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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #368 -- 12/24/04

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"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Phillip S. Smith, Editor
David Borden, Executive Director

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Table of Contents

    pain management conflict turns "white hot"
    in aftermath of Hurwitz drug convictions
    Comments to the Washington Post by the Hurwitz jury foreman this week may complete the swift discrediting of the trial. Ultimately, though, the government is still to blame.
    The long-simmering battle between federal drug law enforcers and pain management doctors, patients, and academics over the proper use of opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin is finally turning white hot.
    Meeting in Strasbourg on December 15, a plenary session of the European Parliament approved a report on the new European Union (EU) drug strategy that bluntly calls existing EU policy "a failure" and proposes fundamental changes in European drug policy.
    The room temperature rose at the National Press Club Tuesday when young members of drug reform groups posing as reporters asked questions of drug czar John Walters and his clique of co-conspirators.
    Under the Influence is a sampler kit of drug war essays that brings light to dark corners with energy and commitment. Editor Preston Peet has organized 49 essays into seven categories that take readers on a high-speed tour of drug war zones near and far.
    Starting this issue, Drug War Chronicle will each week reprint one or two entries from our Prohibition and the Media blog, as well as let you know about other interesting developments or resources of relevance to the prohibition/legalization debate.
    Nearly three out of four older Americans support legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, a poll conducted for the American Association of Retired Persons has found.
    There is no rock 'n' roll, but plenty of sex and drugs in this week's peak at corruption in the drug war.
    In an open letter to supporters from the federal prison where she is serving a five-month sentence, home decorating diva Martha Stewart has called for sentencing reform -- especially for nonviolent and drug offenders.
    A nascent industrial hemp industry in South Africa appears poised for takeoff except for one small problem: It's illegal.
    The country that brought the world coffee shop weed sales and sensible harm reduction policies is at again -- according to the UK newspaper The Scotsman, the world's first retirement home for drug addicts has opened in Rotterdam, with plans for more on the way.
    In a December 13 ruling, Hungary's Constitutional Court restricted the use of diversion to drug treatment for some drug offenders, narrowing the scope of reform legislation enacted in 2003.
    The 3,000-page Intelligence Reform Act, passed earlier this month by Congress and quickly signed into law by President Bush, will add a new layer to the federal anti-drug bureaucracy.
    The Canadian government announced Tuesday that a natural marijuana extract, which will be sold under the brand name Sativex, has won preliminary approval to be prescribed as a medicine in Canada.
    Even as Canada moves toward becoming the first country to approve the cannabis-based prescription medicine Sativex, Canadian researchers announced Tuesday they are commencing a study of the safety of smoked marijuana as medicine.
    The Illinois Nurses Association has joined at least a dozen state nursing associations and the American Nursing Association in endorsing the use of marijuana as a medicine.
    Reason magazine on the pain wars, Alexander Cockburn on Gary Webb, Faith Under Fire discusses legalization, Grits for Breakfast on the possible abolition of drug task forces in Texas, new Bureau of Justice Statistics report.
    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.
    The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is hiring a Membership Services and Communication/Development person for their office in Sarasota, Florida.
  21. 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. Editorial: Jury Manipulation

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 12/24/04

David Borden
The war of words between physician organizations and the federal drug bureaucracy -- and their physician henchmen -- over pain control has continued to escalate. Just prior to the trial's ending, a letter was sent to Dr. Hurwitz's attorney, intended to be shared with the judge and if possible the jury, by six past presidents of the American Pain Society, blasting the testimony of Dr. Michael Ashburn -- another past APS president whom the prosecution had hired to help make their case. The presidents cited "factually wrong or serious misstatements of consensus in the field" by Dr. Ashburn, and wrote that while they had previously regarded him as a "respected colleague," they were "stunned" by his testimony and felt "morally compelled" to speak up (

A week ago, Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine commented, "I have to admit I'm impressed by the achievement of the federal prosecutors who call McLean, Virginia, pain doctor William Hurwitz 'a major and deadly drug dealer.' Although the evidence they presented in his trial made it clear Hurwitz was not a drug trafficker, they still managed to convict him of drug trafficking" ( Comments given to the Washington Post by jury foreman Ralph Craft, published there on Tuesday (, show that Sullum hit the nail on the head, but also that there are two nails. Craft's quotes prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the jurors fundamentally misconstrued both their legal obligations as jurors and the medical evidence on pain control, and may complete the discrediting of the Hurwitz convictions that has proceeded so rapidly already.

Craft told the Post, "The dosages were just astounding," citing testimony that Hurwitz had 1,600 pills per day to one of his patients. "Certainly, the legitimate doctors out there don't prescribe anywhere close to what Hurwitz did," he continued, reasoning that the convictions of Dr. Hurwitz would therefore not affect how legitimate physicians deal with pain treatment. To Craft, the number of pills reflected a "cavalier attitude" that led to the deaths of some of Hurwitz's patients.

The problem is, according to top experts on pain control -- including one who testified at the trial -- Craft is completely wrong. According to Frank Fisher, a physician who served as a consultant to the Hurwitz defense team and who survived his own bout with the drug police, "1600 5 mg oxycodone pills per day, if this had been prescribed, would have been only 8 grams of morphine per day," whereas "there are accounts in the literature of patients taking as much as 35 grams per day" -- more than four times as much.

Any competent clinician could have told Craft that the number of pills is irrelevant. The relevant quantity is the amount of the opiate -- e.g. the number of pills multiplied by the amount of morphine each pill contains, varies widely between different types of medications. Fisher sent me a quote from a textbook chapter written by Russell Portenoy, chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center. It's technical, but it says it:

"Once an opioid and route of administration are selected, the dose should be increased until adequate analgesia occurs or intolerable and unmanageable side effects supervene. There is no ceiling effect to the analgesia provided by the pure agonist opioid drugs and the maximal dose is immaterial as long as the patient attains a favorable balance between analgesia and side effects. This implies that the opioid responsiveness of a specific pain can only be ascertained by dose escalation to limiting side effects. In clinical practice, the range of opioid doses required by patients is enormous. Doses equivalent to more than 35 g morphine per day have been reported in highly tolerant patients with refractory cancer pain."

So there have been legitimate prescriptions recorded for more than four times the dosage as the largest ones brought up at the Hurwitz trial. But despite having one of the leaders in the pain control field, Russell Portenoy, present to tell them that in person, Craft just wasn't willing to believe that it could be true. In fairness, the prosecution had provided them with another doctor -- Ashburn -- who was willing to tell them what they apparently wanted to hear. But when faced with one expert who says "innocent" and the other "guilty," at worst is it not a situation of reasonable doubt?

The legal issue may be even more troubling. Consistent with Sullum's observation, Craft actually seems to have understood that Hurwitz was not a drug trafficker. "No, he wasn't running a criminal enterprise," he told the Post. Good that Craft recognized this -- I guess -- but why then did he and the other jurors vote to convict Dr. Hurwitz of drug trafficking -- a criminal enterprise?

In the end, though, as much as part of me wants to blame the jurors -- for the arrogance of thinking they understand pain control better than the world's top experts in pain control, for the illogicalness of convicting a man for conduct in which they recognize he did not engage -- ultimately I believe the blame lies elsewhere. The jurors screwed up, no doubt, about as badly as they could have. But they never should have been placed in that position in the first place.

The mistakes the jurors made are human kinds of mistakes. They are not doctors or lawyers, who are trained in medicine and logic and scientific thought. They are ordinary people. They relied on the expectation -- had a right to expect -- that the government would provide them with a clear and realistic understanding of both the facts of the case and the principles of the law -- the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That's not what they got. As a result, they were vulnerable to the prosecutors' tricks, the playing up of the irrelevant but seemingly shocking number of pills, the muddying of the legal issues by calling Hurwitz a drug dealer over and over despite presenting no evidence of it.

It is a testament to the weakness of the fibers that bind our nation to the principle of rule of law. Federal agencies are free to overstep their legitimate boundaries, in this case by intruding into the realm of medicine -- a matter for civil society to regulate if there ever was one, certainly not a matter for drug war police. It then gets tested in trial, at enormous personal and financial cost to the victims so targeted. The case is then decided by a group of 12 citizens who are probably well meaning, but who don't for the most part possess the degree of knowledge and finely-tuned reasoning skills to counteract the vivid portrayals of professional prosecutors and their hand-picked witnesses. Unfortunately, there is currently no mechanism existing in our legal system to guard against inappropriate use of prosecutorial powers in advance -- and once the process starts, just outcomes cannot be expected with any reliability.

The Hurwitz trial and the comments of the jurors in its aftermath cry out for a separation of prescription opioid treatment from the area of criminal law, at least on the first level. If there is a role for the criminal law, it should first be doctors who go to the government when they are convinced true criminal malfeasance has occurred, not the other way around. This is not a legalistic or academic issue. A man is facing life in prison for fully living up to his medical obligation to treat patients for their pain; and patients around the country and living with the torture of untreated or under-treated severe chronic pain, many being driven to the horror of suicide. Because federal prosecutors do not respect the rule of law.

It's time for Judge Wexler to undo his mistakes that contributed to this travesty. He could begin to do so immediately, by restoring Dr. Hurwitz's bail and allowing him to remain free pending appeal. He's not going to prescribe opioids again, after all, his license was revoked. And Craft's comments to the Post may give Wexler grounds to reverse the verdict itself. It would be an unusual step, but it is a power that judges possess for a reason. When it is demonstrated that a jury simply did not understand the legal issues or its obligations under the law, that's a very good reason. And the indirect impact of the verdict on pain patients everywhere is another. It's time for a judge to show reason and courage.

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2. Conflict Over Pain Management Heats Up as Mainstream Medical Groups Wake Up

The long-simmering battle between federal drug law enforcers and pain management doctors, patients, and academics over the proper use of opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin is turning white hot. Between the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) sudden reversal on a years-long collaborative effort with academic pain specialists over what constitutes acceptable opioid prescribing ( and the recent successful Justice Department prosecution of nationally known pain treatment pioneer Dr. William Hurwitz, mainstream medical organizations and personalities that had up until now been quietly complacent have begun to go on the offensive.

Dr. Hurwitz in 1996 (photo courtesy Skip Baker)
With tens of millions of Americans suffering from chronic pain and federal drug enforcers hell-bent on cracking down on what they term an "epidemic" of prescription drug diversion and abuse, pain patients and doctors have been caught in the middle. The crisis in pain treatment has been building for years, as zealous state and federal prosecutors go after pain treatment doctors they accuse of being no better than drug dealers. Doctors, unsurprisingly, are proving increasingly reluctant to prescribe opioid pain relievers or even to treat pain patients with opioids for fear of spending the rest of their lives in prison, a fate that has already befallen some doctors and one that Dr. Hurwitz faces when he is sentenced in March.

Pain doctors, patients and advocates fought back on several fronts this month. This week, three major medical associations representing pain specialists harshly and publicly criticized the DEA's sudden reversal on the prescribing guidelines for opioids. Those guidelines, which took the form of a "Pain FAQ," were the result of a multi-year collaboration between the DEA and academic pain specialists. They were posted on the DEA web site in August, but jerked down again weeks later without notice to the academics and replaced shortly thereafter with revised guidelines that stiffened the DEA's attitude toward what it termed improper prescribing. The letter, signed by the presidents of the American Pain Society (APS), the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM), and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) called the new DEA policy guidelines "an unfortunate step backward" that will only lead to "an adversarial relationship between doctors and the DEA."

The DEA responded with a statement from spokesman Bill Grant, who said the agency "wishes to reassure the public that the withdrawal of the August statement does not represent any change in DEA's investigative emphasis or approach. Physicians acting in good faith and in accordance with established medical norms should remain confident that they may continue to dispense appropriate pain medications."

Drug czar John Walters also attempted to address the growing controversy. At a Tuesday press conference, Walters told reporters that "synthetic opioids are of enormous medical benefit for people," but undercut himself with pain advocates by going on to say that among the doctors prosecuted as Dr. Feelgoods "there were not even any close calls."

The pain associations weren't buying it. Citing what they called "the over-aggressive prosecutions" of pain doctors, pharmacists, and other health professionals, the association presidents said that while the DEA says it does not want to stop doctors from adequately treating chronic pain with opioids, the new guidelines "will undoubtedly have the exact opposite effect on any practitioner reading them."

The association presidents, APS president Dennis Turk, AAPM president Samuel Hassenbusch, and ASAM president Lawrence Brown, zeroed in on the DEA's assertion that merely prescribing high doses of opioid pain relievers can lead to a doctor being investigated. Such statements will have a chilling effect on the practice of pain medicine, they wrote. "Reading that the government can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated will send chills down the spine of practitioners who are treating patients with [narcotic painkillers] and will certainly contribute to the undertreatment or non-treatment of moderate to severe chronic pain."

"The bottom line on this letter is that if the DEA thought changes were needed, it should have engaged in a little more discussion about it and get everyone on board," said Chuck Weber, spokesman for the American Pain Society. "There was a real change in tone between what was agreed upon and posted in August and the revised guidelines issued last month," he told DRCNet. "The main concern was the lack of dialogue."

"This letter is absolutely a positive move," said Dr. Frank Fisher, a California pain specialist who was prosecuted and ultimately exonerated over his opioid prescribing practices and who served as a defense consultant in the Hurwitz trial. "Those academics spent years working with the DEA to come up with reasonable guidelines, but then the DEA jerked them down and didn't do the courtesy of notifying them," he told DRCNet. "The DEA has an absolute obligation to work with the academic community in promulgating guidelines, but what they have done is abrogate that responsibility and their duty to regulate controlled substances in a matter that makes them available to patients who need them."

The American Academy of Physicians and Surgeons, which for years has been waging a lonely struggle within the profession to protect opioid-prescribing doctors, also welcomed the intervention by the pain association heads. "Even though we weren't fans of the FAQ," said academy spokesperson Kathryn Serkes, "at least with them you got something on paper. You want government agencies to commit to something on paper so you know where the bar is, but when the bar keeps moving at the whim of prosecutors and investigators, you've got a real problem," she told DRCNet. "Doctors and patients are literally at the mercy of prosecutors and the DEA. We've been angry about this for years -- it's about time some of the other physicians' groups got angry, too. They've been manipulated and made fools of. At this point, anger is an appropriate response."

Another broadside against Justice Department tactics came in a December 10 letter from six past presidents of the American Pain Society harshly criticizing the testimony of yet another past APS president, Dr. Michael Ashburn, as an expert prosecution witness in the recently concluded Hurwitz trial. Prosecutors in that case used Ashburn to suggest to jurors that Hurwitz' practice was outside the scope of accepted medical procedure and that prescribing large amounts of opioids was, too.

But the APS past presidents disagreed in blunt terms. "We are stunned by his testimony," the letter said. "As leaders in this field, we feel compelled to correct the errors in his testimony, lest it be used in the future in a manner that worsens the national tragedy of untreated pain." Ashburn's testimony was filled with "serious misrepresentations" and "factually wrong or serious misstatements of consensus in the field," they wrote. In one example, the past presidents pointed out that Ashburn testified that the use of "high dose" opioid therapy, which Hurwitz practiced, was an indication of drug abuse in people not suffering from chronic pain from cancer.

"It is factually untrue that this is a consensus opinion of pain experts," the past APS presidents wrote. "We strongly hold the view that patients with non-cancer pain may benefit from opioid therapy and that the dose necessary to control pain may be high. Use of 'high dose' opioid therapy for chronic pain is clearly in the scope of medicine." Ashburn's characterizations of what constituted "high dose" opioid therapy was so low as to be simply "absurd," the doctors added.

Similarly, Ashburn testified that prescribing opioids to patients with addiction problems is medically unacceptable. "This is not the view of experienced clinicians in the field," the past presidents complained. "It is unacceptable to promulgate the view that the disease of addiction automatically denies patients with severe pain the possibility of relief through careful opioid therapy," they wrote.

"We will try to correct the public record after the trial concludes and sincerely hope that the government and the court will consider this information now," concluded the letter from Russell Portenoy, MD, chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliate Care at Beth Israel Medical Center; James N. Campbell, MD, director of the Blaustein Pain Treatment Center at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center; Kathleen Foley, MD, of Pain & Palliative Care Services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Charles Cleeland, PhD, director of the Pain Research Group at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Christine Miaskowski, RN PhD, chair of the Department of Nursing at the University of California San Francisco; and Richard Payne, MD, director of the Duke University Care at the End of Life program. According to Fisher, however, though the letter was seen by the judge, it was not shown to the jury.

Ashburn, who currently works for a pharmaceutical company that is developing products that would compete against opioid pain relievers, declined a DRCNet offer to comment either in general or on the specifics of the accusations against him.

"This letter publicly criticizing Ashburn has enormous significance," said Dr. Fisher. "What Ashburn did in his testimony is similar to what so-called experts have been doing to doctors all over the country, but this time it came out in the closely watched trial of a prominent and well-respected physician. This time they didn't get away with it."

"They are finally waking up," exclaimed Siobhan Reynolds, executive director of the pain patients and doctors advocacy group the Pain Relief Network ( "What happened to Dr. Hurwitz symbolizes the vulnerability of doctors who treat pain with opioids. The medical profession knows this and can't deny it. Dr. Hurwitz is a political prisoner, it's as simple as that," she told DRCNet. "He refused to plead guilty and now they are making an example of him. But his example is serving to awaken political consciousness among physicians. That makes me slightly optimistic," she told DRCNet.

Even the American Medical Association is finally bestirring itself. The largest doctors' organization in the country voted at its Interim Meeting in Atlanta this month to "support interpreting federal law in a way that would let doctors continue to write pain medication prescriptions for patients in need, while letting the government provide oversight and regulation to minimize risks to patients' health and safety," according to this week's AMA newsletter. The groups will "voice concerns to DEA over pain medication prescribing policy," the newsletter added.

The AMA did not mention the prosecutions of pain management physicians, but it did express concern about the mysterious vanishing Pain FAQ and its new, hard-line replacement. "The AMA will work with the DEA to address physician concerns that an interim policy statement published by the agency in November could interfere with the way doctors prescribe opioid analgesic medications to some patients," the report said. "Doctors worry that the statement could make it illegal to write multiple pain medication prescriptions for a patient on the day of a visit and evaluation. Physicians also worry that they no longer could legally write directions for dispensing additional medication on future, specified dates."

AAPS' Serkes pronounced herself "optimistic but cautious" about the AMA pronouncement. "I hope it's not just for show," she said. "A couple of years ago the AMA came out with similar pronouncements, they said they were going to make this an issue, but then did nothing. Something has to happen now. We are at the point where -- and it is painful to say this -- we are recommending to doctors that they not prescribe opioids in treating pain. Not that doctors are waiting to hear from us. I quietly hear from doctors on a regular basis that they will not treat pain patients for fear of the consequences. That doesn't make the news, it doesn't have a high profile, but there is another doctor who will not be treating pain patients."

The battle over heavy-handed DEA and Justice Department regulation of the practice of pain medicine is far from over, but now, at least, it appears the battle has been joined by the medical mainstream.

(Meanwhile, Dr. Hurwitz sits in federal detention awaiting sentencing and an appeal. That appeal will cost $60,000 that Hurwitz doesn't have and needs to raise by mid-January, said Reynolds. Reynolds and the Pain Relief Network have established a Hurwitz Defense Fund. People interested in contributing can send checks made out to Pain Relief Network -- write "Hurwitz Defense Fund" in the memo -- and send to PRN at P.O. Box 231054, New York, NY, 10023. Contributions are tax-deductible. Let them know you heard about it from DRCNet.)

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3. In Run-Up to New European Union Drug Strategy, European Parliament Adopts Report Critical of Continued Drug War

Meeting in Strasbourg on December 15, a plenary session of the European Parliament approved a report on the new European Union (EU) drug strategy that bluntly calls existing EU policy "a failure" and proposes fundamental changes in European drug policy. While the parliament's action is not binding on the Council of Europe, the executive branch of the EU, European drug reformers told DRCNet passage of the resolution would help set the tone for discussions scheduled for early next year that will determine European drug policy for the next five years.

The "Catania Report," named after Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Giusto Catania, who submitted it for consideration by the parliament, calls for the adoption of harm reduction as a "crucial element in drug policies;" increased research on the beneficial uses of cannabis, coca, and opium; and institutional support for the involvement of civil society in the formulation of EU drug policy, among other things.

"Parliamentary approval of the report sends a very clear message to the European authorities and citizens that Europe is at a turning point in its approach to the global drug issue," said Joep Oomen, spokesman for the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (, a drug reform umbrella group that has been working to make progress in the institutions of the EU. "A political dilemma can be solved," he told DRCNet. "For the first time in history, a parliament of such high reputation as the EP has expressed the need to end conventional thinking about drugs. We are close to the first major decision to stop the war on drugs."

The vote was close, with the report passing by a slender margin of 286 to 271. "This tight margin suggests that there has been quite some discussion going on within the political groups inside the EP," said Oomen. "It appears that some members of traditionally conservative groups like the Christian Democratic European People's Party have voted in favor of the report. We spoke to some members, especially from the Eastern European countries, and it seemed they were very grateful to see the doubts they have expressed about the official drug policy confirmed in the report."

The vote reflected regional differences, Oomen said. "The division over prohibition in Europe is not only ideological but geographic. While the East Europeans appear open to new solutions, the Scandinavian representatives have been quite active in blocking any discussion on alternatives to prohibition, but their opposition is losing more and more credibility every day," he explained.

MEP Catania thanked ENCOD for its help in pressing for passage of the report. "Thanks to you all and the support you gave us," he wrote in a message to ENCOD. "We are very happy with the result. Please tell to all the members of the network that we are grateful for this cooperation."

Passage of the Catania Report was cheered by MEP Marco Pannella of the Transnational Radical Party (, who offered several amendments strengthening the report. "This was the first time that the European Parliament voiced its concerns on current drug polices in such a clear and precise manner," he said in a statement after the vote. "After the failures documented by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs (, now it is up to the European Commission to take into account the political views expressed by the EP in view of defining the 2005-2012 European strategy on drugs."

But that is by no means a done deal. In fact, two days after the EP approved the Catania Report, the European Council of Ministers voted to adopt the new drug strategy without taking into account its recommendations.

"We expected that to happen," said Oomen. "But the approval of the report means that the European Parliament can now put pressure on the European Commission, the executive power in the EU, to apply the recommendations in the concrete application of this strategy."

In order to help apply that pressure, ENCOD has presented a proposal to the European Commission to jointly organize a large conference involving authorities, parliamentarians and civil society representatives from the 25 EU member states before April, when the commission has to present its Drug Action Plan as part of the new EU Drug Strategy, in order to discuss the course of EU drug policies in the coming four years. But EU bureaucrats are not playing along, Oomen said.

In a quick response to the proposal, Carel Edwards, head of the EU's Anti-Drug Policy Coordination unit, praised the dialogue that will start next year, but added, "I foresee, without committing myself, that we can do this in the second half of the year."

"This response shows how the bureaucrats play the game," said Oomen. "The second half of the year is too late for this dialogue to have any meaning for the new Drug Action Plan. If the commission does not organize a dialogue now, it is because they lack the will to do it, and it is up to the European Parliament to follow up on this." The ENCOD steering committee is discussing ways of putting pressure on the commission to act quickly, Oomen added.

The reform umbrella group is also considering a medium-term plan to keep the pressure on. "We should consider the EP report as the guideline for future policies of the European Commission," Oomen said. "Of course this is not the case yet, but we should prepare ourselves for the day it is and it is coming closer. Our suggestion would be that ENCOD members start preparing a program of activities for the next three years involving either information, research, harm reduction or peer support activities which could be part of a coordinated work program on a European level." ENCOD will request funding from the European Commission to make its presence at the commission permanent, he added.

While ENCOD has spent years mastering the intricacies of the EU bureaucracy, it has not been all just poring over musty documents and mastering parliamentary minutiae. The group has sponsored demonstrations and forums, and in the run-up to the Strasbourg vote, MEPs were treated to an ENCOD information stand in the parliament headquarters. In addition to learning more about progressive drug policies, MEPs were also given the chance to drink coca tea made available through the joint efforts of ENCOD and the Andean Council of Coca Producers. The tea was part of an effort to promote the beneficial uses of plants currently illegal under United Nations anti-drug conventions.

The joint presentation is representative of ongoing efforts to strengthen relations between European and Latin American reformers. At Strasbourg, more steps in that direction took place. MEP Alain Lipietz, head of the EP's delegation for relations with the Andean countries, declared that Europe "needs to change its policies concerning traditional cultivation of plants like the coca leaf, in order to stop the repression that these generate not only against the people involved, but also against the environment, affected by the violent way in which this cultivation is approached today -- fumigations, forced eradication, militarization."

And in a meeting with Bolivian parliamentarian Dionisio Nuñez, who participated in the ENCOD delegation in Strasbourg, Lipietz said he will start official conversations between the EP and the Latin American Parliament to seeks progress in the EU process toward the decriminalization of commercial coca products in Europe. The Latin American Parliament will be in Lima in May.

While American drug reformers are still trying to find a place at the table, the Europeans are helping to fundamentally reshape continental drug policy. Maybe we in the New World still have something to learn from Old Europe.

The read the Catania Report online, click here.

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4. Young Reformers Give Drug Czar Hard Time at Monitoring the Future Press Conference

Drug czar John Walters and a clique of co-conspirators joined University of Michigan researcher Lloyd Johnston at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, DC, Tuesday to tout the rather ho-hum results of Johnson's annual Monitoring the Future survey of drug use among 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. Walters and company got to spin the study's numbers for the first half of the press conference, but the room temperature began to rise when young members of some drug reform groups posing as reporters began to ask the questions.

Monitoring the Future press conference (courtesy C-Span)
First, the survey results. The proportion of students in those grades reporting any illicit drug use continued a gradual decline evident for the past several years, Monitoring the Future (MTF) found. Some 22% of 8th graders reported having use drugs in their lifetimes, compared to 40% of 10th graders and 51% of high school seniors.

Walters, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (, trumpeted the findings as evidence that the Bush administration's teen anti-drug policies are working. "There are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001," said Walters. "This is real progress. We know that if we can prevent kids from trying drugs in their teenage years, we dramatically reduce the likelihood that they will go on to have problems later in life. The results released today are good news for American parents and teens, and great news for our country."

But on closer examination, those results are not as rosy as Walters suggested. While the numbers are indeed trending down, they are well within the ranges historically reported by MTF, which has conducted the survey each year since 1979, and well above rates reported in the early 1990s during the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush.

Marijuana, the drug czar's public enemy number one, saw a slight, "not statistically significant" decline in use across all three grades, MTF reported. On the other hand, the use of inhalants is up among all grades, but especially among 8th graders, who may find them attractive because of their low cost and easy access. More than 17% of 8th graders reported lifetime use, compared to 12% of 10th graders and a bit under 11% of seniors. These results leave unanswered the question of whether a policy that decreases pot smoking but increases glue sniffing can be called a success. Also up were rates of alcohol and Oxycontin use, with 5% of 12th graders reporting using the potent pain reliever this year.

MTF's Johnson hinted that teen anti-drug priorities may need to be shifted. "The turnaround in the use of inhalants continues to suggest the need for greater attention to the dangers of inhalant abuse in our media messages and in-school programs," he said. After statements from Johnson, Walters, National Institute of Drug Abuse director Nora Volkow, who emceed the show, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration (SAMHSA) administrator Charles Curie (DEA administrator Karen Tandy was a no-show), the panel opened the floor for press questions.

First up was none other than Students for Sensible Drug Policy ( media director Tom Angell, who zeroed in Walters' and the Bush administration's support for the random, suspicionless drug testing of students. Identifying himself as representing Drug War Chronicle, Angell asked: "Mr. Walters, you frequently tout random student drug testing as a 'silver bullet' solution to our nation's drug problems. But Dr. Johnston and the rest of the Monitoring the Future research team released the largest-ever study on the topic last year, which found that 'school drug testing was not associated with either the prevalence or frequency of student marijuana use, or of other illicit drug use.' Are you prepared to tell Dr. Johnston that his study was methodologically flawed?"

According to C-Span video of the event, MTF's Johnston, who was seated just feet from Walters, laughed out loud. But Walters was not so amused.

The bushwhacked drug czar spent several minutes attempting to explain that the MTF study didn't really measure the impact of random drug testing because not enough schools conducted random drug tests. Along the way, he also admitted that he had no statistics to support the efficacy of testing. "The survey looked at both random and for cause testing -- testing when the student has provided reason to suspect he is using drugs -- but we're talking about random testing, and to know if that works, we need a large pool of schools," Walters said. "We don't have detailed pre- and post-random testing data."

Then it was Johnston's turn, and the veteran scientist stood by his findings. "We looked at schools doing any kind of testing, mostly for cause, and didn't find any statistically significant differences in drug use rates between schools that tested and those that didn't," he said. "We also looked at schools that did random tests of student athletes, which was allowed by the Supreme Court in 1995, and again there were no significant differences in the rates of marijuana use or illicit drug use in general."

Trying to soften the blow to his fellow panelist, Johnston held out the possibility that drug testing could, just maybe, work. "This is not to say it couldn't have an effect," he conceded. But there was just no evidence for that, he said next. "But drug testing as practiced up to the present doesn't seem to have been effective."

Walters received several other skeptical or challenging questions, including one about the DEA's prosecutions of pain management doctors, with the questioner pointedly noting Tandy's absence (see story this issue). Walters responded that diversion was a serious problem and none of the cases prosecuted were even a "close call."

Another questioner challenged the panel on why the federal government did not support needle exchange programs, which have been shown to be effective in reducing the rate of HIV and Hepatitis C infection in injection drug users. NIDA's Nora Volkow intervened to warn that "it's not so straightforward," positing that providing clean needles outside the context of a strong treatment and prevention regime could actually increase disease. Still, Volkow had to grudgingly concede that needle exchanges "can be an adjunct for decreasing HIV."

But even that concession was too much for Walters, who dismissed needle exchanges as "a divisive issue" when "consensus" is needed. "Nothing reduces the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C as much as getting people into treatment and recovery. We all agree that treatment works," he asserted.

The last question of the evening came from another young drug policy activist turned journalist-for-a-day, Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform ( outreach coordinator Brian Dolber. Clearly working the group's key issue -- repeal of the HEA anti-drug provision, which bars students convicted of drug offenses from gaining federal financial aid -- Dolber mentioned the more than 157,000 students affected by the provision, noted that it is up for reauthorization this year, and asked, "Do you believe that denying access to education is a just and effective way to deal with the nation's drug problems?"

"People who have active involvement in drug trafficking and drug problems should not be subsidized by public funding," Walters ventured, ignoring the fact that the anti-drug provision punishes student pot-smokers and scholarship-seeking cocaine kingpins alike. "We need to draw a distinction between victimizers and those who are in need of rehabilitation," he added, also ignoring the possibility that many drug users fall into neither category.

Still, obliquely alluding to the campaign led by CHEAR and SSDP to repeal the anti-drug provision, Walters conceded that "the current law has been a source of debate." He claimed he was looking at the HEA anti-drug provision and "trying to work with people on both sides of the issue."

"Funny," Dolber told DRCNet later that day. "I don't remember the drug czar ever calling SSDP or CHEAR to see how they can help us scale back the drug provision."

All in all, Tuesday's Monitoring the Future press conference, which was designed to let the federal drug warriors trumpet their latest alleged successes, instead put the drug czar and his crew on notice that their party line is not going to go unchallenged.

Read the Monitoring the Future study online at:

To watch the press conference online in its entirety, visit and do a video search on "John Walters".

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5. DRCNet Book Review: Under The Influence: The Disinformation Guide to Drugs, Edited by Preston Peet (The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2004, 312 pages, $24.95)

special to Drug War Chronicle by Steve Beitler

Under the Influence is a sampler kit of drug war essays that brings light to dark corners with energy and commitment. It makes no pretense at objectivity or balance but teems with data and outrage as it weaves history, geopolitics and journalism into a rich and often entertaining resource. Editor Preston Peet organized 49 essays (including two by Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith) into seven categories, such as "For Medicinal Use," "Reform and Politics" and "Facts and Propaganda," that take readers on a high-speed tour of drug war zones near and far. Two themes that unite the essays are that this is a war on some drugs and some users, and that prohibition does far more harm than drugs. Not exactly stop-the-presses insight for many potential readers, but the book's range of topics and fistful of first-rate pieces more than compensate.

In an essay called "A War on Sanity," law professor Paul Campos asks, "What level of government persecution will put a dent in public apathy about the madness that is the war on drugs?" Assuming that level exists, we are clearly not there yet, and smoldering frustration over the blindness of so many people simmers under the surface in many pieces. In an Editor's Note before two essays that close the book, Peet describes Under the Influence as "a book full of hard journalism and social commentary... it is hoped that you will be able to see past the lies and propaganda driving the War on Some Drugs and Users and vote for those representative (sic) who will end the War." Given the horrors that the book chronicles, though, Peet's faith in elected officials to end the nightmare might seem naïve.

The richest pieces combine historical detail with deeply skeptical analysis. In "Prohibition is Treason," Dan Russell declares that "prohibition is a neo-fascist protection racket... (it) is designed to be endless... and (it) has made the drug trade the economic basis of military power throughout the world." Russell brings together the origins of America's drug war with detail on how prohibition and drug profits have helped fund our close ties with foul regimes or rogue groups in client states who do America's dirtiest work while lining their own pockets. Russell's is a nice companion piece to Valerie Vande Panne's "A Brief History of the War on Drugs," which starts in colonial times to sketch "the roots of our drug war, grown... out of the zealous ignorance of a frightened, greedy, puritanical people."

In just over two pages, Jay Cavanaugh, who served on the California State Board of Pharmacy from 1980 until 1990, lays waste to the pharmaceutical industry. The Food and Drug Administration, whose official mission is to regulate the industry in the name of public safety, "is in essence the enforcement arm for drug company extortionists... Drug companies spend more money on bribing doctors and politicians, and on advertising drugs folks don't need and would be better off without than they do on finding all of the miracle cures that are just around the corner." How many more Vioxx disasters are out there?

Some of the essays wander into difficult territory even for those whose commitment to change is steadfast. Clifford Wallace Thornton, in a piece titled "Perceptions of Race, Class, and America's War on Drugs," says, "Another question is whether the drug policy reform movement is ready for an infusion of blacks... Reparations are an issue... that reformers don't want to address because of a feared backlash by the white populace." In "Beyond Health and Safety -- A hard look at really preventing drug abuse," Theo Rosenfeld writes that "we all fall into the same faulty binary logic when we advocate for honesty in drug education but stop at honestly explaining the dangers of drug use as well as fail to honestly speak of positive drug effects and experiences." Tricky syntax aside, Rosenfeld expresses a reality known to millions -- the power of positive drug experiences -- but acknowledged by few.

Under the Influence provides information and insight that newcomers and veteran reformers can learn from. Its greatest achievement may be its ability to sustain a tone of resolve and confidence despite the steep uphill battle reformers are fighting.

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6. Legalization Talk

As announced a week ago, DRCNet now has a blog, "Prohibition and the Media," a daily critique of selected mainstream news articles. Starting this issue, Drug War Chronicle will each week reprint one or two of our favorite entries from the previous week's blogging. We will also let you know about other interesting developments or resources of relevance to the prohibition/legalization debate. We hope you'll visit each day to hear the half of the story that the media didn't tell, for types of news stories that Drug War Chronicle hasn't focused on before, to send letters to the editor, and to join and follow the discussion.

Our favorite this week was yesterday's entry, "Meth Lab Explodes in Apartment Building":

Another meth lab story, this one from the Seattle area: A low-income apartment building in Arlington was evacuated after a methamphetamine lab in one of the units exploded, the Seattle Times reported Wednesday. Authorities believe that much of the building may be contaminated by the chemicals.

We need to get serious about stopping illegal meth labs, but trying to search them out and close them down that way doesn't qualify -- all that does is move the problem from place to place. In another recent story about highway interdiction (that I may comment on in a future post), it was even noted that meth labs often are located inside vehicles. Restricting sales of Sudafed won't do it either, as WBRZ News 2 "The Advocate" in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reported on in Mississippi.

The only way to get serious about closing down illegal meth labs is to put them out of business by replacing them with legal, regulated producers. Let's do this already -- we just can't have explosions, especially explosions involving dangerous chemicals. We can regulate legalization, but we can't regulate or control the large number of illegal, underground laboratories that move from place to place.

Seattle Times letter to the editor info is online here, at the bottom right of the page. The Advocate News accepts letters to the editor online too.

Other Prohibition and the Media blog entries this week included Pete Doherty and the Trail of Destruction on BBC, Violence in Colombia, Edmonton (Canada), Philadelphia, Utah, Making Sure Drugs Kill, Meth Lab Problems -- Historical Context, Prohibition Drives Addicted Connecticut Couple to Crime, Loveable Murphy, Meth Lab Problems -- Upstate New York & Humboldt County, California, Arkansas Arrests, Back Home In Indiana, Philly Crack Cocaine Bust and ABC and the Philadelphia Inquirer on the Big Cocaine Bust.

Also of interest, a review by Cato Institute fellow Doug Bandow, a former special assistant to president Reagan, of two books that are critical of drug prohibition and make the case for legalization, "Bad Trip: How the War on Drugs Is Destroying America" by Joel Miller and "Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition" by Jeffrey Miron. Visit to check it out.

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7. Newsbrief: Senior Citizens Support Medical Marijuana, AARP Poll Finds

Nearly three out of four older Americans support legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, a poll conducted for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has found. The poll, conducted in mid-November for the nation's largest group representing senior citizens, surveyed 1,706 people aged 45 or older.

Overall, 72% of respondents agreed that "adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it." Support was highest in the West (82%) and Northeast (79%) and lowest in the Midwest (67%) and Southwest (65%). In the South, 70% agreed with the statement.

The poll asked if respondents thought marijuana had medical uses, and oddly enough, many seniors who said they didn't think it had medical uses supported it anyway. Less than half of those over 70 agreed marijuana had medical benefits, but 69% of that group wanted it legalized for medical purposes. Younger respondents were more likely to think marijuana has medical benefits, with some 70% of 45-49-year-olds agreeing that it does.

Personal use histories and attitudes toward marijuana's addictiveness were also age-related, the poll suggested. Among those over 70, only 8% had smoked pot, compared with 58% of the forty-somethings, 37% of the fifty-somethings, and 15% of the sixty-somethings. Similarly, the older respondents were, the more likely they were to believe that marijuana is addictive. While overall, 74% thought the weed could enslave you, that number was 83% among those over 70 and only 61% among the forty-somethings.

The AARP poll results are well in line with other surveys of support for medical marijuana, which consistently show well above majority support and often range into the higher than 80% bracket. While the AARP takes no position on the issue, it will examine it in the March-April issue of the AARP magazine, which will appear in late January.

The AARP has 35 million members. "The use of medical marijuana applies to many older Americans who may benefit from cannabis," said AARP magazine editor Ed Dwyer in a press statement.

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8. Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There is no rock 'n' roll, but plenty of sex and drugs in this week's peek at corruption in the drug war. Our first entry is not a law enforcement officer, but because he was part of the drug war enforcement apparatus, we will welcome him to the club anyway. In San Antonio, Adrian Barrientos, an employee of a private drug testing firm, is free on bond this week after being accused of falsifying a positive drug test for a woman in exchange for sexual favors, the Houston Chronicle reported. Barrientos is charged with obstruction of justice and faces up to 10 years in prison.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Barrientos asked the woman if her test would come back positive, and when she replied affirmatively, he told her he would falsify the results in exchange for sex. Barrientos' former employer, Victoria-based Treatment Associates, contracts with the US Probation Office in two Texas federal judicial districts to provide drug testing and treatment to offenders.

Another outbreak of drug war horniness came to light this week in Arizona, where former Department of Public Safety trooper Michael Thompson pleaded guilty Wednesday to trading drugs for sex. He received probation.

The five-year veteran officer was first suspected of exchanging drugs for sex in July, and his supervisors nailed him with a sting operation. According to the Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney's Office, on September 23, Thompson met with a young woman he knew, threw a packet of cocaine on the floor and told her she had to "earn it." That earned him a charge of solicitation of transfer of narcotic drugs.

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9. Newsbrief: From Federal Prison, Martha Stewart Calls for Sentencing Reform

In an open letter to supporters from the federal prison in Alderson, West Virginia, where she is serving a five-month sentence for lying to federal investigators in an inside trading investigation, home decorating diva Martha Stewart has called for sentencing reform -- especially for nonviolent and drug offenders. In a Wednesday Christmas message on her web site, Martha Talks (, Stewart spoke of the women she was imprisoned with and urged her readers to aid those women by working for sentence reductions.

"I beseech you all to think about these women -- to encourage the American people to ask for reforms, both in sentencing guidelines, in length of incarceration for nonviolent first-time offenders, and for those involved in drug-taking," wrote Stewart. "They would be much better served in a true rehabilitation center than in prison where there is no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate, no way to be prepared for life 'out there' where each person will ultimately find herself, many with no skills and no preparation for living. "

Many of her fellow prisoners had done years behind bars "devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family," she wrote. More than 12,000 women are serving federal prison sentences, the majority of them for nonviolent drug offenses, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart added that she is surviving her confinement, noting that it gave her time to think, write, exercise, and "not eat the bad food." Welcome to the gulag, Martha.

Stewart's epiphany may be rare but is not unknown among "celebrity" prisoners, although most other converts to prison reform have been political celebrities. The most famous instance is that of former Nixon bag-man Charles Colson, who, after doing time for Watergate-related felonies has devoted his life to his Prison Ministries. Although primarily religiously-based, Colson's group also stakes out a strong stand on sentencing reform.

Former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell also had a road-to-Damascus experience while sitting in federal prison. At a 1998 conference organized by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (, whose theme, appropriately enough, was "Metamorphosis," Hubbell spoke of how, as he sat in his cell like a caged rat, he remembered a day when he had breezily signed an order locking down thousands of prisoners. That, said Hubbell, was the moment he became an agent of change.

Another Democratic politician who belatedly saw the light was former Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, who did a short amount of federal time on corruption charges. In an interview with Iowa Public Television conducted after his 1998 release, he pled guilty to helping create a monstrous imprisonment binge. "We don't seem to be winning the war against drugs, but we've put a lot of young people behind bars," he said, adding it was partly his fault for supporting harsh drug laws. "I voted for them when I was in Congress," he said. "I was swept along with the rhetoric on getting tough on crime."

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10. Newsbrief: Anachronistic Law Could Hamper Hemp in South Africa

A nascent industrial hemp industry in South Africa appears poised for takeoff except for one small problem: It's illegal. Although experimental hemp farming has been underway in the poverty-stricken Eastern Cape since 1999 and a large-scale hemp production pilot project began this year, South African law still fails to distinguish between industrial hemp and marijuana, known regionally as dagga.

South African hemp clothing brand Irie Hemp
"The status of the hemp plant in South Africa is still exactly the same as dagga, but the narcotic ingredient of the hemp plant is much less than the dagga plant," said Andreas Plüddemann, a scientist at the Medical Research Council. He told the Associated Press it was time to amend the 1965 Medicine and Related Substances Act. "There is no real reason not to revisit the legislation other than it might be technically difficult to administer," he said.

Under a collaborative effort among the Agricultural Research Council, the Center for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, and the private sector, hemp production now employs about 180 small-scare farmers and includes training and development skills, co-operative agreements with hemp producing countries, commercialization and marketing, and a hemp seed multiplication scheme.

"Hemp breeding has progressed to a level on which we can register a South African cultivar," said provincial agriculture official Molano Sotana. "A multiplication scheme on local hemp seed can be done then, and seed will be affordable to the farmers," he said, adding that 10 oil pressing machines and ten oil filters had been bought to help farmers produce hemp oil.

The hemp plant produces fibers and oils, and is used as a food source as well as for composite building materials, bio-fuels, and textiles. South African Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza last year suggested that auto manufacturer DaimlerChrysler might be interested in using local hemp to make dashboards. But Didiza also warned that there would be no "massive production" of hemp until the Department of Health had removed hemp from the dagga laws.

Now, if hemp production is to help develop the Eastern Cape, South Africa's political class will have to act.

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11. Newsbrief: Dutch Open First Retirement Home for Junkies

Where else but Holland? The country that brought the world coffee shop weed sales and sensible harm reduction policies is at again. According to the UK newspaper The Scotsman, the world's first retirement home for drug addicts has opened in Rotterdam, with plans for more on the way.

Seniorenpand looks like an ordinary retirement home, with comfy sofas huddled around a TV set in the lounge, and shelves nearby filled with paperbacks and puzzles. But "in the bedrooms, the elderly get high on heroin and cocaine," the Scotsman breathlessly reported.

While Seniorenpand does not provide drugs for its residents, neither does it seek to stop them from procuring their own and using them in their rooms. The home is funded by the city of Rotterdam and a semi-private medical foundation. Similar junkie retirement homes are planned for Amsterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague, and policymakers from around Europe are watching with interest, according to the Scotsman.

Such homes are a godsend for aging addicts who may be unable to fend for themselves on the streets any longer but are unwelcome at traditional nursing homes. "If it weren't for this place, I would be dead and buried now," said Gert-Jan, 62, who uses a walking frame to get around. "This is a real home for me. I have been using drugs most of my adult life, and I can't stop now," he said. "Being old doesn't mean your addiction just goes away."

Ironically, the problem of aging addicts in Holland is acute precisely because the Dutch state treats them well enough that they survive into old age. Addicts receive free medical care and methadone if they desire it, and drug use death rates are the lowest in Europe. Half of Dutch drug users are now over 40, with many in their 60s.

The main aim of Seniorenpand is to help drug users live out their final years in comfort and dignity. Residents are encouraged to use fewer drugs, but the choice is theirs. "We do not deal drugs to the residents, but we don't forbid them to use them either," said Alexander Hogendoorn, the home's manager. "Some people reach a point where their addiction is irreversible, so our goal is to give them some stability and quality of life until the end comes."

It sounds so damnably Dutch, doesn't it? So reasonable, so sensible.

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12. Newsbrief: Hungarian High Court Overturns Drug Reforms

In a December 13 ruling, Hungary's Constitutional Court restricted the use of diversion to drug treatment for some drug offenders, narrowing the scope of reform legislation enacted in 2003. In so doing, it also explicitly rejected an argument that the laws against drug possession are unconstitutional, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union reported.

In its opinion, the Constitutional Court appeared to embrace positions on addiction that are not supported by facts. Illicit drugs are more dangerous than licit ones, the court reasoned. "The risk of alcohol addiction is much lower than the risk of addiction to illicit drugs, because the time and dose necessary for the development of addiction is very different and the acute harms of use are much lower," the judges opined.

Actually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when measured by habitual use potential, or the number of people who have ever used a drug recently, alcohol far exceeds all currently illicit substances.

The court also reasoned paradoxically that drug use leads to the "loss of personal freedom" and therefore personal freedom may be abridged to fight it.

Of more immediate impact, the court modified the Hungarian Penal Code by restricting certain drug users from being allowed to seek drug treatment in lieu of criminal prosecution. Under the reforms passed in March, 2003, people who possessed or shared small amounts of proscribed drugs could choose diversion. But in its opinion, the court said that people who share drugs do not qualify because the term to describe the act, "collective use," is ambiguous.

The court's decision did not sit well with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), which was already suing to force the court to make public submissions made in the case. "There are many problems with this decision," said Balazs Denes, HCLU executive director. "The ruling abolished paragraphs [in the criminal code] which tried to approach a reality-based legal differentiation between drug traffickers and drug users. The court used its power to change the criminal code from one day to another. Even the Parliament, which usually practices the legislative function, gives time for society to prepare for the changes, but the Court now changed the rules without setting such a timeframe. To top that, some parts of the reasoning used in the decision reminds us of the old-fashioned American propaganda movies from the thirties. Only one Judges' dissent opinion contains known, quoted and researchable information on the drug phenomena; the rest based their arguments on false beliefs and stereotypes, without having consulted any experts in the matter."

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13. Newsbrief: Intelligence Bill Yields New Federal Drug Fighter Position

The 3,000-page Intelligence Reform Act, passed earlier this month by Congress and quickly signed into law by President Bush, does many things. Although it was un-remarked upon in the deliberations leading to the bill's enactment into law, the act has implications for the federal anti-drug bureaucracy: It adds a new layer.

Thanks to eagle-eyed Wisconsin drug reformer and legal gadfly Ben Masel, who must have pored through the whole mess, we read that Section 4707 of the act creates a new Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security. With the new office comes a new director, who is charged with coordinating "policy and operations within the Department, between the Department and other Federal departments and agencies, and between the Department and State and local agencies with respect to stopping the entry of illegal drugs into the United States."

The new director of OCE is also mandated to lobby for more anti-drug money: "to ensure the adequacy of resources within the Department for stopping the entry of illegal drugs into the United States" and "to recommend the appropriate financial and personnel resources necessary to help the Department better fulfill its responsibility to stop the entry of illegal drugs into the United States."

He will also fight the war on terror/war on drugs. As a member of the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force the OCE director will "construct to track and sever connections between illegal drug trafficking and terrorism."

The only man in line for that job is current Department of Homeland Security Counternarcotics Officer/US Interdiction Coordinator Roger Mackin, whose credentials are impressively spooky. According to his official biography, Mackin served 27 years as CIA operations officer, managing intelligence collection, special operations,counterintelligence, and counternarcotics programs. Earlier in his career, the biography notes, for four years he led CIA efforts against heroin producing organizations in Southeast Asia. The biography also noted that he had a "parallel career" -- or perhaps cover -- as a US Air Force officer and served five years in Vietnam.

One can only hope that the four years Mackin spent leading CIA efforts against heroin producing organizations in Southeast Asia weren't the same years his employer was flying Laotian opium into Saigon on Air America planes to be cooked into the smack that reinvigorated the ranks of junkiedom back on the streets of the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the other hand, a man whose job description requires him to fight drugs and terrorists by doing everything he can to increase the profitability of illicit drug markets may be a man who could have handled such contradictions.

Read the full text of the Intelligence Reform Act at online.

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14. Newsbrief: First Cannabis-Based Prescription Drug Wins Preliminary Approval in Canada

The Canadian government announced Tuesday that a natural marijuana extract, which will be sold under the brand name Sativex, has won preliminary approval to be prescribed as a medicine in Canada. In a Qualifying Statement issued by Health Canada, the health agency said that all that remained was for GW Pharmaceuticals (http:///, the British company that developed Sativex, to comply with certain conditions in order to market the drug. In a press release the same day, GW immediately signaled that those conditions were acceptable. A company spokesman said it would be "months, but not many months" before Sativex will be available for Canadian patients.

Sativex bottles
Sativex is a liquid that is sprayed into the mouth. As a marijuana extract, it is similar to cannabis-based extracts that were part of the US pharmacopoeia until 1937, when marijuana was made illegal.

Sativex won initial approval for the treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis patients. GW Pharmaceuticals said it hoped to win approval for its use for other conditions soon.

"We look forward to receiving final regulatory approval for Sativex in Canada in the early part of 2005," said Dr. Geoffrey Guy, GW executive chairman. "This approval will be a major milestone for GW and for people with Multiple Sclerosis who have long awaited a prescription cannabis-based medicine for the treatment of neuropathic pain. We view Canada as an important target market for Sativex. Sativex will be the first prescription cannabis-based medicine and we believe that the pragmatism shown by Health Canada in their review reflects a welcome recognition of the clinical need in MS patients for Sativex."

Health Canada's approval of Sativex prompted comment from Marijuana Policy Project executive director Rob Kampia, who ridiculed claims from the US drug-fighting establishment that marijuana could never be a safe and effective medicine. "This confirms that virtually everything the US government has told us about marijuana is wrong," said Kampia. "GW Pharmaceuticals has proven -- and the Canadian government has acknowledged -- that marijuana is indeed a medicine, one that is both effective and remarkably safe. This natural plant extract is nothing like Marinol, the THC pill sold in the United States, and GW's research shows conclusively that marijuana's medical benefits go far beyond THC."

"This product offers patients and doctors a new option, and Americans deserve access to it. The real lesson from this is that patients should have access to marijuana in whatever form they and their doctors find most useful," Kampia said. "Sativex is to marijuana as a cup of coffee is to coffee beans, and there is simply no justification for arresting patients for using different varieties of the same medication. In addition, marijuana in its natural form has significant advantages, including low cost and nearly instantaneous relief of symptoms."

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15. Newsbrief: Canadian Study to Examine Safety of Medical Marijuana

Even as Canada moves toward becoming the first country to approve a cannabis-based prescription medicine, an extract known as Sativex (see newsbrief this issue), Canadian researchers announced Tuesday that they are commencing a study of the safety of smoked marijuana as medicine. The study known as COMPASS (Cannabis for the Management of Pain: Assessment of Safety Study) will track 1,400 people with chronic pain for one year. Canada already allows for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes under a program that is administered by Health Canada. Still, no studies of the safety of medical marijuana have been done in that country.

"Other studies are looking at whether cannabis relieves pain and other symptoms," said principal investigator Dr. Mark Ware, a pain physician at McGill University Health Centre Pain Centre, in a statement announcing the COMPASS study. "These studies are important, but we also need to know how safe cannabis used for medical purposes actually is. The experience of recreational users gives us some information, but we must understand safety issues in patients who are taking multiple medications and who may have diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes, which complicate the picture," Ware said.

"Patients in COMPASS will typically have pain resulting from spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, arthritis or other kinds of hard-to-treat injuries or muscle pain. We are not recruiting cancer patients for this study," Ware added.

The COMPASS patients will be smoking (or vaporizing) pot with about 12% THC provided under contract to Health Canada. "COMPASS participants will be given access to research-grade herbal cannabis and followed for one year. We'll be looking at a range of safety issues, including adverse events, kidney, liver, heart and lung function, and hormone levels," said Dr. Jean-Paul Collet, another principal investigator and a professor of epidemiology at McGill. "Patients will also do tests at the start and end of the study, to help determine whether medical use of cannabis affects cognitive function," Collet added.

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16. Newsbrief: Illinois Nurses Join Growing List of Nursing Groups Supporting Medical Marijuana

The Illinois Nurses Association (INA) has joined at least a dozen state nursing associations and the American Nursing Association in endorsing the use of marijuana as a medicine. In a position paper submitted by the INA's Assembly on Health Policy on November 23, adopted unanimously by Board of Directors, and now prominently displayed on the group's web site (, the INA declared that it is the position of the Illinois Nurses Association to:

  • Support continued research in controlled investigational trials on the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis, including methods of administration.
  • Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.
  • Support and encourage the education of registered nurses regarding current, evidence based use of therapeutic cannabis.
  • Support the ability of health care providers to discuss and/or recommend the therapeutic use of cannabis without the threat of intimidation or penalization.
  • Support legislation to remove criminal penalties including arrest and imprisonment for bona fide patients and prescribers of therapeutic cannabis.
  • Support federal and state legislation to include cannabis classification as a Schedule III drug.
The Illinois nurses implicitly rebuked the anti-medical marijuana pronouncements of the likes of drug czar John Walters or Illinois' own Dr. Andrea Barthwell, his former henchwoman. "Illinois nurses have an obligation to the public regarding matters of science and health as well as an obligation to protect the integrity of the profession," read the position paper. "A basic principle of the American Nurses Association maintains that nurses participate in the profession's efforts to protect the public from misinformation and misrepresentation. Therefore, the Illinois Nurses Association joins the Institute of Medicine (1999), the ANA (2003), and twelve Constituent Member Associations, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians, among other organizations in recognizing the value of science over cultural misrepresentation and supports patients requiring safe access to therapeutic cannabis."

The position paper was authored and presented to the INA Board of Directors by Paula N. Kagan PhD, RN -- and therein lies a tale. As Patients Out of Time ( spokesman Al Byrne told DRCNet, Kagan attended the group's Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in May.

A grant from the Peter Lewis funds controlled by the Marijuana Policy Project enabled Patients Out of Time to invite Dr. Kagan to the conference on a scholarship, and when the INA heard about the forum, it agreed to kick in for part of her expenses, said Byrne. "The total cost of having the INA join in support of medical marijuana was $ 238.72." The Fourth National Clinical Conference will be held in Santa Barbara in April, and Byrne is looking for other political or health care organizations that might be open to sending a representative.

The Illinois nurses gave a shout-out to Patients Out of Time, mentioning two of its board members by name: "It is important to note that the impetus to promote the scientific and scholarly agenda on cannabis has been lead by two American nurses, Mary Lynn Mathre, MSN, RN, CARN (Virginia Nurses Association) and Melanie Dreher, PhD, RN, FAAN (Iowa Nurses Association) and has facilitated the international dialogue currently taking place among scientists, providers, patients, and legal experts," the document noted.

The INA is only the latest of dozens of medical organizations that have stepped up for medical marijuana. For a complete list, visit online.

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17. Media Scan: Reason on Pain, Cockburn on Webb, Grits for Breakfast, Faith Under Fire, BJS

Jacob Sullum on the Hurwitz conviction in Reason, "Trust Busters: pain doctor's drug trafficking conviction sets a chilling precedent":

Alexander Cockburn in Counterpunch, on "From Kobe Bryant to Uncle Sam: Why They Hated Gary Webb":

Scott Henson's Grits for Breakfast Blog reports on some highly positive fallout from the Tulia scandal:

PAX-TV "Faith Under Fire" interviews former Medellin cartel leader and founder of Coming Clean Ministries Dr. Jorge Valdes, and criminal defense attorney Alan Ross. Saturday, 12/25, 10:00pm EST and PST, 9:00pm CST and MST, visit and look up episode #113 for further information.

New Bureau of Justice Statistics report, "Felony Sentences in the US, 2002": or

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18. This Week in History

December 24, 1998: The Times (UK) reports that the Prince of Wales expressed an interest in the effectiveness of cannabis in relieving the pain of diseases such as multiple sclerosis. During his annual visit to the Sue Ryder Home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, he asked MS patient Karen Drake: "Have you tried taking cannabis? I have heard it's the best thing for it." Drake, 36, said afterwards: "I was surprised but I think I would like at least to try it. Anything that can help relieve the pain can only be for the good."

December 24, 2001: The North Carolina Lexington Dispatch reports the dismissal of 65 criminal cases investigated by three county narcotics officers charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute drugs. According to a federal affidavit issued in the case, law enforcement officers abused their authority in one or more ways, including writing fake search warrants, planting evidence and fabricating charges, keeping drugs and money seized during arrests, attempting to extort more money from the people arrested, and intimidating suspects and potential witnesses.

December 26, 1997: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom said that it is time to treat heroin abuse less as a crime and more like a medical problem. He added that efforts to halt drugs at the border or to "Just Say No" have failed.

December 29, 1997: The New York Times reported that US and Mexican officials said that the United States was providing the Mexican military with extensive covert intelligence support and training for hundreds of its officers to help shape a network of anti-drug troops around the country. The Times pointed out that "the effort has proceeded despite growing US concern that it may lead to more serious problems of corruption and human rights in one of Mexico's most respected institutions. In fact, a new US intelligence analysis of the military's drug ties will cite evidence of extensive penetration of the officer corps."

December 30, 1989: Ignoring evidence to the contrary, DEA Director John Lawn orders that cannabis remain on the Schedule I narcotics list which is reserved for drugs which have no known medical use.

December 30, 1996: President Clinton approves a plan to combat new state laws legalizing marijuana for the ill and dying.

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19. Apply Now to Intern at Drcnet!

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

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

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

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20. Job Opportunity at MAPS

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is hiring a Membership Services and Communication/Development person for their office in Sarasota, Florida. The application deadline is January 31 and the starting date is intended to be April 1 -- visit for info.

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

Contact at [email protected].

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22. The Reformer's Calendar

Please submit listings of events concerning drug policy and related topics to [email protected].

December 25, noon-1:00pm, Seattle, WA, X-Mas Vigil, organized by WA NORML, November Coalition Seattle Chapter and Seattle Hempfest. At the King County Jail, 5th and James, call (206) 781-5734 for further information.

January 13-16, 2005, Pittsburgh, PA, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Jerry Cameron speaks to church congregations about Martin Luther King's message and the impact of America's drug prohibition policy on the African American community. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

January 19, 2005, 6:00-8:00pm, "Criminal Justice Reform in the 21st Century: Rockefeller Drug Law Reform and the Community," forum in the "Urban Dialogues" series, featuring Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder. At Metropolitan College of New York, 75 Varick Street (at Canal Street), Student Lounge, 12th floor, contact (212) 343-7025 or [email protected] for info.

January 22, 2005, 4:00pm-3:00am, Brickell, FL, 7th Annual Medical Marijuana Benefit Concert, supporting Florida NORML's medical marijuana campaign. Hosted by Ploppy Palace Productions, at Tobacco Road, 626 South Miami Ave., 21 Years or over admission $10. For further information contact [email protected].

January 24-April 30, 2005, eastern Pennsylvania, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition cofounder Peter Christ visits civic groups, church congregations and colleges in Lancaster, Scranton, Allentown, Philadelphia and many other locations. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

January 31-February 12, 2005, central and southwestern Ohio, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Judge Eleanor Schockett visits civic groups, churches and colleges explaining drug policy and offering alternatives. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

February 10, 2005, 6:00pm, New York, NY, book talk Anthony Papa, author of "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom," guests including Andrew Cuomo and others. At Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe, 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd., between 124th and 125th Sts. Call (212) 665 7400 or visit for info.

February 12, 2005, 1:30-4:20pm, Laguna, Rally Against the Drug War, organized by OC NORML, SO Cal NORML, and the November Coalition. At Main Beach, for further information visit or contact (714) 210-6446 or [email protected].

February 15-17, 2005, New England, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Judge James P. Gray speaks at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts on Feb. 16, Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut on Feb. 17 during the day, and Brown University on Feb. 17 in the evening. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

February 19, 2005, Norwich, United Kingdom, Legalise Cannabis Conference 2005. Visit for information.

March 12-17, 2005, New York, NY, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Judge James P. Gray addresses civic groups and audiences at Columbia University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. For further information, visit or contact Mike Smithson at [email protected] or (315) 243-5844.

April 21-23, Tacoma, WA, 15th North American Syringe Exchange Convention. Sponsored by the North American Syringe Exchange Network, visit for further information or contact NASEN at (253) 272-4857 or [email protected].

April 30, 2005 (date tentative), 11:00am-3:00pm, Washington, DC, "America's in Pain!" 2nd Annual National Pain Rally. At the US Capitol Reflecting Pool, visit for further information.

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

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

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

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