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Drug War Chronicle
(formerly The Week Online with DRCNet)

Issue #371 -- 1/21/05

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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

    Iranian Police Round Up Tens of Thousands of Drug Users
    The US government in its drug policy has aligned less with its allies of the free world and more with those nations where democracy, human rights, and rule of law are weak.
    Across the Midwest and from Montana to Mississippi, lawmakers and law enforcement are making a concerted push this year to restrict consumer access to legal over-the-counter cold and allergy medications such as Sudafed.
    The scene at Mexico's main maximum security prison was slightly surreal this week, as army tanks and soldiers and prisoner family members gathered outside the walls in a standoff.
    This week "Prohibition in the Media" discusses an insightful article by the Baltimore Sun in which police officials actually admit their strategy has sparked more violence. Also this week, drug trade homicide prosecutions in Michigan, and a dealer rapes a cocaine user in Florida.
    A Texas prosecutor is busted for possession with intent to distribute, and a Detroit cop who gave drugs to users so he could photograph them is convicted for conspiracy and abetting drug delivery. Both could face hard time.
    Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, has ruled that tiny traces of THC in a driver's bloodstream are not sufficient to convict him of driving while intoxicated and punish him by revoking his driver's license.
    Iranian police have arrested more than 50,000 people for drug use in Greater Teheran alone in the past nine months, and thousands more have been arrested in the city of Mashad.
    New Hampshire and New Jersey were first out of the gate with marijuana reform bills this year -- New Jersey's to legalize medical use, New Hampshire's to decriminalize possession and reduce penalties for sales.
    Southwest Virginia has been one of the centers of the so-called Oxycontin epidemic in recent years, so one would think people there would be keen to support treatments designed to wean people from the drug. One would be wrong.
    In a resolution adopted Wednesday, the King County Bar Association (Seattle) called for "a new framework of state-level regulatory control over psychoactive substances."
    State Rep. Ruth Jones McLendon has introduced a bill in the Texas legislature that would allow the city of San Antonio to ban anyone arrested for a drug offense from entering certain parts of the city except to go directly home or to work. While McLendon claims it is aimed at drug traffickers, the bill as written would apply to possessors as well -- even before they're convicted.
    Legal scholars remain divided on the ultimate impact of last week's Supreme Court decision in the Booker and Fan Fan cases. But for one New York woman, there is little to debate.
    There is nothing like a taste of justice American-style to make even the haughtiest of the hoity-toity start to think about reforming the system.
    In the wake of a successful ballot initiative approving a medical marijuana program in the state of Montana, the Marijuana Policy Project has initiated a fund to assist Big Sky residents with the program's costs.
    Prominent Maine marijuana activist Don Christen was indicted Tuesday on two counts of aggravated marijuana trafficking and one count of aggravated cultivation, for his work providing medical marijuana to patients out of his home.
    Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.
    Showing up at an event can be the best way to get involved! Check out this week's listings for events from today through next year, across the US and around the world!

(Chronicle archives)

1. Editorial: Unfortunate Bedfellows

David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected], 1/21/05

David Borden
Chronicle readers may be familiar with the "Out from the Shadows" campaign, a global campaign by DRCNet and allies to elevate the calls for ending prohibition around the world. In addition to calling for legalization, though, a second purpose of Out from the Shadows is to paint a picture of the extent to which the US government in its drug policy has aligned itself less with its allies of the free world and more with those nations where democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law are more weak.

Iran, we report this week, has carried out mass arrests of tens of thousands of drug users -- 50,000 in greater Teheran alone -- and the campaign will doubtless continue. As with the US, where drugs are illegal and the drug war is fiercely prosecuted, those 50+ thousands did break their nation's laws. But does that mean they should they be rounded up? In my opinion such a belief would reflect too narrow a view.

Two months ago, my "Spirit of Lawfulness" editorial attracted a fair degree of interest. In that piece, I wrote, " [t]hat which is lawless in its essence is not made truly lawful through the passage of mere laws." Even in a democracy, even one such as ours that is not confined by autocratic exercise power to theocracy, there is something not lawful in spirit, not respectful of basic rights in their essence, in the locking inside cages of human beings for their personal choices where those choices do not violate the safety or property of others.

Though drug policies in Western Europe, for example, are far from perfect -- even in the Netherlands, marijuana is technically illegal, for example -- Western Europe's drug prohibition is far less extreme than that of the United States. Though the European Union has more people in it than the United States, fewer EU denizens sit now in jail or prison for all crimes combined than the half a million the US incarcerates for drug offenses alone, and Europe's "tolerance" approach to drug use continues to gain ground, albeit gradually and with occasional setbacks.

The "zero tolerance" spirit which leads sometimes to mass police roundups of people is something with the US shares in greatest measure with countries like Iran, or Thailand or the Philippines with their governmental anti-drug death squads, or China with its mass "International Anti-Drugs Day" executions each year. Indeed, we permit our anti-drug agencies to forge ties with some of the most rights-abusing governments in the world. Such cooperation with our anti-drug objectives then gets portrayed in the halls of power as evidence that maybe they are not so bad after all, or that they should be appeased even if they are.

The US also uses its leverage as a top international donor to ensure the continued dominance of the UN's anti-drug treaties that bind signatory nations into prohibitionist legal systems. For that matter, we encouraged the UN to provide funding to the Taliban for opium eradication, despite dire warnings of that movement's violence -- though ironically, marijuana law at least was one area in which the Taliban's policies were less punishing than ours. Note that this newsletter condemned the Taliban in 1997. We continue today to point out the disjuncture -- not consonance -- between the war on drugs and democracy and human rights, in principle and policy and effect.

Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice this week named Iran as one of several "outposts of tyranny." Perhaps Iran's government merits such a title, though tyranny prevails in many nations not appearing on Rice's short list. Unfortunately, I don't expect the State Department under George Bush to count mass arrests of Iranian drug users among the sins it protests or even observes.

Also unfortunately, I doubt that a Kerry administration would have done so either. The hegemony of prohibitionist international drug policy emanates from, and is reflected in, a near uniformity of prohibitionist ideology within mainstream political groupings in the US -- Democrats and Republicans alike are unfortunate bedfellows in the perpetration of the drug war against our fellow citizens of this country and others.

But that's why getting our message out is so important. Only by making the public at large aware of the case against drug prohibition, can the drug war's lock on our state and national and international institutions be broken. Only then will leaders recognize that if democracy and rule of law and human rights belong on one side of the global ideological divide, the drug war is rather on the other. There is no drug exception to human rights.

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2. Following Oklahoma's Lead, States Target Cold Remedies in Fight Against Methamphetamine

Across the Midwest and from Montana to Mississippi, lawmakers and law enforcement are making a concerted push this year to restrict consumer access to legal over-the-counter (OTC) cold and allergy medications, such as Sudafed, which are used by tens of millions of people every year. The cold and allergy remedies are in the sights of lawmakers because they contain either ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, key precursor chemicals used in the home manufacture of methamphetamines.

Probably the most demonized drug in America today, methamphetamine is a stimulant that initially produces feelings of alertness and well-being, but when abused can cause psychological disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, paranoia and violent outbursts. (Never mind for now that speed freaks have reason to be paranoid: The cops ARE after them.) Long-term abusers of the drug can also suffer physical ailments, including cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, and convulsions, as well as possible long-term changes in brain chemistry.

But while some law enforcement officials and anti-drug "educators" portray methamphetamine as a singularly dangerous substance, it is a member of the amphetamine family of stimulants, the same drugs that were used as diet pills by housewives in the 1970s ("mother's little helpers"), as "stay awake" pills by US Air Force pilots flying long missions in the Afghan War, and, paradoxically, as medications (Ritalin, Adderal) used to tranquilize millions of American children diagnosed with hyperactivity or attention deficit disorders. In other words, it's all speed -- there is nothing intrinsically radioactive about meth. The problems that occur from meth abuse derive not from some properties of the drug alone, but from the way in which some drug users interact with it.

Such nuances are lost in the midst of the frenzy and hyperbole surrounding the drug. As usual, law enforcement officials are wont to make extreme claims about the drug's dangers that go beyond the facts. A common canard heard from cops across the land is that 90% -- or 95% or 98% -- of meth users become addicts. Similarly, police are quick to point to horrendous acts of violence committed by meth users, such as the man in New Mexico who cut off his son's head a few years ago. But as Jacob Sullum, author of "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use," pointed out in that particular case, the man in question had a long history of anti-social violence predating his adventures with meth.

Be that as it may, the war on methamphetamines is raging across the land, with state after state passing harsh new laws aimed not only at cooks and dealers but users themselves. In Oklahoma, for instance, under a package of laws passed last year, simple possession of meth is now punishable by a mandatory minimum seven-year prison sentence, with no possibility of probation or a suspended sentence.

Some states are following the model of Oklahoma, which in addition to ratcheting up penalties for users, cooks, and dealers, last year also imposed tight restrictions on OTC cold and allergy remedies as part of its effort to reduce the number of meth labs, including making such products Schedule V drugs, which can only be dispensed by a pharmacist. Oklahoma law enforcement and political figures are touting the move as a great success to be emulated elsewhere, citing a 50% reduction in meth lab busts since the law went into effect last spring.

Those numbers are being cited by lawmakers and law enforcement officials across the country as a reason to emulate Oklahoma, although trade associations representing OTC manufacturers, pharmacies, and convenience stores are quick to point out that such reductions have not been independently verified. They also note that the apparent reduction in meth lab activity in Oklahoma could be a function of harsher penalties, not restrictions on Sudafed and similar substances.

In an issue brief produced last fall, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) said that the Oklahoma law "appears to be working not because it makes pseudoephedrine a Schedule V controlled substance, but because of other provisions in the bill," namely the harsh criminal penalties, including the denial of bond to persons charged with meth offenses, that are part of the law. "Undoubtedly," said NACDS, "these enhanced law enforcement provisions are an important reason why the Oklahoma law appears to be working."

The Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA), the trade group representing manufacturers of Sudafed and other cold and allergy remedies containing the precursor drugs, supports some restrictions on the sales of such products, along with harsher meth penalties, but like the NACDS does not support making Sudafed and the like Schedule V drugs, as Oklahoma did. "While clandestine labs produce very little meth, they create hazardous problems for local law enforcement, communities, children, and the environment," noted the CHPA in a position statement on the subject last fall. "CHPA feels strongly that the only way to significantly address methamphetamine production and abuse is through a multi-faceted approach that includes retail sales limits, strong law enforcement, treatment, and demand reduction initiatives that promote cooperation within communities to stem the production of meth locally."

The Oklahoma approach is "overly restrictive and misguided," CHPA said. "In many parts of the state, Schedule V restricts families' timely access to important medicines they need, particularly consumers living in rural communities and other areas without 24 hour pharmacies who can only obtain these medicines from the pharmacist during pharmacy hours." The association also complained that reclassifying such products as Schedule V drugs "conveys a false sense of comfort in communities and does nothing to address the vast majority of meth used in Oklahoma or the US." Indeed, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), roughly 80% of all methamphetamine consumed in the US is produced not in home meth labs but in "super labs" run by drug trafficking organizations in California and Mexico. Restrictions on OTC cold and allergy medications would have absolutely no impact on these operations, which are not going down to the local 7-11 to buy truckloads of Sudafed.

"By only focusing on the identification and elimination of meth labs, law- and policy-makers are only addressing one of the key issues," said Mary AnnWagner, vice-president for pharmacy and regulatory affairs for NACDS. "There needs to be an inclusive approach when creating solutions, such as increased law enforcement measures, cutting off illegal supply chains and funding for prevention and treatment," she told a congressional committee in November.

Taking an aggressively proactive approach to protect its products, CHPA is working with elected officials to draft comprehensive state and federal legislation to attack the problem of methamphetamine use and home production. It has also established a national Meth Watch program designed to curtail the sales and theft of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products and to encourage cooperation between retailers and law enforcement. It also noisily supports programs by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and physicians' groups to undertake meth prevention and education programs aimed at youth.

But while the industry associations have decided they can live with some restrictions on their products, they find themselves up against a coordinated effort to move beyond limits on quantities that could be legally purchased and actually make such products Schedule V drugs, as was done in Oklahoma.

A December meeting in St. Louis brought together law enforcement and elected officials from 12 states across the Midwest and as far away as Louisiana and Ohio to plot a lobbying effort to push for Schedule V designations for OTC cold and allergy medications. Led by Franklin County, MO, Sheriff's Department Detective Jason Grellner, the cabal is seeking Schedule V laws across the land and is confident that can be achieved despite the opposition of the trade associations, which are keeping a close eye on their $3 billion a year market in OTC remedies.

"To say that we're excited is an understatement... 2005 is going to be our year," Grellner told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Grellner, who supervises a local anti-drug unit that has become a state leader in shutting down meth labs, has become a national spokesman for cops and politicians waging war against what he calls the "cold pills connection." He is fond of comparing the meth problem to a serpent. "What we've been doing for years is slapping at the snake's tail with a shovel. We might be fighting it, but it doesn't do any good," he said. "But if you cut off the head, the snake dies. It's that simple."

And other states need to climb aboard the Schedule V train, he said. "What states need to decide now is whether to get on the train that Oklahoma let out of the station, or get run over by it," Grellner said. "There's 12 states that are going to try for Schedule 5 next year. Whoever doesn't pass it is going to be stuck with a lot of meth cooks."

Missouri is one of a number of states that have already passed laws restricting the sales of OTC cold and allergy remedies, but Grellner has yet to succeed in winning a Schedule V vote. Oregon is another. There the state Board of Pharmacy, acting at the request of Gov. Ted Kulongoski, adopted an emergency six-month restriction on the sales of Sudafed and other over-the-counter decongestants in October 2004. Chances are that the restrictions will be extended later this year.

In Texas, federal drug enforcement officials are waging "a crackdown" on Sudafed and other over-the-counter medications as part of their war on methamphetamine. The US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas has created Operation Meth Busters, designed to help state, local, and federal law enforcement officials build cases against methamphetamine cooks and users so prosecutors can aggressively prosecute them. Meth Busters is also planning civil cases against retailers who "improperly" sell products containing pseudoephedrine and wholesalers who falsify records to sell the stuff in bulk.

Ironically, Texas law enforcement reports an unlikely ally of its efforts to crack down on small-scale meth labs: Mexican drug trafficking organizations. According to Plano-based FBI agent Greg Whitten, the Mexican traffickers are marketing "ice," a potent, smokable version of the drug, which has already taken over the market in cities such as Houston and Dallas. Whitten suggested to the Longview News-Journal that small-scale meth labs are already on their way out regardless of restrictions on non-prescription cold and allergy medications. "Over the next year or two, you'll see less and less manufacturing," he predicted.

It's not just Houston and Dallas. According to one meth user in Austin, ice is not only prevalent there, it is preferred. "Who wants to do that crap the tweakers cook up?" she told DRCNet. "You never know what you're getting, and sometimes it makes you sick. Ice is much better and it's much cleaner," she said.

Other anti-meth lab measures are sprouting across the country, from city and county ordinances in Minnesota to laws criminalizing meth manufacture in homes where children are present in Colorado, Illinois and other states.

There is another solution to the meth lab problem, but given the overheated atmosphere surrounding the issue, no one dares speak it aloud: Make methamphetamines available through regulated commercial or medical channels to those who wish to use them. If this were to occur, home meth labs would disappear virtually overnight, as consumers seek safe, reliable outlets for the product, and the millions of non-meth users who seek Sudafed or similar products only to relieve a cold or other complaint would not be forced to ID themselves, sign registries, and end up in government databases just because they wanted a cold pill.

But that isn't going to happen this year. Instead, numerous states are moving ahead with efforts to fight meth labs through restricting the sales of OTC cold and allergy medicines. According to a by no means comprehensive list compiled by DRCNet, while the advocates of the Schedule V approach have not yet prevailed, legislation to restrict Sudafed and the like in the name of the war on meth is pending in the following states:

ARKANSAS: State Attorney General Mike Beebe announced last month an initiative to limit access to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Under Beebe's proposal, non-prescription medicines that contain those substances could be purchased only from a registered pharmacist and would require buyers to show proof of identity. Pharmacists would be required to keep a log of purchases that could be audited by state investigators. Like most advocates of restrictions on cold medicines, Beebe cited the Oklahoma experience. The Oklahoma law has had "a huge chilling effect" on meth labs, he told the Arkansas Press-Gazette. "Oklahoma is doing this now, and they've had a huge impact," Beebe said. Two years ago, Arkansas passed a law limiting the quantity of medicines containing those substances that a person could buy, but that hasn't worked, he said. "They're just going from retailer to retailer," Beebe said. "They're defeating the law."

INDIANA: In November, a state task force proposed tight restrictions on the purchase of Sudafed and similar products. Customers would have to go to the pharmacist's window, sign their names in a log, and present valid photo identification before being allowed to treat their cold symptoms. The number of packages a customer could buy in a month could also be restricted. One member of the Methamphetamine Abuse Task Force, Rep. Trent Van Haaften (D-Mt. Vernon), told the Evansville Courier & Press such inconveniences to consumers were a small price to pay. "Without pseudoephedrine, you're not going to end up with the final product of meth," he explained. "If you restrict that, the end product is going to be reduced."

KANSAS: Citing an alleged increase in Oklahoma speed freaks coming across the state line to score Sudafed and other cold and allergy medications, Kansas officials are also considering restrictions on the non-prescription drugs, the Kansas City Star reported last month. The Kansas proposal would limit the sales of such medications and require that they be purchased directly from a pharmacist. Kyle Smith, a spokesman for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, told the Star the number of meth labs could decrease by 50% if such measures were adopted. But meth labs may already be on the decline in the Sunflower State. According to the KBI, there were 649 meth lab busts in 2003, and only 529 last year.

MINNESOTA: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is pushing for a state law limiting access to over-the-counter drugs with meth components. The proposal would make state-wide restrictions already imposed by some cities and counties in the state. In Austin, MN, customers may only purchase two Sudafed packages at a time and must be at least 18 years old. The law includes other medications containing meth precursors as well.

MISSOURI: Grellner and his friends at the statehouse plan to push again this year for a Schedule V designation for Sudafed and the like, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

MONTANA: Sens. Rick Laible (R-Victor) and Trudi Schmidt (D-Great Falls) will sponsor a joint bill that would limit purchases of Sudafed and similar substances to two packages at a time and limit purchases to persons over 18 years of age. Sen. Jerry Black (R-Shelby) has another idea: Make possession of less than 1,000 pounds of anyhdrous ammonia -- another meth precursor -- a felony. Farmers would be excluded.

NEBRASKA: In late December, Gov. Mike Johanns (R) unveiled an anti-meth legislative package that would require people buying Sudafed and similar medications to prove their identities and sign a register. Under Johanns' proposal, such products must be sold only at pharmacies and kept in a locked case behind the counter. "Meth is a serious problem in our state and, for that matter, across the country, and this bill continues a longstanding commitment to combat the problem from a number of different angles," Johanns said during a new conference with Lt. Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning. "This legislation will make it harder for meth manufacturers to get their supplies," he said. Johanns' package would also increase meth penalties to be in line with those for cocaine and would designate meth "an especially hazardous drug. Like other Midwest states, Nebraska is following Oklahoma's example and is fearful that if it doesn't, it will attract speed freaks. "It only intensifies the need to do so in Nebraska," he said. "We must not allow our state to become a magnet for meth labs."

TEXAS: Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) has vowed to propose statewide restrictions on Sudafed and other non-prescription cold and allergy medicines this year.

Of course, pseudoephedrine and ephedrine are not the only common household products used in home meth manufacture. No word yet on moves to criminalize or otherwise restrict the possession of match heads, lithium batteries, or ether-containing engine cleaners.

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3. Mexican Stand-Off: Government Sends in Tanks, Soldiers in Effort to Retake Prisons from Narcos

The scene outside Mexico's main maximum security prison, Las Palmas, on the outskirts of Mexico City, was slightly surreal this week. A dozen and a half Mexican Army tanks surrounded the complex for six days -- leaving Wednesday afternoon -- and they were joined by hundreds of Federal Preventive Police (PFP) and soldiers both searching the prison and guarding it from assault by the hundreds of prisoner family members who gathered outside the walls to protest the heavily-armed incursion.

The highly unusual event -- like the US Army, the Mexican Army is tightly restricted in what law enforcement activities it can undertake -- came as a festering crisis within the Mexican government over its lack of control of the prison came to a head after the assassination of a leading drug trafficker's brother inside the prison late last month. La Palma is home to some of Mexico's most powerful drug traffickers, most prominently Osiel Guillen, head of the so-called Gulf Cartel, one of two strong drug trafficking groups engaged a bloody war for control of the lucrative trade in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana to the United States.

With opposition politicians calling for the head of Mexico's Secretary of Public Safety in the wake of the assassination and reports that narcos had virtual control of the prison, the government of President Vicente Fox moved to regain control with a display of overwhelming force. La Palma was shut down to visitors for six days as soldiers and police swept through its interior searching for weapons, cell phones, and other contraband and transferring some leading narcos to other maximum security prisons across the country. (The Mexico City newspaper La Jornada reported Thursday that similar operations to regain control had gotten underway this week at two other maximum security prisons, Puente Grande in the state of Jalisco and Matamoros in the border state of Tamaulipas.)

Early in his now five-year-old administration, President Fox and some of his high advisors talked out loud about the need to rethink drug prohibition, in large part because of the corrosive, corrupting impact of the powerful Mexican drug organizations on the state, from the lowest policeman to the highest functionary. (A La Jornada editorial cartoon this week showed soldiers in tanks surrounding the prisons, with one saying, "But we have to stay strong. Otherwise they will attack us with cannonballs made of $50,000 bills.) But such talk was fleeting, as Fox and his government, eager to please his gringo amigo, US President George Bush, settled down into the drug war status quo. The Mexican government has claimed some successes in its drug war, disrupting, for example, the Arrellano Felix brothers' organization, but such successes have only bred new rounds of violence as surviving trafficking groups fight to control the lucrative "plazas," or franchises previously controlled by those who fell to the government.

Indeed, a new round of fighting among drug traffickers has left hundreds dead last year and dozens more so far this year, including three alleged narcos and a policeman all executed Wednesday. La Palma prisoner Cardenas Guillen, who is alleged by government figures to run his organization from his cell, has allied himself with remnants of the Arrellano Felix group, whose leaders, the brothers Benjamin and Francisco, are also prisoners at La Palma. In a process of consolidation that has seen major Mexican drug trafficking organizations sink from seven to two, Cardenas Guillen and the Arrellano Felix brothers are up against the group led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, himself a former prisoner who escaped in 2001 and has managed to stay free ever since, despite repeated reports that he frequently crosses into the US. It was the Guzman's brother whose murder inside La Palma, purportedly at the hands of a Gulf Cartel hit man (with the assistance of prison officials) precipitated the government's effort to regain control of La Palma.

As part of that effort, the Mexican government has transferred dozens of prisoners to other prisons, including the notorious Rafael Caro Quintero, who is doing 90 years for the 1986 murder of US DEA agent Enrique Camarena. But because of quick action by high-powered lawyers, who sought court orders to block such moves against their clients, Cardenas Guillen, the Arrellano Felix brothers, and Gilberto "El June" Garcia Mena, remain in their home away from home at La Palma.

And for powerful, well-connected figures like the cartel leaders, prison could have all the comforts of home -- especially when they could easily buy-off prison guards and officials. According to the undersecretary for Public Safety, Miguel Angel Yunes, privileged prisoners like Cardenas Guillen and the Arrellano Felix brothers had access to cell phones and other communications equipment, with which they continued to operate their business enterprises from inside the walls. Prostitutes, both male and female, were also available, as were fine meals and luxurious consumer goods, such as plasma TVs, not to mention drugs of all sorts.

The Mexican National Commission on Human Rights has, in a series of reports over the last four years, documented the special privileges available to wealthy narcos and the attendant corruption necessary to make it happen. Interestingly, commission head Bernal Guerrero, in a Thursday interview with La Jornada, suggested that such privileges helped keep a lid on potential problems inside the prison. "We believe that there are no riots inside because the prisoners with power can gain special privileges, and they, being satisfied with the facilities that allow them to keep operating, do not create circles of tension in the prisons." Still, said Guerrero, such privileges have their downside. "Nevertheless, this could result in the escape of important prisoners, who have these means of communication and could use them to arrange their escapes."

Three narcos in the Islas Marias prison off the Pacific Coast did just that, even as police and soldiers swept into Las Palmas over the weekend. Mexican officials have arrested the prison director and one guard in that incident, and are investigating others.

One of the most striking elements of this week's confrontation over control of the prisons was the arrival of an estimated 800-1000 family members and supporters of the narcos at the prison gates, which they blockaded for 11 hours Tuesday in a standoff with ranks of PFP police and soldiers. While violence threatened to flair on a couple of occasions as demonstrators demanded access to their relatives, tempers cooled and the protest remained peaceful.

They may not all have been family members and supporters. According to La Jornada, the crowd arrived in five buses from the border state of Tamaulipas, home of the Gulf Cartel, and was lodged in downtown Mexico City hotels. Who was paying for all this was not clear, but the obvious suspect is Osiel Cardenas Guillen. One member of the crowd told La Jornada people were being paid $100 to come along, whether they were family members or not.

While Mexican authorities have apparently succeeded in retaking control of La Palma for now, the problem of corrupt prison officials is endemic, and it is likely that after the heat dies down, matters will soon return to usual inside.

Things have settled down late this week. The Mexican government claims it is back in control of the prison and is sorting out which prison employees will be fired or arrests for complicity with the narcos. But as long as drug prohibition remains in place, there will be new opportunities for the narcos to enrich themselves and new functionaries to corrupt.

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4. Blogging: A Stunning Admission by Baltimore Police Officials, and More

Baltimore police officials have made the stunning admission that their campaign against inner city drug dealing has sparked a wave of homicides. But they intend to "stay on course." The Baltimore Sun ran a remarkably insightful article; the AP also covered the story.

Federal prosecutors in Michigan have indicted seven people for trafficking between Detroit and Ypsilanti and a "drug related slaying," one of whom, Terrance Smith, is already serving time for another such murder, according to the Ann Arbor News. Changing "drug related" to "drug trade related" would make the report more precise. Changing occurrences of the words "drug" and "marijuana" and "cocaine" to "alcohol" and changing "Smith" to "Capone" would turn it into something that could have run in the paper 70 years ago during Prohibition.

A cocaine dealer in southern Florida is accused of raping one of his customers, a woman who was unable to pay her drug debt, in order to make things "even." Sergio Barr, the accused, may face life in prison if he is convicted. But wouldn't it be better if it had never happened? Drug users should not be forced into contact with the criminal underground as our prohibition laws do.

All of the above point to the urgent need for some form of drug legalization. Visit, our Prohibition in the Media blog, to check out the stories and for letter to the editor information. Visit to subscribe to our blog updates list.

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5. This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Another prosecutor has gone down this week, and unlike Georgia Assistant DA Bob Cullifer, who appears to be merely a stoner despite being charged as a drug trafficker, West Texas prosecutor Rick Roach appears to be into something much heavier. Roach was arrested by FBI agents January 11 at the Gray County Courthouse as he prepared to prosecute cases and charged with possession of more than one ounce of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as possession with intent to distribute, and possession of a handgun by a "drug addict," which is a felony under Texas law. Whether Roach's case qualifies as "corruption" vs. mere "hypocrisy" -- enforcing drug laws against others while violating them oneself -- he faces up to 50 years if convicted of all charges. Roach pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, and has agreed to enter an inpatient drug rehabilitation program.

The two-term Republican prosecutor served as district attorney for the West Texas counties of Gray, Roberts, Hemphill, Lipscomb, and Wheeler. He has been jailed since his arrest.

In an update from the bizarre case of the Detroit cop who was on trial for stealing drugs and giving them to drug users so he could show them using drugs on his anti-drug web site, we can now report that Ciere Campbell has been found guilty of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, aiding and abetting the delivery of controlled substances, and possession of a stolen firearm. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

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6. Newsbrief: German Supreme Court Rejects "Zero Tolerance" Drugged Driving Law in Cannabis Case

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, has ruled that tiny traces of THC in a driver's bloodstream are not sufficient to convict him of driving while intoxicated and punish him by revoking his driver's license, the German news web site Tagesschau reported. Until the ruling, any trace of illegal drugs in one's system would have been sufficient for a conviction. The January 13 ruling overturned a lower court ruling in Karlsruhe.

In that case, an unnamed Karlsruhe man was convicted of driving under the influence after having smoked hashish the previously night -- 16 hours before he was arrested. Police tested and arrested him after he came to a police station on an unrelated matter. The test showed he had less than 0.5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in his system. But the German high court held because advances in drug testing technology allowed the most minuscule traces to drugs to be detected, German courts must reinterpret what constitutes drug driving. It suggested a level of 1.0 nanograms of THC may be a reasonable cut-off point.

The German court ruling contradicts model drugged driving laws crafted by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy and a private drug testing firm, the Walsh Group. That model law calls for a "per se" assumption that any amount of an illicit drug is evidence of impaired driving and is being pushed in state legislatures across the country.

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7. Newsbrief: Mass Arrests of Drug Users in Iran

Iranian police have arrested more than 50,000 people for drug use in Greater Teheran alone in the past nine months, according to the head of the Office to Combat Narcotics in the city. Thousands more have been arrested in the city of Mashad, he said in an interview with a state-run news agency last week.

International Anti-Drugs Day activity in Tehran, Iran, 2001
"A large proportion of those in custody, who comprise people from different sectors of society, are between 25 and 30 years of age," said the anti-drug official, Major Ghodratollah Mahmoudi. "These individuals were arrested in different districts in Tehran and the majority of them used opium, cannabis, and heroin and only a small percentage used cocaine, morphine, and other narcotics," he said. Mahmoudi added that cannabis use was increasingly popular among people between the ages of 18 and 35.

Mahmoudi said the amount of illicit drugs seized from users in the last nine months in Teheran was more than 1,500 pounds. He added that this figure was separate from the much larger amount of drugs "discovered in the hands of drug lords." With a long history of opium use, Iran is a key transit point for opium and heroin flooding out of Afghanistan, as well as a final destination for some of it.

According to Mahmoudi, citing government figures, the number of illicit drug users in Iran totals some seven million out of a population of slightly more than 70 million. While there have been some indications in recent years that Iranian authorities are seeking alternative means of dealing with drug use, such as forced drug treatment, Mahmoudi's announcement clearly indicates that the Iranian war on drugs and drug users grinds on.

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8. Newsbrief: Marijuana Bills Filed -- Medical Marijuana in New Jersey, Decriminalization in New Hampshire

New Hampshire and New Jersey were first out of the gate with marijuana bills this year. With two states having passed medical marijuana laws through the legislative process so far, Hawaii in 2001 and Vermont last year, New Jersey could become the third state where legislators heed the will of the voters on this issue. And in New Hampshire, whose motto is "Live Free or Die," legislators have introduced a bill removing criminal penalties for marijuana.

In the Garden State, Sen. Nicholas Scutari formally introduced the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (S. 2200) on January 11, spurred by the efforts of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana­New Jersey.

In the Granite State, Rep. Timothy Robertson (D-Cheshire) has introduced House Bill 0197, which removes marijuana possession and use offenses from the criminal code, removes marijuana trafficking from the state's definition of organized crime, and, for good measure, strikes from state law language criminalizing "separation gins and sifters for cleaning or refining marijuana." No word yet on hearings for the bill.

Click here to read the New Jersey medical marijuana bill online -- search on S2200 -- and click here to read the New Hampshire decrim bill online.

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9. Newsbrief: Resistance to Methadone Clinics Rears Head in Virginia, Washington State

Southwest Virginia has been one of the centers of the so-called Oxycontin epidemic in recent years, so one would think people there would be keen to support treatments designed to wean people from the drug. One would be wrong. Last year, state Sen. William Wampler (R-Bristol) managed to get a bill passed blocking methadone maintenance clinics from operating in his part of the state. He was responding to strong public sentiment opposing the clinics. In Washington County, opposition stopped a clinic near a local high school. In Pound and Wise Counties, residential opposition blocked a new clinic from opening near the Kentucky border. In Scott County, a fight is ongoing to block a proposed clinic near Gate City.

Thursday, a bill sponsored by Wampler that would halt licensing of methadone clinics across the state until regulations can be developed breezed through the state Senate. The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, where it will be voted on along with a companion bill drafted by Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) that would prevent methadone clinics from "targeting" counties without regulations.

Wampler's bill, if passed, would give state officials 280 days to develop regulations for the clinics, effectively creating a moratorium on the clinics for the next nine months.

Meanwhile, across the country in Washington state, a Clark County Commissioner is asking state officials to hold a community forum on the clinics before one is allowed to open in Vancouver, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Commissioner Betty Sue Morris told the Daily Columbian that she was responding to citizen concerns in requesting the forum. Those public concerns appear to have been stirred up by an anonymous flier distributed to residents of several Vancouver neighborhoods.

But they also reflect genuine hostility to the clinics by some elements of the community. "We were not consulted on this development," said Jock Demme, a Sherwood Ridge resident. "It has flown in under the radar of community concern. There will be a concerted citizens' effort to stop this dead in its tracks. We will not have a drug distribution center in our neighborhood."

The county is already home to one methadone clinic which has been in operation since October without any problems.

The state Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, which licensed such clinics in the state, has expressed a willingness to discuss the issue with the community. "They were interested in knowing, if they requested a community meeting, would the state hold one," DASA official David Crane told the Daily Columbian. "We said yes." No date for the hearing will be set until the state receives a formal request from the county, which should happen next week, Morris said.

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10. Newsbrief: King County Bar Association (Seattle) Calls for Legal, Regulated Drug Markets

In a resolution adopted Wednesday, the King County Bar Association (Seattle) has declared war on prohibition. The KCBA called for "a new framework of state-level regulatory control over psychoactive substances, intended to render the illegal markets for such substances unprofitable, to restrict access to psychoactive substances by young persons and to provide prompt health care and essential services to persons suffering from chemical dependency and addiction, will better serve the objectives of reducing crime, improving public order, enhancing public health, protecting children and wisely using scarce public resources, than current drug policies."

The landmark resolution calls on the Washington state legislature to create a consultative committee of experts in pharmacology, education, medicine, public health, law and law enforcement, as well as public officials and civic leaders, including delegates from the leadership of each caucus in the House and Senate, to provide specific recommendations for legislation to establish legal, regulated markets for currently illicit drugs. The KCBA has sent the resolution to the state legislature.

The KCBA is a key part of a carefully crafted coalition that should serve as a model for other communities. The broad ranging coalition is a virtual who's who of state professional and civic organizations, including the King County Medical Society, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Loren Miller Bar Association, the Municipal League of King County, the Seattle League of Women Voters, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington Association of Addiction Programs, the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Washington Society of Addiction Medicine, the Washington State Bar Association, the Washington State Medical Association, the Washington State Pharmacy Association, the Washington State Psychiatric Association, the Washington State Psychological Association and the Washington State Public Health Association.

KCBA passed the resolution based on the finding that "current drug control policies are fundamentally flawed and that the unrelenting demand for prohibited psychoactive substances has fostered and strengthened highly profitable illegal markets for the production and distribution of such substances; and that the operation of such illegal markets is a proximate cause of devastating societal impacts, including:

1. Rates of prohibited substance use and of crime related to prohibited substances that have failed to decline or have actually increased during the current period of intensified law enforcement and incarceration, including children experimenting with more dangerous substances at younger ages;

2. Soaring public costs on the federal, state and local levels arising from the continued use of harsh criminal sanctions related to prohibited psychoactive substances, contributing to the overcrowding of jails and prisons and draining public coffers of the resources needed for investment in local communities and for the provision of essential services;

3. Impaired administration of justice from the continuous flow of drug cases clogging the courts and causing undue and sometimes prejudicial delays in the investigation and prosecution of non-drug-related criminal matters and in the processing of civil matters;

4. Undermining of public health, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases, the uncontrolled distribution of impure and hazardous substances, and the development of high-potency, synthetic substances that are more easily concealed but are more harmful to health, as well as the inhibition of users of prohibited substances from seeking medical attention for chemical dependency and addiction;

5. Disproportionate arrest and incarceration of ethnic minorities and the poor, causing the disruption of families and the interference with or denial of educational, employment and housing opportunities, and exacerbating the social conditions that are associated with chemical dependency and addiction;

6. Compromises in the protection of citizens' constitutional rights as a result of stepped-up law enforcement and penalties related to prohibited substances, impinging upon individual privacy rights and depriving persons convicted of drug offenses of the right to vote and other civil rights; and

7. Loss of respect for the law arising from public sentiments that the dangers of certain prohibited substances are overstated, that drug-related penalties are unjust and that coercing abstinence through the use of criminal sanctions is a futile public objective.

The resolution will be the springboard for "a public conversation on how the state can effectively regulate and control psychoactive substances that are currently produced and distributed exclusively in illegal markets," said the KCBA.

Look for much more on the resolution and implications next week in the Chronicle.

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11. Newsbrief: Texas Bill Would Ban Drug Offenders from Entering Certain San Antonio Neighborhoods

Rep. Ruth Jones McLendon (D-San Antonio) has introduced a bill in the Texas legislature that would allow the city of San Antonio to ban anyone arrested for a drug offense from entering certain parts of the city except to go directly home or to work. The bill focuses on San Antonio neighborhoods that have large numbers of drug arrests. Incredibly, persons could be banned for up to 90 days upon arrest, allowing punishment to commence before people are actually convicted of a crime. Upon conviction, drug offenders could be banned from those neighborhoods for up to a year.

"What we're trying to do is put these drug dealers out of the city of San Antonio," said McClendon upon announcing the legislation. But the bill in actuality does not aim solely at persons arrested or convicted for drug trafficking offenses.

As the Drug Policy Alliance pointed out in a press release denouncing the bill, "The vast majority of people arrested for drug offenses in San Antonio are arrested for marijuana possession. They're not dealers or addicts. And for the minority who are, this bill will do more harm than good. Someone who has a substance abuse problem needs treatment and reintegration into the community -- both of which are proven to reduce recidivism. They don't need isolation," said DPA director of public policy Michael Blain.

Such a bill would also have a disproportionate impact on San Antonio's African-American and large Hispanic communities, according to Blain. "This law is discriminatory," he said. "While drug use is widespread throughout society, law enforcement focuses on African American and Latino communities. The bill also flies in the face of our most democratic principle of being innocent until proven guilty by condemning people solely on the basis of arrest."

It may also have constitutional problems. A similar measure in Cincinnati was struck down by the courts as unconstitutional.

Click here to read the bill online.

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12. Newsbrief: Last Week's Supreme Court Ruling Pays Off for New York Woman

Legal scholars remain divided on the ultimate impact of last week's Supreme Court decision in the Booker and Fan Fan cases, where the court held that mandatory federal sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional because judges -- not juries -- found facts that could increase sentences beyond statutory guidelines. But for one New York woman, there is little to debate.

According to WSTM in Niagara County, New York, Jamie Lynn Chilberg, 21, of Youngstown would have faced a minimum of two years in prison under the mandatory guidelines for attempting to smuggle nearly one thousand Ecstasy tablets across the US-Canada border. Instead, a judge in Buffalo sentenced to one day in jail -- the amount of time she spent behind bars after being arrested.

The sentencing judge, who exercised his new freedom under last week's ruling, said sending the young woman to prison for two years would serve no purpose. Chilberg had entered a drug treatment program and "turned her life around," he noted.

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13. Newsbrief: Martha Stewart, Prisoner Advocate

There is nothing like a taste of justice American-style to make even the haughtiest of the hoity-toity start to think about reforming the system. Ask Martha Stewart. Currently serving a five-month federal prison sentence at the women's prison in Alderson, WV, after being convicted of lying about a stock transaction, Stewart first spoke out about injustice in the US criminal justice system in a Christmas message to supporters in which she called for reducing sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

In that message, she urged supporters 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." She wrote that in prison, there is "no real help, no real programs to rehabilitate, no programs to educate."

Now, in an e-mail written just before last week's Supreme Court ruling invalidating mandatory federal sentencing guidelines -- the court held that the guidelines are now only "advisory" -- Stewart has spoken out again. In a message to a Wall Street Journal reporter, she wrote that the ruling could paradoxically lead to depression among her fellow inmates, primarily women of color doing long sentences for what were often marginal roles in drug crimes.

What worried her the most, she wrote, "is the hope that the Supreme Court has raised in the minds of so many incarcerated women and men that their sentences will be automatically shortened if the court throws out the guidelines. It is astonishing how high hopes are in West Virginia, and I fear that a negative result will cause a severe depression."

Despite the high court's overturning of the mandatory federal sentencing guidelines, the overwhelming majority of the nation's 180,000 federal prisoners -- more than half doing time for drug crimes -- have no prospect of seeing their sentences lowered. Only those prisoners who are currently in the appeal process or who have previously raised a Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial claim will have a chance at a sentence reduction, the court held.

And that's a damned shame, said Stewart in the e-mail. Having gotten to know her fellow prisoners, many of whom are serving lengthy sentences, she found that many were sentenced "unfairly or unwisely because of the guidelines, enhancements and conspiracies. As you can imagine," Stewart continued, "when one gets to talk to these women, most first offenders, and many perfectly nice 'neighbors next door,' it is mind boggling to understand that they have four, six and fifteen years to serve away from family, friends, jobs and homes. It is indeed pitiable."

Ironically, Stewart herself could be eligible for a resentencing hearing, although, with only two months left on her sentence, it seems unlikely she will bother. She was sentenced to five months in prison and five months on house arrest, the lowest possible sentence under the now unconstitutional mandatory sentencing guidelines.

Let us hope that Martha Stewart continues to speak out for reform after she leaves prison on March 5. While nobody seems to care when it is some poor black or Hispanic women prisoner, Stewart could use her celebrity to become a powerful voice for justice.

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14. Newsbrief: MPP Assists Poor Montana Medical Marijuana Patients

Montanans voted by a large margin in November to okay a medical marijuana program in the state, and now the Marijuana Policy Project, which bankrolled the Montana campaign, has initiated a program to ensure that no Big Sky resident has to go without his medicine because he cannot afford to pay the required fees. Under the Montana measure, would-be medical marijuana patients are assessed a $200 fee to receive the state-issued ID card that will make them legal participants in the program.

MPP has kicked in an initial $2,000 to get the financial assistance fund started, and it has already found its first worthy recipient, perhaps the state's best known medical marijuana patient, Missoula resident Robin Prosser. "I am grateful to MPP for their help, and I hope no other sick person has to worry about whether they can afford a yearly cost like this," Prosser said. "I'm glad to be able to comply with the law, and I trust that law enforcement will recognize these cards and not arrest the sick."

"Our goal is to make sure that no Montana patient has to risk arrest and jail because they can't afford to register," said Neal Levine, MPP director of state policies. "Hopefully Montanans will be as generous with their donations as they were with their votes, keeping the program fully funded."

Patients will be eligible for assistance if they appear to qualify for a medical marijuana ID card and their income is below 150% of the federal poverty level. Montana patients interested in applying can find complete instructions online here. Persons wishing to contribute to the fund can do so online here.

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15. Newsbrief: Maine Activist Providing Medical Marijuana Indicted for Trafficking and Cultivation

Prominent Maine marijuana activist Don Christen, 51, of Madison, was indicted Tuesday on two counts of aggravated marijuana trafficking and one count of aggravated cultivation. The indictment comes on the heels of a December raid on his home, which had served since October as the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center. Christen told the Bangor News at the time of his arrest that he was providing marijuana to patients who had their doctors' approval as permitted under a 1997 state medical marijuana law.

2004 Harvest Fest
(courtesy Harvest Fest and
That law provided protection for medical marijuana patients, but had no provision for them to obtain their medicine. "The problem is the Maine law is so vague," he said. "I expected the police [to raid my home]. I knew they'd come."

Somerset County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Carl Gottardi, who arrested Christen, was sympathetic -- to a degree. "If, for example, a doctor allows that a patient should have marijuana, where do they get it?" Gottardi said after the December bust. Gottardi, who heads a drug eradication team, said the team is "fully aware that there are people with serious medical conditions that allow certain people to qualify to possess a certain amount of marijuana. We take that into consideration and we don't go around raiding people who have slips from their doctors."

Still, Gottardi said, Christen needed to be busted. "We are not after Don Christen because he is supplying people with medical conditions. He violated the law. We don't make up the laws. We enforce them," he added.

Christen said he was supplying marijuana to five patients, including his cancer-stricken wife, Pam. Gottardi chivalrously did not arrest Pam Christen, he said. "Mrs. Christen obviously does have a serious illness. I can feel for that in my heart. And she was not charged with anything." Pam Christen was unimpressed with Gottardi's chivalry. "I am a cancer patient, undergoing chemotherapy which all [drug] agents acknowledged prior to entry to my home," she said. "They had no regard for the Medical Marijuana Law whatsoever and no compassion for me as they left me nothing to medicate with, all fully well knowing that I was sick as hell and would be miserable soon without it."

Another Maine resident, Carroll Cummings, also received medical marijuana from Christen. "I was charged recently -- Oct. 13, 2003 -- for possession of a usable amount of marijuana and the charges were dropped once I provided evidence that I met all the requirements set forth in the Medical Marijuana Law," she told the Bangor News. "Though the Marijuana Law does help me, if you study it thoroughly you will find it lacks provisions for me to acquire my medicinal marijuana. Thus, to protect myself from buying from an undercover DEA agent or one of their informants, and due to the fact our state legislators have failed to pass any type of legislation that allows for distribution, I had to take it upon myself to find someone willing to take the chance and provide me with my medicine when I need it. I found the person I believed I could trust, Donald Christen, a friend for nearly 15 years."

Cummings said that his notarized doctor's permission was hanging on the wall of Christen's home right next to the front door, along with similar notes from four other people. The Maine law allows patients to grow six plants, Christen said. He was arrested for growing 13 plants, but maintains that he was providing medicine for all five and should have been able to grow up to 30 plants.

But none of that stopped Somerset County prosecutors from seeking and winning his indictment Tuesday. That will come as little surprise to those familiar with Christen's contentious history with local law enforcement. In addition to several previous marijuana arrests, Christen is well-known as a founder of the Maine Vocals, a marijuana reform group that sponsored an annual Hempstock festival, leading to a series of clashes with local prosecutors, who consider him a nuisance and a gadfly.

Now, Christen is looking at hard time for standing up for his beliefs. And a group of Maine medical marijuana patients are out of luck.

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16. This Week in History

January 21, 1943: The New York Times reports that Gene Krupa, a swing band leader, pleaded innocent to a charge that he contributed to the delinquency of a minor by asking John Pateakos, a 17 year-old, to fetch marijuana cigarettes from his hotel room and deliver them to the band leader. At the city prison, where he is booked and released, Krupa makes a general denial of the charges "as I understand them."

January 21, 2003: The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) reports a Commonwealth Government report found that tobacco and alcohol accounted for 83 percent of the cost of drug abuse in Australia, dwarfing the financial impact of illegal drugs.

January 22, 2001: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduces The Drug-Free America Act (S. 89), a bill primarily designed to enhance drug control activities of the US, including provisions relating to enhancing inspection and drug interdiction capabilities of the Customs Service and the National Guard. The bill also authorizes NIDA's Clinical Trials Network to conduct its large-scale treatment studies in community settings. It includes a 'sense of the Senate' section that encourages NIH to work with experts from private industry to promote research regarding pharmacological options that may be employed to support drug treatment efforts. The bill contains language to have grants made by ONDCP to establish the National Community Anti-Drug Coalition, funding up to two million dollars in Fiscal Year 2002.

January 23, 1912: In the Hague, twelve nations sign a convention restricting opium and coca production.

2001 -- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Drug Abuse Treatment on Demand Assistance Act (S. 160). The bill authorized appropriations for grants for the purpose of increasing the maximum number of individuals to whom public and nonprofit private entities are capable of providing effective treatment for substance abuse, with the goal of ensuring that substance abuse treatment is available for all who seek it. The bill proposed setting up state grant programs to support: the construction of treatment facilities; payments to treatment centers; drug testing; and counseling, including mental health services. Among the programs proposed under the bill, several would provide substance abuse treatment to convicted criminals.

January 25, 1990: President George Herbert Walker Bush proposes to add an additional $1.2 billion to the budget for the war on drugs, including a 50% increase in military spending.

January 25, 1993: Based on a tip that drugs are on the premises, police smash down the door and rush into the home of Manuel Ramirez, a retired golf course groundskeeper living in Stockton, California. Ramirez awakes, grabs a pistol and shoots and kills one policeman before other officers kill him. No drugs are found.

January 25, 1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act extends ONDCP's mission to assessing budgets and resources related to the National Drug Control Strategy. It also establishes specific reporting requirements in the areas of drug use, availability, consequences, and treatment.

January 25, 1995: The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the District of Columbia by Robert Kampia and Chuck Thomas.

January 26, 2000: After spending sixteen years in Bedford Hills prison for selling cocaine -- a first offense -- under New York's Rockefeller drug laws, Elaine Bartlett is set free and returns to New York City. Her story is subsequently told in the book "Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett," by Jennifer Gonnerman.

January 27, 1995: An international hashish seizure record is set, 290,400 pounds in Khyber Agency, Pakistan, still standing today.

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17. The Reformer's Calendar

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

January 21-22, New York, NY, " Sentencing: What's at Stake for the States?," symposium hosted by the Columbia Law Review. At Columbia Law School, Jerome Green Hall, Room 104, 435 W. 116th St., contact [email protected] or visit for information or to register.

January 22, 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, 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 25-30, Park City, UT, Freedom Cinema Festival, concurrent with the Sundance Film Festival, line-up including two films about the drug war among many others. Call (800) 503-5923 or visit for further information.

January 27, 9:00am-1:00pm, New York, NY, "Ties That Bind: In Search of Community -- A Forum for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals living with HIV/AIDS/HCV." At Mt. Sinai, 1468 Madison Ave at 100th St., Guggenheim Pavilion, Hatch Auditorium, 2nd floor, refreshments served. Contact (212) 633-2500, ext. 248 or [email protected] to register or for further information.

January 29, Birmingham, AL, Statewide Prison and Drug Policy Reform Conference, with family members of inmates and others. At the University of Alabama, TASC Center, 401 Beacon Parkway West, registration $25 for individuals or $50 for organizations. Visit or call (334) 220-4670 for further information.

January 31-February 12, 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, 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, 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, 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 18-20, Champaign, IL, "Forgiveness Weekend: Double Jeopardy or a New Beginning," sponsored by CU Citizens for Peace and Justice and Salem Baptist Church. At 500 E. Park Ave., contact Danielle Schumacher at (815) 375-0790 for information, brochures or to reserve a space.

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

February 19, 10:00am-5:00pm, Oakland, CA, "Measure Z and Beyond: The Agenda for Marijuana Reform in California," California Activists' Conference sponsored by California NORML, Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project. At the Oakland YWCA, 1515 Webster St. (near City Center BART), $20 registration, includes box lunch and evening reception. Contact [email protected] for further information.

March 12-17, 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.

March 20-24, Belfast, Northern Ireland, 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm. Sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association, visit or contact Dawn Orchard at +44 (0) 28 9756 1993 or [email protected] for further information.

March 31-April 2, San Francisco, CA, 2005 National NORML Conference. At Cathedral Hill Hotel, visit for further information.

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 (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.

August 19-20, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science and Response in 2005," First National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis C. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Harm Reduction Project, visit after January 15 or contact Amanda Whipple at (801) 355-0234 ext. 3 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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