, not softer on crime," Lawson told the AP. "It'll be difficult to turn the tide here against what I believe is excessive use of imprisonment."
A New Mexico-based branch of a Brazilian church that uses an Amazonian psychedelic in its ceremonies has for the third time fended off the federal government's attempt to ban the practice in the United States. In a November 10 ruling, the full US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver affirmed a ruling by a three-judge panel of the same court last year upholding a US district court decision granting a preliminary injunction barring the government from interfering in the religious use of the drug.
The ruling came in a case that originated in 1999, when US Customs agents raided the US headquarters of the Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV -- Union of the Vegetable) in Santa Fe and seized 30 gallons of ayahuasca, a tea brewed from two plants found only in the Amazon. The government argued that because the preparation contained naturally occurring traces of the powerful psychedelic DMT, ayahuasca is a drug regulated by the Controlled Substances Act.
Customs picked on the wrong people. The US branch of the UDV is headed by Jeffrey Bronfman, heir to the Seagram's whiskey fortune, who promptly sued for relief, claiming violations of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Every court that has heard the case has now agreed that, like peyote use in the Native American Church, the sacramental use of ayahuasca by the UDV is protected by the act.
Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government must show a compelling interest in interfering with a religious practice. In the case of substances used for religious purposes, the government must also show that the practice is risky to the health of participants and that it would lead to substantial leakage of the drug use into non-protected groups (i.e. just regular people). As US District Court Judge James Parker found in his initial ruling in favor of the UDV, "the Government has not shown that applying the [Controlled Substance Act's] CSA's prohibition on DMT to the UDV's use of hoasca furthers a compelling interest. This Court cannot find, based on the evidence presented by the parties, that the government has proven that hoasca poses a serious health risk to members of the UDV who drink the tea in a ceremonial setting. Further, the Government has not shown that permitting members of the UDV to consume hoasca would lead to significant diversion of the substance to non-religious use."
In its decision last week, the 10th Circuit reaffirmed that finding and upheld the issuance of a preliminary injunction barring the federal government from interfering. While this ruling merely affirms the two previous rulings, there is a significant difference: Now, the UDV will actually be able to start doing its ayahuasca ceremonies again. According to an e-mail from Bronfman to supporters, that could happen as soon as Thanksgiving.
"The District Court's order requires the DEA register our church as a legal importer and distributor of our sacrament, before we begin holding our ceremonies. Up until now they have not done this pending the outcome of their appeal," wrote Bronfman. "Although it is still possible that the Solicitor General and the Justice Department may now ask the United States Supreme Court to rehear their case, that is the last recourse they have left. We are hopeful now that three different courts have all reviewed the evidence and testimony (and all have reached the same conclusion in our favor) that the Supreme Court will allow this preliminary ruling to stand."
Read the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling at http://pacer.ca10.uscourts.gov/pdf/02-2323.pdf online.
We missed a week last week, but that doesn't mean all the prohibition-related corruption suddenly vanished. It didn't. The beat goes on, and this week we feature one especially sordid, if small-time case, as well as one more typical corruption case.
The sleazy stuff first: Hughes County, Oklahoma, Deputy Sheriff Michael Allen Carter was arrested by fellow deputies November 8 after a trio of teenage boys went to the sheriff complaining that Carter invited them to his home, plied them with beer, offered them methamphetamine, and then "sexually touched" one of the boys. He was arrested on charges of sexual battery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and distributing methamphetamine.
Carter, who was in charge of the department's drug dogs, told one deputy he had meth in the trunk of his patrol car from an earlier case and had meant to turn it in to the state crime lab to be destroyed. He also admitted removing one boy's pants but claimed he couldn't remember any other contact.
Carter is free on bail pending a court appearance scheduled for this week, the newspaper the Oklahoman reported.
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the south, US Customs inspector Lisandro Martinez, 43, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he took bribes to look the other way when trucks carrying loads of marijuana crossed the international bridge from Reynosa, Mexico, to McAllen, Texas. According to federal prosecutors in Houston, Martinez was one of eight people arrested in a year-long marijuana smuggling investigation.
Martinez allegedly allowed at least seven trucks carrying hundreds of pounds of marijuana each to enter the US unimpeded in return for cash payments. He is charged with conspiracy to import and possess with the intent to distribute several thousand pounds of marijuana and faces up to life in prison.
November 19, 1993: A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) helicopter crashes in a heavily wooded area 15 miles south of St. Louis, Missouri, while conducting surveillance of suspected drug activity, killing a St. Louis police officer and critically injuring the pilot.
November 19, 1993: Former West Vancouver (Canada) school superintendent Ed Carlin is furious with North Vancouver Royal Canadian Mounted Police after an emergency response team searching for drugs and guns raids a basement rental suite occupied by his son and three others. Red-faced police take down the four young men at gunpoint and find Nintendo controllers but no contraband.
November 20, 2002: Irvin Rosenfeld marks his twentieth anniversary of receiving a monthly tin of about 300 pre-rolled medical marijuana cigarettes from the United States government, as one of seven living patients grandfathered into the now defunct Compassionate Investigative New Drug Program.
November 21, 1987: Jorge Ochoa is arrested in Colombia, leading to drug traffickers under the name "The Extraditables" threatening to execute Colombian political leaders if he is extradited. Ochoa is released on December 30. The Extraditables claim responsibility for the murder of attorney general Carlos Mauro Hoyos the next month.
November 22, 1975: Colombian police seize 600 kilos of cocaine from a small plane at the Cali airport, leading to the "Medellin Massacre," in which 40 people are killed in one weekend.
November 25, 1992: Benson B. Roe, physician and professor emeritus of surgery at the University of California at San Francisco, states: "The propaganda that illegal drugs are 'deadly poisons' is a hoax. There is little or no medical evidence of long-term ill effects from moderate consumption of uncontaminated marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. If these substances, which have been consumed in enormous quantities for decades, were responsible for any chronic, progressive or disabling diseases, they certainly would have shown up in clinical practice and/or on the autopsy table. But they simply have not!"
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].
DrugWarMarket.com, 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.
DrugWarMarket.com is also seeking information on local drug economies -- if you have information on local law enforcement spending in relationship to the drug war, DrugWarMarket.com would like to know about it! Additionally, DrugWarMarket.com 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 DrugWarMarket.com at [email protected].
November 18-21, College Park, MD, Students for Sensible Drug Policy national conference, visit http://www.ssdp.org for further information.
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 http://www.ornorml.org 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 http://www.anypositivechange.org 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 http://www.AmericanPainInstitute.org 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 http://www.medicalcannabis.com for updates.
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