Media Racial Profiling
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search

Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #366 , 12/10/04

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

subscribe for FREE now! ---- make a donation ---- search

Dr. Hurwitz's fate is in the jury's hands.
Table of Contents
    Dozens of drug reformers, educators, and concerned citizens with crowded into the Omni Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston Thursday evening to support a scholarship fund for students losing federal financial aid for college because of drug convictions.
    At age 34, DPFMA head Whitney Taylor is already a tested veteran of the good fight. Today she shares her past and recent experiences with Drug War Chronicle.
    After years of inaction, the New York state Rockefeller drug law reform logjam broke this week. But drug reformers and their allies are less than satisfied because the sentencing bill failed to address what they have identified as the failure to address their key concerns.
    The trial of Northern Virginia pain management specialist Dr. William Hurwitz wound to an end this week, and Hurwitz' is now in the hands of a federal jury. Federal prosecutors are seeking to send the nationally known doctor to prison for life.
    Leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) is at it again, this time with a bill to have the federal health bureaucracy do a report and publicity on marijuana's harms but not its benefits. Medical marijuana supporter Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) has responded.
    On December 10, 2003, the unarmed Kenneth Walker was killed by two shots to the head after being pulled out a vehicle drug agents mistakenly thought was that of a Florida drug dealer. On November 23 a Georgia grand jury refused to indict former Deputy David Glisson for the killing.
    When Arizona police conducted a pre-dawn raid on a Hell's Angel's clubhouse in Phoenix in July 2003, they knocked at the door, waited six seconds, then tossed a "diversionary" grenade and broke a window at the back of the building. The judge has called it an "attack that violated search and seizure laws, and has thrown out the evidence.
    Either all the bad apples have gone good or the corrupt cops have gotten smarter. This week, for the first time in memory, we suffer a shortage of corrupt cop stories, and the one story we do have barely rises to the level of corruption -- it's more like sheer orneriness and vengeance.
    Frustrated by the Peruvian government's unwillingness or inability to address their grievances over forced coca eradication, Peruvian coca grower organizations were on the move this week.
    Medical marijuana really is legal in Hawaii, and police on the Big Island have found that out the hard way.
    Under a law that was passed in April and went into effect November 1st, the weirdly psychoactive member of the datura family known folklorically for making sheep crazy, is now considered a "synthetic controlled substance," with punishments of up to a year in jail for possession to up to life in prison for distribution.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    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 for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. The Perry Fund and DRCNet Go to Boston /boston.shtml

Photos from this event will be posted on our web site this weekend. Video will be available in the near future.

Dozens of drug reformers, educators, and concerned citizens with checkbooks in hand crowded into the Omni Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston Thursday evening to donate money to provide scholarships for college students denied federal financial aid because they have a drug conviction -- no matter how minor. While the John W. Perry Fund ( has been in existence for 2 1/2 years and has already helped 10 students survive the loss of financial aid, Thursday's Boston fundraiser is the first in what organizers hope will be a series of events designed to kick the Perry Fund's largesse -- and profile -- up to the next level.

The fund, named after New York City policeman and libertarian John Perry, who perished at the World Trade Center during the 2001 attacks, is a direct response to the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision. Authored by self-described evangelical Christian Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the provision bars students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid for specified periods of time. Under pressure from a broad coalition to repeal the measure because of its deleterious impact on the educational careers of affected students, Rep. Souder has taken since the law's passage to insisting that he only meant for the provision to apply to students who are currently receiving financial aid and has offered a legislative "fix" that would change the law's language to make that the case.

But Souder's "fix" does not go nearly far enough for the Coalition for Higher Education Reform (CHEAR), an umbrella coalition of civil rights, education, drug policy reform, recovery groups and others (, or for DRCNet and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts, the groups who sponsored the Thursday evening fundraiser. As Patricia Perry, John Perry's mother, expressed in a written statement read by DRCNet associate director David Guard, "As much as I am pleased by the recognition of my son, I join with you in support of the dissolution of this Fund when Section 484 is rescinded." And as DRCNet ( executive director Dave Borden noted in his introductory remarks, "All these people, who have already been punished once by the criminal justice system, are suffering additional hardships, even being forced to drop out or not start school at all, because their convictions continue to follow them."

Not just a second time, said Yakov Kronrod, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute grad student whose academic career took a big hit after he got busted. After detailing an impressive raft of achievements to his name, Kronrod described to the rapt audience, "After my arrest, I went to trial and got probation, I got my car taken by the state, I got my drivers' licence taken by the DMV, and I got thrown out of school. "And I couldn't get federal aid, either."

Though one prominent speaker had to cancel -- Chuck Turner, a Boston city councilman who was kept away by a last minute council vote -- Thursday's event was both star-studded and spirited, and the message that the HEA anti-drug provision must be repealed and that the Perry Fund should be supported and expanded came through loud and clear. Following a rousing introduction by state Rep. Byron Rushing, a well known legislator who led progressive opposition within the state's Democratic Party to policies of the former Democratic House Speaker, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) took the stage to deliver a humorous yet passionate keynote address. Frank said repeal could be achieved, even in a Republican-controlled Congress, if his bill to do just that could actually get to the floor. "This issue is ripe," he said. "My colleagues in Congress are ready to move on this and other issues," he said. Also addressing larger national drug policy, Frank noted, "The damage done by this mindless assault on drug users is a terrible, terrible problem."

And it doesn't stop there, Frank said, pointing to huge numbers of disenfranchised minority voters. "The most significant factor in the disenfranchisement of African-Americans is the drug laws and the racially discriminatory way they are enforced," he argued.

There are numerous issues where Congress is just plain wrong, Frank told the crowd. "We have to keep after them, we have to provide them with the courage of their convictions," he said.

Prominent author and essayist Wendy Kaminer, who is also an attorney who serves on the board of the ACLU of Massachusetts (, was among a number of other speakers addressing an attentive crowd. "I don't know if I should say this, but I'm a former drug user myself, said Kaminer to appreciative chuckles from the crowd. "There is an easy way to reduce crime, and that is by reducing the number of activities that are criminalized, beginning with drug use," Kaminer argued.

It's going to take more than reasoned argument to do that, she suggested. "A public information campaign is necessary but not sufficient. What we are up against is not a reasoned criminal justice policy but an anti-vice crusade."

Also present and addressing the audience was Massachusetts drug reformer Joe White of Change the Climate (, who related how his group last week won a long legal battle with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority over placement of its marijuana law reform ads on MBTA property. Honesty in drug policy is key, said White. "My son asked me, 'Dad, why do adults always lie to us about marijuana?'"

Students, the group directly targeted by the HEA anti-drug provision, were also in the house. "We're here tonight because higher education has been hold hostage by the war on drugs," said Scarlett Swerdlow, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( "Congress thought it was acceptable to deprive 150,000 thousand students of educational opportunity. We don't think it's acceptable. We're the D.A.R.E. generation, and we say not in our name," she said to loud applause.

If students feel the impact of the HEA anti-drug provision, so do student financial aid administrators. "This is one of the most difficult aid provisions to explain" why it exists, lamented Bernie Pekala, a member of Boston College's financial aid team and chair of the government relations committee of the Massachusetts Association of Financial Aid Administrators -- the organization which first pointed the law out to Rep. Frank, and which has called for the outright repeal of the law. "We want repeal, and the national organization wants repeal as well. This law just does not make sense."

And prevention was there too, in the form of Roberta Leis, program director of Join Together, a national organization based within Boston University, which co-convened with the American Bar Association a blue ribbon panel on discrimination against people in recovery. Repeal of the HEA drug provision figured prominently in the recommendations, and Leis' remarks expressed strong enthusiasm for continued HEA reform efforts.

Also addressing the event was Judge Robert Ziemian, a prominent Massachusetts jurist who was careful to say that state rules disallowed him from taking any position of political or legislative issues. Nevertheless, Ziemian's remarks clearly reflected a belief in policies that help people with drug problems rather than hurt them.

And while not every deserving activist or organization was on the program, that didn't prevent them from coming out to show support and be part of the night. Just a few of the luminaries in attendance were Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Bill Downing of MassCann/NORML (whose membership made up a big chunk of the night's attendees), and Cliff Thornton of the Hartford, Connecticut, based group Efficacy.

The evening's immediate proceeds came to about a thousand dollars, according to Borden, who added, "Often the real return comes in later. For example, we've been told that at least one $500 donation is likely. Our NYC fundraiser 2 1/2 years ago -- where there were many friends of John Perry -- brought in about $2,000 at the door but several thousand dollars in all."

But fundraising was not the only motivation for the event, Borden added. "There were media in attendance, and while won't know for a couple of days how much coverage we will get, that's the idea." Borden continued, "The event also served as a 'coming out party' for our local host organization, the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts (, and a way to get people in the area excited and eager to be involved." (See this week's interview with DPFMA executive director Whitney Taylor, who emceed last night's event.) "We've established and deepened relationships that will advance many aspects of DRCNet's work and of the collective drug reform effort for the long run," Borden said.

return to table of contents

2. DRCNet Interview: Whitney Taylor, Executive Director, Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts /whitneytaylor.shtml

At age 34, DPFMA head Whitney Taylor is already a tested veteran of the good fight. While still working on a public policy Masters degree at American University -- where one of her professors was Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) founder Arnold Trebach -- in 1991 Taylor began working with Marylanders for Drug Reform, where she helped defeat a "smoke a joint, lose your license" bill. She went on to a several year stint at DPF, where she did everything from coordinating conferences to running an international network of cities on drug policy to working major donors to editing the DPF newsletter. In 1999, Taylor headed west to become organizing director for the successful California Proposition 36 campaign, and then was, as she puts it, "traded to the Drug Policy Alliance," two years later to direct DPA's Prop. 36 watchdog project. Taylor came back east this year, taking the reins at the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts ( in March.

Drug War Chronicle caught up with Taylor to find out just what sort of drug policy reform is brewing these days in the Bay State.

Drug War Chronicle: In the last three elections, non-binding questions asking whether voters in selected legislative districts favor medical marijuana, marijuana decriminalization, and in one case, taxation and regulation of marijuana, have won in every district where they have been on the ballot. Where is this effort going to lead?

Whitney Taylor: These non-binding questions are basically the world's best poll. In 2000 and 2002, they were pretty much just to see how the public felt, and, as usual, the public was way ahead of the politicians. But this year, we really looked for the first time in an organized way at which legislative committees would handle such bills and who was really for or against us. So, this year we went to the districts of representatives and senators who blocked those bills in committee. We did a medical marijuana bill in Senate Health Care Committee chair Sen. Moore's district, because he was the one blocking movement on medical marijuana. We also targeted Sen. Thomas McGee, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, as well as other representatives who sit on those committees.

Also this year, I went to four different districts in October and did community forums with expert speakers from within the community. The point was not only to educate citizens but also to get the press interested so it would amplify that educational message. And that worked. We really got good press coverage; we got a series of editorials in the community papers basically telling the representatives to shut up and listen to the voters. This is part of a strategic plan this year. As in all nonprofits, our resources are limited, but I hired a wonderful lobbyist, Mary Ann Walsh, to push this on Beacon Hill.

The way Massachusetts works, bills for the forthcoming two-year session had to be filed by this month, so I have already written the medical marijuana bill, it has sponsors, and it has been filed. It basically says a person with a written note from his doctor can use that note to avoid arrest and prosecution. If a patient has a condition the doctor thinks will be helped by medical marijuana, the doctor provides the note. If a police officer finds a person with marijuana and that person has a note, the officer can choose not to arrest him. If the cop isn't sure, he can arrest that person, but the note could be used to avoid charges. There is no state registry, no state oversight -- we have budget problems here, and we wanted to avoid anything that might cost the state money. We have good quantity limits: four ounces or 10 plants, and we allow for a caregiver to be appointed with the full protection of the law.

I know Sen. Moore, the health committee chair, does not like medical marijuana despite voters in his district telling him they want it, so I wrote this bill so it would instead be sent to the criminal justice committee. Because a medical marijuana policy question passed in his district, Sen. McGee, the committee head, is now a lead sponsor. The session starts January 3, so we have a couple of weeks to get more cosponsors. We also will have a new speaker of the House, Salvatore DiMasi, who is a former criminal defense attorney and much more understanding and sympathetic toward drug policy reform than his predecessor, Thomas Finneran. Under Finneran, nothing moved. We never got any hearings or committee votes because the committee chairs did not want to get on his wrong side. There hasn't been a single drug policy reform bill that even made it out of committee since the 1990s. With DiMasi coming in, there is going to be a big change in the way the House works. He got elected on that whole "we're going to change things" deal.

Chronicle: What about a pot decriminalization bill?

Taylor: I wrote a dream decrim bill with help from others, especially Steve Epstein and John Holmes from MassCann ( Sen. Charlie Shannon, an ex-cop, is our Senate sponsor, and we also have a sponsor in the House. While it could change in the process, the bill as written has a two-ounce limit with a $100 maximum fine. For people with more than two ounces, there is a provision allowing judges to charge it as a civil infraction if he decides there was no intent to distribute. There has been some disagreement among activists about the citation provision. If we want decriminalization, we need pot smokers to be responsible. People can request a court hearing if they wish, but if they don't show up or don't pay the fine, the bill provides that their drivers' licenses can be suspended. My past experience has taught me that legislators always want to know "where's the teeth"? My advice to someone caught under this bill is simple: Pay the $100.

Chronicle: MassCann, the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition, a NORML affiliate, has been working for pot law reform in the state for years. Where does MassCann fit into all this?

Taylor: DPFMA was created in 2001 by several MassCann members who wanted to try a broader approach, and we coordinated with MassCann on this marijuana stuff. These policy questions were more of a MassCann thing in 2000 and 2002, but this year, of the 12 questions on the ballot, MassCann put on three, while we put on nine. We make an effort to work with them, and in fact, we coordinated the questions campaign with them. There are conflicts and growing pains, but as the director of this organization, I know what my mission is. With the legislation, I was told as long as certain sections were in there, everyone would be happy. Well, I had to make certain decisions, and not everyone is happy. But that is my job. I'm always willing to be inclusive, but there comes a point when a decision has to be made.

Chronicle: Your legislative package also includes a bill that would divert some drug offenders into treatment. What are you proposing and what are its prospects?

Taylor: Massachusetts has a law allowing judges to send people to treatment at their discretion. I've rewritten that law as our diversion bill, and we'll try to sell it as a "fix it" bill. We already have a diversion law -- this bill would just fix it. What this new bill does is allow anyone who comes into court on certain defined charges to ask to be assessed for addiction and ask for treatment. This is not at the judge's discretion, and it's not judges having to quarrel with DAs. People don't have to go to treatment if they don't want to. Many people would probably prefer 30 days in jail and two years probation. Under this bill, they could do that if they wanted. Also, drug treatment has to be directly linked to someone being assessed as addicted. If someone is a recreational user and doesn't want a felony record, they can be assessed and sent not to treatment but to an educational class. And as I said, people can also choose just to take the conviction. I don't want to force people into treatment who don't want it, but I also want to give people a chance to avoid a felony conviction, and I want treatment available for those who want and need it.

Chronicle: There is a significant chunk of the drug reform community that wants nothing to do with "treatment not jail" schemes, viewing them as perverting medicine or expanding the reach of state surveillance and control, or both. What do you say to people who hold such views?

Taylor: Having worked through Proposition 36 in California, and then worked on its implementation, I've seen the folks who get in these programs, I've spoken to hundreds of them at graduations. These are not recreational users, but tired hardcore drug addicts who have no other access to services. Proposition 36 kept more than 30,000 people out of prison in the first year. I've had this discussion about incrementalism vs. absolutism with many reformers over the years, and I truly believe the positives outweigh the negatives. For the past six years, I've been working within the political process, and while I've seen how disgusting it is, I've decided to work within the system to get it changed. Here in Massachusetts, we are 18% people of color, but when you get into mandatory enhanced sentences for drug possession in a school zone, over 70% are people of color. If this bill helps one person avoid prison and get treatment, it's worth it.

Chronicle: You've also been involved in some activism around needle access. What's up with that?

Taylor: I'm also the director of the New England Prevention Alliance. NEPA is a direct service organization; we do illegal needle exchanges because Massachusetts is one of only two states that still has limited syringe access. With recent actions by Gov. Schwarzenegger in California and former Gov. McGreevey in New Jersey, that leaves only Massachusetts and Delaware. One of the most interesting things about NEPA is that I have monthly meetings with my staff to hear about what's happening on the street, so I really do have my finger on the pulse of who is in need of service. We have an epidemic of people in the southeast part of the state shooting crack, and because of the nature of the drug, they inject much more frequently than, say, injection heroin users.

With NEPA, we did another action in response to World Aids day where folks from NEPA went out and distributed in four communities where needle exchanges are illegal, Brockton, Lowell, Lynn, and Worcester. The problem is that people in Massachusetts don't understand that the AIDS problem isn't just in Africa, it's right here on the street. We need to mind our own backyard. We have a lot of poor people of color addicted, and the rate of HIV infection traceable to dirty needles is outrageous. According to the state health department, 33% of AIDS cases are attributable to injection drug use. In Lowell, it's 46%; in Worcester, it's 59%.

Chronicle: So is there any action on the legislative front on syringe access?

Taylor: There is a needle exchange bill, but for DPFMA, that is in our second tier. We aren't the chief sponsor or main advocacy group, but we are helping our partners, like the AIDS Action Committee, which is working on it. The needle exchange bill was introduced at the request of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. Under current law, local communities decide whether to have needle exchanges, and it's a difficult thing to get done. People just don't understand the morality of giving needles to drug users. But Boston did it, and Mayor Menino understands. The bill would basically allow people to buy syringes at the pharmacy, which means needle exchanges would be legal because you don't need a prescription to possess.

Chronicle: What about organizing those communities?

Taylor: We are trying to get something called Communities of Color off the ground. One of the big problems we have in drug policy reform is that we don't have an organized or vocal constituency to back us up when we ask for a change in policy. We hope to hire a coordinator for this; right now, I'm doing it myself, so it doesn't get enough attention. We want to do outreach to service providers in communities of color and tell them about legislation out there to increase services, to divert people into treatment. We could train them as well as their clients to be a voice for reform.

As I said, the ultimate goal is to hire a coordinator for this, but we have funding problems. This person could organize training sessions -- how to speak, how to make the media work for you. Then, when we do try to do drug policy reform, when we have hearings, we will actually have voices from the community speaking for change. The state is not providing what is needed in terms of drug treatment services, and all these little nonprofit service providers can barely worry past tomorrow, but if we had a coordinator, we could coordinate those organizations so they can collectively go after the funding and get the bigger kinds of grants.

Chronicle: It sounds like you're a pretty busy woman. Yet you're taking time out to help DRCNet and the Coalition for HEA Reform put on a fundraiser this week in Boston. Why is the Perry Fund worth your time?

Taylor: The Perry Fund is so important! It's not only about the 34,000 kids who lost an opportunity to get financial aid and go to school this year, but this HEA anti-drug provision is one of those things that blurs the "us vs. them" line the drug warriors love to draw. You know, those drug users, they're the dregs of society. But when you look at kids going to school and losing financial aid, people think, "My kid probably smoked that stuff once or twice; I wouldn't want him to lose his aid over a joint." Everyone and anyone can understand this issue. I want the drug policy reform community in Massachusetts to know that DPFMA is about more than marijuana. There is a public policy community here that needs to know about the HEA and how it affects kids in our state.

return to table of contents

3. New York Legislators Cut Some Rockefeller Sentences, But Real Reform Remains Elusive /asmallstart.shtml

After years of inaction, the New York state Rockefeller drug law reform logjam broke this week. In a last minute move on the legislative session's last day, both the state Assembly and Senate passed a compromise bill that would reduce sentences for some Empire State drug offenders. But drug reformers and their allies are less than satisfied because the sentencing bill failed to address what they have identified as key concerns: the return of judicial discretion in sentencing and a means of diverting drug offenders from prison into treatment.

Under the Rockefeller laws passed in the early 1970s, more than one hundred thousand New Yorkers have been imprisoned on drug charges, many with draconian 15-year-to-life sentences. The Rockefellers laws created a harsh mandatory minimum sentencing template which has since spread across the country, contributing to the immense number of people imprisoned in the United States.

The bill was the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations between Republican Gov. George Pataki, Republican Senate leaders, Democratic Assembly leaders, and drug reformers working with Real Reform 2004 (, an umbrella coalition of more than 300 groups, said Michael Blain, director of public policy for the Drug Policy Alliance (, a key Real Reform organizer. "The deal came down because we did a deal for the sentencing grid in exchange for not adding any enhancements, which was a key element for us," he told DRCNet. "Governor Pataki tried to weigh in at the end and introduce a three-strikes amendment, which would sent a third-time drug possession offender to prison for life without parole. We walked out of the room at that point. The next morning they came back and said they would take that off the table."

But also off the table for this deal were any measures to restore judicial discretion or allow diversion to treatment, both of which were bitterly opposed by the state's powerful prosecutors. Under the current system, prosecutors -- not judges -- wield real power when it comes to sentencing because with mandatory sentencing schemes like the Rockefeller laws, the sentence is essentially set when the defendant is charged, assuming a jury votes to convict or the defendant agrees to a plea bargain.

Still, the bill passed in Albany and expected to be signed by Gov. Pataki this week will bring relief to thousands of people imprisoned or who will be imprisoned under New York's drug laws. The bill both reduces sentences for some drug offenders and increases the quantity thresholds required to kick in tougher sentences. Under the Rockefeller laws, Class A-1 felons faced 15-to-life; now they will face 8-to-20. Weight thresholds for heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs have doubled from four ounces to eight ounces to trigger a Class A-1 charge and two ounces to four ounces to trigger a Class A-II charge.

The bill also provides for persons currently serving the longest sentences to ask for court hearings to seek sentence reductions in line with the new sentences. That means some people will actually walk out of prison early. But it also means thousands of lesser Class B offenders will not.

People involved in the Rockefeller reform effort had uniformly mixed feelings. "We believe that it is half a step in the right direction," said DPA's Blain, who was involved in the negotiations. "It is a phase I victory for real reform of the Rockefeller laws, which must include judicial discretion, full retroactivity, and drug treatment. While this is a first victory, it only addressed sentence reduction."

Tony Papa spent years doing Rockefeller time before he parlayed his newly-discovered artistic ability into a publicity campaign that eventually won him clemency and freedom. "I am jubilant that some change will occur freeing some prisoners who served lengthy sentences and reuniting them with their families," he told DRCNet. "But the changes are watered down reform and the struggle to change the power structure of the Rockefeller laws must continue. We have to give back to judges the discretion to arrive at a fair and balanced determination of drug sentences."

In a statement titled "False Drug War Victory in NYS," written from Brazil," Papa discussed the legislation in greater depth. "I thought this was not another 'selling of a dream' by the governor and the NYS legislature..." he wrote, but "As I continued to check the news I was appalled by what I saw." Papa quoted a statement by former federal housing secretary Andrew Cuomo, published in the 12/9 Newsday, saying Cuomo "had it right" when he said it is too late for legislators in Albany to use this week's 'half-a-loaf' reform bill as political cover. 'This is their attempt to alleviate the pressure. It's not going to work. The pressure is for Rockefeller reform and that's not what this is. This is not judicial (sentencing) discretion. This is not significantly reducing the burdensome length of punishment... This is simply not what we've been working for all these years.'"

Along with Papa, Randy Credico of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice ( has spent years working the trenches for Rockefeller Reform through groups like the New York Mothers of the Disappeared. "I'm happy for some people," he told DRCNet, "but when the dust settles, people will realize how bad a deal this was. We spent seven years and millions of dollars trying to build a pyramid and we ended up with a barn."

One downside to the bill is that it could reduce the pressure to obtain real reform, Credico worried. "This will take the air out of the push to repeal the Rockefeller laws," he said. "People will say this is the best we can do. But the people in Real Reform 2004 owe it to the people in prison to redouble their efforts, to organize and mobilize and spend money at the same rate they did last year."

Still, Credico conceded, given political reality, some sentence cuts were perhaps all that could be expected. "The fact is, a conservative governor and a conservative senator have acted, and I don't know what else you could get out of them." That's because the popular mobilization against the Rockefeller laws has not been massive enough, he said. "You need the asses of the masses on the street. A half-million anti-war protestors may not have been enough to get the attention of Washington, but a couple hundred thousand people in the street for Rockefeller repeal could get the attention of Albany."

Real Reform will be back fighting for real reform, said DPA's Blain. "We are building the political will for more reform," he said. "We've replaced three senators and one district attorney over this issue. Elected officials will begin to take notice, and now we have people thinking about drug policies." Asked if Real Reform would be back at it next year, Blain replied: "We're back at it already."

return to table of contents

4. Hurwitz Fate in Hands of Jury /fate.shtml

The trial of Northern Virginia pain management specialist Dr. William Hurwitz wound to an end this week, and Hurwitz' fate is now in the hands of a federal jury. Federal prosecutors are seeking to send the nationally known doctor to prison for life on charges he improperly prescribed opioid pain relievers to a tiny minority of his patients and that two patients died as a result of his prescribing. The 62-count indictment alleges Hurwitz led a conspiracy to traffic in pain medications including Oxycontin, Dilaudid, and methadone. Supporters of Dr. Hurwitz and pain management tensely await a verdict.

"The indictment tells the story of someone who crossed over from a self-proclaimed healer to a drug dealer," Assistant US Attorney Mark Lytle told the jury during opening statements. "Dr. Hurwitz was playing the role of an illegal drug supplier."

Hurwitz's attorneys, naturally, disagreed. "This case is not about drug dealing," said San Francisco-based defense attorney Patrick Hallinan. "This is a case about new science: the treatment of chronic pain with high opioid doses to ameliorate that pain."

Despite the best efforts of the prosecution, what emerged from a month of testimony from prosecution witnesses was evidence that a small number of Hurwitz' patients, including tightly-knit family groups, systematically lied to the doctor about their symptoms in order to receive pain medications, then turned around and either abused them or resold them or both. Those former patients had themselves been arrested on drug charges and testified against Hurwitz in hopes of receiving lighter sentences, they told the court.

The trial of Dr. Hurwitz has taken center stage in an increasingly public fight between pain relief advocates and the federal drug law enforcement establishment. With hundreds of doctors having been prosecuted by the feds or the states or disciplined by state medical boards for what the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers to be not the practice of medicine but drug dealing, the DEA's recent game-playing about pain treatment guidelines (, and the Bush administration's recent push against what it calls a wave of prescription drug abuse, pain patient advocates complain bitterly that the 50 million sufferers of chronic pain in this country -- and the doctors who attempt to treat them -- are being sacrificed on the altar of the war on drugs.

"Because the DEA managed to arrest some of his patients and compel them to testify against him, Dr. Hurwitz is facing a life sentence," wrote Siobhan Reynolds, president of the pain patients' advocacy group the Pain Relief Network ( "The US Department of Justice is fully aware that Dr. Hurwitz did not intend to deal drugs. But that doesn't matter. They are trying to sell their 'drug diversion' story to Congress as a way to continue funding for their failed drug war," she told supporters.

And they were trying desperately to sell it to the jury this week as Dr. Hurwitz took the stand in his own defense. With an irascible Judge Leonard Wexler presiding, Hurwitz defense attorney Marvin Miller spent Monday reacquainting the jury with contemporary opioid pain management therapies, where patients sometimes take what appear to laymen to be outrageous amounts of high-octane pain relievers. "There is no clinical limit to the dose the patient may need for pain control," Hurwitz testified, explaining why he would sometimes write prescriptions for hundreds of Oxycontin tablets per day.

Defense attorneys backed up Hurwitz' assertion by entering into evidence the Virginia Medical Society's 1998 statement on opioid prescribing. "A doctor may prescribe in excess of the recommended dosage for medical necessity," the statement said. "Doctors shall not be in violation if they are dispensing medications in good faith."

Expert testimony by pain specialists Dr. Stratton Hill, founder of the pain management clinic at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dr. Lawrence Stinson of the Advanced Pain Centers of Alaska backed up the defense's contentions that prescribing large amounts of opioids fell within the confines of accepted medical practice for pain relief. Equally important, the experts rebutted efforts by prosecutors to imply that providing pain relief to people with substance abuse problems was in itself outside the scope of accepted medical practice.

"My God, if they prevail with that line of reasoning that if you prescribe to someone with a substance abuse problem you are somehow breaking the law, then anyone with a history of substance abuse better just reach for the aspirin bottle," said Mary Baluss of the Pain Law Initiative, who was attending the trial this week.

"Drs. Hill and Stinson both did very well," said Dr. Frank Fisher, a consultant for the defense who was himself victimized by overzealous prosecutors and spent five years establishing his innocence. "The important point they made is that Dr. Hurwitz made reasonable diagnoses and prescriptions for legitimate purposes and those prescriptions fell within the boundaries of accepted medical practice," he told DRCNet. "The Controlled Substances Act provides a 'safe harbor' for the medical use of opiates. The real issue here is the physician's intent. If the physician intends to help the patient and treat the disease, that is not criminal. By definition, the good faith practice of medicine is never criminal."

Prosecutors saved their last best shots to attack Dr. Hurwitz on cross-examination. Assistant US Attorney Gene Rossi conducted an antagonistic and aggressive cross-examination -- so much so that he was repeatedly rebuked by Judge Wexler to lower his voice -- but failed to dent Hurwitz's friendly and unruffled demeanor or his contention that he prescribed only for medically necessary reasons and had no knowledge that his prescriptions were being diverted to the black market by unscrupulous patients.

Hurwitz, who is also trained as a lawyer, did not allow himself to be penned-in by Rossi's leading questions and demands for a yes or no answer. Despite Judge Wexler's repeated admonitions to just answer yes or no, Hurwitz again and again refused to play along. "It's not a yes or no question," he said at one point before quickly explaining why.

Lacking any real evidence to show that Dr. Hurwitz was involved in a conspiracy to deal dope, Rossi attempted to sway the jury by hammering away at tangential but possibly prejudicial issues. Rossi described Dr. Hurwitz's web site, where he explained his practice to prospective patients as like a "neon sign" to attract drug abusers. Rossi made much of the fact that Hurwitz earned $300,000 in the last year of his practice, although such an income seems not unreasonable for a suburban Virginia physician. Rossi accused Dr. Hurwitz of laughing inappropriately in a secretly taped conversation with one patient turned federal snitch. Rossi accused Dr. Hurwitz of attempting to cover his tracks by asking relatives of a patient who had died of an overdose if she had committed suicide. "No, that is not correct," an unruffled Hurwitz countered. "I was trying to find out what happened to my patient."

The case against Dr. Hurwitz is the culmination of a two-year federal investigation into Oxycontin diversion in Northern Virginia. "Operation Cotton Candy" resulted in dozens of arrests and convictions, including those of former patients who testified against Hurwitz. Convicting a high-profile pain specialist like Dr. Hurwitz, who appears to be the primary target of the federal probe, would be a fine feather in the cap of prosecutors.

Dr. Fisher is convinced of Dr. Hurwitz's innocence and he hopes the jury will see it the same way. "The prosecutors promised the jury they would provide evidence that Dr. Hurwitz headed a criminal conspiracy to deal drugs, but what the evidence showed was really the opposite: These people, whom I would qualify as low-life scumbags -- and you can print that -- were in a conspiracy to scam him for pills. Every doctor gets scammed -- it's just a matter of degree," Fisher said. "But what it comes down to in this trial is intent on the doctor's part. There is not a hint he wanted anything diverted; when he found out definitely pills were being diverted he fired the patients."

Throughout the six-week long case, Dr. Hurwitz's former patients were present in the courtroom to offer their support. "This is just horrible," said Leigh Ann Franklin, who was treated by Dr. Hurwitz for eight years until he closed his practice in December 2002 saying he feared federal prosecution. "I have never met a more honest, compassionate, and dedicated physician," she told DRCNet. "I think this whole prosecution is a damned shame."

As of publishing time, no verdict had yet been announced. But dispatches from Frank Fisher have kept advocates around the country informed of some of the details. After Thursday's closing arguments, Fisher sent out the following comments:

"Mr. Hallinan's closing statement was a magnificent performance. He described how a sophisticated gang of predators took advantage of a well-intentioned pain doctor, and how the government conspired with them to help them take him down. The jury sat riveted at the edge of their seats. Mr. Hallinan owned the courtroom for almost an hour. This was one for the ages. I am still blown away by the force of it. The US Attorney on the other hand, while conceding that Dr. Hurwitz had many legitimate patients, attempted to demonize him as the criminal mastermind of a drug dealing empire that stretched all across the southeastern United States, spreading misery and death as far as London, Kentucky. Mr. Rossi also accused Dr. Hurwitz as having taken delight in getting away with the killing of a number of his patients over the years, by outsmarting the DEA."

Later Thursday, Fisher posted, "So far, [the jury has] asked one question. They want to know if it is legal to prescribe opioids to a pain victim who is also addicted. The defense proposed that the jury be instructed that this is legal as long as the physician prescribes opioids for the purpose of treating the pain. The government objected to this, and prevailed upon the judge to make an instruction that effectively obfuscates this simple issue."

Early this afternoon (Friday 12/10), Fisher wrote, "The jury is still out. Today, juror #12 requested to be relieved of duty because of the illness of a family pet. Judge Wechsler granted his request without consulting with defense attorneys. This capricious action represents an abrogation of Dr. Hurwitz' due process rights. The defense team objected, and moved for a mistrial. Their motion was not granted, and Judge Wechsler issued a further ruling, requiring the attorneys to wait at the courthouse for a verdict, rather than in the comfort of their apartment five minutes away."

return to table of contents

5. Rep. Souder Urges FDA Review of Medical Marijuana, Provokes Battle of The "Dear Colleague" Letters on Capitol Hill /souderagain.shtml

Leading congressional drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) is at it again. Just two weeks ago, DRCNet reported on how the author of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision was using his position as chair of the House Government Reform Committee's drug subcommittee to advance new anti-methamphetamine legislation and as a bully pulpit to urge the Supreme Court not to approve states' rights for medical marijuana in the US ( Two weeks before that, he intimated in an interview on a Canadian television station that Canada could face border crossing slowdowns if it enacted its long-awaited legislation decriminalizing marijuana.

Now, Souder is going after medical marijuana again. In a December 3rd letter to congressional offices, Souder announced that he will this week introduce a bill directing the National Institutes of Health to study the efficacy and safety of medical marijuana and requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to post the information "and distribute it to those public health entities that advocate or recommend patients smoke marijuana."

"The FDA has failed to educate the public against a dangerous drug whose dangers have been kept from the public by those promoting its use," Souder warned his colleagues as he sought cosponsors. "Vioxx? No. Marijuana," he cautioned.

"The fact is smoking marijuana has no scientifically proven medical benefits," Souder continued. "Smoking marijuana puts users at risk for countless serious health problems and may worsen the conditions for which patients wrongly believe it is treating. And real medical alternatives exist for patients suffering from the conditions proponents of smoking marijuana claim it can treat. And again, patients who are smoking marijuana are being denied legitimate care that could improve rather than worsen their medical conditions."

Clearly, Souder believes the result of any such investigation would show that medical marijuana is either ineffective or harmful or both. In that respect, he shows a remarkable ability to ignore a growing stack of scientific evidence, prominently including the Institute of Medicine's 1999 study, that show marijuana to have medicinal properties.

"We have no doubt that an honest, objective evaluation of medical marijuana will show what every prior impartial evaluation has shown, that marijuana has great benefits for some patients and is safer than many commonly used prescription and over-the-counter drugs," said Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project ( "Marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose, while acetaminophen -- the active ingredient in Tylenol -- is estimated to kill 458 Americans per year from acute liver failure."

But while medical marijuana proponents would dearly love to see an honest, unbiased review of the evidence on marijuana, they doubt that is what Souder is aiming for. "There are two red flags in Souder's bill suggesting he doesn't really want a fair study," Fox added. "First, he wants it done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), whose main role in medical marijuana research has been to obstruct it. Second, he is asking them to focus only on smoked marijuana, while growing numbers of medical users use vaporizers -- devices that allow them to inhale marijuana's therapeutically active components without the harmful irritants in smoke. For 17 months now, NIDA has been blocking researchers from obtaining 10 grams of marijuana for a vaporizer study. Sadly, NIDA's record does not indicate that it is capable of dealing with medical marijuana in an unbiased, impartial way."

Tellingly, the same day Fox was writing those words, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow was in Vancouver telling Canadians why they should not decriminalize marijuana and she was relying on tired old bogeymen like "it's not your father's marijuana" to do so. Marijuana should not be legalized for any reason, she said, warning a bemused Canadian audience about the dangers of THC. "It is this chemical that can lead to the addiction," she said. "When people were taking marijuana in the past, they were consuming a very weak drug. The experiences that people may have had -- that are now in their 40s and 50s -- who say 'I never became addicted to that drug,' that does not necessarily pertain to the type of compound we're seeing today," according to a Canadian Press account of her remarks.

Skepticism about Souder's motives has extended to Capitol Hill, where Rep. Sam Farr Tuesday circulated his own "dear colleague" letter. "I would urge all Members to cosponsor this legislation, IF it were truly designed to produce an honest evaluation of the scientific data," wrote Farr, who earlier this year cosponsored the Patients' and Providers' Truth in Trials Act, which would allow a medical necessity defense in federal medical marijuana busts. "I am, however, skeptical that this will be the case, given that the bill only refers to 'smoked' marijuana and is proposing that the examination be carried out by NIDA, an agency which is actively blocking medical marijuana research while consistently highlighting and exaggerating the drug's negative consequences."

Like MPP's Fox, Farr also mentioned the vaporizer study blocked by NIDA. The blocked study is worth mention, Farr argued, because in his "dear colleague" letter, Souder specified a study of smoked marijuana. "Why should we think that NIDA, under the Souder bill, will study what it has already been able to study for the last year and a half, but wouldn't?" Farr asked.

An honest evaluation of marijuana, wrote Farr, would reach the same conclusion as DEA chief administrative law judge Francis Young, who, after a two-year study, found in 1988 that "marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known... It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance."

Farr accused the federal government of "obstructionism" in blocking medical marijuana research, but said it couldn't stop the truth. "Despite this obstructionism, there is still ample evidence to show that marijuana is a safe and effective medicine. I applaud Rep. Souder for seeking the truth -- but the truth must come from objective sources, not an agency already proven disposed to blocking the truth about marijuana."

return to table of contents

6. Newsbrief: No Justice for Kenneth Walker -- Police Shooter No-Billed By Grand Jury /nojusticetml.shtml

Another cop has literally gotten away with what appears like murder. A Muscogee County, Georgia, grand jury refused November 23 to indict former Deputy David Glisson in the December 10, 2003, killing of 39-year-old black man Kenneth Walker. As DRCNet readers may recall, Walker was killed by two shots to the head after being pulled out a vehicle drug agents mistakenly thought was that of a Florida drug dealer. He was unarmed. There were no drugs (

Walker's killing roiled the community, inspiring civil rights marches, prayer vigils, and becoming an issue in local political races. It also inspired a raucous visit by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who addressed more than 300 people at a Columbus church shortly after the shooting. "I say that someone has got to bring to a national level the brutality of law enforcement and the people sworn to uphold the law. We cannot have people that are sworn to uphold the law think they can become the law," Sharpton said (

The grand jury deliberated for 41 minutes after hearing from seven witnesses -- five of them police officers -- and watching a videotape of the shooting captured from by a police vehicle camera. According to accounts of those who have seen the videotape collected by the Columbus Ledger-Enquire, the video, which was shown publicly only after the grand jury finished its deliberations, show no struggle, just the startling sound of two shots, with surprised officers milling around. It also shows Walker lying on the ground unattended for two minutes before officers began first aid attempts.

"I saw the incident live and in color," said deputy city manager Isaiah Hugley. "What I saw was devastating. I knew Kenny Walker. He was a fraternity brother of mine. His father was one of my teachers. It's personal with me. Because of my position with the city, I will maintain a neutral position despite strong personal feelings."

"People can now see on the video that Kenneth Walker was brutally murdered without provocation on December 10," said Bill Campbell, attorney for the Walker family.

"I can't see any reason Kenny Walker died that night. I saw an individual laying there that should be alive. I can't describe it," said Edward DuBose, president of Columbus NAACP.

The grand jury was apparently watching another video. Its decision means there is no chance former Deputy Glisson will face state criminal charges. But the killing was also investigated by the FBI. The Ledger-Enquirer reported that the FBI has forwarded its findings to the US Department of Justice, which could seek to file a criminal or civil case against Glisson for civil rights violations.

Walker's family isn't waiting. Their attorneys told the Ledger-Enquirer they will file a civil lawsuit against Glisson within a matter of days.

return to table of contents

7. Newsbrief: Calling Drug Raid on Hell's Angels an "Attack," Judge Throws Out Evidence /angels.shtml

When Arizona police conducted a pre-dawn raid on a Hell's Angel's clubhouse in Phoenix in July 2003, they knocked at the door, waited six seconds, then tossed a "diversionary" grenade and broke a window at the back of the building. Clubhouse resident Michael Wayne Coffelt, awakened from a sound sleep by the grenade explosion, armed himself with a pistol before coming to the front door, where he was then shot and wounded by Officer Laura Beeler, according to an account published by the Associated Press. Beeler claimed Coffelt had fired at her. He was charged with assaulting an officer.

The raid was illegal, said Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Wilkinson, who described it as an "attack" that violated search and seizure laws. Wilkinson threw out the evidence gathered in the raid in a December 1 hearing. As for Coffelt arming himself to confront the attackers, Wilkinson said he understood. "This would appear to be reasonable behavior, given the hour and the fact that the house was under attack," he said.

Without any evidence, the case against Coffelt appears doomed, although Maricopa County prosecutors told the AP they had yet to decide whether to appeal. By the way, it turns out Coffelt never fired a shot at Officer Beeler. Judge Wilkinson generously qualified Beeler's lie as "an understandable mistake" given the grenade explosion and resulting commotion.

Beeler was cleared of any wrongdoing by a police review board. No word yet on whether she faces assault or giving false statement charges. Don't hold your breath, though. Oh, and by the way, the cops found no drugs.

return to table of contents

8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story /thisweek1.shtml

Either all the bad apples have gone good or the corrupt cops have gotten smarter. This week, for the first time in memory, we suffer a shortage of corrupt cop stories, and the one story we do have barely rises to the level of corruption -- it's more like sheer orneriness and vengeance.

The Providence Journal reported Saturday on the odd case of former Middletown, Rhode Island, Patrolman Michael Braley, who pled guilty a day earlier to stealing four small bags of marijuana from a police evidence locker with a wire-hanger. Facing a 10-to-20-year sentence on a felony charge of "committing a prohibited act by a law enforcement official," Braley admitted he stole the weed and said he would resign immediately from the force. In return, instead of prison time, Braley got 10 years probation.

"What's most important is that Mr. Braley is no longer a police officer," Attorney General Patrick Lynch said in a statement. "When a police officer commits a crime, it erodes public trust, without which law enforcement would cease to operate effectively. With his immediate resignation from the force, his admission of guilt, and today's sentence, the cloud that he placed over the Middletown Police Department can be removed."

Braley, 42, was an 11-year veteran of the force when on May 16 he committed the heist. His motive? As the Journal put it, "He told detectives that he took the drugs because he was upset with his superiors and wanted them to be held accountable for the theft."

In addition to the committing a prohibited act charge, Braley was also charged with larceny and obstructing a police officer. This writer has never heard of any other police officer being charged with obstructing a police officer. Way to go, Officer Braley.

return to table of contents

9. Newsbrief: Peruvian Coca Growers Mobilizing Again /cocaleros.shtml

Frustrated by the Peruvian government's unwillingness or inability to address their grievances over forced coca eradication, Peruvian coca grower organizations were on the move this week. While the Peruvian cocalero (coca grower) movement is riven by regional, personal, and ideological divides, it appeared unified this week in its anger at the continuing problems.

In Ayacucho Sunday, more than 5,000 coca growers came together in a massive meeting to demand an end to the forced eradication of their crops, according to Peruvian press reports. Streets in the center of the provincial capital were blocked by "a human sea," Correo reported. Sponsored by the Federation of Agricultural Producers of the Rio Apurimac Valley (FEPAVRAE), the "Meeting on the Problematic of Coca Leaf and Agricultural Products" brought together coca growers from some 310 communities in the Apurimac Valley. "No to the Eradication of Coca," was the battle cry of the event, heard echoing through the streets of Ayacucho as the meeting adjourned and the peasants hit the streets.

In addition to leaders of FEPAVRAE, the meeting heard from Elsa Malpartida, a leader of the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers and Cocaleros, as well as regional labor and popular leaders.

The same day, in Aguaytia, 2,000 more cocaleros organized in the Association of Farmers and Coca Leaf Producers of San Antonio Abad marched through the streets of that provincial city carrying placards and vowing struggle "without truce," according to Peru 21. They, too, were demanding an end to forced eradication and explicitly rejecting the alternative development schemes of the national anti-drug agency, DEVIDA.

The alternative development schemes have failed to deliver, cocalero leaders complained. Farmers who have agreed to shift from coca to other crops have received no benefit, they said. Association leader Flavio Sanchez Moreno told the crowd the government must find a new way of dealing with drugs and not just try to solve the problem by destroying coca crops. "We are discontented with the agrarian policy and we are not going to allow the cocaleros to continue to be deceived because there is no interest in solving the problems of the peasants," he said.

Also in attendance was national confederation leader Nancy Obregon, who announced that a strike of cocaleros in Huanuco and Tingo Maria had begun that same day. The strike came because the government had failed to reach an accord with cocaleros, said Obregon. That strike was scheduled to last 48 hours.

Compared to neighboring Bolivia, the Peruvian coca growers' movement may be weak and divided, but given enough inaction by the Peruvian government, the movement appears on the way to reactivating itself.

return to table of contents

10. Newsbrief: Hawaii Medical Marijuana Arrests Settled With $30,000 Pay-Out /bigisland.shtml

Medical marijuana really is legal in Hawaii, and police on the Big Island have found that out the hard way. The Hawaii Advertiser reported December 1 that Hawaii County paid out $30,000 to medical marijuana patients John and Rhonda Robison to settle a wrongful arrest lawsuit.

The pair and a houseguest, Kealoha Wells, were arrested in July 2002 after police found marijuana growing in a greenhouse at their Kailua, Kona, home. But all three were registered medical marijuana cardholders in compliance with state law. Police seized 20 pot plants, but state law allows each patient to have up to seven plants. Police also seized an ounce of marijuana, also well within the legal limits.

After arresting the trio, police then released them without charges and returned the dried marijuana, but not the plants, saying there was a dispute over whether they were "mature." Under Hawaii law, patients can have three mature plants and four seedlings.

Rather than fight the wrongful arrest lawsuit, Hawaii County settled. After a judge okayed the settlement, the Robisons received the $30,000 check on November 29. (Wells had dropped out of the case, saying it only added to the stress of dealing with her cancer.)

The Hawaii County police have, one hopes, learned a rather expensive lesson. The Robisons continue to grow and use medical marijuana, but the police are now leaving them alone. "We have not had any problems," said Rhonda Robison.

return to table of contents

11. Newsbrief: Jimson Weed Now Illegal in Oklahoma /jimsonweed.shtml

For the past month, Jimson weed has been illegal in Oklahoma. Under a law that was passed in April and went into effect November 1st, the weirdly psychoactive member of the datura family (datura stramonium), known folklorically for making sheep crazy, is now bizarrely considered a "synthetic controlled substance," with punishments of up to a year in jail for possession to up to life in prison for distribution. The law is seemingly designed to make it illegal to get high on anything Oklahoma authorities had not previously gotten around to outlawing. It defines a "synthetic controlled substance" as "a substance, whether synthetic or naturally occurring, that is not a controlled dangerous substance, but which produces a like or similar physiological or psychological effect on the human central nervous system that currently has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and has a potential for abuse."

The law is the direct result of an incident last year at Mustang High School, where 10 students became ill after ingesting the weed. According to the Associated Press, Mustang schools superintendent Karl Springer approached lawmakers to pass the law after police informed him they had no law with which to charge the students. "When this incident happened, our police department wasn't able to do anything because there were no laws on the books regarding jimson weed," Springer said.

Led by Rep. Ray Young (R-Yukon) and Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson (R-Oklahoma City), who sponsored the bill outlawing Jimson weed, the state legislature was eager to comply.

While both the Associated Press and state law enforcement spokesmen portrayed the law as being aimed solely at the use of Jimson weed as an intoxicant, that's not what the law says: "Except when authorized by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, cultivate, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute a synthetic controlled substance."

Thus, the law could be applied against grandma growing opium poppies for their pretty bulbs or a rancher with Jimson weed in his field, and presumably against those little shops that sell salvia divinorum, the psychotropic Mexican member of the mint family.

Oklahoma -- leading the way in fighting the Jimson weed menace.

Read the Oklahoma law, HB 2166, at online. Find out more about Jimson weed at the Vaults of Erowid, online.

return to table of contents

12. This Week in History /thisweek2.shtml

December 11, 1942: The Opium Poppy Control Act is enacted, making possession of the opium poppy plant or seeds illegal.

December 12, 1981: The report of the Task Force on Cannabis Regulation to the Center for the Study of Drug Policy -- Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Commerce reads, is issued, reading "It has been observed that marijuana is one of the largest tax-exempt industries in the country today and regulation would end that exemption."

December 15, 1989: Medellin cartel leader Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha is killed by Colombian police in a raid on his Tolu ranch.

December 16, 1991: The US Supreme Court allows a US Court of Appeals ruling to stand which found that the government's interest in screening out possible drug users outweighed the applicant's constitutional right to privacy. Prior to this decision, only federal employees in occupations related to public safety (e.g. truck and bus drivers) could be tested without cause. The ruling opens the door to across-the-board drug testing for millions of businesses and was a boon to the drug testing industry.

December 17, 1914: Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Act, formally controlling opiate and cocaine availability by tax and prescription but in practice launching federal drug prohibition.

December 17, 1986: The assassination of newspaperman Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor-in-chief of El Espectador, outrages the Colombian media. Cano frequently wrote in favor of stiffer penalties for drug traffickers. His murder leads to a national outrage comparable to the assassination of Lara Bonilla, and a subsequent government crackdown on traffickers.

return to table of contents

13. Apply Now to Intern at Drcnet! /internships.shtml

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].

return to table of contents

14. Drugwarmarket.Com Seeking Information, Affiliations, Link Exchanges /drugwarmarket.shtml, 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].

return to table of contents

15. The Reformer's Calendar /calendar.shtml

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.

return to table of contents

If you like what you see here and want to get these bulletins by e-mail, please fill out our quick signup form at

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.

Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]